I confess: If I have to choose between pie and cake, I always clamour for a piece of the pie. I love custard pies with fresh fruit; coconut pie has been a favourite since childhood (although I never actually tasted a good one, come to think of it), and lemon pie in whatever guise wins the day everytime. Yes, yes, even the meringue-free ones with lemon so bitter it curdles the inside of your cheeks…
For the past few weeks, I’ve added one, hum, make that multiple, treats from Rustique Pies to my CSA-like Lufa basket. No pie in sight, so my family happily settles for biscottis by the dozen, caramel popcorn and any-nut-goes brittle: peanut, cashews, pistachios, name it, they brittle it. Recently, I discovered their dried apple and cinnamon chips which have to be healthy, right? Enquiring minds don’t want to know.
So I took advantage of a recent business meeting in Montreal to drag kiddo to the original digs of the little pastry shop that could, in the Saint-Henri neighbourhood, more or less across from Sir-George-Étienne-Cartier Park. When looking for our first home over 10 years ago, Monsieur and I had explored the area from top to bottom, on the strength of experts declaring it Montreal’s next trendy quarters. The gentrification took its sweet time, but the successive openings of gourmet addresses suggests the much-advertised boom is happening at last.
The moment you step over the threshold, you can tell Rustique Pies is no ordinary pastry shop. If this were an American cartoon circa 1950, you would see whisps of evanescent aroma swirl and engulf you, here a whiff of buttered pie crust, there a brume of caramelized sugar. Kiddo’s eyes opened wide, my nostrils followed suit. Like the menu, the whole décor harks to a different era with its Cape Cod tainted and painted wall panelling, its giant blackboards covered in white chalk, its long banquette with cushions almost begging you to settle in. Innumerable mini-pastries cover every counter: bars, scones, squares in all flavours, tartlets, old-fashioned marshmallow, brittle, homemade granola, etc.
Given its three owners, including a pastry chef from Vancouver, Rustique also draws its food inspiration from a very anglo North-American tradition, far from cream-centric French pastry for example. Here, pastry crust doesn’t lend support, it steals the show. The berry cheesecake square, for one, rests on a thick crust, buttered and flaky; the kind our calorie-obsessed society tends to limit or avoid altogether with its no-crust cheesecakes.
In the chilled pastry case, only three large pies have found room among the tartlet multitude. On this week day, one pie of each flavour is available. Once sold, you’re outta luck. Guess I’ll have to come back for THE apple pie of my dreams (unless chef Tamera Clark reads this and takes pity on this coconut-pie fiend. My contact info’s in the right corner…)
We had our box full of treats under one arm and a foot over the threshold when kiddo begged to sit at the banquette to nibble on a lemon bar while he played on his iPad, buried under the beckoning cushions. He was hard to drag out of there, one can only sympathize…
Where? When? How?
Where: Rustique Pies
When: Tuesday thru Sunday only
How: 4615 Notre-Dame St. West, Montreal, H4C 1S5, (514) 439-5970