Coconut Cream Pie Recipe -
Fabulous Tavern Restaurant, Newark, NJ
(scroll down for recipe)
Perhaps no other pie in American history has enjoyed the esteem, adulation, and acclaim of the legendary coconut cream pie of Newark's once-famous Tavern Restaurant.
For thirty years to the end of the 1950s, the restaurant served Newarkers of every level with a quality of food and service unmatched by any other eating establishment in New Jersey. Among restaurants, it was ranked No. 25 nationally.
And very likely the most esteemed item on its varied menu was the Tavern coconut cream pie. Its recipe was believed to be a closely guarded secret of the establishment, and seemingly lost with the passage of the restaurant.
Recipe Unearthed in 2004
Now, at last, the secret recipe of The Tavern's fabulous coconut cream pie has been revealed! It happened on Wednesday, May 12, 2004 in the Recipe Exchange column of the Star-Ledger, written by Robert Rastelli.
And here, for the first time outside the Star-Ledger readership, we will be revealing this famous pie recipe, hoping it will touch the hearts and appetites of former Tavern coconut cream pie lovers, and other coconut cream pie fanciers worldwide.
How Recipe Search Began
The quest for The Tavern coconut cream pie recipe began when a reader recalled to the "Recipe Exchange" writer at the Star-Ledger how, in her childhood days, her teacher would sometimes treat her students to a coconut cream pie purchased at The Tavern. She begged food writer Robert Rastelli to ask his column's readers if anyone knew it.
The first response, from a reader in Union, said she got the recipe from a Mrs. Yuill, who moved from Cranford to Virginia Beach in the 1980s. Mrs. Yuill had told her that the first time she made the pie was in 1957.
Another response was from a reader in Monroe Township. She said she had gotten the recipe from a friend of Mrs. Fanny Teiger, the Tavern owner's wife.
The third Star-Ledger reader from Califon wrote that she had frequently lunched at The Tavern restaurant, has become friendly with the Tavern staff, and had obtained the recipe from the Tavern chef.
Still a fourth reader from Elizabeth sent in the same recipe. She said she had had it for years and believed it to be authentic, but could not recall where she got it.
The key to all these submissions was that they were all the same recipe. Apparently, the recipe as first submitted to the Star-Ledger by Bernice McAdam of Union, was authentic. We repeat it here as published1.
Coconut Toasted Cream Pie
1 envelope gelatin
1/3 cup cold milk
3 eggs, separated
1/2 cup sugar
2/3 cup milk
1/2 pint whipping cream
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 (10 inch) pie shell,
baked and cooled
1 can coconut, toasted
Dissolve gelatin in 1/3 cup cold milk. Let stand
Separate eggs; to yolks, add 1/2 cup sugar and beat together.
Scald 2/3 cup milk; add egg and sugar mixture to milk. Cook until slightly thickened. Remove from stove and add gelatin. Put in refrigerator until set (about 1/2 hour).
Beat egg whites with pinch of salt. Fold whites into mixture. Whip cream; add vanilla. Fold into mixture.
Fill the pie shell. Toast the coconut until golden; sprinkle on pie. Refrigerate for a few hours
* * *
A Sampler of Some Tavern Coconut Pie Fans
Anthony Wereta of Clifton, who lived with his family in a barracks apartment in Weequahic Park after his discharge from the service in World War II, wrote that his fondest recollection of those years was the nearby availability of "the great coconut cream pies at The Tavern."
In 1958, the owner of the Two Guys department store chain, Herb Hubschman, while attending a trade show in Chicago, telephoned an aide in his Newark office and instructed him to buy a Tavern coconut cream pie ... take it to Newark Airport... buy a First Class plane ticket for Chicago ... and sent a Tavern coconut cream pie to him in the designated seat.
During the Korean War, the officer in charge of the military base mess hall at First Army Medical Field Forces in Fort Lee VA was Lt. David Teiger, a Cornell restaurant management graduate and son of Tavern owner Sam Teiger. He sometimes prepared desserts from Tavern baked goods recipes. Elliott Sudler, a retired pharmacist now living in Union, who was at the base at the time, recalled "the men were wild for the coconut cream pie."
Pat Giovanni emailed me from Sunnyvale CA that he grew up in Hillside and was a frequenter of The Tavern and "I especially remember the toasted coconut cream pie for dessert." He added "My mother was able to re-create an amazing rendition of the Tavern's coconut cream pie which has been a favorite of my family since the 50s."
Former New York City Mayor (and Congressman ) Ed Koch, who had once lived in Newark's Third Ward and graduated from South Side High School, wrote in his 1992 autobiography: "The Tavern was famous for its coconut cream pie and even after 50 years I still remember it as the best I've ever eaten."
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