Thanks to Brian Klonoski of Good Eggs for this inspiration for à la mode on Thanksgiving pies.
Here’s our own tip: Turn vanilla ice cream into boozy vanilla. Soften the pint and stir in 2 tablespoons of bourbon or rum. Return to the freezer until you’re ready to serve it.
(Of course, you’ll need to test out a few pints first—bourbon versus rum, 2 tablespoons vs. 1/4 cup [4 tablespoons] etc., etc. wink, wink.)
Pumpkin pie is traditionally topped with whipped cream instead of ice cream, because the pie filling is so rich and custardy.
But how about trying ice cream this year?
Warm up the apple pie, and pair the spiced apple filling with:
Pie à la mode, French for pie “in the current fashion,” is a slice of pie with a scoop of ice cream on top or at the side.
The dessert did not originate in France, but in the U.S.
The term à la mode has been used in English since the mid-1600s as an adjective to mean fashionable. In food circles, it gave its name to Beef à la Mode,” braised beef with vegetables and wine, served in a rich sauce [source].
But pie à la mode?
At The Cambridge Hotel
At some point in the 1890s, a guest in the dining room of the Cambridge Hotel, Professor Charles Watson Townsend, ordered a slice of apple pie with a scoop of ice cream.
Apparently, pie served with ice cream was a new concept!
Mrs. Berry Hall, a diner seated next to Townsend, asked what it was called. He said it didn’t have a name, and she promptly dubbed it Pie à la Mode. Townsend liked the name so much he asked for it each day by that name [source].
Townsend subsequently ordered it by that name every day of his stay.
He ordered it by that name at a later visit to the Delmonico Restaurant in New York City. They hadn’t heard of it, of course.
The professor then chastised him. He was quoted as saying, “Do you mean to tell me that so famous an eating place as Delmonico’s has never heard of Pie a la Mode, when the Hotel Cambridge, up in the village of Cambridge, NY serves it every day? Call the manager at once, I demand as good serve here as I get in Cambridge.”
Delmonico’s, not wanting to be outshone by any other restaurant, immediately put it on the menu.
The newspapers immediately picked up the story of the dessert, and in short order it was on menus across the nation [source].
The Cambridge Hotel placed an information folder in each guest room, that included a page entitled “The History of the Pie à la Mode.” Here it is.
Townsend died in 1936 at the age of 87, and his New York Times obituary (which we were unable to access) notes that he “inadvertently originated pie à la mode.” He would have been in his 40’s when he “invented” it.
Apple Pie Trivia
“As American as apple pie” is an oft-heard expression. While Americans love their apple pie, the dish itself isn’t American. Apple pie was long-made in Britain, and variations were made across Europe, wherever apples were grown.
The French had a long investigation of apple-growing, and the Norman Conquest of 1066 brought their skills—and many new apple types—to Britain.
There were no apple trees in America before British immigrants brought seeds or rootstock and planted orchards. The first apple orchard on the North American continent was planted in Boston by Reverend William Blaxton in 1625.
Feel free to change the saying to, “As American as apple pie à la mode.”