If you follow my food adventures closely, you’ll know that I rarely venture into Brooklyn, preferring the comfort and convenience of Manhattan eateries. I picked a snowy October morning to journey into Gowanus to try Four and Twenty Blackbirds. The story of Four and Twenty starts with two sisters, Emily and Melissa Elsen, who learned the art of pie-making from their grandmother in their Midwestern restaurant. Fortunately for us New Yorkers, they opened up shop in Brooklyn, initially serving up pies from their apartment.
Four and Twenty (named after a nursery rhyme) has become quite a popular destination, but hasn’t become a hipster haven despite the location. The welcoming vibe is accentuated by the rustic furnishings and the patterned tin wall. Inside is a warm, cozy atmosphere that could have been mistaken for someone’s home.
The most important lesson the Elsen sisters learned from Grandma Liz was to use the freshest ingredients while they were at their peak. The selection of pies available at any moment is consistent with the season, and occasionally they preserve summer fruits for off-season enjoyment. Because of this, there’s a limited selection of pies to choose from, and calling ahead is recommended. Each slice is priced at around $4.75. I asked for their Plum Crumble, which came with an optional dollop of unsweetened whipped cream on the side.
The Plum Crumble had both a traditional and a crumble crust. The buttered, traditional crust is often what makes or breaks a pie, and this one had a perfectly soft firmness to it. The crumble crust was a mix of oatmeal and appropriately sweetened brown sugar. Although the crust is what they seem to be known for best, I focused on the plum filling, which had pieces of sweetly tart fruit on every piece I cut off with my fork. All of this was fantastic with the whipped cream, which cleverly has no sugar. There is more than enough flavor in the pie to keep you occupied.
You’ll probably need a drink to go with your dessert, and Four and Twenty delivers on that front as well. They’ve got a selection of tea from Harney and Sons, as well as a La Marzocco machine for their Irving Farm Coffee beans. Just remember to have cash on hand, since no cards are accepted.
Four and Twenty Blackbirds is a comfortable place to enjoy a slice of America’s heartland. Melissa, Emily and the staff work long hours to keep up with demand, which involves a lot of hands-on labor. The pies show a clear commitment to being simple and delicious, and the sisters are quite friendly (even though they can get away with being pretentious). If you’re thinking about getting a Thanksgiving pie, you should pre-order it from Four and Twenty. Last year, the demand was so high they ended up turning many folks away. Don’t let that happen to you. Stop by for a slice if you aren’t convinced.