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Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Pasty Taste Off: Can Lower Peninsula Compete?

We love the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. One of the local culinary treats of that region is the pasty. It's a delicious little confection - a savory meat pie, of sorts. Many families and pasty shops across the state have their own secret recipes, and there are a variety of opinions on what makes up the true classic pasty recipe. On a recent trip home from Iron Mountain, my husband and I stopped to try a highly recommended pasty shop - Lehto's - only to find they didn't have enough left! Unfortunately we were almost to the bridge so we had to pick just any ole shop we came across, which happened to be: Suzy's Pasties. We got a pack of 6 frozen to take home and 1 hot one to share in the car, and we had already started our taste test as we climbed the hill of the Mackinaw bridge. Suzy's Pasties were decent (even a "bad" pasty is a tasty meal), and we devoured it in minutes.


I should provide a little pasty history before I continue with the taste off notes. While there are a few theories out there, it is said to be true that the Cornish miners brought the pasty over to the Upper Peninsula in Michigan. The tin mines in England died down and the copper and iron mines were doing well in the UP. Other ethnicities, including Finnish and Swedish quickly adopted the pasty idea and put their own original spins on the recipe, and thus the pasty became deeply rooted in the region and survived the death of the copper mines. The pasty was a perfect meal-sized pie that miners took with them for lunch. They either stayed warm or the miners heated them on a shovel, over a lamp. I read that miner's wives often put an initial of their last name in dough baked onto the pasty, in case one lost their pasty. Also, sometimes wives would leave a section at the corner of the pasty and put in jam, so the miner had a little dessert. I hope I make it to the Pasty Festival next year in Calumet, MI. One of my favorite UP cities.

The Taste-Off
We had a 6pack of Suzy's pasties from the UP. They were pretty good, better than the ones we had in Escanaba (Dobber's), surprisingly. Not as good as the ones we had from the liquor store just over the Iron Mountain/Michigan/Wisconsin border (go figure, they were EXCELLENT there). After some research, I found that many shops exist in Metro-Detroit.

On the first night, I wanted to try two places and to compare with the UP pasty. First up was Peppy's (a small bakery, pizza shop in Troy). Second up was Marquee Marque Pasty shop in Sterling Heights. At first glance, they all looked great. The Marquee pasty was sort-of a darker brown in color for the crust, and the Peppy's looked like it had a lot of filling. I heated the three up and set my husband up for a blind taste test. He had no idea which was the yooper pasty, or the two other contestants. The results were interesting: The yooper pasty wins! I was sorta surprised, just because the yooper pasty was not the best we've had. So my first thought was that there is a whole new standard of Pasty in the U.P., that the L.P. couldn't touch. The Peppy's came in 2nd place, having a decent crust (but filling not the best.) The third place was Marq.. I was surprised, as their website had a cute story about it being a UP recipe. Nothing could beat the yooper savory filling!

A few weeks later, it was time for another taste test and some more contestants. I read a lovely story about the Milford Bakery who has an original UP recipe for delicious pasties that they only make on Wednesdays. For some reason, it only being one day per week made it sound even more delectable. Further east, in Keego Harbor, I also stopped at Weldon's pasties. It seemed they had three shops around metro-detroit (One in Livonia and one in Sterling Heights), but no website. Heading home, I removed another yooper pasty to pop into the oven along with the two new pasties. At first glance, the Milford pasty looked very plump, golden, with a flakey crust. The Weldon's looked like your average pasty, and didn't reveal any secrets prior to tasting.

Another blind taste-test, my husband and I sat down and got to work. The smell was so wonderful, we couldn't wait. We quickly realized this was going to be VERY difficult. Each pasty was so delicious. It's also amazing how different each one was from the others.. the Milford bakery pasty was very unique. The crust very buttery and flakey, like a rich pastry. The Weldon's pasty had a delicious crust and outstanding filling, your classic savory beef. The Milford filling was a little different, but delicious.. I couldn't put my finger on it, but I tasted some savory herbs possibly, or boullion? The yooper pasty was also pretty good, as usual, though the crust never was my favorite (a little tough/dry). After the final tally, .... Weldon's pasty won!!! It was SO delicious. I also found the Milford pasty to be awesome, but it was not what we felt a classic pasty was... it was a little different. Pretty greasy, too. Weldon's had an glorious moist filling with potatoes, carrots, tender beef, onions, and probably rutabagas... well.. see for yourself.

Is That It? Is the Contest Over?
Well, there will be more pasty tasting for sure. We still need to try Barb's in Royal Oak, and there are some in Livonia and the Grand Blanc/Flint area. However, while all of these places were pretty good ... we HIGHLY recommend you check out a Weldon's Pasty Shop near YOU!

1 comment:

  1. You obviously caught Marquee Marque Pasties when he was just getting started. They were in the biz for just 5 months when you strolled in there. After getting rolling they are blowing the competition out of the water. They even have a display of other pasty locations in the area for you to compare to, yes even Weldon's.
    These pasties are the best this side of the pond, forget the bridge! Your hubby deserves another chance.
    TWO locations soon!