PIE-NOT, the Aussie Style Bakery in Costa Mesa is bringing Australian culture to SoCal via the popular savory hand pies that are as ubiquitous Down Under as burgers and pizza are here. I ventured into Cornish pasty territory in England and Scotland, but, never having been to Australia – didn’t realize they had traversed the sea, but it only makes sense given Australia’s history. Most importantly, the proper way to eat Pie-Not’s pies is with your hands, not with a fork and knife – although they do provide them for the finicky. And really, using the tin as a catch-all is being a bit of a princess, but if the shoe fits…
Pie-Not owner Jai Snowdon shared the passion of his countrymen with me on my visit and I’m sure he would do the same for anyone who asked. There are a dozen different kinds of pies all with clever names that make you smile and allude to the filling below the golden flaky crust. Jai described each pie at a pace that had my head spinning. Most are variations on the ground beef-filled basic pie called “Dog’s Eye”. When peas and carrots are added and topped with fluffy mashed potatoes, a Dog’s Eye becomes a “Drover,” a concoction much like a shepherd’s pie. The “Shroomin” is a Dog’s Eye with mushrooms and “That’ll Do Pig” involves bacon bits and Cheddar cheese.
As a lover of all things savory – and that includes pies and tarts, I was looking forward to savoring a few of the cute little pies in the gleaming case before me, especially since I’ve heard expats exclaim that Pie-Not’s pies are even better than those you’ll find in Australia. Be warned though, the miniature size of these “cute” little pies is deceiving, with a predominately meat filling, as is the tradition, they are more than a meal – unless your day job involves a lot of heavy lifting or commuting on two wheels, feeding active children or teenage sons, in which case Pie-Not’s pies are the perfect take-out meal or brown bag lunch. For moms out there who must satisfy the hunger of teen athletes, Pie-Not is definitely a snack they would love to pack – certainly better than what the local 7-11 or taco chain provides.
The Dog’s Eye, pictured above, is a meat lover’s dream of premium finely ground beef filling and spices and the base for the Drover, Brekkie and Shroomin. The sausage roll aka Sag Roll (puff pastry wrapped around, not a sausage, but a mixture of beef and pork with finely grated onions and carrots) or Brekkie pie (Dog’s eye filling, extra sharp cheese, back bacon and cherry tomatoes with an egg topper!) and a cup of their Bun Coffee – smooth, exceptional tasting, certified organic, fair trade and imported from Byron Bay, Australia, will definitely fuel your day.
Of the three pies I tasted, my favorite was “Sprung a Leek” filled with chunks of chicken breast in a white wine cream sauce with tender leeks – it would make a great take-out dinner rounded out with a fresh green salad and a cool, crisp glass of white wine. On the other had, once “winter” hits in SoCal – the meat pies and a goblet of peppery Zinfandel would probably suit me fine.
The sweet Indian spices distinguished the “Ghandi” from the other meat-centric offerings. Filled with chickpeas and finely diced potatoes, cauliflower, carrot and butternut squash, it is a satisfying vegetarian option. The other vegetarian option is “Broc Top” which I have yet to try. Note: For those who are vegan and gluten free, Pie-Not and neighbor, Sidecar Doughnuts, do Vegan, Gluten Free Fridays.
And, on the sweet side, guess what? – they’re not all pies. Expats surely must be delighted that Pie-Not shares more of the Aussie culture with the “digger” and “the lamington”. The digger is the classic Aussie ANZAC biscuit from WWI. These iconic biscuits were sent to the ANZAC troops (Australia and New Zealand Air Corps) who served in Gallipoli and were called “diggers”. The popular egg-less biscuit is made of flour, rolled oats, desiccated coconut, and golden syrup and I’m willing to bet that Pie-Not’s “diggers” are also better than you’ll find in Australia.
If I had been dining alone, I would not have ordered any desserts because, trying three versions of savory pies was more than enough. Fortunately, my friend had previously visited Pie-Not and was on a mission to taste test the sweet treats that day. If you’re a coconut lover with a sweet tooth, you’ll be a happy camper at Pie-Not as Aussie’s seem to have a fondness for desiccated coconut.
“the lamington” is a traditional Aussie dessert consisting of butter sponge cake cut into squares, rolled in chocolate icing and dusted with desiccated coconut. It brought back memories of two of my favorite cakes while growing up – the Hostess Sno Ball and my mom’s coconut cake – Pie-Not’s cake is denser than my mom’s – her’s was Betty Crocker and you get delicious chocolate and bits of coconut in every bite. The citrusy “what a lemon” is a crushed tea biscuit slice with fresh lemon rind, desiccated coconut, and finished with squeezed lemon juice icing. It was a delightful palate cleanser after the hearty pies. To round out the trio: “the slice of heaven” was a salty, sweet, sticky delight of rich homemade caramel filling layered with sweet shortbread and finished with a thick layer of milk chocolate and sprinkled with sea salt. Better pick up one with your morning coffee because they close at 8:00 p.m.
The Aussie Style Bakery
270 17th Street, Suite 17
Costa Mesa, CA 92627
OPEN 7am – 8pm
Head chef Samantha Boxer, who was born in Melbourne, developed the 24-item menu and was inspired by the well-known meat pies of Beechworth Bakery, which has several locations across Australia. She currently produces all these pies with ONE manual pie-press. Owners Jai Snowden and Ryan Lopiccolo both have impressive corporate backgrounds and combine to make a formidable team of creativity and business acumen… and a geeky sense of humor.
Jai Snowden striking a pose in front of the future coffee and coffee accessory display area.