Fork in the Road on the Road: Chicago's Hoosier Mama Pie Company

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One-fourth of Fork in the Road was in Chicago this weekend, and had the opportunity to make a long-awaited pilgrimage to Hoosier Mama Pie Company in Ukranian Village. Groaning puns aside, Hoosier Mama is indeed the mother of all pie companies: its namesake products look and taste like they came out of the oven of the world's (or at least the Midwest's) most mythical and benevolent grandmother. They're reassuringly rough-edged and unfailingly generous in both flavor and proportion, and -- if a pie can be said to possess human attributes -- honest.

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The coconut cream pie to end all coconut cream pies.

The pumpkin pie, for example, eschews canned puree in favor of actual roasted pumpkin, while the almost indecently voluptuous coconut cream pie is studded with fresh toasted coconut and freckled with vanilla bean. And such seasonal varieties as the pear-apple-cranberry contain enough fresh fruit to qualify as a nutritional supplement, albeit one that comes buried under a blanket of buttery walnut crumble. The tender and exceptionally flakey crusts, too, are relics of a pre-industrial era: the sweet pies use butter, while the savories use leaf lard. And while everything's sweet, nothing substitutes sugar for substance, so, as we can guiltily attest, it's possible to split three pieces of pie without courting even a whisper of a toothache, let alone diabetic shock.

The pies -- whose 40 rotating flavors also include key lime, maple pecan, strawberry rhubarb, and lemon meringue -- are the work of Paula Haney, who was formerly a pastry chef at Trio. Haney has said that she's been baking pies since she was a kid, and it shows: these are the kinds of pies that can only result from a lifelong love and perhaps borderline obsession. For curious and hungry passersby, Haney's snug, comfortably retro storefront is a place to indulge in a robust slice of Americana. For pie freaks and afficionados, it's perhaps the closest approximation of nirvana available in this earthly realm.

1618 1/2 Chicago Avenue, Chicago, IL 312-243-4846.

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