Drives to pies and what’s nearby: Converse, Indiana

Herschberger Essen Haus is another worthy stop on the fabulous pie hunt. This restaurant, according to Aaron who left a comment on the strawberry-rhubarb pie post, serves up a strawberry-rhubarb pie to drive for–even though it’s 40 miles out of his way. When going from Indianapolis to Detroit, Aaron swings by Converse where there’s a slice of this very pie with his name on it.

The red dot in the white rectangle is where you’ll find the pie, or therabouts. The red rectangle in the map of Indiana marks Miami County where Converse is located.

I’m curious how Aaron found Herschberger Essen Haus. Was this a pie tip someone gave him? Converse isn’t exactly a tourist hot spot. I’m sure it’s a terrific place to live, but the population is teeny. At 1,147 in 2006, that’s smaller than most high schools. The Oak Hill Winery, also in town, looks like another worth-the-effort palate pleaser. Housed in a 1895 carriage house, the winery offers a pie wine chaser to fill out a decent afternoon.

If you pair your trip to Converse with a visit to the rest of Miami County, more specifically, Peru, Indiana, there are more reasons to travel this unbeaten path.

Cole Porter, for example, was born in Peru. You can see the house where he lived from 1891–1901, but restoration on the building isn’t finished. Unfortunately, it was divided into apartments and left to disrepair. Even worse, one of the apartments was used as a meth-amphetamine lab by a tenant. Tsk, tsk. The building, however, is lovely and worth saving. The committee that’s in charge of the project is in the process of turning it into a museum and bed & breakfast. The before and after pictures show progress. This is a project to root for. A big hurrah to the folks who are pouring their energies into it.

Also in Peru is the Grissom Air Museum at the Grissom Air Reserve Base. There are 25 aircraft and a F-4 you can climb into, plus little known details about World War II history.

Another stop is the Miami County Historical Society Museum where there is something to learn about everything. You can see some of Cole Porter’s belongings, including his Cadillac, plus learn about the rich history of the area. For starters, Miami County has a past linked with Native Americans, Tom Mix and the circus. As a fan of historical society museums, this one looks like it’s one of the best and the hours are plentiful.

Because Peru is the “Circus Capital of the World,” in the spirit of circus love, there is an amateur circus each July which includes the Circus City Festival. In addition to the displays at the historical society, you can learn more about Peru’s circus past and present at the Circus City Museum.

While in Peru, also check out the Crane’s Nest Store operated by the Miami Nation of Indians. There are affordable crafts like handwoven baskets and proceeds help out the Miami Nation of Indiana.

Whatever you do in Peru, don’t forget that pie in Converse–it’s the reason to head to Miami County, at least if you’re Aaron.

Summer pies and roadside stands

Oh, my pies. Over at Intelligent Travel, I found out that yesterday was National Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie Day. That’s a national day worth celebrating. Instead, there I was at Twist O’ the Mist in Niagara Falls eating a butter pecan ice-cream cone, not knowing I that I should have been on a strawberry-rhubarb pie hunt.

The best strawberry-rhubarb pie I know of is at Wallkill View Farm Market right over the bridge out of New Paltz, New York. Oh, I can see it now in the glass case on a shelf among others. Forget the blackberry, cherry or peach. What I’m after is the strawberry-rhubarb as soon as I pull into the parking lot. A whole pie with the hint of the sugary sour of strawberry and rhubarb juices that have bubbled up through the flaky crust. I buy at least one every summer. Sometimes, I buy two–or three. It depends on how many people I am visiting on my summer trips back to New Paltz where I lived through 8th grade and high school.

Wallkill View Farms was a smaller fruit stand back in my high school days. Since then, it has grown into an upscale roadside fruit and vegetable stand that has expanded into baked goods, gourmet offerings and flowers. Every inch of the produce and products are lush and gorgeous.

Another great place to find pies of any kind is at the Green Market at Union Square in Manhattan. Farmers and bakers, many of them from upstate New York and elsewhere, come into the city on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, turning the park area into a garden of earthly delights with pies and more–much more.

Then there’s major pie country in Holmes County, Ohio, where you’ll find the largest population of Amish in the United States. Head to towns with names like Charm, Mt. Hope and Berlin and stop at any Amish stand you happen across. The pie version I snap up here are fried pies. These are in between a pie and a turnover. There is strawberry-rhubarb, but the apricot is mighty fine as well. Actually, they’re all good.