Tuesday, May 6, 2014

The Pie Maker

By Grace Sundeen

The front entrance to The Pie Maker
“’Stranger here you’ll do well to tarry, for here our highest good is pleasure.’ ~ Epicurus” read the chalkboard. Despite the frequent rain showers, the inscription was in perfect condition. This inscription is what first caught my eye. Not the maroon store front, the green door, the window display or the name of the shop. Like many tourists wandering about Eyre Square and the surrounding streets full of shops in Galway, my interest soon shifted from the knickknacks and sweaters within these shops to locating a good restaurant to have lunch at. As a student studying abroad, I was looking for a restaurant which had decent food at a reasonable price. I found it: The Pie Maker; Producer of Sweet and Savory Pies.

Sonja behind her counter
The Pie Maker is run by Sonja, a bubbly Swede who is always smiling. I soon discovered that she fell in love with Ireland while on holiday. She fits the Swedish stereo type to a t with her blond haired and blue eyes. Sonja claims she is hesitant to commit to staying in Galway long term, but she has already been in Galway for almost eighteen months. It appears Sonja and her pie shop are quickly becoming permanent fixtures in Galway, even though she was a little scared by how quickly her time in Galway has passed. Sonja bakes all of the pies from scratch utilizing local ingredients.

The Pie Maker is a small, narrow restaurant located near the corner of Cross Street and Quay Street in Galway, Ireland. The colored store front and name helps the restaurant stand out from the other brightly colored shops on the street, but the inside blows the other shops out of the water. Four narrow booths sit along a wall papered with an old world map. Across from the entrance, a door is hidden by wooden rulers covering the wall. In the center of the ruler covered wall a mirror assists in enlarging the room.

The hat chandelier and copper ceiling
Hanging from the shiny copper ceiling is a very unique chandelier. The spout of a pewter teapot pours out a bright red cord ending in a caged light bulb and flowing out of the neck of the teapot are five more red cords and light bulbs. These light bulbs are shaded by: a gray top hat with a black hatband, a brown fedora, a light gray pith hat, a red top hat, and a black top hat. The red top hat is just two shades darker than the cord the light bulb hangs on. To keep the chandelier floating the hats are connected by golden chains to the ceiling. The copper ceiling reflects back perfect images of each bulb. The goose neck lamp on the counter is similarly shaded by a light tan hat.

The dining side of the counter and the stools
Opposite of the wall with the map was the counter. The counter is divided in two by an opening allowing for Sonja to move freely around the store. The counter half closest to the door contains a cash register, a hidden mini fridge, and work space for Sonja to roll out more crusts. The cash register is a queer rectangular device, definitely not a style I have ever seen before. Sonja adds ups your tab on a notepad she keeps next to the register. At the other half of the counter there was a darkly stained stool and four similarly stained wooden chairs. The backs of these chairs had been removed in order to make them into stools. Before the stools and the shelf in front of them was a glass cabinet displaying the pies of the day and another inscribed upon chalkboard. The quote upon this board was from Nelson Mandela, “The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.”

Atop the glass cabinet Sonja keeps plates and silverware so dishing up the pies never takes more than a few moments. She serves eight savory pies, three sweet pies, pistachio chocolate fudge, and several different kinds of beverages. The savory pies are pot pies and the sweet pies are pies such as Irish Apple, Pumpkin, and Banoffee pies. The savory pies are served with mashed potatoes (mash), mushy peas, gravy, or salad. All of the pies are about four inches across, just big enough to have a good meal out of one pie but not so big that you do not have room for a pie for dessert.

The first night my friends and I found The Pie Maker, I ordered an apple pie with cream. The pie was served warm and the cream was homemade whipped cream. The apple slices were coated in sweet, cinnamony syrup which only comes from a perfect balance of apples, cinnamon, and sugar. The pie crusts were light, flakey, and complemented the apple filling within the pie; which was a refreshing change from pie crusts over powering the taste of the filling. I can honestly say that apple pie was better than any apple pie my grandmother has made.

Our professor Tom and his wife Cami
Our dessert pies were so good we decided to return to The Pie Maker for lunch the next day. We even talked one of our professors and his wife into trying The Pie Maker for their lunch. I ordered the roast beef pie and a ginger beer for my lunch. The tender roast beef was in thick gravy. There was just enough gravy to add flavor and keep the beef and carrots moist but not so much that it was an annoying mess of crust, gravy, meat, and vegetables once the pie was cut into. I had a fresh salad with sundried tomatoes and vinaigrette to go with the mashed potatoes and pie.

My lunch of ginger beer, roast beef pie, mashed potatoes, and salad.
Just before I settled up with Sonja I inquired about the Banoffee pie. It is a graham cracker crust with caramel, sliced bananas, whipped cream, and chocolate powder. Unable to resist such a delicious sounding dessert but also unable to consume another bite of pie, I ordered one to go. I was not disappointed when I finally dug into the Banoffee pie. The melding of the whipped cream, banana, chocolate, and caramel was just and explosion of sweetness and flavor on my taste buds. Now that I’ve had the pies from The Pie Maker I sorely miss them. I might even try to recreate a Banoffee pie despite the fact I doubt I will ever get it even close to Sonja’s.

The sign over the door
The Pie Maker not only exceeded my requirement for good food it also exceeded my expectations for how much I would have to pay for such good food. I thought it would cost significantly more than it did. It was about €5 for each of the sweet pies and €10 for the savory pie and side dishes. I look forward to the next time I can see Sonja and enjoy her culinary skills. Epicurus’s quote was certainly correct. Tarrying at The Pie Maker gave my friends and me great pleasure and a new friend.

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