By Marlee Moore
A trio of judges sampled savory tomato pie June 14 — just steps from the Montgomery Curb Market stand where FDL Gourmet To Go chef Preston Williams purchased the dish’s star Better Boy tomatoes hours earlier.
The tomato pie’s simple, salty flavor earned it the title of Bama’s Best Tomato Dish, a contest sponsored by Sweet Grown Alabama. As the winner, Montgomery-based FDL earns bragging rights, a cash prize, a plaque and a feature on “Simply Southern TV.”
“It was love at first sight!” said judge Kathleen Phillips. “The beautiful presentation of the ripe red tomatoes arranged on top told me tomatoes were going to take center stage of that tasty show. Sure enough, as I cut into the warm pie, another layer of salted tomatoes was found between layers of creamy, cheesy goodness. At that point, I knew I would be a fan girl of the FDL tomato pie.”
Phillips, a recipe developer and author of the Grits and Gouda food blog, was joined on the two-day judging journey June 13-14 by “Simply Southern TV” co-host Mary Wilson and tomato connoisseur Kyle Hayes.
Sweet Grown Alabama Director Ellie Watson accompanied the crew, which visited the Flavorful Four finalists across the state to taste their takes on Bama’s Best Tomato Dish. Finalists were chosen by fans in head-to-head matchups between Edible Eight entrants on the Sweet Grown Alabama Facebook and Instagram pages.
Watson praised FDL Gourmet To Go owners Williams and Phillip Carter for cooking with fresh, local ingredients.
“Preston and Phillip understand the Sweet Grown Alabama mission,” Watson said. “FDL has built relationships with local farmers to highlight fresh produce. Their tomato pie shows off what Alabama farmers do best — grow safe, affordable, tasty food for families.”
Williams is a Le Cordon Bleu-trained chef who specializes in Southern food with a Mediterranean flair. He and Carter broke into the gourmet food-to-go business during the COVID-19 pandemic, starting with pop-up events in neighborhoods.
FDL (which stands for fleur-de-lis, a nod to Williams’ French ancestry) has a catering kitchen and takes custom delivery orders weekly.
FDL also has a booth with refrigerated foods (casseroles, pimento cheese and more) at the Montgomery Curb Market.
“Once someone gets our tomato pie, they come back and get more,” Carter said. “We do a lot of deliveries for people throughout the week for funerals, new parents and events. Loved ones send things they like.”
The duo is inspired by seasonal ingredients. Summer favorites include an heirloom tomato gazpacho and, of course, Bama’s Best Tomato Dish.
“Some people are scared of tomato pie if they’ve never had it,” Williams said. “I’ve never met a tomato pie I didn’t like. With ingredients being in season, it would be a shame not to use them. To highlight a tomato is to eat it fresh.”
Other finalists in the Bama’s Best Tomato Dish contest were:
– Claunch Cafe, Tuscumbia, tomato pie
– The Downtown Chief, Gadsden, fried green tomatoes with pimento cheese and pepper jelly
– Gather, Atmore, The Train Wreck
To learn more about FDL Gourmet To Go, visit their Facebook page. The “Simply Southern TV” episode featuring FDL Gourmet To Go and Bama’s Best Tomato Dish airs Aug. 6 and 7.