By Benjamin Leatherman
An inside look at the Cornish Pasty Co.'s veggie pesto chicken pie.
Temptation is quite the bitch.
It’s been almost three months since I swore off both fast food and sugary beverages, and lately I’ve been craving these forbidden foodstuffs something fierce. I’ve stuck to my guns, but those damned commercials for Carl’s Jr. and Whataburger (not to mention billboards plastered with gigantic bottles of Mountain Dew) have made me want to stray. Hell, the other night I vividly dreamed about gulping down a 32-ounce Thirstbuster of ice-cold Coca Cola.
Substitutions have helped ease the pain. For instance, club soda with a ton of lemon and lime almost tastes like Sprite. Lately, I’ve also been trying vegetarian versions of some of my favorite foods, like the kick-ass pasties baked up by the chefs at the Cornish Pasty Co. (960 West University Drive in Tempe, 480-894-6261). I’ve scarfed down countless of Oggies or any of the other handheld meat-and-cheese-laden pies since a Scottish mate of mine clued me to the place years ago.
For those unfamiliar with pasty (pronounced pah-sty), it’s an oblong-shaped delicacy native to the Cornwall part of Britain, consisting of meats, veggies, cheeses, and other fillings stuffed into a pastry shell (much like an Italian calzone). It’s also the world’s most perfect food, bar none.
The CPC also caters to the vegetarian and vegan crowd, with nine different pasties made without meat (or with meat substitutes) that are as spectacular as the regular pies. They’ve got vegetarian versions of the traditional Oggie and Shepherd’s Pie pasties, as well as the “Veggie Spicy Asiago Chicken” and the “Cheese and Onion.”
The cooks can even whip up a couple pasties (like the “Balsamic Portobello” or an eggplant and zucchini concoction) that are completely free of animal products whatsoever. (Customers are asked to call an hour prior to arriving to allow sufficient prep time).
On my recent visit, I tried the “Veggie Pesto Chicken,” which was overflowing with huge chunks of artichokes and mushrooms mixed with pesto and just the right amount of gooey mozzarella. The “chicken” portions are an imitation meat substitute that’s made from mycoprotein (essentially an edible fungi) and eggs that I swear tasted like the real thing. The pastry was, as always, golden brown and pleasing to the tongue.
In fact, my only complaint comes from the fact that the CPC started making their pasties around 25 percent smaller around a year ago. Plus they also started cutting the turnovers in half before serving them (although you can request they keep yours intact, as I’ve done).
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Guess it sorta oozed a little on the way home.
I also got a vegan balsamic portobello to go to eat for lunch the next day. It’s somewhat different-looking, as the lack of eggs or butter give the pastry more of a pale complexion…just like most vegans I know (oh, snap). It still tastes delicious, as did the diced red peppers, portobello mushroom, and basil, all marinated in a zesty balsamic vinaigrette dressing.
I’m probably not going to keep off the pounds if I keep coming back to the CPC, but at least it beats caving in and hitting the drive-thru at Mickey D’s.