By E. A. HARVEY Correspondent -
The first taste sends you searching for a flavor recollection. It's like trying to remember a good dream, but the details are just beyond your reach. It's not fruit pie, cream pie, custard or flan. It's buttery and citrusy, moist yet crumbly, light but also rich, and has been described by foodies as a "better lemon bar," "sugar cookie in a crust" or, as Michele Stauffer of Ric's Bread in downtown Lancaster noted, "eggnog custard."
The "Original" Paducah Pie has multiple personalities ... and they're all delicious.
What began as a hobby in 2009 and then as a way to help his daughter buy a car, became a career shift for Paducah Pie originator Glenn Tanner. Tanner, of Lancaster, by way of Paducah, Ky., and Champaign, Ill., created Paducah Pie by reworking his great-great-grandmother, Mae Bell Durham's recipe. A 1940s-era picture of Durham shows a proper lady, hands gently clasped in her lap, bright white curls crowning her head and a smile that's carried through generations to her great-great-grandson's face.
Durham likely wouldn't recognize her recipe, however, because Tanner has "played with it," taking away a bit, adding a bit. And, though the ingredients are as simple as simple can be, the flavor drawn from them is not. Taste tests at Lancaster's Central Market and Stauffer's of Kissel Hill resulted in pleased but quizzical reactions, Tanner said. People tried a forkful and then tried to figure it out. "You can see them searching their minds," he said. It's a familiar flavor, but not quite. It's something you've tasted before, but oddly unique.
What's even more interesting is the Paducah Pie architect has never tasted his own creation. "I can only eat whole-wheat flour," he said matter-of-factly. "I know what it tastes like by smell." Also, since 2011, Tanner has worked with "mixologist" John Minnick, who helps steer Tanner in the right direction.
Tanner was a sous chef at Lancaster's Italian Villa. That's where he met Michael Stauffer, proprietor of Ric's Bread. When Tanner made some pies for him, "Mike ate almost every one of them," then offered Tanner the opportunity to bake in his establishment.
Paducah Pie has fans countywide and Tanner said he has fielded a call from David L. Martin, president of HomeStyle Foods, in Stockbridge, Ga. but the baker is saying no ... for now. "Ric's Bread helped me get on my feet and I'm grateful," Tanner said. So, Ric's-Central Market, Queen Street and at Philadelphia's Headhouse Market gets exclusive rights in Lancaster.
Besides that, Tanner has a five-year plan. It starts small so he can "get it right" and not be overwhelmed because "when this takes off it's going to be a rocket launch," Tanner said, adding in all seriousness, that in five years The "Original" Paducah Pie "will be a household name east of the Mississippi."
Presently available in the signature-flavored 3-inch tart larger pies can be purchased by special order — his five-year plan has Tanner considering other flavors, and he is looking at creating a whole-wheat version "so I can enjoy what others are enjoying," he said.