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Saturday, August 30, 2008

Pie are squared

Seven squared, to be exact. Forty-nine pies were entered in today's inaugural Portland Pie-Off, held at the Elephant House in Washington Park in Portland. I had the honor, along with fellow blogger Gary Walter and serious pastry chef Kir Jensen, of judging the competition, which meant taking at least one bite of each of the 49. When close calls appeared within the various categories, multiple bites were required. Then there were the pairings, each of which involved a taste of a beverage (beer or wine, as it turned out) along with the baked goods.

There were some incredible entries, and the cliché about the judges having to make impossible decisions was true in several categories. The tomato savory pie won the top prize, but it could have as easily been the monster Catalunyan mixed nut pie, or the strawberry balsamic cream, or several others. We had to choose between a crazy Dr. Pepper pie and a fine root beer float pie. The peach melba cheesecake topped with fresh raspberries was the best-looking entry, and the best made entirely out of local ingredients. There was a true meat pie and a veggie sausage pie, both of which were simply excellent. Have you had the Israeli carrot pie? Now I can say that I have.

And the fruit pies! More than 20 of them. Apple, berries, peach, rhubarb, lemon, key lime, even grapefruit. All but a few would have been welcome additions to our dining room table.

Thanks to the organizers for the invitation, to the volunteers who made the event such fun, and to the entrants and spectators, who showed saintly patience as we worked our way through all of the offerings. This contest was initially hatched on the internet, and it wouldn't have been any better if it had been set up any other way. Now I'm really looking forward to my next piece of homemade pie.

On Thanksgiving.

Photo courtesy Amber Case.

UPDATE, 8:28 p.m.: Lots of great photos here.

UPDATE, 8/31, 1:37 p.m.: And here.

Comments (9)

Bragging has commenced, here.

As if the event weren't already an illustration of how cool Portland is, one fellow in the crowd produced a couple of half gallons of ice cream just as the judging concluded and the eating commenced. Instant a la mode for anyone who wanted it.

I'm genuinely and seriously curious: how was the grapefruit pie? I ask because I've had grapefruit pie before, but if it was using white grapefruit instead of Rio Star or Ruby Red grapefruit, it was almost inedible. On the other hand, with the Rio Star pie, I pretty much went George Romero on it.

The grapefruit pie was done in much the same style as a key lime pie. The key to its success was that that both the grapefruit and the sugar that was used to cut against it were relatively subtle and balanced.

That said, I also liked a traditional key lime pie that was right next to it.

It was nice meeting you yesterday at the Pie-Off. Thanks for the judging and kind words regarding my Rhubarb Custard pie.

I loved that pie. It needed a category of its own, though -- it was both fruit and custard. Bring one by any time and I'll explain further...


Thanks for your vote, Jack. I don't think we had a chance to officially meet, but I'm sure it won't be long. A great time was had by all - what a fun event!

Jack, it was a pleasure doing business with you! What a great opportunity we had. To be graced by the likes of Kir and her expertise, let alone all the greatest that Portland piers had to offer.

It was a great event and the Portland Pie Commission is to be congratulated!

I thought the event to be inspired.

I checked out the competition this year, in expectation of entering next.

I didn't see any true classic apple pie....such an oversight. I'd separate out the "fruit pies" into apple, berry, and stonefruit pies...I mean, pumpkin had it's own category.

There were no sweet potato pies, either...they should have to compete in the pumpkin category.

Here's my recommendation:

1. Each of the winners should be recruited to judge next year.

2. There should be more judges.

3. You should probably shoot for judges for each category, although that might be difficult at first. Each of three judges should NOT have to sample 49 (or probably even more next year) different pies.

4. You might want to separate each category with a session to down a little iced tea, hot black coffee, or other 'flush' for the taste buds.

I loved it, and had the rhubarb afterwards....too sweet.


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