Why pie, why now? Not only is it the ultimate recessionary dessert, delivering homespun comfort in an uncertain time, it aligns perfectly with the handcrafted, DIY Zeitgeist of the day. That, and it’s so damned delicious. Especially when it’s one acquired from crust mavens Emily and Melissa Elsen, the South Dakota–bred sisters behind Four & Twenty Blackbirds (439 Third Ave., at 8th St., Gowanus; 718-499-2917), like their signature salted caramel apple, or a recent blueberry-cherry number oozing sweet-tart juice ($4.50). And should you find yourself in the vicinity of Bed-Stuy’s snug Pilar Cuban Eatery (393 Classon Ave., nr. Greene Ave.; 718-623-2822), you’ll want to follow up your perfectly pressed Cuban sandwich with a slice of guava-and-cream-cheese pie ($4.50). Don’t let the thing’s flat, unassuming mien fool you—a flakier, more buttery crust cannot be found. When in South Brooklyn, we like to swing by the Red Hook Lobster Pound not just for a Connecticut-style lobster roll but also to grab one of Margaret Palca’s spectacular whoopie pies ($3), an eerie flashback to our Devil Dog–dependent youth (284 Van Brunt St., nr. Visitation Pl.; 646-326-7650).
The Underground Gourmet has also fallen hard for First Prize Pies, a new venture launched by amateur baker Allison Kave, who so far sells only online and to two new restaurants: Fatty ’Cue, where her brother Corwin is executive chef, and which usually has two varieties on hand (pray that one is the fudgy, toasted-marshmallow-fluffed s’mores, $6 a slice with “local cream”), and Brooklyn Farmacy (513 Henry St., at Sackett St., Carroll Gardens; 718-522-6260), an old apothecary lovingly restored into a general store and soda fountain. In addition to seasonal slices of First Prize Pies (peach, at the moment; $4.50), the Farmacy traffics in egg creams that do the borough proud ($2.50).
Ostensibly, Stuffed Artisan Cannolis (176 Stanton St., nr. Clinton St.; 212-995-2266) purveys just one thing—in up to 75 different rotating flavors, as outré as “Girl Scout” (Samoa cookie, specifically) and root-beer float. We were, admittedly, skeptical at first, but the proof is in the unfailingly crisp pre-piped shell and lush ricotta fillings ($2 for a mini, or 3 for $5). Popbar (5 Carmine St., at Sixth Ave.; 212-255-4874), another revolutionary advance in dessert science, is clearly a franchise in the making. The concept: a customizable gelato (or sorbetto or yogurt) on a stick, crumbed to your precise specifications with nuts or granola, say, and dipped, half-dipped, or even double-dipped in chocolate ($5.50).
Street sweets are fine, don’t get us wrong, but sometimes you want something a little more sophisticated—something like goat-cheese cheesecake with blackberries and rosemary caramel ($6), made by a team of former Le Cirque pastry cooks at DessertTruck Works (6 Clinton St., nr. Houston St.; no phone), the brick-and-mortar outgrowth of the popular sweetsmobile. Speaking of elegant plated desserts, Spice Market alum Pichet Ong offers them up three for $20 in a tapas-style tasting at Spot Dessert Bar (13 St. Marks Pl., nr. Third Ave.; 212-677-5670), where our current favorite, the yuzu eskimo, layers Oreo “soil,” yuzu ice cream, and passion-fruit foam. We love his Chinese walnut cookies, too ($1.95)—lumpy, crunchy biscuits also on offer at his other consulting gig, Nolita’s Village Tart (86 Kenmare St., at Mulberry St.; 212-226-4980).
And finally, this wouldn’t be a complete survey of New York’s new sweetscape without a reverent mention of Güllüoglu (982 Second Ave., at 52nd St.; 212-813-0500), whose legendary expertise with phyllo dough, sheep’s-milk butter, and nuts has made the 139-year-old Turkish brand the uncontested baklava world champion. Its new Manhattan café stocks the full flaky line, including varieties like chestnut, walnut, and especially Turkish pistachio, the pride of Gaziantep.