I have been a self-proclaimed pie-enthusiast my entire life. However, had you asked me about Atlantic Beach Pie four years ago, I would have told you that it meant nothing to me. And I would also be confused as to why you’re asking me about a beach that isn’t on Long Island. Fast forward to my life now, I’m a graduate of the University of North Carolina and lover of all things Chapel Hill. But most importantly, Atlantic Beach Pie is my JAM.
As a young, naïve freshman trying to acquaint myself with the surrounding college town (that admittedly became less intimidating and more like home with each passing day), I sought out local restaurants to assimilate. I remember people telling me about Crook’s Corner, as it was a quintessential Southern joint, offering staples like Shrimp and Grits and of course, Atlantic Beach Pie. These suggestions were met with my blank stare and immediate decision to NOT go to this restaurant, because: 1. What are grits? and 2. Where is Atlantic Beach and why do I care?
What a foolish and arrogant young thing I was. It wasn't until my last semester that I finally made my pilgrimage to Crooks Corner. And it is one of my biggest regrets of college that it took me so long (they say you’re supposed to look back on those 4 years with no regrets, but that is a LIE). It's here that I experienced my first slice of ABP. Chef Bill Smith crafted up this pie perfection by marrying a saltine cracker crust with a lime custard filling and whipped cream. An old North Carolina legend claims that you’ll fall ill if you eat dessert after a seafood dinner, with the exception of Atlantic Beach Pie. It’s effortlessly uncomplicated, and so deliciously balanced that it makes you want to shed a single, salty-sweet tear for all the time wasted not eating it.
When I found out that Jeni’s was coming out with an Atlantic Beach Pie flavor this summer, I was excited--not only because I actually knew what that was, but because one of the greatest ice cream companies in the country (IMO) was giving this Southern classic, which I now love so sweetly and sentimentally, a spotlight. I am not from Chapel Hill, or North Carolina, or the South... but after spending four years in the Southern part of heaven, I genuinely feel it is my duty to lead y’all* to this simple, pristine dessert. That being said, there are still many things about the South that I have never quite learned to love.** I'm not claiming authority on all things southern--just this pie.
And I not only recommend you give Jeni’s new flavor that celebrates this genius combination of salty and sweet and simplicity a try, but you should definitely try making your own Atlantic Beach Pie. Don’t dismiss it because you don't know what it is, like my pretentious, Northern ass once did. Try it, embrace it, love it, and thank me later.
*A subtle way for me to showcase how I now incorporate Southern terms into my vernacular.
** Sweet tea is trash. You can lead a Yankee to sweet tea, but you can't make her drink.