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As the mercury drops, comfort food means pie, pie, pie

by Rebecca Milner

In this new monthly column I’ll be hunting down home comforts from around the world. And when the weather turns abruptly cold, the American mind turns to Thanksgiving, that annual feast of rare origin — it’s as American as apple pie.

Mmm, pie … Where can get my hands on some of that?

Kyle’s Good Finds (2-7-10 Arai, Nakano-ku, Tokyo; (03) 3385-8993) has long been the go-to place for American-style baked goods in Tokyo. Owner Kyle Sexton, originally from Pennsylvania, has been baking carrot cakes, cheesecakes and, yes, pumpkin pie at his tiny corner shop in Nakano for over 20 years. Some are available by the slice at his shop, or you can have a whole pie made to order.

Sexton’s recipes are classically American, but he makes the most of local ingredients, too. He uses kabocha, naturally softer and sweeter than American “pie pumpkin” and definitely preferable to the canned stuff. Orenji imo (orange potato), he says, are a good stand-in for yams — when you can get a hold of them.

And on the subject of canned stuff: “You’ve got to make your own cranberry sauce. It’s so easy, just boil cranberries with sugar until they pop,” he says. Fresh cranberries are available at National Azabu in Hiroo and Kinokuniya International in Omotesando, both in Tokyo.

Another place to try is Daikanyama’s landmark pie shop, Mama Tarte (2-15-9 Ebisu-Nishi, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo; (03) 3770-0620). An ever-changing lineup, with at least half a dozen varieties daily, includes such treasures as banana caramel pie along with classics like pumpkin and apple; they’re a bit too light, and with barely-there crust, to be completely authentic, but they’re certainly delicious. The shop itself looks plucked from the American countryside, with a sun patio screened with ivy.

A newcomer in the ever-competitive Tokyo dessert scene, Granny Smith Apple Pie & Coffee (1-46-10 Kamiuma, Setagaya-ku, Tokyo; (03) 6805-3353) opened in February in the quietly happening Setagaya neighborhood of Mishuku. This takeaway counter, run by the same folks who do the Fungo diner across the street, specializes in four tantalizing varieties of apple pie — including the rare-in-Japan Dutch crumble — and espresso drinks. You can order through Rakuten from anywhere in the country.

Could pie be the next big thing? “We haven’t had a pie boom yet, so maybe it’s time,” says Granny Smith manager Asami Matsuo.

Now that would be something to be thankful for.

And speaking of Thanksgiving, getting your hands on a turkey has never been easier, thanks to The Meat Guy, a Web store that can deliver turkeys big and small right to your door. Jason Morgan, the Meat Guy himself, estimates that he moves about 20 tons of turkey during the holiday season — that’s thousands of birds. Good luck roasting it in your toaster oven …

Rebecca Milner is a freelance writer in Tokyo and coauthor of Lonely Planet’s travel guides to Tokyo and Japan.