Thanksgiving Pie, Ice Cream Pairings, Pie A La Mode History - The Nibble Webzine Of Food Adventures Thanksgiving Pie, Ice Cream Pairings, Pie A La Mode History
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TIP OF THE DAY: Thanksgiving Pie & Ice Cream Pairings

[1] Pie and ice cream: Think outside the box for your à la mode (photo © Good Eggs).

[2] Apple pie with honey ice cream (photo © Golden Blossom Honey).

[3] Talenti Vanilla Cinnamon gelato, great for apple pie. Talenti also makes Vanilla Caramel ice cream gelato, Brown Butter Caramel gelato, and Caramel Apple Pie gelato (photo © Talenti Gelato).

Haagen-Dazs Rum Raisin Pint
[4] A holiday favorite: Rum Raisin ice cream (photo © Häagen-Dazs).


Thanks to Brian Klonoski of Good Eggs for this inspiration for à la mode on Thanksgiving pies.

Here’s our own tip: Turn vanilla ice cream into boozy vanilla. Soften the pint and stir in 2 tablespoons of bourbon or rum. Return it to the freezer until you’re ready to serve it.

(Of course, you’ll need to test out a few pints first—bourbon versus rum, 2 tablespoons vs. 1/4 cup [4 tablespoons] etc., etc. wink, wink.)

> The history of pie à la mode is below.

Pumpkin pie is traditionally topped with whipped cream instead of ice cream because the pie filling is so rich and custardy.

But how about trying ice cream this year?

  • Vanilla ice cream is a classic pairing.
  • Cinnamon ice cream.
  • Coffee ice cream: If you drink coffee with your pie, why not top it with coffee ice cream?
  • Eggnog ice cream.
  • Maple walnut ice cream.
  • For the adventurous: brown butter or salted caramel ice cream.
  • For the obvious: cinnamon ice cream, pumpkin ice cream.

    Warm up the apple pie, and pair the spiced apple filling with:

  • Vanilla ice cream—of course.
  • Butter pecan ice cream.
  • Caramel or honey ice cream.
  • Coffee ice cream.
  • Cinnamon ice cream: picks up the spices in the apple filling.
  • Crème fraîche or mascarpone ice cream: sometimes you can find these flavors from artisan producers.
  • Eggnog ice cream.
  • Cardamom ice cream, ginger ice cream.
  • Rum raisin ice cream, pumpkin ice cream.
  • Salted caramel ice cream.

  • Vanilla ice cream.
  • Apple pie ice cream.
  • Bourbon pecan ice cream.
  • Eggnog ice cream.
  • Maple ice cream.
  • Rum raisin ice cream.
  • Salted caramel ice cream.


    Pie à la mode, French for pie “in the current fashion,” is a slice of pie with a scoop of ice cream on top or at the side.

    The dessert did not originate in France but in the U.S.

    The term à la mode has been used in English since the mid-1600s as an adjective to mean fashionable. In food circles, it gave its name to Beef à la Mode,” braised beef with vegetables and wine, served in a rich sauce [source].

    But pie à la mode?
    Although the dish originated in the relatively-recent timeframe of the 1890s, there is no one clear written record.

  • The first printed source mentions a “pie a la mode” served at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. But it doesn’t describe the dish, so we have no idea what the “fashionable” addition was.
  • The other contender location is Upstate New York, at the now-defunct The Cambridge Hotel in the town of Cambridge, near Glens Falls. (A beautiful period building, the hotel was foreclosed upon in the spring of 2012—after being filmed for an episode of Gordon Ramsay’s “Hotel Hell.”)
    At The Cambridge Hotel

    At some point in the 1890s, a guest in the dining room of the Cambridge Hotel, Professor Charles Watson Townsend, ordered a slice of apple pie with a scoop of ice cream.

    Apparently, pie served with ice cream was a new concept!

    Mrs. Berry Hall, a diner seated next to Townsend, asked what it was called. He said it didn’t have a name, and she promptly dubbed it Pie à la Mode. Townsend liked the name so much he asked for it each day by that name [source].

    Townsend subsequently ordered it by that name every day of his stay.

    He ordered it by that name at a later visit to the Delmonico Restaurant in New York City. They hadn’t heard of it, of course.

    The professor then chastised him. He was quoted as saying, “Do you mean to tell me that so famous an eating place as Delmonico’s has never heard of Pie a la Mode, when the Hotel Cambridge, up in the village of Cambridge, NY serves it every day? Call the manager at once, I demand as good service here as I get in Cambridge.”

    Delmonico’s, not wanting to be outshone by any other restaurant, immediately put it on the menu.

    The newspapers immediately picked up the story of the dessert, and in short order, it was on menus across the nation [source].

    The Cambridge Hotel placed an information folder in each guest room, that included a page entitled “The History of the Pie à la Mode.” Here it is.

    Townsend died in 1936 at the age of 87, and his New York Times obituary (which we were unable to access) notes that he “inadvertently originated pie à la mode.” He would have been in his 40’s when he “invented” it.

    Apple Pie Trivia

    “As American as apple pie” is an oft-heard expression. While Americans love their apple pie, the dish itself isn’t American. Apple pie was long-made in Britain, and variations were made across Europe, wherever apples were grown.

    The French had a long investigation of apple growing, and the Norman Conquest of 1066 brought their skills—and many new apple types—to Britain.

    There were no apple trees in America before British immigrants brought seeds or rootstock and planted orchards. The first apple orchard on the North American continent was planted in Boston by Reverend William Blaxton in 1625.

    Feel free to change the saying to, “As American as apple pie à la mode.”




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