By Marthine Satris
The row of cafés and storefronts on the 1900 block of Berkeley’s University Avenue has seen a few abrupt closures this year, including the much-loved Slow restaurant and Bittersweet Café. But these have also opened up room for a new vision from Christopher Blue and his wife Jess Steeve, owners of the Chocolatier Blue shop in that same block, and its sister stores. Their new pie and coffee shop, A Dora Pie, had its soft opening on Sunday, Oct. 26, in the space that, until last month, housed Slow, run by chef Kyle Anderson.
Chris Blue was an investor in Anderson’s restaurant and a friend. Both chefs, who met at Charlie Trotter’s and are fellow Nebraskans, share a vision of serving accessible, honest gourmet food. When Anderson and his family decided to head back to their home state after four successful years with Slow, Blue didn’t want to replicate someone else’s inspiration. It was Anderson’s kitchen, and Slow wouldn’t be the same without him.
But Blue had the locked-in lease at a reasonable rent, and he had a concept he’d wanted to do for years. A year or so ago, he says, he had bid on the space just a few storefronts down, with the idea of opening a pie shop. When Bittersweet took over that space in mid-2013, he shelved his plan. This month, with Bittersweet closing its doors and Anderson choosing to move closer to family, Chris and Jess found themselves ready to make a change as well.
A Dora Pie, named for two matriarchs in their families, is now serving pies, cookies, and meringues, along with Flying Goat coffee, all made with the same care as the chocolates next door.
Blue was painting the walls and cleaning up the refreshed kitchen himself just a few days ago. Starting next week, they plan to add savory pies for the lunch and dinner crowd. The new owners retained the liquor license, so wine and beer will be on the menu as well.
For now, you can enjoy the beginning of fall with a thick slice of pumpkin pie, filled with local pumpkins roasted in house (no can-openers allowed in this kitchen) and topped with Strauss whipped cream, out in the rose garden with a cup of Healdsburg’s finest coffee.
A Dora Pie chose to feature Flying Goat coffee because, in keeping with the chef’s ethos of ingredient-focused desserts, the coffee roaster’s hands-off approach lets the beans shine. The piemakers prefer the acidity of Flying Goat’s light roast and its lack of bitterness, which pairs well with their cookies and all-butter pie crusts.
That simple crust is Jess’s grandma’s recipe, one of the Doras honored in the pie shop’s name.
Another highlight of the pies on offer is the velvety chocolate French silk pie – unsurprisingly, given that there’ a chocolatier running the show. Made with the same Madagascar chocolate beans from a tiny roaster in Utah called Solstice that Chocolatier Blue turns into bite-sized sweets, the chocolate mousse filling of the pie is light but surprisingly complex.
Solstice is Blue’s new go-to supplier because they under-roast their chocolate beans. “That lets the sourness of the bean come through,” said Blue, and that’s the real flavor of chocolate. In the French silk pie, that sourness is balanced out with sweet and salty, all wrapped up in a sturdy, buttery crust.
The pie shop will be open from 10 a.m. until 7 p.m., and will possibly even extend those hours later once they are ready to serve beer and wine.
There are also plans to offer ice cream, both for pie à-la-mode and for house-made floats and freezes.
“We listen to what people tell us,” said Blue. And when they know what customers want, they’ll make sure to follow through.
Blue’s not sure what the final shape of the pie shop will be, but he says he’s never opened a shop or restaurant knowing exactly what it will become. A Dora Pie is ready for Berkeley, and he hopes Berkeley is ready for a fresh, inviting café to flourish on University.
A Dora Pie is at 1966 University Ave. in downtown Berkeley. Tel: 510-529-4191. Current opening hours are 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Connect with them on Facebook.
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