AETN sifts through state to find pie perfection


Photographs by Democrat-Gazette file photo

Honey Pies in Little Rock is one of the businesses that will be featured in Make Room for Pie: A Delicious Slice of The Natural State, which premieres at 6:30 p.m. today on AETN.

To quote FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) in the quirky ABC drama Twin Peaks, "This must be where pies go when they die."

Coop was drooling over a slice of heavenly cherry pie at Twin Peaks' legendary Double R Diner. The pies (and "a damn fine cup of coffee") were served up fresh each day by the lovely Norma Jennings (Peggy Lipton).

Who doesn't love pie? But opinions on the best pie in Arkansas can be as varied as the ingredients -- fruit pies, cream pies, nut pies, pies with meringue on top and cream cheese filling on the bottom, fried pies. Searching for pie is the premise behind a new special that will range all across the state in search of culinary perfection, those who bake them and the communities from which they hail.

Make Room for Pie: A Delicious Slice of The Natural State premieres from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. today on AETN and is hosted by Little Rock-based food and travel writer Kat Robinson.

Emmy Award-winning producer Larry Foley (The First Boys of Spring) and director Hayot Tuychiev (Up Among the Hills: The Story of Fayetteville) are behind the camera as Robinson tells the story of Arkansas "through a diverse batch of pie bakers, from the Delta to the Ozark Mountains."

AETN promises viewers "a delicious tour of old time diners and off-the-beaten-path cafes, where pies are created with love and sweet perfection."

Robinson tells AETN, "This special provides the chance to recognize many of the underrated pie makers who create these humble yet delectable masterpieces, while sharing so much of what's great about The Natural State.

"We have a lot of dishes that are specific to Arkansas -- fried pickles, brown gravy with rice, cheese dip, biscuits with chocolate gravy -- [but] pie is our common denominator. Every part of our state has whole and sliced pie, fried pies. This dessert isn't just on our sideboard, but by the cash register at our local truck stop or on the counter at the nearest lunchroom.

"Having that sort of saturation around the state provides a canvas for a deeper narrative about who we are and all these wonders that surround us, a common language that both promotes us from the outside and connects us within our borders as well."

Joining Robinson in the AETN studio for the premiere will be Patti Stobaugh of PattiCakes Bakery in Conway, Sharon Woodson of Little Rock's Honey Pies, and Charlotte Bowls of Charlotte's Eats & Sweets in Keo.

In addition to those three, other restaurants and bakeries highlighted in the film are Big John's/Tacker's Shake Shack, Marion; Lindsey's Hospitality House, North Little Rock; Miss Anna's on Towson, Fort Smith; Ed Walker's Drive-In, Fort Smith; and Sweet Treats Sandwich & Pie Shop, Lamar.

Also featured are Hillbilly Hideout, Ozark; Shangri-La Resort, Hot Springs; Mr. & Mrs. Chef, Hot Springs; The Skillet Restaurant, Mountain View; Batten's Donuts & Bakery, Paragould; Rhoda's Famous Hot Tamales & Pies, Lake Village; The Backyard B-B-Q Co., Magnolia; Grandma's House Cafe, Winslow; and The Wooden Spoon, Gentry.

Foley adds, "Make Room for Pie was lots of fun to produce and direct. We traveled all across Arkansas to an eclectic collection of cafes and bakeries. The film captures the cultural diversity of our state and there are lots of fun facts sprinkled throughout."

Champions is a new half-hour, 10-episode, midseason comedy debuting at 8:30 p.m. today on NBC. The series was co-created by Mindy Kaling (The Mindy Project) and follows the adventures of Vince (Anders Holm), a guy who peaked in high school and is now running the family gym in Brooklyn.

Bachelor/womanizer Vince is on the verge of moving to Florida when his old high school fling, Priya (Kaling), pops in and drops off their gay teenage son, Michael (Disney Channel star J.J. Totah). Vince hasn't seen his estranged son for 15 years.

Surprise! "We all think we have these plans," Holm says. "And then everyone has that 15-year-old kid that shows up on their doorstep. Metaphorically."

Hilarity ensues. Or not. You decide.

Marvel's Jessica Jones streams Season 2 today on Netflix. I haven't seen it yet, but the 13 new episodes have gotten mixed reviews, with highest praise going to star Krysten Ritter.

Love downloads its third and final season on Netflix on Friday. The romantic comedy from Judd Apatow follows the roller-coaster journey of Gus (Paul Rust) and Mickey (Gillian Jacobs). It's cute. Check it out.

MasterChef Junior settles into its regular time slot at 7 p.m. Friday on Fox.

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Weekend on 03/08/2018

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