Member Highlight: The Classic Aussie 6 Pack
If the word “pie” conjures images of a flaky brown crust, a bubbling fruit filling and a scoop of melting vanilla ice cream, the Off the Menu dish from Fork-in Aussie Pies is about to rock your world. Because pie, it turns out, can be filled with meat. It can be topped with gravy. Served with a heaping scoop of mac and cheese if you so desire. Did I mention sausage-croissant stuffing? Sausage. Croissant. Stuffing. Like I said, you’re in for a treat.
When I first arrived at the Fork-in Aussie Pies store on Main Street in Santa Monica, I was surprised I’d never noticed it before. Just down the road from Urth Caffé, its location is hard to beat, and with funky decorated walls, overhanging lights and mini blackboards filled with fun facts about Aussie pies, the store itself seemed trendy and inviting.
With the Off the Menu app open on my phone, I approached the cashier and asked for the Off the Menu “Classic Aussie Pie Six Pack.” And because I have no self control and am easily enticed by all things pie, I decided to order the “Thai Chicken Curry” pie as well, just to taste.
While I sat at a table in the corner waiting for my pies, I figured a little research about the savory pie phenomenon was in order. Here’s what I learned: Australians are bonkers about hand pies. They’ve described it as their “national dish.” They hold a “Great Aussie Meat Pie Contest” every year. They’re pretty much crazy for pie.
I also learned that Joe Youkhan, the chef behind Fork-in Aussie Pies, is not only a “Chopped” champion, but has also made a few changes to the standard Aussie hand pie. In Aussie-land, they eat the pies with their hands, topped with ketchup, while watching rugby. At Fork-in Aussie Pies, you eat with a fork and knife, from a plate piled high with mouth-watering toppings. Lots and lots o’ toppings.
A few minutes later, my glorious plate appeared, and just as the Off the Menu app promised, the classic ground beef pie came with all the works. The works meaning it arrived on a bed of roasted garlic mash, sausage-croissant stuffing and mac n cheese, topped with minty mushy peas, roasted garnet yams, edamame and sweet succotash.
The concoction was almost too beautiful to cover with a pool of mushroom and creamy thyme gravy. Almost.
Throwing caution and my summer bod goals to the wind, I dove in. Practically face first, because I love pie and have no shame. As expected, I was rewarded with a familiar and uplifting explosion of flavors that mingled pleasantly on my tongue, causing my fork to move almost on its own accord.
The sweet succotash and mushy peas offered a perfect balance of savory and sweet. The sausage-croissant stuffing and mashed potatoes inspired a feeling of comfort reminiscent of Thanksgiving, and the mac n cheese with three cheeses had me giddy like a child.
The pie itself: surprising yet tasty. At first, the temperature of the pie seemed wrong. I had been expecting a hot pie and was taken off guard by the lukewarm meat filling. The cashier later explained to me that the pies take three days to make and are not supposed to be hot. The ingredients are marinated for a full day or more, then slow cooked for a few hours, left to rest for another day and finally covered with their signature croissant top. From the intense flavors of the filling, the lengthy timeline made perfect sense.
Though the button on my jeans was starting to protest, I had to try a few bites of the Thai Chicken Curry pie as well. Without the side dishes, I could focus more on the crisp croissant topping and the filling within. While I loved the classic ground beef, the spiced chicken filling delighted my tastebuds in a way I hadn’t anticipated. The richness of the coconut milk, the zing of green curry and the texture of the slow cooked chicken thighs delighted my tastebuds in a new and striking way. Comforting yet exciting. My favorite kind of meal.
Tempted by the smell of roasted coffee beans, I almost caved and ordered a flat white. But without an ounce of room left in my stomach, I had to pass. Never would I have discovered this place on my own, and I already couldn’t wait to come back.
- OTM Club Member: Giselle Abcarian