Sunday, August 20, 2017

Pie as Beer

Pie as Beer

Small Town Brewery (Wauconda, IL) offers several pie-themed beers for summer that are sold at Cost Plus World Market. I decided on the Not Your Mom's Apple Pie and Not Your Mom's Strawberry Rhubarb. These fall into a beer category of herb beers called gruit style and are sweet like lambic beer. The apple pie had a lot of cinnamon and a little ginger, so there is definitely a resemblance to apple pie. These were very sweet and cider-like that I would think should pair better with dessert than a main course. However if you like a dry cider, this is not the beer for you.

Portland: An Abundance of Pie

On the way back on our last day I discovered that we would miss a big artisan pizza & pie event sponsored by the Willamette Weekly called "Pie Harder" in late August. (Perhaps a nod to Die Hard?) The bakeries Pie vs. Pie and New Seasons Market will be there. There were a lot of pie bakeries that I just didn't have time to investigate, including Random Order Bakery and Coffeehouse, Petunia's Pies and Pastries, Lauretta Jean's, The Pie Spot, Pacific Pie Co., Prosperity Pie Shoppe, Pie to the People, Baker & Spice, Shari's Cafe and Pies, Back to Eden Bakery, and Banning's Restaurant and Pie House. I'm getting the impression that there is a lot of pie to be had in this town and I didn't even begin to scratch the surface in this visit. I guess that gives me another good excuse to return.

Bread & Honey Cafe

Bread and Honey Cafe was a little place we discovered around the corner from our Airbnb near Williamson St. in NE Portland. I decided rather than eating breakfast again (Portland loves it's hearty breakfasts and brunches) I would just have a savory and a sweet pie instead.

Chicken pot pie - Put a bird on it!
 They pre-bake the savory pies and then warm them in the panini press. The chicken pot pie was packed full of chicken and veggies and low on gravy, more quiche-like.

Almond peach crunch pie
The almond peach crunch pie was like eating granola with warm peaches. We were surprised to see kolaches on the menu until our waitress told us that one of the owners was from Austin like our Airbnb hosts. So the Hill Country German pie tradition meets the Northwest pie obsession here.

Pie Books at Powell's in Portland

My friend Jay Francis of The Fried Chicken Blog started me taking photos of recipes to test them out before buying the book, so I was snapping away in the pie aisle at Powell's Books.

DK Eyewitness

At this point I'm getting jaded on finding pie fillings or even new pie styles that I haven't heard of before, but I found some good late summer fruit recipes and even a few new pie styles in a pretty awesome DK Eyewitness book called "Pies Sweet and Savory". I'm a big fan of their travel books because the books show a lot of pictures to help you visualize what you want to see on your trip.

Prune and almond tart

Apricot almond galette
Bavarian Plum Tart

Victoria Plum Pie

Mediterranean Jalousie

Nectarine and lavender crostata

Four and Twenty Blackbirds 

Here are two recipes from Four and Twenty Blackbirds that I couldn't find online. Until I spent time driving around the Northwest I never realized how Mediterranean their climate is. Unlike Houston with it's hot wet summers and dry winters, they have hot dry summers and cold wet winters. So plants that like being in dry sun like lavender grow wild here and to enormous size (like 12 foot butterfly bushes), so baking with summer lavender makes sense here.

Four and Twenty Blackbirds Lavender Honey Custard pie

Four and Twenty Blackbirds Egg & Grog pie

Momufuku Milk Bar

I'm not always on the same page as the pastry chef from Momofuku Milk Bar since a lot of her recipes are very candy-like, but she has some very creative ideas for crust.

Pistachio Crunch recipe from Momofuku Milk Bar

Thai Tea Crunch from Momofuku Milk Bar

Powell's Pie Books

Look at all of these shelves of books of nothing but pie books! If you have never been to Powell's the experience is overwhelming. Most bookstores I find one shelf of books that I'm interested in. Here every obscure topic you are interested in has two or more whole bookshelves on that topic. There are a lot of celebrity pastry chef books to be spotted here. Enjoy your virtual browsing experience below.

To market, to market, to buy a fat hand pie

The sea glass and wood in the display at Crust Pies lets your eye feast on objects from the Washington coastline

Crust Pies based out of the Port Townsend Saturday Farmer's Market really knows how to make beautiful hand pies. Remarkably each one has a distinctive shape that let's customers identify each one. By the time we arrived to the market the owner had sold out of all the sweet pies. Since I like to learn some new savory flavors, I was fine with that. I tried the garlicy greens hand pie. I liked the flavor, but I think that I would have preferred the filling pureed or at least finely minced to give the pie a better texture. The whole green garlic and kale leaves inside were tasty but a bit difficult to eat as they unraveled with each bite. That said, these pies are being handmade with quality market ingredients so I would still like to try some of the other hand pies.

The ginger date nuts and seeds bar is a work of art

The diverse menu of sweet and savory pies
The surrounding market was gorgeous. We ate salmon sandwiches, fresh berries, lavender and strawberry-basil sorbet to name a few. Here's a few pictures from the market.

A La Mode Pies

Exterior at A La Mode Pies Phinney Ridge location
 As our trio drove up to the A La Mode Phinney Ridge location on the last Friday in July I wished we had budgeted time to visit the nearby zoo. I liked the look of the neighborhood and could see this being a place I would bicycle to in cooler weather.

The case was filled with a variety of delicious fruit and cream pie options. We got carried away by our first glimpse of the display case and decided to take home several whole pies rather than a sampling of single slices as had been my original plan. Knowing that the berries would be seasonal and local getting the cherry pie and the huckleberry-hazelnut pies was non-negotiable. Since I had competed another blogger's version of their Blue Hawaiian pie (blueberry pineapple with coconut crumb topping) in the second Heights Pie Contest in Houston, I had to get some of that pie so I could compare her recipe to theirs. The guys working behind the counter that day pursuaded us to get some of the cream pies as well, including Mexican chocolate and Peanut butter chocolate mousse pies.

I absolutely loved the marionberry-hazelnut and the cherry pies. The flavor of the former is like a sophisticated version of a PB&J. I learned from sampling a lot of different types of berry jams (marionberry, bumbleberry, tayberry, huckleberry, and loganberry) from Johnson Berry Farms in Pike Place Market that each has a distinct level of tartness and sweetness. Marionberry and loganberry both have more complex darker flavors that are reminiscent of fig or cocoa, so I can see why they make great pies. Cherry pie made from a canned filling just doesn't hold a candle to a sour cherry pie made from fresh cherries pitted by hand and cooked with sugar. The original version of Blue Hawaiian pie had a much finer amount of crumb topping with the majority being toasted coconut that was exactly what I thought needed tweaking from the Chattavore version. I'm sure local blueberries and fresh pineapple make a difference in the filling taste as well. We wound up eating these pies for breakfast in Anacortes for the next several days.

Mexican chocolate pie
Spiced apple pie
Blue Hawaiian pie
Star-Spangled Sour Cherry pie
We bought enough pie that we earned a free ice cream sample (completing our A La Mode). I was amused to find out that their ice creams are prepared for A La Mode by Snoqualmie Ice Cream because I had just discovered their lavender ice cream in Central Market in Houston. (I think because of lavender's being in the mint family, you get the same cold feeling from eating it as mint ice cream. I would probably tone down the lavender a bit and add blueberry or marionberry, which is unusual since I usually feel that ice cream needs more flavoring.)

The menu board

A collection of antique pie plates decorates the window

I only wish that we had time to have stopped at the West Seattle location on SW Alaska Street. They have an extensive menu of savory pies too. We could have made an entire meal on pies at that location. I guess that will have to wait for my next visit.

My wife models their sign board outside

All in all a great pie bakery that earns it's place among Rick Sebak's A Few Good Pie Places list (I found an article citing this PBS documentary on the bathroom wall). Great filling flavors, good crust, and friendly service. Little did we know at that point how much "damn good" pie we had yet to experience in the Northwest before our vacation ended...

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Pies of the Hill Country

Pies of the Hill Country (4/28/17)

The Hill Country of Texas west of Austin and San Antonio has a great abundance of pie. I had to take my wife with me this time to some of the pie bakeries on my to-do list for a re-taste.

Yellowware mixing bowls 

Lost Maples Cafe...pie fixes everything

Lost Maples Cafe...pie fixes everything
For me the Lost Maples Cafe was one of my great finds in 2014 due to its great variety of house-made pies (20+) and Tex Mex food so close to the state park of the same name that makes this restaurant a popular stop for Thanksgiving weekend hikes. Make sure that you request their table salsa. On re-tasting I realized that I don't like some of their crusts as much as I remembered but the fillings - like the sky high meringues - are definitely not canned pie filling.

The enchilada plate with rice and beans and side salad with ranch dressing

cherry pie

coconut meringue pie

chocolate meringue pie

a pie safe

Love Creek Orchards - The Apple Store

Head west on Hwy 16 from Bandera to Medina TX (not the one in Saudi Arabia) and you will find the former home of the Texas Apple Festival and the primary place where apples are grown locally in Texas. The town's symbol is a giant concrete apple (below right) in the park. Love Creek Orchard is one of the larger orchards in town and they have a store - The Apple Store - that sells not Macs but instead a number of apple varieties (below left) bred by nurserymen affiliated with Texas A&M to need less chill time to initiate flowering and can set fruit under our hot and dry Texas summers.

In addition to a lot of apple-themed garden flags, yard art, and jellies The Apple Store has a self service area that sells whole apple pies and by the slice as well as apple strudel. I thought the strudel was nice and crisp and had a great apple flavor with just enough fresh ground cinnamon.

Apple Pie
Apple Strudel

 Backyard Bistro

Backyard Bistro
Lots of lovely flowers in their landscaping

Pipe Creek east of Bandera on Hwy 16 has one upscale restaurant, Backyard Bistro. The chef is a transplant from Detroit who has a French-themed menu. They are popular for their pie (including buttermilk pie), but alas there was none to be had the night we had dinner there. We had some cake instead but the ice cream was very unusual. It had a variety of herbs including mint that tasted to me like a French culinary garden in a glass.
cream of mushroom soup

crab cake pasta
Pork breast with mashed potatoes and summer vegetables

French herb ice cream

coconut cake

chocolate pecan cake like a Texas sheet cake

Boerne - Future Pies

Boerne is a cute town with a thriving old town main street with restaurants and bars. Unfortunately everyone else likes the town so Austinites are causing the town to quadruple over the next 5 to 10 years. Next time I return I plan to try the pies at Bumdoodler's, a crazy name but apparently a sandwich shop serving good pie. Bear Moon Bakery and Cafe was also recommended for good pie in Boerne.

We found the Carousel Antiques & Pickles was worth a stop. Their Fickle Pickles are a more addictive version of bread a butter pickles made with alum to give them that glassine look. They have both regular and extra spicy versions.


Buzzie's Barbecue in Kerrville is on the 2013 Texas Monthly Top 50 Texas Barbecue joints. I found that I liked the buffalo head better than the barbecue. The meat wasn't particularly moist and the fat cap wasn't rendered creamy. I think TM staff agreed with me that they are off their game now, because they didn't put them on the 2017 list.

West of downtown Kerrville is a replica of stonehenge called Stonehenge II in Ingram TX.

Stonehenge II