Beachwood, Ohio: The Chubby Cook and The Pie Lady

Yesterday, I took a cooking class at The Chubby Cook in Beachwood, Ohio:  They make homestyle food to go (order ahead as they do not just have it sitting in cases because it sounds like it’s all made fresh for the order) and does catering but that recently starting cooking classes. The specific cooking class was given by The Pie Lady.

I’d heard from someone I know that The Pie Lady makes the best crusts around. Here’s what I want to say: almost anyone could learn to make a pie from this class. Even the non-bakers and non-cooks were able to make a pie crust. She explained that, while there is some measuring involved, pies are not dependent on exact measuring like other bakery, so baking a pie is a skill many can learn even if they’re not great at measuring. She explained away all the fear we all have about all the things we worry about doing perfectly well and how sturdy a pie crust really is.

As for the settings, I can tell that The Chubby Cook is still new with giving classes. We pretty much had what we needed but they’re working on getting the timing of the classes down and that kind of thing. Overall, there was nothing that was disappointing or bad, just that the classes aren’t as slick at other places. But with that said, maybe that’s good. This was just fun — almost a bit outrageous, at times, with people running around helping each other and that sort of thing. Even though there were a couple groups of friends in the class, people weren’t cliquey — it was really friendly and hands-on. We got LOTS of questions answered.

As for the place, itself, the address says it’s on Richmond Road but make sure you look at the map. You won’t see it from the street. If you go to Moxie but drive back of Moxie and look to the Right, there’s a little strip mall with some hidden gems in it, which include The Chubby Cook. Scott, the owner, is a kick to talk to — very friendly, self-effacing, down-to-earth and helpful.

Pie Stories
The Pie Lady started class by asking us to introduce ourselves and for our pie stories. Being the first on the block, I went blank on my pie stories, so I’ll tell them all, here, instead.

I’ve always like pie but find it’s not sold in many restaurants. Both a real layer cake and a real pie are hard to find. Many restaurants have gooey elaborate things that taste like a sweet bunch of goo with too many elements and don’t resemble a real piece of bakery.

Upstate New York: Moving to Upstate New York (I mean Rochester/Syracuse/Utica areas), I lived by one of the largest farmer’s markets in the country. In the fall, with New York state being the second largest apple state (behind Washington), there would be multitudes of apples available and people discussing which apples make the best pie. One favorite was called a 20-ouncer. It’s huge. It’s a good pie apple and you have peel fewer of them because they’re so large. Another favorite pie memory is that, among the multitudes of grape arbors in the Finger Lakes, as you drive around in the Fall and see produce stands by roadside, you’ll see grape pies. Yum!

The South: I lived in Georgia for a while. Many restaurants would have a number of layer cakes and pies for desserts, but resembling something you might have eaten growing up if related to someone who liked to bake or if you liked to bake.

Michigan: When I moved to the Lansing area in Central Michigan (“palm of the mitt”) I was lucky that the Grand Traverse Pie Company built its third shop right by where I lived. They had numerous pies, including chicken pot pie, beef pot pie, and taco pie, all of which were great. I still receive their Pie News by e-mail. In Michigan, the popular thing is sour cherry pie which is a real treat and truly better than the one with sweet cherries. Try it — I’m not kidding!!

Boston: Chicken pie is popular around Boston. Many small places have it. Some will also have chicken pot pie. The difference is that chicken pie is often chicken and gravy without a whole of of other elements, and a chicken pot pie often has a number of elements. I like both. While Oprah Winfrey has her favorite from Cape Cod, I find that crust way too sweet and preferred both Harrison’s in Reading (pronounced “redding”) and the local bakery in my neighborhood (La Dolce Vita which was by the border of Billerica and Burlington), because both local bakeries and local grocery stores in this area commonly make their own.

TV: I used to enjoy the show “Pushing Daisies” partly just because I liked the show, but partly because I loved the varieties of pies they served at the Pie Hole.

Movies: I seem to think many a movie shows the contract killer or lonely detective in a diner with a piece of pie and a cup of coffee before they head out on their duties. I mentioned this to the person I was sitting next to in yesterday’s pie class and she asked if I’d ever entertained this as a profession. I misunderstood and thought she meant being a contract killer and quickly replied that I hadn’t but she meant baking as a living. Actually, I briefly had thought about it but for an extreme laziness about getting organized about my baking. Although, I should also admit the lonely detective was a profession that did actually appeal to me. First of all, I like both the pie and the coffee. Second of all, I can see myself as Samantha Spade. Third of all, I do also happen to own a beige trench coat.

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