Where I grew up—North Otto, New York in the 20th century—we always ate our pie mit käse, not à la mode, which means “in the new fashion.” While the basic technology to make ice cream became available to the masses in the 19th century, cheese was everywhere from the time of man’s earliest dairying. So “käse,” cheese, is old school, but that doesn’t make it dated.
Fact: Our East End dairies—Mecox Bay Dairy, Catapano Dairy Farm and Goodale Farms—offer some of the finest pie pairings possible.
Just as with wine and food pairings, you want to either complement—or contrast with—the given dish.
No doubt you’ve heard of enjoying apple pie with a slice of extra sharp cheddar. If not, try it and be converted. (Please don’t confuse “sharp cheddar” with microwaving a slice of American processed cheese food atop a slice of Mrs. Smith’s Apple Cardboard—that’s a foodie felony.) Instead of extra sharp cheddar you might also try the earthy, grassy cowness of Catapano’s Nofo Jack.
With pumpkin pie you might play off of its silky texture with a soft goat cheese like Goodale’s chèvre. Chèvre is the French word for goat, but in this translation it means “goo.” Of course this cheese also works well with a sweet potato pie. But if you, or your Aunt Fannie, make a sweet potato pie with some heat to it, try a bit of Mecox Bay Shawdonasee’s gentle, mild creaminess.
If you’re partial to pecan pie, you might consider pairing that intense sweetness with a nutty dry cheese like a pecorino—crumble it on. You might also taste the shared flavor note of lanolin in both the nuts and this type of cheese.
I make a nut pie with hazelnuts or walnuts and maple syrup that pairs very nicely with bleu cheese, including a Stilton-style bleu such as Mecox Bay’s Bascom Blue with its kick of barnyard funk. Love those ammonia notes on the nose.
If you’re waiting for a cheese pairing to accompany a custard pie I salute you, but c’mon, custard is almost cheese itself. Eat some fresh fruit alongside that bad boy.
Sweet chocolate pies are better paired with whipped cream than cheese. Sprinkle a touch of cayenne on that whipped cream for a little heat—but, remember, whipped cream melts, so don’t dollop it on warm pie unless you intend to eat it very quickly. A dark chocolate pie could be paired with a bit of Mecox Bay Dairy’s truffled brie, which offers undernotes of woodsy mushroom.
Interestingly, if you’re the one family member who doesn’t think it’s a holiday until you’ve put away at least one slice of mincemeat pie, there’s a 31% chance that your name is Uncle Bob. There’s also a 100% probability that you like strong, decisive flavors. You might try a chunk of goat feta with your mincemeat pie. Or, in “sharp contrast,” a sliver of something very mild but pungent courtesy of the cow like Mecox Sunrise. Bonus: It’s stinky!
A slice of pear pie could play nice with Mecox Bay’s Sigit, which is named for cheesemaker Art Ludlow’s mother. This Alpine-style aged cheese is a touch assertive and has a Parmesan-like finish that is a little bit bitter in a good way. Remind you of anyone at your holiday table?
Leftover fruit pie makes a hearty Hamptons breakfast. And you can feed a slice into the blender when you’re making vanilla milkshakes. Of course chocolate pie could also “pair well” with vanilla ice cream in this scenario.
Beyond à la mode, you know the joys of pouring a dry red wine over vanilla ice cream, right?
And surely you know what “cheese” pairs well with fruit pies like cherry, peach and berry? Cheesecake.
Stacy’s Hamptons cookbook, due out from Countryman Press in 2020, co-written with Hillary Davis, pairs every recipe with a Long Island wine. You can follow Stacy’s informed and opinionated foodie adventures on Twitter @hamptonsepicure.