A taste of Winston in Los Angeles
Editor’s Note: The following correction has been made to this article: Brianna Abrams graduated from Forsyth County Day School, not Mount Tabor as it originally stated in the print version of this article.
When you turn to this section of YES! Weekly, it’s often about a local restaurant, product or chef. We’re changing it up a little bit as our local artisan featured this week took an unusual career path thousands of miles away and is serving up slices of Southern hospitality and honoring her hometown of Winston-Salem.
Brianna Abrams grew up in Winston-Salem and moved to Los Angeles in 2008 with her husband after she graduated law school. “My husband is from L.A., and after law school in D.C., we thought about where we wanted to be. We spent a summer here decided to make a life here.”
Being a lawyer was what it was all about. But Abrams had also been baking pies her whole life, and her passion for baking was renewed after she discovered all the fresh fruit that is so abundant in the local markets in Los Angeles.
Abrams was working in a big law firm in 2016 and had had her second daughter when her husband suggested selling her butter crust pies. Her husband set up a website and catering business for her, and she began baking pies in order in her off- hours. “It was crazy,” she said. “I baked in the morning and late at night.” Being a full-time mom of two and working as a lawyer got incredibly busy after a short period of time. She began selling to cafes, country clubs and movie studios. “There were 3,500 pies going out of my house,” Abrams said. “I was getting up so early baking and dropping off pies, and it was so chaotic. But it let us see if the concept would work.” Abrams said it was then she felt comfortable enough to leave the law firm.
They opened her pie shop last September, but not without coming up with what eventually became the right name. “We worked on a name for months and really didn’t love anything,” she said. “Then one day my husband suggested we call it Winston Pies. Winston is what everybody calls my hometown, and I thought it was perfect.”
Abrams grew up in Sherwood Forest and graduated from Forsyth County Day School before attending undergrad at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill and American University for law school. She said she doesn’t remember exactly learning how to bake pies, but that being in the kitchen was something that was a part of her family.
“I grew up baking all types of things,” she said. “My conversations with women in my family centered on baking so many times. We’d knock ideas around, and it was how we related to each other and being in the kitchen and baking was such a big part of our relationship.” She added, “My sister bakes cookies. My mom is the cake maker. My grandmother, the pie maker. So I can’t put my finger where I learned it. Every day we were in the kitchen and baking.”
Abrams said now her little girls are getting into the baking. “They’ve been in the kitchen with me since they were infants. They are with me and excellent at tasting. Anytime I have a new recipe; they are my tasters. Their palates are incredible. And they want to help with the pie shop, and that’s really rewarding.”
Here in the South, a shop exclusive to pies is hard to come by. Even more so in Los Angeles. Abrams said she often has to explain to people how Winston Pies just dropped out of nowhere, particularly in the Brentwood neighborhood. “It’s not something that’s normal around here.”
Abrams pie menu varies from traditional to the eclectic and offers seasonal items. “My favorite pie to make is cherry pie,” she said.
Now that her shop is open, customers tell Abram that’s the best cherry pie they’ve had. “It is the biggest compliment because it’s my favorite pie in the world hands down and I order it every time I see it on a menu.”
She loves to work with traditional flavors in new and creative ways like with the Cowgirl Chocolate, which is a traditional Southern chocolate chess but with a salted caramel oat crust. But it’s important to have the classics; “Apple pie is still the most popular here,” she said.
Abrams said they are working on shipping options for the future so they can ship regionally and she said if all goes well, she’d love to open other locations and Winston is definitely on the radar.
Though a pie shop is an anomaly where she lives, Abrams said her customers are finding her, and she loves hearing their stories. “People come here from Winston, and they tell me they’re attending Wake Forest or that they’re just from the area, visiting here. Sometimes a customer walks in, and they’re from the South and homesick or feeling nostalgic, and they see our Southern aesthetic, and they have some pie. It’s so great that I can give them a touch of home.”
Kristi Maier is a food writer, blogger and cheerleader for all things local who even enjoys cooking in her kitchen, though her kidlets seldom appreciate her efforts
You’ll have to travel to Los Angeles for now. Winston Pies is located at 11678 San Vincente Blvd., Los Angeles, California. Check out the website at www.winstonpies.com.