What Is à la Mode Pie?
“À la mode” is French for “in or according to the current fashion,” and when it is used to refer to pie, it usually means that it is pie served with ice cream on top.
Pie à la mode is said to have been invented at the Cambridge Hotel in Cambridge, New York, in the 1890s when a visiting professor, Charles Watson Townsend, ordered a slice of pie with ice cream. When other guests asked what the name of the dish was, he said it was pie à la mode, and he continued to order his pie that way during his stay. When he later visited Delmonico’s in New York City and attempted to order it, he chastised the waiter for not knowing what it was. When the manager was called in to help, they declared that it would be featured on the menu every day at Delmonico’s in order to get ahead of the trend.
However, there is another claim to the origin of pie à la mode. In Duluth, Minnesota, they claim that pie à la mode was invented at a Superior Street restaurant during the 1880s by John Gieriet, owner of the Hotel la Perl. On the opening day of the hotel’s restaurant, Gieriet is said to have offered warm blueberry pie with vanilla ice cream for dessert, which he called “pie à la mode,” though it was often mispronounced by locals as “pylie mode.”
Either way, when you add a scoop of cold ice cream to a slice of warm pie, you’re eating pie à la mode!