A blustery, sunny late afternoon feels extra-blustery and extra-sunny in Red Hook.
That’s especially true if you head down a cobblestone road which dead ends at the industrial-cum-stunning vista of Louis Valentino, Jr. State Park and Pier. What was once a stop-off many shipping industry moons ago is now a park surrounded by classic brick (former) factories with a view of the Status of Liberty, lower Manhattan, and the Verrazano–Narrows Bridge. The Buttermilk Channel was earning its name this afternoon.
The whipping wind, passing ferries, and late afternoon shadows were making me, well, very peckish. And boy, was I in the right place at the right time.
It’s hard to miss the 1953 Ford Truck parked outside. If I were a betting man (I’m not, I’d just rather pocket the cash and play Monopoly), I’d bet that Steve Tarpin’s lime-colored classic vehicle was tooling around Red Hook way before other artisanal businesses were doing the same thing in their neat-o cars.
Steve Tarpin is the owner and creator of those lovable, delectable key lime pies which he started selling in 1999.
Tarpin was taking a nap.
I didn’t see him taking a nap. But when I came in to say hello and order some sweet and tart deliciousness, his wife Victoria Tarpin came out to greet me. Unfortunately, Steve was catching 40 or so winks when I came in.
So be it. I was here for pie. And Victoria is as lovely a person as you’ll find.
Steve’s Authentic Key Lime Pies has been at the end of Van Dyke Street since Superstorm Sandy hit in 2012, wreaking havoc on his previous space at Pier 41 (204 Van Dyke Street).
“Sandy created that paradigm shift that put things that were possibilities in the realm of reality,” he told the Village Voice in a 2013 interview. “She just opened up the idea for you to think differently.”
The interior of the bakery is full of salty-dog bric-a-brac, but the menu is far tidier and clean. That’s because they only sell a few items. But Steve’s is the place in all of New York City to get them.
The graham cracker outside crust and the zesty taste that comes from the Mexican key limes he uses is simply hard to compare to the ersatz versions you’ve had in the past.
“It’s easier to make your own rather than buy some crap that someone’s making,” he told the Voice.
Pies come in four sizes: The teeny 5-inch pies cost $5.50. The larger ones are the 8-inch ($20) which supposedly serves four — but I challenge you to have that small a slice. The 10-inch ($30) serves 8.
Now my friends, the climes have gotten cooler, but you should not wait until next summer to eat their “swingles.” If you haven’t had one — well, I wouldn’t say you haven’t lived — you haven’t lived scrumptiously.
A swingle is a single slice of pie which has been frozen and dipped in chocolate and then fashioned into a bar on a stick. Yes, it’s an ice cream fan’s dream.
Let’s get back to lovely Victoria who is the inventor of my favorite swingle. The “La Victoria” ($7.75) comes with … are you ready? … La Morena chipotle peppers and adobo sauce purée, then hand-dipped in dark chocolate. That description should have your jowls dripping. And they ought to be. As the sign says, the swingle is “muy caliente, like Victoria.”
The three other flavors of swingles include the Classic ($6.50) which is dipped in Belgian dark chocolate and thinned with coconut oil, the Raspberry ($7.75), and the Raspberry-Blonde ($7.75), which adds Belgian white chocolate.
And for the families that want to stretch out the kiddies’ legs, what better combo than a run around in the park with key lime pie smeared all over their faces? Don’t forget to smear yours as well. It’s only fair, you know.
You won’t get much variety from Steve, because he’s a self-described purist. I have a feeling that won’t ever change. Thankfully.
Simply put: don’t mess with a good thing.
The Dining Rundown: Steve’s Authentic Key Lime Pies
Where: 185 Van Dyke Street (on the water past Ferris Street) in Red Hook
Hours: Everyday, 12pm-6pm
Kid Friendly? Pie! Ice Cream! Do we need to answer that?
Additional Info: Taking a walk around Louis Valentino, Jr. Park and Pier is one of the reasons why you come. The vistas looking out to the Statue of Liberty and Lower Manhattan are stunning.
Note to readers: Out of respect for you, we did not use “sublime” in this article to spare you a particularly terrible pun.