Desperate to attract readers to a biography of a man who had come off as "cold and colorless" in a previous book that didn't sell, Mason Weems gave his subject a hatchet.
"George, said his father, do you know who killed that beautiful little cherry-tree yonder in the garden?," Weems wrote. "This was a tough question; and George staggered under it for a moment; but quickly recovered himself...he bravely cried out, "I can't tell a lie, Pa; you know I can't tell a lie. I did cut it with my hatchet."
If Weems' goody-goody Washington had baked the cherries from the chopped-down tree in a pie, the dessert would probably have been as sweet and frivolous as the story. Most commercial cherry pies taste something like that: They're sloppy, overly-sugared concoctions for childlike palates.
So a huzzah goes to A La Mode Pies for baking a pie that the adult George Washington - the astute businessman and pragmatic whiskey maker that Weems didn't write about - would surely have appreciated. The Phinney Ridge bakery's Star-Spangled Sour Cherry is a thoroughly sophisticated take on butter and fresh fruit.
The pie earned its star-spangled title from its crust, which is supposed to be constructed from glazed golden stars. I've never had a serving with a decorative finish, but I've also never arrived to find a whole pie: Slices of the popular sour cherry are fast sellers. Perhaps I've missed out on star distribution. No matter how the crust is shaped, though, it's supremely buttery and thrillingly prone to flaking at the appearance of a fork.
Of course, all of A La Mode's pies benefit from a masterful crust. What's terrific about the cherry filling is its bracing tartness. Goosed with almond extract, the densely-packed fruit is faintly reminiscent of cherry bounce, the fermented libation made with cherries, brandy, nutmeg and cloves. George was fond of that, too: Martha even had her own recipe..