Food Fight: Pecan Pie

Categories: Food Fight

Dacapo's and Goode Co. (l to r) pecan pie.jpg
Dacapo's, left. Goode Co., right.
It may be the state tree of Texas, but the pecan sure doesn't attract the kind of attention lavished on the state flower, the bluebonnet. Put it this way: You don't see photo studios offering to capture a young Texan's first bite of pecan pie. If only! The bluebonnet is a beautiful and worthy state flower, but it is so widely distributed in Texas because state and local agencies have sown countless tons of wildflower seeds over the years (thank you, Lady Bird Johnson and the Highway Beautification Act of 1965). The pecan, meanwhile, puts money in Texans' pockets. A lot of money.

The pecan is the only tree nut native to the Americas, and the United States produces more than 80 percent of the world's crop, with the vast majority grown in Texas, Georgia and New Mexico. But a curious thing has been happening to pecans in recent years: the supply, demand and price have all been increasing. The main reason is a huge leap in exports to China, where nuts fulfill a dual role of snack food and medicine, and the upwardly mobile happily pay a hefty premium. (And, for reasons that are still poorly understood, the incidence of tree nut allergies is much lower there.) Nuts are serious business in China; some supermarkets go so far as to put security tags on bags of pecans. When I told my grad school classmates in Shanghai that pecan trees were so common in Texas that homeowners regularly mulch the pecans they can't use or give away, it was as if I said that Texans used golden eggs to make omelets.

In addition to being the best month for bluebonnet pictures, April is also the best time to eat pecans--it's National Pecan Month. And what better way to honor an American original than by eating a slice of pecan pie? The contenders in this food fight are Goode Company, whose Brazos Bottom Pecan Pie is legendary (and available by mail order), and the charming Dacapo's Pastry Cafe, a former Houston Press Best Desserts winner.

To the judging!

Goode Company Barbeque, or any other Goode Company restaurant (a hefty 10 1/8 ounce slice of a 9" pie for $3.50 - at least, the website says $3.50/slice, but I was rung up for $4.25, a discrepancy I didn't notice until I got home and checked the receipt. Not cool, Goode Company.)

Everything about this pie is over the top. It's an extra-thick, extra-sweet pie, slow-cooked, with a huge layer of corn syrup, sugar and eggs (cut with the not-so-secret ingredient of vinegar), and topped with a single layer of extra-large organic Texas pecan halves. The golden layer of syrupy sludge, with a consistency just this side of gelatin, is so sweet it made my fillings ache, but it's the most sophisticated and complex sugar rush you'll ever experience. A thick, shortbroad-like crust binds the pie together. A first-class effort.

Goode Company pies are made daily at the company's commissary at the corner of Westpark and Kirby, with the same pies going to all the restaurants. But if you buy a Brazos Bottom Pecan Pie as a gift, it'll contain a few more pecans (necessary, according to the woman manning the Goode Company mail-order hotline, to keep the pie intact during shipping).

Dacapo's Pastry Cafe (a 4 1/4 ounce slice of a 9" pie for $4.50 )
An altogether different dessert. The crust is thin and flaky, and the pecans are in chunks, forming a thick top layer. A few rogue pieces of pecan even make their way into the minimal corn syrup filling, which is a deep brown, presumably from being cooked at a higher temperature for a shorter time. Each bite contains more pecans, but somehow less pecan flavor than the Goode Company pie. I'd almost call this a pecan bar that happens to be made in a pie dish. It's good, but not great.

The Winner:
Goode Company. I have to admit, going into this competition part of me was rooting for the underdog Dacapo's. But sometimes things are famous for the simple reason that they are awesome. Goode Company's pecan pie deserves to be famous.



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Location Info

Goode Co. Texas Bar-B-Q

5109 Kirby, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Dacapo's Pastry Cafe

1141 E. 11th St., Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant


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8 comments
Ali
Ali

Goode Company is one of the only places I really enjoy pecan pie. Most other places just don't match up.

Furious Jam
Furious Jam

Goode's pie is so thick you can pick a whole slice up by the crust and eat it like pizza... which I do.

LW
LW

For those who have had both, how does Goode Co.'s pecan pie compare with House of Pies' pecan pie?

I've only had House of Pies' version, but that was sweet enough to turn me away from ordering pecan pie at a restaurant ever again. Your description of Goode Co.'s version seems to indicate likewise.

Kevin Shalin
Kevin Shalin

I've never tried their pecan pie, but I will now.

furioso ateo
furioso ateo

I thought the point of Pecan Pie was for it to be intensely sweet, maybe even more so than candy. I've had Pecan Pie all over from many different kinds of places, and sweetness seemed to be the unifying feature.

LW
LW

I've had homemade versions of pecan pie that was significantly less sweet, and some grocery store kinds too, but then again, I'm not sure how sweet pecan pie is really intended to be.

Really? It's supposed to be tooth-achingly sweet?

Ali
Ali

I've eaten many pecan pies. Some are sweeter than others. Personally, I like mine to be sweet but with a creamy finish instead of gelatinous and with a nice, brown, crunchy pecan top crust.

I honestly thing that most store-bought or restaurant pecan pies don't come near the yumminess of the ones my mother and grandmother always made. Both of my grandmothers had pecan trees in their yards, so they were made with home-grown completely natural pecans.

I recently started adding caramel to my mother's pecan pie recipe. It makes the sweet part more of a custard. And people slam this pie into their mouthes like they've never eaten anything like it.

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