by Anne Jones
Claire Danes knows pie. She knows it so well that in her promo video for Virginia she recognized that Proper Pie Company is one of Richmond’s greatest assets. “Out of this world” she called it; she also ordered bunches of pies for her Homeland crew to say thank you, with the note, “An ENTIRELY selfless offering to our crazy bananas amazing crew…And no, of COURSE, I didn’t stick my fat face in every single one of these works of art.”
I know my pie too, and I agree with Claire. Proper Pie pies are works of art, the stuff of legends. These aren’t just your typically delicious standard bakery pies like apple or chocolate or lemon chess. These are New Zealand-style meat pies, a concept I was totally unaware of until my proper pie education. New Zealand-style means a “hand-sized meat pie containing diced or minced meat and gravy, sometimes with onion, mushrooms, or cheese and often consumed as a takeaway food snack.” Proper Pie pies are more meal than snack, but they look downright cute. Just small enough to hold in your hand, they are pleasingly browned, with curvy, serrated edges and flaky crust covering the top. In fact, the directions on their blackboard advise you to “eat your savory pies with your hands, straight outta the bag – it’s fun and the Kiwis do it.”
Despite the meaty origin of these delicacies, Proper Pie doesn’t ignore their vegan and vegetarian patrons. Being a semi-vegetarian myself, I chose a broccoli and smoked gouda pie on my first visit. The filling was full of chopped broccoli and savory cheese, and the consistency was perfect – not quiche-like as I had expected, but more like a casserole. I had feared the filling would be an over-salted mush, but it was just the opposite. Somehow, despite the cheese and the crust, it was light and fresh-tasting, with delicate flavors. The chili bean and cheese choice on my second visit was equally remarkable, mainly because each of the ingredients was discernible – chunky tomatoes and whole beans, with the slightest of kicks. These pies are just delicious little meals surrounded by flaky, scrumptious crusts.
There’s no standard menu at Proper Pie; they post the fare on Facebook every day, and the variety is impressive: mince and cheese, pork and sausage gumbo, smoked salmon, leek and potato, chicken and kumara, spinach and feta roll are just a few choices from last week.
And though Proper Pie is defined by the unique savory pies, they also excel at “Sweet by the slice” pies. These may be more what I think of as pie, but there is nothing standard about them, with flavors like Buttermilk and raspberry, peach and blackberry, pear almond, and of course, apple. I’m not sure why I wasn’t more adventurous but I panicked when it came time to order and blurted out “apple!” (Though the staff is as nice and helpful as can be, efficiency is the name of the game, and you better have your act together when you get to the counter). But one can hardly go wrong with apple pie, and this was some of the very best I have ever eaten: big slices of tart apple with a subtle brush of sweet cinnamon, in the buttery flaky crust. There are also sweet Anzac biscuits, mock turtle bars, mellow puffs, lamington (Australian cake delicacy), hot chocolate, coffee drinks and more. Maybe it’s a dessert place after all.
Snack, meal, or dessert, and borrowed from Down Under, it’s all as American as Proper Pie.
Proper Pie Company
Wednesday – Saturday 12-7; Sundays 12-6
2505 E Broad St.