Food Shopping: Pies That Hit a High Note
By Kathryn Matthews
How did Debra Every, a former opera singer and bond trader, sneak back onto center stage—and into the limelight?
By baking pies. Lots of them. And winning fans. Lots of them.
At Me-Oh-My Pie Shop & Café in the village of Red Hook on a sunny Sunday afternoon, a silver-haired woman made a beeline from the entrance to the back of the shop. “That’s my pie,” she announced to the other customers, jabbing her finger at the last pecan pie in the glass case. The obsessive gleam in her eye dared anyone to challenge her claim (nobody did).
Whether oozing with local fruit or a savory meat filling, Every’s homemade pies can incite passion. And, as the shop’s baker and owner, she isn’t shy about flaunting what she’s got: both windows of the modest storefront and the sidewalk signage boast “The Best Pie in the World”.
Apparently, customers agree.
The secret may lie in her flaky crust (a combination of butter and shortening). Or, her use of seasonal, local fruit for fillings. Or, her made-from-scratch roster of pies: summer favorites—blueberry, plum and peach pies—have been replaced with autumnal, holiday-appropriate cranberry-walnut, sour cream pear, apple, chocolate-pecan, pumpkin and lemon pies.
After opening on Memorial Day, Every quickly cultivated a loyal following for her encrusted treats, which also include pot pies, quiches and tarts. Dessert pies come in three sizes: 4 inches ($3.95); 6 inches ($7.95) and 10 inches ($18.00). Or, you can buy a slice for $3.95.
Pie-baking is Every’s third career. Singing is her first love. A Philadelphia native, Every studied opera at the Philadelphia College of Performing Arts (renamed the University of the Arts in 1985), then headed to Manhattan to further her voice training and to pursue a singing career. To support her singing, she worked as a bond trader, first at E.F. Hutton, and eventually ending up at Warburg Pincus, where she ran their municipal bond department. “It was a weird cycle,” she acknowledges, explaining, “I’d leave the brokerage business to sing, become flat broke, then go back to trading bonds!”
Along the way, she met and married her husband Glenn Every, an attorney, and they had a baby boy. In 1992, while still at Warburg, Every got her big singing break: a contract with the Royal Opera in Stockholm. Away from her family that Thanksgiving, a homesick Every cooked herself Thanksgiving dinner—and baked a pie. “That pie was absolutely horrible!” she confessed.
After her Stockholm engagement, she focused on concert gigs that kept her closer to home and family. That solo Thanksgiving in Stockholm had another lasting consequence: the pie-baking bug had bitten. It continued after the Everys moved from the Upper West Side to Connecticut, then to Rhinebeck, where they have lived full-time since 1999. By then, Every, retired from both singing and bond trading, was raising her two sons.
A few years ago, Every wondered if Hanover Farms Roadstand in Mount Tremper (Ulster County) might buy her pies. They did. She began by baking 20 pies a month out of her Rhinebeck home; by last year, she was supplying Hanover with 100 pies a week. And Rhinebeck Health Food Store has become a wholesale client, too.
“Originally, this space was intended to house a commercial kitchen for my wholesale pie business,” said Every
Every’s compulsion to feed people harks back to growing up in a food-minded Armenian family: “We fed anyone who walked into the house,” says Every (nee Kitabjian). Once she opened her shop, she found herself responding to customers who were seeking simple, well-made food, prepared with fresh ingredients—without paying a king’s ransom.
From just pies, Every slowly expanded; first, with a lunch cafe, featuring homemade soups, salads, sandwiches and various baguette-themed “bites”—“a little savory something before pie,” she says. Now, she has introduced a limited dinner menu, featuring a choice of three entrees (i.e., coq au vin, pasta Bolognese, or quinoa-and-red-lentil-stuffed cubanelle peppers)—to eat in or carry out—on Fridays and Saturdays until 8:30pm. “Everything is made fresh daily,” she says proudly. And the cost? Entrees are between $10 and $14.
Recently, after shopping at the Rhinebeck farmers’ market, my husband and I stopped by this cozy, 19-seat cafe for a late lunch. We shared a tasty plate of sautéed julienned carrots with capers, onions and mint ($6.75); a toasted barley salad with apples, dried cranberries and walnuts ($6.75); and a local green salad with balsamic dressing ($3.25), all delicious in their freshness and simplicity. And pie, of course. We found the lattice-topped cranberry pie, served with homemade crème fraiche, delightfully tart. And the sour cream pear pie—mild and rich—was a revelation.
For anyone too time-pressed to bake over the upcoming holidays, Me-Oh-My could be a 911 for Tastes-Like-Homemade.
Me-Oh-My Pie Shop & Café
7466 South Broadway (Route 9)
Red Hook; 845.835.8340