With its long-awaited entrance onto the Stowe dining scene, Piecemeal Pies offers a rustic English culinary tradition with a haute-cuisine flare.
The restaurant’s architect — literally, an architect turned chef — has brought the second Vermont iteration of his meat-pie haven to the resort town following its initial opening in White River Junction despite all manner of setbacks, including a worldwide pandemic.
Justin Barrett first came to Stowe, like so many anglophiles, for the annual British Invasion car show, selling his thematically appropriate stuffed crusts to a crowd eager enough to warrant year-round commitment.
Although they’re are being sold out of the old carriage house on Main Street in a casual cafe atmosphere, Barrett’s pies are the product of meticulous devotion to a particular craft, born of equal parts ingenuity and creativity.
“I feel like architecture and cooking are both very sort of equally right brain, left brain,” Barrett said. “There is that room for creativity, but also you have to work within the confines of physics and chemistry.”
Barrett left architecture and developed an enviable culinary pedigree, working under renowned chefs like April Broomfield at her Michelin-rated restaurant The Spotted Pig in Manhattan before going on to make his mark at his own restaurants like The Fat Radish and Piecemeal, where he’s designed both their menus and the interior spaces.
Some of the marquee acts at Piecemeal Pies could potentially be too out there for backwater American palettes, but the success of some of his most daring creations has surprised even Barrett. He was certain, for example, that the rabbit and bacon pie would never take off, only to find it has become a customer favorite and the restaurant’s flagship dish.
It’s also emblematic of his culinary ethos and the intentional relationships Barrett has built with local New England farmers.
“We get basically this farmer’s large rabbits that restaurants don’t normally want, and we are able to get them at a lower price point,” Barrett said. “The farmer also then gets money for something he spent resources raising but might not be able to easily sell.”
The rabbits are braised in chicken stock and wine with locally sourced bacon, onions, garlic, potatoes, carrots and a bushel of thyme before being poured over soaked prunes. The rabbit bones are then roasted to pitch black and made into a rich stock with cider, which is then made into gravy.
“It’s got this meaty, salty sweetness that is really unique and really balanced,” Barrett said.
For those looking for a more familiarly feathered pie filling, the chicken and leek pie is also a notable customer favorite, according to Barrett. Curried lamb, beef with mushroom and blue cheese and smoked trout and fennel are just a few of the other iterations on offer.
Barrett’s obsessive quest to recreate London’s ubiquitous English sausage rolls has resulted in good news for his customers, while fruit hand pies stuffed with sour cherry maple, apple spice wine and blueberry rhubarb fillings rarely get a chance to grow cold before they’re sold.
Piecemeal Pies has looked to hit the ground running after its delayed opening, with a breakfast and lunch service that includes a fully stocked cafe, including Barrett’s meticulously crafted take on the pumpkin spice latte.
As the perfect weather for pork and parsnip pie with rabbit cider gravy descends upon the Green Mountains, the restaurant also plans to expand into dinner service. In the next few weeks, Piecemeal Pies will also begin taking orders to traditional sweet pies for the holidays.
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