Sisters Emily and Melissa Elsen opened Four & Twenty Blackbirds five years ago (at the height of the cupcake era, you might recall) with one clear goal: to fill the gap in this city's pie offerings. Their aim was to create delicious handmade pastries with fresh, seasonal fruit, just like Grandma used to make. Specifically, their grandma: The sisters were born into a restaurant family, and growing up they'd watch their grandmother roll out crusts. In 2010 the Elsens made their debut in the nascent arts community in Gowanus, giving the neighborhood a place to meet, work, or relax over a slice of pie and a cup of locally roasted coffee. As for that pie, the sisters don't strive to reinvent the wheel, preferring to concentrate on combining classic flavors that complement one another. The menu changes according to what's around, save for some mainstays offered all the time: salted caramel apple, salty honey, and black bottom oat, a poor man's pecan variation with oats and a dark-chocolate ganache. The Blackbirds formula drew a legion of fans, and the operation has grown substantially — the sisters now run a full-service café and coffee shop, Pie at the Library, inside the Brooklyn Public Library.
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