Waltzing Through Pies: The Waltzing Kangaroo
My first experience with a Cornish pie, a type of hand pie, was in the U.K., outside a rainy football match in Tottenham Court. After wolfing down the warm, delectable pie stuffed with meat and potatoes, I waltzed into the football stadium to a chorus of about 20,000 people chanting at the opposing team’s goalie, “Who ate all the pies? Who ate all the pies?” — pointing their fingers at the oppositions goaltender, they all screamed, “Big fat bastard! Big fat bastard!”
I was amused; the pie wasn’t all that good.
So, when I stumbled into the Waltzing Kangaroo on Elizabeth St. in Fort Collins, I had a distorted and somewhat jaded view of what a pie could be. I thought I knew what to expect until I sank my teeth into this delectable Aussie version.
“I think one of the things that sets us apart is that everything is made from scratch,”said Steve Phillips, Chef and Co-Owner of the Waltzing Kangaroo Restaurant. “Everything! It takes us about 36 hours from start to finish to make a pie, from cooking the stock, to making the pastry and fillings. We make everything from mains to sides and desserts painstakingly and lovingly by hand.”
The results are as delectable as could be imagined.
The pies at Waltzing Kangaroo come from a long tradition of cooking meat in pastries that dates back generations and found its way into many corners of the world. Originally, cooking meat in the pastry was a way of preserving the meat.
Nobody knows for sure where and when the “pasty” originated. It’s thought to have been invented when the preparation of food became an art, rather than roasting a hunk of meat on a stick. It’s said to have come out of Cornwall England and then spread throughout the commonwealth. Eventually, it found its way to the colonies of Africa and America, and to Australia. Here the Australians developed their own delicious take. That’s where Steve and Aimée Phillips come in.
Hailing from Terrigal, Australia, Chef Steve Phillips is from a family of pastry and pie makers. His wife and business partner Aimée is from the gastronomic center of New Orleans. They met up in Keystone around 2003. He was a “lifty,” and she managed the local Starbucks. They moved back to Australia, got married, and had a couple of kids. Coming back here for an extended family break, they started thinking about America and pies. “So many friends wanted us to open a place here, and after an extended search, we chose Fort Collins for our handcrafted Australian food establishment,” Aimée
The diversity and freshness of Steve and Aimée Phillips’s pies are astounding. The pies incorporate many influences from around the world. The foundation of the Aussie pie served at the Waltzing Kangaroo is a savory short crust on the bottom and a puff pastry on the top. The pastry is then stuffed with a variety of fillings and gravy. The resulting hand pies are a spectacular, gastronomic trip around the world. The menus gives a nod to the solid U.K. tradition with a Guinness, steak and mushroom pie, as well as a lamb and rosemary version.
Colorado gets a nod with a pork green chili pie, but then a sense of diversity and world view creeps in that almost resembles colonization itself. There is a Thai Green chicken curry version and a vegetarian Thai peanut sauce pie. The Waltzing Kangaroo also features a pie of the month. The pies of the month have included a southwest steak pie with poblano, jalapeño and sour cream, an Indian Madras chicken curry pie with peas and a honey chili duck pie.
“We have even featured a pie called ‘The Ralphie’ in honor of the annual CSU/Colorado football matchup. It was buffalo in a red wine and garlic gravy with mushrooms and carrots,” Steve said with a grin.
Although pies are the main focus, the diversity of the handcrafted menu doesn’t stop there. There is an extended array of fresh traditional sides that include mushy peas, sweet potato mash and fresh mashed potatoes with butter and milk. Fresh salads grace the menu as well.
Another stunner is the homemade desserts. The star of the dessert-show are the profiteroles — a classic French choux pastry filled with the Waltzing Kangaroo’s very own crème patisserie, dipped in a chocolate ganache. Another is a coffee-infused chocolate ganache pastry that made this afternoon attendee almost wet himself when washed down with the Waltzing Kangaroos designer Aussie espresso coffee, roasted locally by The Coffee Registry. The atmosphere is lo-fi and homey.
Finding a spot like this makes this happy-go-lucky food-worshipper feel there is hope for Fort Collins yet on the gastronomic plane. Hopefully as the city grows and spreads its wings, we will attract more adventurous folks like Steve and Aimée Phillips to wow us with the risk and rewards of handcrafted food from the heart.
Also, if you hear a distant chanting of 20,000 people in a chorus of, “Who ate all the pies?” likely you will know it is this fat bastard that all the fingers are pointing at.