Food for body and soul
Portland Pie-Off II is now in the record books. Seventy or so pies met a dozen judges and a few hundred pie fans at beautiful Peninsula Park this afternoon to celebrate the goodness that is pie. The overall winner was a crazy yet delicious mashup of honeydew melon, white chocolate, and cucumber, but there were so many entries worthy of high honors, it's impossible to pay tribute to them all.
And this year, with a large contingent of judges, no one took a bite of them all, either, as the three of us judges did last year. Each judge got a crack at all of the entries in two categories of pies -- and then a sample of the winner of each other category, in the hunt for the overall pie winner. We each took a bite of around 25 pies, as opposed to twice that many last year.
I joined two other judges in the savory and general fruit categories: caterer (and last year's overall winner) Tricia Butler, and ice cream maker extraordinaire Rudy Speerschneider. The savory pies were fantastic -- breakfast, brunch, lunch, and dinner were all well represented. The entries included a ham-and-egg pie, two lamb pies, a potato, a squash, a mac and cheese, a Cuban -- each good in its own right but pretty daunting in combination.
In the end, we agonized between the Moroccan lamb and the mac and cheese -- and if the event organizers didn't eventually demand an answer, we'd still be deliberating, it was that close. We kept taking bites of each, back and forth, and we might have wound up eating most of both pies if we had kept hemming and hawing. Both pies had pluses and minuses, but mostly pluses. Our final decision was the Moroccan, by the slightest of margins. (If the person who made the squash pie needs comforting, however, they should e-mail me for directions to deliver another one of those for [cough] further testing [cough].)
Over on the general fruit table, it was all apple, all the time, with the exception of a single red-white-and-blue berry combo. I was partial to a classic version of the apple pie, but the other two judges on the panel gave the nod to an apple-cranberry mix that was also quite good. A split decision for the apple-cranberry.
It was fun to see the winners get their prizes and bask in the glow of victory, but there were many other great products that missed top honors for one reason or another, and those pie makers should be just as proud. This was some seriously good home cooking, and it disappeared quickly once the spectators got their plates, forks, and chance to eat.
The city's blogosphere was well represented. Betsy was explaining some of the finer points of life with teenagers, Nancy Rommelmann was on the scene with pen and notebook in hand, we were all proud to be part of the Summer of Bean, and I finally crossed paths in the real world with Byron Beck. Of course, Lelo of Nopo was busy as a bee in her role as one of the organizers and chief operating officers of the event (along with Radio Gretchen). And was that Bix we saw taking photos?
The eating and the socializing were more than enough reward for fulfilling our judging duties, but we also came away with an exquisite handmade pie cozy, courtesy of Gretchen's mom, who once again cracked the whip as judge wrangler.
We Portlanders like to tell ourselves -- too often, perhaps -- what a great city we live in. But when those comments were made again today, they were spot-on. The proof was in the pie pans, and in the hearts of the people in attendance.