There’s something about the phrase hand pie that makes me smile.
A pie small enough to fit in your hand just seems like something everyone needs once in a while. But, until recently, I never had eaten a hand pie. Now I have another reason to smile.
The curry beef hand pie at Fernleaf Bakery and Coffee House in South Portland was an unexpected treat. The beef was finely minced, with potatoes, onions and a bold, but not hot, blend of spices. It was baked in a softball-sized mound of pastry, which was ringed with a firmer crust, very buttery and flaky, and shaped sort of like flower petals. For $4.95, it was a cheap and extremely satisfying lunch. It had the flavor of an Indian dish, but the buttery goodness of mom’s apple pie.
There was also a pulled pork hand pie available the day I went for lunch. I didn’t try that but I did sample some of a pulled pork sandwich ($7.50, including a small house salad). The shredded pork was extremely tender and in a tangy sauce that was thick without being gloppy. It came on old-fashioned white bread, which was actually yellow in color. The bread was firm and thick enough to sop up the sauce, and very filling. The sandwich also had sweet pickles.
Other sandwiches offered that day included a roast chicken breast, a BLT, egg salad, mozzarella with tomato and pesto and a grilled cheese panini. There were also individual quiches for $4.95.
The place also offers its own fresh-made soups for lunch, including a creamy tomato the day I went.
For dessert, I sampled a raspberry almond bear claw ($3.25). The pastry was puffy and flaky, and a little spongy inside, topped with powdered sugar and sliced almonds. Inside was raspberry filling, and I think, more sugar. It was large enough to split between two people.
I saw other people ordering the chocolate croissant, which I heard was a big seller there. All the sweets looked tempting. There were two glass cases full of them, including cupcakes, whoopie pies, tea cakes and individual servings of creme brulee to go.
Fernleaf is located in a shopping plaza on Broadway, across from Easy Day bowling alley and restaurant and not far from the Casco Bay Bridge. It’s also right across the street from the city’s Greenbelt Walkway, so on your daily walk, it’s a convenient place to stop. The owners have another location in Saco and opened the South Portland location in December.
The place has a coffee house vibe, with a few tables for sitting and eating or sipping coffee. But because there are so many ready-to-go baked goodies, even for lunch, it’s a perfect place to get take-out.
If you’re driving, you can get lunch and also fill your car with dessert for later. Along with all the ready-to-take pastries and sweets, the bakery has a menu of cakes and pies you can order. Those include a salted caramel cheesecake and a cannoli cake, made with ricotta cheese, chocolate chips, cinnamon and orange.
Or if you’re walking, just get a pie for each hand and be on your way.
WHERE: 740 Broadway, South Portland; 767-2418; Fernleafbakery.com
HOURS: Lunch items are served 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
WAIT: About five minutes
PARKING: Yes, both in front of and in back of the shopping plaza the bakery is in.
HANDICAPPED ACCESSIBLE: Yes