Pie and chefs

Includes (both in Raleigh, NC): Piebird and Solas, and my mom’s recipes for pie crust and chocolate chess pie   

Tweet tweet! (No, Tobi, I am not going to start using Twitter for this blog … ) PieBird has finally opened!

I could only make myself wait a single day after the official grand opening. And I’m glad I waited. Apparently they were slammed. So much so that they had to close for a few hours in the afternoon.

Yesterday, though, was a dreary, cold and very wet day – and we went early for lunch – so there were tables aplenty.

Ohmygod the décor is so very cute! But not in an overdone, too cutesy way. Bright colors. A spare, modern look that manages not to be off-putting or uncomfortable. I love little touches like the birdie salt and pepper shakers. There’s a cool lounge-like area in the back with a few tables and some couches. But I like the front space, which looks out onto Person Street and has a bar where one – namely me – could comfortably eat pie alone without feeling weird. I like to eat at bars.

I got a “handpie” with a side. A handpie consists of savory ingredients encased all ’round in piecrust. If mine hadn’t been topped with Mexi-tasting, rough-cut slaw I could have picked it up in one hand. Thus, the hand pie moniker.

My first filling choice – Curried Veggie– wasn’t quite done cooking yet, so I got my second selection, which was Black Bean and Green Chile. Yummy! Just enough spice, but not too much heat. (I might have actually liked a little bit of salsa for a kick.) My side was a very fresh butternut squash mash. (Yes, what a bargain: a handpie and side lunch combo for just a few bucks.)

Even though the handpie lunch was perfectly filling, I couldn’t resist trying a piece of dessert pie. My Pie in Your Face Coconut Cream slice was sweet and tasty. But once I took a bite of my friend Erica’s Bluebird of Happiness pie I was stricken hopelessly in love! (And wish I’d taken a picture to share.) It was a very, very rich chess pie on – and here’s the kicker – an oatmeal cookie crust. Totally sinful. So, so rich. The kind of pie that, even as you realize you’re probably going to feel a bit overstuffed and queasy later, you cannot stop eating until every.single.crumb.is.gone!

Oh, I almost forgot. Added bonus: PieBird serves its own Nest Blend coffee (I think our server said from Counter Culture) French press style. Great pie and Great coffee – what a combo.

Anyhow, there are still some little bugs and growing pains to deal with, but overall I already love PieBird and can’t wait to go back. Probably this weekend. After all, there’s still fruit pie to try. And the Pie Cracklins appetizer (strips of crunchy pie dough served with dips).

I remember when I was a kid (okay, and maybe even an adult) I’d beg my mom for raw pie dough strips whenever she was making a crust. And picking off pieces of her oh-so-prettily-crimped pie edges once they were out of the oven. To satisfy our cravings, mom sometimes used to sprinkle leftover bits of dough with cinnamon sugar and bake them off for me and my brothers.

She swears her pie crust recipe is foolproof, but I just don’t seem to have the right touch. Maybe I overwork the dough?

Anyway, in honor of my mom, the PieBird chefs and awesome pie bakers everywhere, here are Regina Haggerty’s pie crust and chess pie recipes:


For 2 crusts, mix 2 cups flour, 1 1/2 t. salt. Separately, combine 1/2 c. oil (mild tasting) and 1/4 c. cold milk. Do not stir. Pour into flour mixture, stir until mixed. Halve, roll out between sheets of waxed paper.

Chocolate Chess Pie

Melt together:

  • 1 1/2 squares baking chocolate
  • 1 1/2 sticks butter

After cooling, mix with 1 1/2 c. sugar and 3 eggs. Add 1 1/2 t. vanilla. Bake in a single unbaked pie crust at 350 for 30-40 minutes.

Lemon Chess Pie

  • 2 c. sugar
  • 2 T. flour
  • 2 T. cornmeal
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 stick softened butter
  • 1/4 c. fresh lemon juice
  • 2 T. lemon zest
  • 1/4 c. milk

Combine dry ingredients and set aside. Beat eggs, add butter, milk, lemon juice and zest. Pour into unbaked pie crust and bake at 350 for 35-40 minutes.

Solas sidebar

Triangle Food Tour held its first ever Dine with Chef event earlier this week at Solas. And I’m sure it won’t be the last, as a good time seemed to be had by all 23 attendees.

Executive Chef Cliff Vogelsberg created a special prix fixe menu for our group, with a choice of one of three selections for each diner’s starter, main and dessert. As we gathered in our private outdoor patio room, we learned that, unfortunately, Cliff was sick in bed. But Sous Chef J.R. Hicks was an excellent link to the kitchen, coming to speak to us several times and answering our questions.

My meal began with a Grapefruit and Avocado Salad with Feta, Walnuts and Blood Orange Vinaigrette. It was a simple and fresh salad whose ingredients were nothing spectacular on their own but together made a lovely mix of tastes and textures. It’s something I’ll be making at home, I think.

The bread that accompanied our starters was served with a very different and interesting compound butter that my table companions and I couldn’t quite pin down. I’m glad one of them asked the server, who told us it was softened butter mixed with – of all things – garlic salt, honey and chives. I don’t think I ever would have come up with that combination on my own, but it was a beautiful light green color and tasted scrumptious.

Having perused the special menu in advance, I was looking forward to trying the Sautéed Skate Wing with Sage Brown Butter. Despite my many dining adventures – a lot of them overseas – I’ve never had skate wing. Apparently it’s been a fixture in Europe for a long time. But I adore browned butter (try serving it over oven-roasted asparagus – ummmmm … ) and sage. But alas, scallops were substituted for the skate wing on the actual Dine with Chef evening. That was okay, though, since scallops are one of my favorite seafoods. And these were perfectly cooked – not too raw and cool, but not overdone and rubbery. The bits of lobster on top was an extra-nice touch.

I have to admit that I’d been skeptical about Solas, mainly due to its club “scene” (and boy, is it a scene), but the food was pretty impressive. Enough to return for dinner from the regular menu.

And will I Dine with Chef again? Yes, please.

About atarheeltastes

I'm a passionate foodie who started this "temporary" blog during a gustatory tour of Tuscany. I decided to continue, since I love to dream about, plan for, prepare, eat and write about food!
This entry was posted in Raleigh, NC, Recipes, Restaurants, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Pie and chefs

  1. tobi says:

    ok – well – maybe soon!! sounds yummy and i of course love the bird salt-n-pepper accents 🙂

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