Thursday, August 21, 2014

Lunch in Costa Mesa? Pie Not!

270 E. 17th Street
Costa Mesa, CA 92627

Yes, I'm probably the last food blogger to make their way to Pie-Not, the Australian style bakery in Costa Mesa. This is surprising because for awhile there, in my high school years, I was all about Australia. My love for all things "down under", was largely due to a crush I developed on Kylie Minogue. Probably not something I should really admit to in print, but I want to be honest with all of you two people that read this blog on a regular basis.

Pie-Not is part of the burgeoning food scene on 17th Street. For awhile now, it seems like anytime I hear of a cool, new restaurant opening, it takes place on this Costa Mesa Street. Pie-Not has been part of this scene for over a year now.  In that time they have won rave reviews for their gourmet Australian meat and vegetarian pies, along with some desserts from the, "Land of Oz".

This restaurant comes to us from the minds of Jai Snowden, formerly of Australia's Gold Coast, and Ryan Lopiccolo, who's from just down the road in Newport. They met, and formed a friendship over Australian meat pies, and wanted to share their love of this Australian staple with the people of OC. After two years of researching, perfecting, and many tastings, they felt ready to open their business, and it has been going strong ever since. When asked about expansion, Jai had a smirk across his face, but kept his insiders info to himself, only saying, "news will be coming out soon". Can't wait to hear what's next for this brand. For now though, I was recently invited to come in and try Pie-Not for the first time, and I was pretty excited to find out what this place is all about.

Pie-Not has small storefront that is located right next door to another foodie favorite, Sidecar Doughnuts, and just a few doors down from one of the cheesiest Mexican restaurants ever, Mi Casa. Entering the small space at Pie-Not, you are instantly drawn to the display case where all of their over twenty items are sitting behind glass, in the well lit case. No soda fountain at Pie-Not, but they have a fair variety of bottled beverages for you to choose from, including an Australian favorite, Bundaberg Ginger Beer. Also they are very proud to be the only place in the US grinding and pouring Bun Coffee, which is from Byron Bay Australia. I'm not much of a coffee drinker, but during my visit, I saw many people ordering coffee to go along with their pies. Lets get to the main reason I was here on this afternoon, the eating.

While we were waiting for my fellow food blogger to battle traffic down the 405 Freeway, I could not wait to dig into the food at Pie-Not. I started with the Daisy and Babe Sausage Roll ($4). This was not like any sausage roll I have ever had. It came with ground beef and pork, finely grated onion and carrots, extra sharp cheddar cheese, and back bacon, which is then rolled up in a puff pastry. I was expecting this to be over the top rich with all of these big flavors, but it was more subdued than I imagined. The carrots and onion are present, but not in hunks like you would expect. I got the smokiness from the bacon, but again, it was not in big pieces. The puff pastry was very light, and crispy, with lots of flakes flying off while biting into this. Eating this just whetted my appetite for more at Pie-Not.

Some of the menu at Pie-Not is geared towards breakfast, and only available earlier in the day. One of these items is this Wasps Nest ($3.50). Kind of like a scone, but not as dense, this was filled with sharp cheese, back bacon, diced onion, and parsley. Again, this was lighter than I was expecting. I'm not a fan of scones, but this one was not as heavy as others I have had. The bacon was evident, but did not overpower this pastry. I would imagine someone with an active lifestyle grabbing one of these before heading out to surf, not wanting something heavy weighing them down, but still substantial enough to curtail hunger until later in the day.

By now my fellow food blogger, Diane, from The Episodic Eater had made it to Pie-Not, so we ordered a lot of things to try. I wrote this just so you know I did not eat all of this by myself, although I probably could have since I was so hungry.

Probably my second favorite on this afternoon was this Pie-Not classic, the Sprung a Leek Chicken Pie ($6.50). This one came stuffed with tender white meat chicken breast, green leeks, white wine cream sauce, cayenne pepper, and tarragon. I think I liked this one because it reminded me of a dinner that my mom made for us growing up, called Chicken Squares. This version was equally as good. The spices woke up the taste buds, the chicken was tender, and the flaky crust was a great vessel for the filling. A must get for people that want to go the chicken route here.

One of the nice things about Pie-Not is that they always have something new for you to try, like their latest Chef Special, the Brekkie Pizza. This is a brand new item that just came about within a few days ago. This breakfast pizza uses puff pastry as a base, then is topped with a cheese custard, tomato, scallion, and bacon. This was probably my least favorite of this afternoon. I felt this one did not have enough substance behind it. I liked their items that were filled with things, more than this one where the toppings were exposed. A little too subtle for me flavor wise.

At the other end of the spectrum, my favorite item on this afternoon was this Drunken Cow Sirloin Steak Pie ($6.50). Not really a big surprise since most of you know that I'm a big fan of red meat. This pie was filled to capacity with hunks of steak, pearl onions, red wine, garlic, thyme, and marjoram. If I was not feeling full already, this definitely put me close to the edge. The steak was surprisingly tender, the thick gravy sauce did not overpower, and you could definitely detect the presence of the red wine in here. I could not see myself coming here, and not ordering this every time.

Anytime I hear that something is vegan, I automatically have a biased against it. I know it's not fair, but I think of it as a side item, and not a main course. Even with that being said, I can admit to liking this Ghandi Pastry ($4.50). This Indian inspired  item is loaded with chickpeas, potatoes, cauliflower, and butternut squash, almost the whole garden is in here. It was so flavorful, I almost converted to being a vegan, okay just kidding with that one, but it was a very good pastry.

The last of my savory items was the Hippie Roll ($4.00). This contained an unusual assortment of things, spinach, ricotta, walnuts, Swiss and Gruyere cheeses, and cayenne. Again another one without meat, but this one was a winner. I really am a big fan of spinach, and with this roll, the spinach was front and center. The cheeses did not overpower, and the walnuts added a nuttiness that you would not expect if you did not know there was walnuts in here. A very nice way to end our savory portion of our afternoon.

Desserts at Pie-Not are not to be missed. We started with what they say is a traditional Aussie dessert, the Lamington ($3.00). This kind of had a Hostess feel to me. It's a butter sponge cake rolled in chocolate icing, and then dusted with coconut flakes. The cake portion was a little denser than I had thought it would be, and the coconut flakes brought to mind the red raspberry coconut Zingers I had as a kid. I also liked the Australian flag perched on top of this dessert.

Sometimes a restaurant comes up with the perfect name for an item, a name that describes the item perfectly. This was the case with this Slice of Heaven ($3.00) at Pie-Not. The base of this is a shortbread crust, then it's layered with caramel and chocolate, then finished with a pinch of salt. A little rich, I liked everything about this dessert bar. It had a very good caramel, which went well with the chocolate, but the salt on top evened the sweetness out. Very tasty, and my favorite dessert here.

I'm always up for a cookie, and the last thing I tried at Pie-Not was this Australian staple, the Digger ($1.50). This cookie dates back to World War 1, and is made up of rolled oats, dessicated coconut, and a golden syrup. The story goes that while the men were fighting the war, the woman wanted an item that would not spoil in care packages, so this flourless cookie was born. I liked this cookie, it had a decent crunch to it, while the center was a little more chewy. If I had not known the coconut was in here, I never would have guessed it.

After eating at Pie-Not, it's apparent why so many people really love this place. I really liked the casualness of the restaurant, but even with the laid back atmosphere, the food did not suffer. This is some quality food that you are getting, for about the same money that you would be spending on a fast food combo meal. I kind of made a pig of myself here, but I wanted to try a little bit of everything. One savory pie and a dessert will definitely fill up most people. Be advised that there is very limited seating in front of the restaurant, maybe eight seats total, so you might want to get your food to go, unless you mind standing up to eat. I was very excited to finally try Pie-Not, with my only disappointment being that I did not run into Kylie Minogue on this visit. I guess there's always next time.

I would like to thank everyone at Pie-Not for allowing us to visit. We had a great time meeting both Jai and Ryan, along with General Manager Dave, who went over the entire menu with us prior to us ordering. He definitely knows his stuff. I would also like to thank my lovely dining companions at this lunch. Diane from The Episodic Eater, which is definitely a blog that you all should check out. Lastly, I would like to thank Rubina from Kitchen Table PR for putting together this fantastic visit. It was a pleasure meeting you Rubina, and we look forward to seeing you again real soon.

For more information about Pie-Not, go to their website here:

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