It's extinct now -- no restaurant serves it, no bakery makes it -- but this old New York dessert still lives vividly in the taste memories of many.
Nesselrode is named after one Count Nesselrode, as are a number of dishes that are made with chestnuts or chestnut puree. This is according to Larousse Gastronomique, the French food encyclopedia. Larousse doesn't say why chestnuts are associated with the Count, a 19th century Russian diplomat who negotiated the Treaty of Paris after the Crimean War, but it does note that nesselrode pudding was created for the count by his chef Monsieur Mouy.
The pie, as we know it in New York, however, was popularized by Hortense Spier, who started her business not as a pie bakery but as a brownstone restaurant on 94th St. between Columbus Ave. and Central Park West. The restaurant closed before World War II and Mrs. Spier baked her specialty pies for other restaurants after that. Besides the nesselrode, there was a lemon meringue, a banana cream, and a coconut custard. By the mid 1950s, these were, indeed, the standard pies served in New York's seafood restaurants and steakhouses. When Mrs. Spierr died, her daughter, Ruth, and daughter-in-law, Mildred, continued the business.
Nesselrode pie is really a classic Bavarian cream -- in a pie shell, of course -- which is to say a custard base into which gelatin is blended for ...