Don't wrap that ill-fitting, itchy sweater. Instead, give the gift of pie. Unique, regional pies from all over the country -- pies you couldn't easily make in your kitchen -- are the holiday gift of choice for Jane and Michael Stern of Roadfood.com. They share their six picks for mail-order pies. [Ed. note: Want more Roadfood wisdom? Scan the list of everything Jane and Michael have mentioned on The Splendid Table over the years.]
1. Key lime pie, Key West Key Lime Pie Co.
Key West, Fla.
The Key West Key Lime Pie Co. will send you a magnificent, true, authentic Key lime pie. Of course you have to get it 2-day service, but this is the classic, real Florida Key lime pie. If you don't like pie, they will also send you Key lime pie bars, which are a slice of Key lime pie enrobed in chocolate and sent to you in dry ice. You can eat Key lime pie chocolate coated on a stick -- talk about heaven.
2. Mince pie, Red Truck Bakery & Market
The best mince pie we ever had was from the Red Truck Bakery in Warrenton, Va. It's in the most gorgeous part of Virginia. The guy who owns it said, "I am on a one-man crusade to resurrect the traditional mince pie." It is the sumptuous, suet-rich pastry with lots of bourbon and sugar. It's just wonderful. This is as luxurious as a pie can be. I don't know how much bourbon is in it, but it really does taste intoxicating.
3. Peanut butter pie, Dan's Peanut Butter Pies
Newbury Park, Calif., (805) 368-7664
It's not a huge pie, but it's so intense that one normal size pie you can cut into 10 or 12 little slices and each one is a filling dessert. What's so great about it is it's made of peanut butter with peanut butter in it. The way that works is the pie part is peanut butter and cream cheese and there are broken-up hunks of Reese's Peanut Butter Cups in it. It's a double-peanut whammy.
4. Apple pie baked in a paper bag, The Elegant Farmer
We can't talk about mail-order pies without mentioning the apple pie baked in a paper bag from The Elegant Farmer in Mukwonago, Wis. They claim that baking in a paper bag makes the crust crisper, which is counterintuitive, but it works. It's like a sugar cookie on top. We've ordered this several times and we've had it sent to people. Everyone who tastes this pie agrees unanimously this is the best apple pie they have ever eaten.
5. Salty honey walnut pie, Three Babes Bakeshop
The walnuts are from Old Dog Ranch, which is right near the bakeshop. It's an incredibly delicious pie with honey, scraped vanilla beans and fleur de sel. It's very elegant and very on-trend -- it is the best thing. Because it's a walnut pie, it travels very well and it keeps very well.
6. Pie-of-the-month plan, Royers Round Top Cafe
Round Top, Texas
Not to brag, but we are lifetime members of Pie of the Month for Life. Every month for the rest of our lives, we get a pie from Royers. These are sensational Texas pies, especially the pecan. I think the trick here is that these pies are so incredibly sweet and rich, your lifespan is very short so they can be quite generous about pie for life.