In the beginning....
This is the first of many stories about me, Leslie Noble, my family and Noble Pies. This beautiful pie company pretty much happened by accident. Today we have two retail pie cafes in Warwick and Rye New York. Our bakery is above our Warwick shop. We participate in farmer’s markets in Bergen County, NJ, Westchester County, NY and Brooklyn. We sell our fruit pies and savory pies on QVC Network, and they are available for home delivery through Fresh Direct.
I get asked all the time to tell the story of how Noble Pies came to be. There have been so many twists and turns, hardships, personal sacrifices, joy and elation. Most importantly are the friends and acquaintances we have made so far on this journey. This company is built on those relationships. It is reflected in everything we do. Our customers have inspired many of our recipes, the look of our shops and the products we offer today. When we felt like giving up, we were inspired by a smile, a friendly conversation, a compliment or financial support from people returning again and again to buy our handmade pies.
So, let’s begin this journey together. I plan to tell you stories and give you recipes. I welcome your questions and commentary. I hope you will fall in love with making pies the same as I have. If making pies is not your thing that’s okay too, I hope you will feel the joy in my stories.
I decided that since it was Applefest that sparked the fire deep down in my soul that this would be the perfect place to start.
You need to know that my husband, Tom, has been with me every step of the way. He encouraged me to enter my pie in the pie baking contest despite my reluctance. As Noble Pies evolved, we realized that we work well together. He likes to do the things that I hate to do and vice versa. This unwavering support has meant so much to me because he was willing to take the risk that I was willing to take to pursue a dream that might not work out and we had everything to lose.
Here we go. I moved to Warwick in 2003. I moved here from Rockland County, NY. I realized that first fall season that I was here that the beautiful Warwick Valley had an abundance of Apple Orchards, and every fall had an abundance of visitors from all over the tri-state area. The apples that are grown here are delicious. There are varieties available that I had had never even tasted before. I started going to Ochs Orchard and picking many of the different varieties. I would make apple pies with different apples throughout the season and serve them to my family. We could taste the differences in the pies each time I made them. Each one was a delightful culinary experience!
Five years later, Tom and my friend Tammi were in the kitchen with me having a slice of one of my apple pies. We were talking about the upcoming Applefest and the fact that there was an Apple Pie Baking Contest held every year. They both were convinced that if I entered my apple pie that I would win. I had never dreamed of doing such a thing. With a lot of persuading, I got to thinking about it. I finally mustered up the nerve to enter.
On the first Sunday in October, Warwick holds its famous Applefest. Currently, over 30,000 people attend Applefest each year. There are hundreds of craft and food vendors, live entertainment, a carnival and most importantly (at least for this blog!) an Apple Pie Baking Contest and an Apple Pie Eating Contest. I entered my pie that Sunday morning in October in 2007. There were so many beautiful pies on the table I thought that surely, I would never stand a chance. My pie was simple, and I made it exactly the way my Grandmother Fowler taught me to make it.
That Saturday before Applefest I went to Ochs Orchard and picked five of my favorite tasting apples. The next morning, I made my grandmother’s pie dough recipe just like I have most of my life. I carefully worked the butter into the flour and added just enough water to make it the right consistency. I rolled out the dough on my kitchen table and placed into my Pyrex pie plate. Next, I
mixed my hand cut apples with the sugar and spices. I decided to put a lattice crust on top just the way she had taught me to make a lattice top years ago. Into the oven it went. While it was baking, I thought about the advice she had given me. Her advice was to always use the best ingredients you can find. She liked to keep her pies simple so that the most important part of that pie was the fruit. She also didn’t like too much sugar. She would say that it will just take away from the naturally delicious taste of the fruit. Later that day just as Applefest was closing I went back to retrieve my pie plate. There it sat all by itself on the table empty but there was a ribbon on the pie plate. I had won second place, and all the slices of my pie had been sold. I just stood there in disbelief.
Something happened that day. I thought: "this is incredible, people really like my Apple Pie, not
just family and friends but people I don’t even know!" That was 15 years ago, before Noble Pies was even a glimmer in my eye.
We started Noble Pies in 2008 and one year later we decided to be a pie vendor at Applefest. Not having our own bakery made this a challenging endeavor! We hunted for a kitchen. We contacted restaurants, churches, temples and finally we found a PLAV (Polish Legion of American Veterans) that would rent out the kitchen to us. Baking the large number of pies needed was a new experience for us. There was a lot of planning and prep work to do. Sugar mixtures were weighed out ahead of time to mix in with the apples. We cut up and weighed butter. Each pie's dough was mixed by hand. We were making hundreds of pies. Not only did we have to bring everything to the PLAV we also had to get accustomed to a new kitchen layout and most importantly two ovens that we hadn’t used before. The ovens ended up being tricky to bake in. We checked the oven temperatures in various spots and one of the ovens did not cook evenly. This required us to carefully monitor and rotate the pies in order to ensure that they were cooked properly. There were not any baking racks to cool the trays of pies on, so we used counter tops and tops of ovens.
We had to bake 300 pies and baked for forty-eight hours straight! Our friend Tammi came over Saturday night and helped us box up the Apple Pies. Back then each box had to be folded and assembled because that was the only type of box we could afford. The next morning, we packed up the truck at 6am and headed over to Applefest to setup our booth. We were so excited. This was our biggest endeavor yet. I wondered if we had lost our minds thinking that we could sell hundreds of pies. Within a few hours we had sold out. People even bought the apples we had on our table for display! We knew we were on to something.
We continued to be a vendor each year and then in 2013 we were asked to take over the Apple Pie Baking Contest. We were honored. We host an adult division and a junior division. We judge the pies by tasting each one. The remaining pie slices are then sold to the public and all money goes to the Warwick Ecumenical Food Pantry.
Five years ago, we had an idea. Why not host a Pie Eating Contest at Applefest? Our idea was accepted by the Applefest Committee and has become a very popular event. There is an adult and junior division. The adults have ten minutes to eat a two-pound apple pie with hands behind their backs. Our best time to date is three minutes and forty seconds. The junior division gets a one-pound pie to eat with no hands in ten minutes. It is something to see! It draws a large crowd, and we all have a wonderful time.
Each year Applefest is busy for us. We make and sell hundreds of Apple Pies, we judge the pies entered into the Apple Pie Baking Contest and manage the Pie Eating Contest. We are so happy to be a part of this wonderful community event that draws people form all over the tri-state area to our beautiful town of Warwick. It is here that the delicious Warwick grown apples inspired that first Apple Pie that changed my life.