November: when families across America come together to eat. Yes, lofty reasons exist for gathering and tasty dishes are made for savoring but face it: no Thanksgiving table is complete without pie.
But what kind of pie?
Austin’s locally owned Tiny Pies owner and founder Amanda Bates answers that question handily.
“Thanksgiving really goes with the Tiny Pies idea, our whole business concept, which is that everyone can have their favorite. No one has to be stuck eating their aunt’s favorite pie….We’re in the best business, and our storefront says all–‘We’re baking up smiles.’ That’s truly what we do.”
Tiny Pies is Austin Grown
Tiny Pies founders and owners Amanda Bates and her mother Kit Seay have lived in Austin since 1976. Both women graduated from The University of Texas at Austin, and this mother and daughter duo has always loved baking. Since 2011, Tiny Pies has been the family business and a labor of love.
Listening to Bates talk about pies reveals the depth of that love. Just try to nail down her preferences:
“My favorite pie changes seasonally, along with the local produce. Right now it’s cherry (I love how really bold and tart the flavor is). Pear cranberry is delicious, and I’m a pumpkin pie kind of gal, so there’s that. But year ‘round, coconut cream is one of my favorites. In the summer, I go for something that’s not too sweet, like our summer peach pie and the strawberry rhubarb.”
Bates and Seay developed Tiny Pies to solve a problem: how to pack pie in school lunches (truly, this is a family of serious pie lovers). Answer: handheld pie. Production started small but grew exponentially in 2012 after national exposure (Oprah Winfrey’s magazine). Tiny Pies moved out of Austin’s farmers markets, into retail locations (Burnet Rd. flagship and production facility, plus South Lamar shop), and expanded their offerings.
Still, Tiny Pies remains a family business. “‘Mom and I do pretty much everything,” Bates said. “I’m marketing and business development, and I oversee catering. Mom makes sure we’re on track—she’s involved in so much it’s hard to list it all.” Regular staff numbers about 20 employees, though ranks swell somewhat during busy times.
“We’re still a very hands-on shop,” Bates explained. “Nothing goes out of the kitchen without me knowing about it.” And if you’re arranging a catered event or corporate-branded gifts, that’s Bates on the Tiny Pies end.
“This is the time of year when we’re shipping pies all over the country for businesses to say ‘thank you’ to their clients. Working out those details (selection, shipping, price point, dates, etc.) is a very back-and-forth process. I do tons of that,” said Bates. “And I love working with customers; if I could, I’d work the store every day.”
Pie Beyond Thanksgiving
December is a busy pie time, too. According to Bates, “we try to bring in more rich and hearty flavors,” tastes that pair well with a hot chocolate or a nice after-dinner toddy on a winter day. She mentioned a Christmas-y chocolate cream pie with peppermint whip is in the works. One of her favorite fruit pies, cranberry pear, and cherry are traditional choices for festive tables.
Don’t forget Pi Day (March 14). This national math-focused celebration is like Tiny Pies’ Super Bowl. “Pi Day is even harder than Thanksgiving, because it’s all compressed down to one day, “ Bates explained. Tiny Pies gets into Pi Day in a big way; each pie sports a pi cut out, perfect for that photo op. While stores normally carry 12 to 15 flavors, Tiny Pies adds some additional flavors so every pi lover can find the perfect treat.
What’s New at Tiny Pies
Not into sweets? November’s featured savory tiny pie is the Texas Pete (vegetarian chili and cornbread). How ‘bout spinach ricotta empanadas (half-moon filled pastries)? Or there’s the 5-inch veggie potpie, full of whatever seasonal goodness local resource Johnsons Backyard Garden has produced. At that size, potpies are a hearty solo meal or nicely shared by two.
“A lot of people don’t know we’re full-on lunch and dinner,” explained Bates. While the Burnet Rd. store is primarily for pick-up, the South Lamar location has indoor and outdoor seating, perfect for lingering.
The Tiny Pies team keeps baking up new ideas. “Oh, yeah, we take requests,” replied Bates when asked if customers ask for specific flavors.
Though the November menu is locked down, Bates pointed out that’s not usual: “ If people want to start seeing something in store or need a specific flavor for a party, sure.” She quickly added a caveat: Tiny Pies won’t compromise quality, so “everything has to be vegetarian, locally sourced when possible, and meet standards.”
Though Bates herself eats gluten free, there’s not currently a gluten free Tiny Pies option. Why? Too much flour flies around and Bates would hate to risk kitchen cross contamination. But in January, Tiny Pies hopes to add cups packed offsite with gluten-free pie fillings and cookie crust as an option.
How to Build the Perfect Holiday Pie Platter
Austin’s Tiny Pies provided tips for a tasty no-fuss pie platter.
Provide an assortment. Bates says to choose an assortment of nut, fruit, and cream pies: “Everyone’s going to have a favorite; this covers your bases.”
Think about transport. Cream pies need refrigeration, so if you’re traveling for 30 minutes or more, these have to be kept cold. Tell the shop staff about your travel plans so they can assist with selection and packing (boxes work well for flights).
Choose size. Lots of tiny pies or a few big ones (Tiny Pies has 9-inch pies, too)? This Thanksgiving, pick up a box of 6 or 12 in-house assorted tiny pies Monday through Wednesday; you can pre-order selected assortments until Nov. 15. Would you like a bite? Tiny Pies has pecan pie bites for those who just “want a taste.”
Opt for seasonal. Bates gave November-specific recommendations. “Fruit, go with pear cranberry and cherry; someone always wants apple. We have two pumpkin varieties: chai whip and pumpkin cheesecake. Nut, choose Sweet Texas Pecan or the Texas Two-Step (pecan with brownie). And for cream, coconut and chocolate cream are always crowd pleasers.”
Top Trip Rentals Recommends
Austin’s known for its wonderfully Instagrammable spots. Stop by the Burnet Rd. store to experience the original Tiny Pies vibe. Savor wonderful pie smells, pick one out, and snap an iconic Austin pic against the “Measure Up Strong Man” wall.
You can also bake your own Tiny Pie in our vacation rental home kitchens. Pick up a Tiny Pie in a jar and make your Austin “home away from home” smell heavenly.
November 13, 2017