A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from October 28, 2007
“Remember the à la mode!” (pie à la mode)

“Remember the Alamo!” (or, as some insist, “Remember Alamo!") was the famous Texas cry at the victorious Battle of San Jacinto on April 21, 1836. The inevitable “Remember the à la mode!” joke arrived much later. The American Dairy Association created a “Remember the A La Mode!” month (in August 1959) to urge people to eat more ice cream with their pie.

Pie à la mode (French for “according to the fashion") is pie with ice cream (usually vanilla ice cream or cream). The pie is usually apple pie. The dish appears to have been first served at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair.

There is a legend that Charles Watson Townsend first invented “pie à la mode“ at the Cambridge Hotel in Cambridge, New York, and later at New York City’s Delmonico’s restaurant in the mid-1890s (1896 is sometimes given as the date), but this seems unlikely and is not supported by historical evidence.


What’s Cooking America
Apple Pie a la Mode – In the United States, pie a la mode refers to pie (usually apple pie) served with a scoop of ice cream (usually vanilla) on top.
1890s - According to the historians of the Cambridge Hotel in Washington County New York, Professor Charles Watson Townsend, dined regularly at the Cambridge Hotel during the mid 1890’s. 

Cambridge Hotel (Cambridge, NY)
The History of Pie a la Mode
(Reprint from Sealtest Magazine)

With Apple Pie a la Mode holding such a special niche in the taste of the American public, it is appropriate at this time that we turn to historians long enough to record for prosperity the origin of this delectable delicacy of the day.

We have it that the late Professor Charles Watson Townsend, who lived alone in a Main Street apartment during his later years and dined regularly at the Hotel Cambridge, now known as the Cambridge Hotel, was wholly responsible for the blessed business.

One day in the mid 90’s, Professor Townsend was seated for dinner at a table when the late Mrs. Berry Hall observed that he was eating ice cream with his apple pie. Just like that she named it “Pie a la Mode”, and we often wondered why, and thereby brought enduring fame to Professor Townsend and the Hotel Cambridge.

Shortly thereafter the Professor visited New York City, taking with him a yen for his favorite dessert new name and all. At the fashionable Delmonico’s he nonchalantly ordered Pie a la Mode and when the waiter stated that he never heard of such a thing the Professor expressed a great astonishment.

“Do you mean to tell me that so famous an eating place as Delmonico’s has never heard of Pie a la Mode, when the Hotel Cambridge, up in the village of Cambridge, NY serves it every day? Call the manager at once, I demand as good service here as I get in Cambridge.”

The manager came running, and the Professor repeated his remarks.

“Delmonico’s never intends that any other restaurant shall get ahead of us” said the manager and forthwith ordered that Pie a la Mode be featured on the menu every day. A newspaperman representing the New York Sun was seated at a nearby table and overheard the conversation. The next day the Sun carried a feature story of the incident and it was picked up by many other newspapers. In no time at all, Pie a la Mode became standard on menus all over the country.

(Oxford English Dictionary)
à la mode, phr.
Cookery. Of a dessert: served with ice-cream. U.S.
1903 Everybody’s Mag. VIII. 6/2 Tea and buns,..apple pie à la mode and chocolate were the most serious menus.
1928 Delineator Cook Bk. 734 ‘Pie a la mode’ is pie served with ice-cream.
1949 L. P. DE GOUY Pie Book 65 Apple Pie… Serve warm or cold, with cheese, a la mode or with whipped cream.

26 April 1893, St. Paul Daily News, pg. 3, col. 5:
CULINARY SNAP.
Chicagoans Indignant at Probable
High Prices for World’s
Fair Pie.
(...)
Cold meats were raised from 30 to 35 cents, sandwiches (chicken) from 15 to 20, and salads (chicken) from 40 to 50 cents, and apple pie, a la mode, was raised 20 cents—10 cents for apple pie and ten cents for a la mode.

13 May 1893, Chicago (IL) Daily Inter Ocean, pg. 1:
Electric Restaurant (C.) World’s Fair Grounds, Jackson Park.
Dinner Served from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
May 11, 1893
(...)
Apple pie a la mode...20

20 June 1893, The Sun (Baltimore, MD), “How To See The Fair; Information for Everybody Who Is Going to Chicago,” pg. 1, col. 8:
Apple Pie, a la Mode, 20

12 June 1895, Warren (PA) Evening Democrat, pg. 3, col. 3:
PIE A LA MODE,
10 Cents.
(...)—Chicago Times-Herald.

Chronicling America
26 July 1895, The Morning Times (Washington, DC), pg. 3, col. 2:
Chicago, Ill., July 25.—If the Chicago team keep their present mascot, the players will be eating pumpkin pie, a la mode, for the rest of their lives.

4 August 1895, Chicago (IL) Daily Tribune, pg. 34:
He’s got a glass of beer and a great big piece of pie with a chunk of ice cream on top of it.  Pie a la mode, I believe they call it.

6 April 1896, Duluth (MN) News-Tribune, “Desserts,” pg. 4:
Apple pie a la mode—Stew one quart of ripe apples, pared and cut in quarters, putting them through a sieve; add one tablespoonful of butter and beat to a cream. Line a pieplate with feather paste, fill with the apple cream and bake 20 minutes in an even-heated oven. Spread over the apple a thick meringue made of the whites of the eggs and tablespoonfuls of pulverized sugar beaten stiffly and not flavored. Brown slightly in the oven and serve wit ha large spoonful of whipped cream stirred with candied cherries and flavored with almond.

3 May 1896, Chicago (IL) Daily Tribune, pg. 51 ad:
Pie a la Mode...5c

21 May 1936, New York (NY) Times, pg. 23:
CHARLES W. TOWNSEND
Cambridge, N. Y., Man Credited
With Originating Pie a la Mode.
CAMBRIDGE, Mass., May 20 (AP).—Charles Watson Townsend, one-time concert pianist, who, tradition has it, inadvertently originated pie a la mode here fifty-two years ago, died today in Mary McClellan Hospital.  His age was 87.

As the story goes, he amazed waiters in a local hotel by asking for ice cream on his pie. He like it so well he ordered it on another occasion in Delmonico’s restaurant in New York. The restaurant then added the dessert to its menu.

The Hotel Cambridge here specializes in the dish and points out the table at which Townsend was dining when he created it.

27 May 1936, Frederick (MD News, pg. 4, col. 1 editorial:
PIE A LA MODE.
Surely no list of great American inventors is complete without the name of Charles Watson Townsend, father of pie a la mode, who has passed away in New York Stste at a great age. It is to be regretted that the original creation, due to its perishable nature, is not available for the Smithsonian Institution or some kindred agency.

We believe the luncheon clubs and all kinds of citizens who gather at noon in an atmosphere of good fellowship and chicken croquettes followed by apple pie with a top dressing of ice cream, will see the propriety of paying tribute by a moment of silence at their next meetings to the memory of a benefactor. To the best of our knowledge, it was never officially settled whether pie a la mode is played with the spoon or fork or both, though common preference seems to lean to the fork alone. In any event, millions of his fellow men are indebted to Mr. Townsend for lending flavor—usually vanilla—to their daily lives.

11 June 1958, Mason City (Iowa) Globe-Gazette, pg. 5, col. 4:
OUCH!
MADISON, Wis. (AP)—Printed under the pie list on menus at a well-known Madison (not Texas) steakhouse: “Remember the Ala-mode!”

5 December 1958, Sheboygan (WI) Press, pg. 12, col. 2:
In August, you’ll be urged to “Remember the A La Mode.” (To the strains of Dixie.) Here Mr. Moo, the ADA mascot, goes western and you learn that ice cream goes with anything from brats to “heavenly cranberry pie.”
(American Dairy Association story—ed.)

14 August 1959, Newark (OH) Advocate, pg. 21, col. 7 ad:
Remember the A-La Mode
Ice Cream Make’s America’s
Best Desserts Even Better
(...)
CUMMINS’ ICE CREAM and DAIRY

20 August 1959, Corpus Christi (TX) Times, pg. 49 ad:
Ice Cream
Remember the A La Mode
Knolle All Jersey
3 Qts. for 99c

8 January 1960, Amarillo (TX) Globe-Times, pg. 12, col. 5:
Why go to Bali or the Congo when here you can attend in comparative safety a “Domestic Rabbit Week” or “Remember A La Mode Month”? 

29 August 1963, Nevada State Journal (Reno, Nevada), pg. 7, cols. 3-5:
Pie a la Mode Invention
Of American Restaurants
CAMBRIDGE, N.Y. (UPI)—Pie a la mode is as American as baseball or the Virginia reel but its origin eludes those not aware of this small community in the Adirondack foothill.

In 1896, a music teacher, Professor Charles Watson Townsend, regularly concluded his dinners at the Hotel Cambridge with the combination of apple pie and ice cream.

When Mrs. Berry Hall, an employee at the hotel first saw the creation, she gasped, “pie a la mode.” The name was acceptable enough to Townsend, who wasn’t fussy as long as his favorite dessert was served.

Later that year at fashionable Delmonico’s restaurant in New York City, Townsend requested “his” dessert. When the waiter disclaimed knowledge of “pie a la mode,” Townsend was astonished and then indignant. He called the manager and described how a little hotel in Cambridge, N.Y. regularly served the dish.

With Delmonico’s reputation at stake, the flustered manager ordered “pie a la mode” featured on the daily menu.

A reporter from the old New York Sun overheard the conversation and the emergence of “pie a la mode” was told in a feature story in the daily the next day. Other newspapers across the nation followed suit and the dessert was soon a household standby.

Why did the phrase “a la mode” become so quickly associated with a mound of ice cream on a slice of pie? A Wagner College history professor noted that “a la mode” was used widely in the 1890’s to describe anything extremely fashionable.

A few persons are aware of the origin of the term.

Walter Gann, present owner of the Hotel Cambridge, said his sister was listening to a phone-in-the-answer quiz program in New York when the dessert’s birthplace was asked.  She telephones within three minutes only to be told some 200 listeners had already called in the correct answer.

Gann credits much of Cambridge’s national notoriety to Roy Shoet, who has been the radio and television announcer at nearby Saratoga Raceway for many years. During the winter months, Shoet broadcast from California and frequently mentioned the birthplace of “pie a la mode” on a network.

In addition, Cambridge is a fashionable resort which had catered for many years to well-traveled guests who spread its reputation throughout the globe. 

Google Books
Remember the a la mode!
Riddles and Puns
compiled by Charles Keller
Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall
1983

Google Groups: alt.tv.game-shows
Newsgroups: alt.tv.game-shows
From: “Jason Wuthrich”
Date: 1999/11/08
Subject: Re: JS ABC Millionaire 11/7

> For $300:
> In the battle cry datings from the 1830s, what are Texans told to
remember?
> He says The Alamo for $300.

> For $500:
> What French phrase has come to mean “served with ice cream”?
> He chooses “a la mode” for $500.

REMEMBER THE A LA MODE!
(...)
And all my opinions (except the a la mode joke) are mine alone.

Google Books
Angels Laughing:
The Very Best Spiritual and Religious Humor
compiled and written by Thomas Haka
Trafford Publishing
Pg. 224:
The Baptist minister in Texas ordered ice cream with his pie for dessert because he wanted to “remember the a la mode.”

Posted by Barry Popik
Texas (Lone Star State Dictionary) • Sunday, October 28, 2007 • Permalink


There is a place in Vancouver, called “À La Mode” . The special thing about this place is that À La Mode offers a variety of traditional home made pies (more than 10 different kinds). The pie crusts are exceptionally good, and the fillings are fresh and taste great. The original raspberry-rhubarb and the super-smooth banana cream pie are particularly noteworthy.

Posted by Royal Caribbean  on  06/25  at  06:55 AM

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