Friday, July 30, 2010

My, Oh, My -- 9 Slices of Pie!!!

How often, anymore, does one get to gaze upon the beauty of 70 different homemade pies displayed upon a dining table that's been draped with a lace tablecloth?

You might find that many factory-produced specimens at Costco or Sam's Club; but homemade?? Handmade??? Our grandmothers might remember a time when such a display was common ... but these days, we tend to order other kinds of pies -- pizzas -- for social gatherings instead.

And that, truly, is a shame.

So thank goodness for Slow Food Huron Valley, Growing Hope, and the Homegrown Festival for sponsoring a fabulous event last Saturday night: Pie Lovers Unite!

"The Pie Lovers Unite! extravaganza honors pie-making traditions in Michigan by inviting people to bake, bring, share, and taste pies from around the area.

Pie Lovers Unite! demonstrates that a community is only as good as its homemade pie - and that we have a great community."

I had attended last year's festivities and enjoyed myself immensely; so when I received the invitation for this year ... well, how could I refuse?

Jeremy wasn't interested in attending, but Tom thought it was an intriguing notion. The price of admission was either $8 or a homemade pie. I didn't even go through my usual decision making brain paralysis, but readily decided to bring my now-famous Peanut Butter Pie.

I made sure to use Koeze's all-natural peanut butter, made in Grand Rapids on the west side of the state, which is such an exceptional product that it is difficult to adequately describe it.

First of all, the flavor is everything you want in peanut butter -- freshly roasted peanuts shine through, with just enough salt for enhancement. But even better is the texture, which is very thick and rich with miniscule pieces of peanut throughout ... not chunky, but not smooth either. And it is blessedly lacking the usual oiliness of natural, non-hydrogenated peanut butters. Lesser products are greasy and slimy and almost pourable ... bleah. Koeze's, however, is the standard by which all other peanut butters should be judged.

I also made sure to use another local product: peanut butter granola, a divine concoction made by the Ypsilanti Food Co-Op. (FYI: That's pronounced [IP-sih-LAN-tee], for those who aren't from 'round here ... it's Ypsi [IP-see], for short.) Instead of sprinkling chopped peanuts or toffee chips over the chocolate drizzle, this seemed the perfect option. It is divine with maple-flavored yogurt, too -- it smells like crumbled peanut butter cookies!

So, anyway ... pie in hand, Tom and I headed off to Ypsi and an evening of festivity.

I happily saw my friend Jen, one of the coordinators and hostesses for the evening. And it was also good to see a woman named Suzy who works for our local Jewish newspaper, whom I hadn't seen in ages. She introduced me to her friend Jim, who had made both a Beef & Guinness pie and a beautiful Blueberry Streusel pie. Suzy, unfortunately, was recovering from a bout with poison ivy, so Jim had made two pies for their admission and she promised to make a fabulous fruit pie next year.

Tom and I watched as more and more pies were entered into the competition, and the table filled with all sorts of varieties: rhubarb, cherry, raspberry, meringue, spinach, cheese, chocolate ... if you can think of a type of pie, I'm sure it was represented that night.

And then the evening's amusements began. We had been treated to the talents of a pie-anist playing the upright as we all gathered. There was a pie-ku competition, and here is the one I entered:

Pie served with whipped cream?
Maybe pie served with ice cream?
I know -- I'll have both!

Alas, the card I'd written my pie-ku on wasn't drawn from the basket to win a prize. But it was fun to recite it nonetheless ... :)

There was a pie walk with rounds for varying age groups, which took place as the judges sat in a front corner of the display room tasting and testing away. And then -- yay!!! -- it was time for everyone to sample the offerings. With 70 pies having been cut into at least 8 slices each, there was half a pie's worth of slices available for each attendee. So there was ample opportunity to try a wide variety.

And so, try we did -- we were up to the challenge! Between us, Tom and I managed to get 9 different slices (and he very sweetly took a slice of my Peanut Butter Pie, too, since he likes it so much).

Now for the rundown on all of these options, since I know you're all panting at the prospect:

Clockwise, starting at the top:

The summer vegetable pie looked lovely, with nearly transparent slices of cucumber and radish, sprinkled with hints of dill, placed over a creamy white base. However, the base turned out to be sour cream with no other discernible flavor; and eating mouthfuls of sour cream with bits of pie crust was not particularly enticing.

The vegan chocolate pie was calling to Tom, a former vegetarian and vegan; I had visions of tofu and was none too thrilled by it. But for my sweetie's sake, I got the second-to-last piece (it pays sometimes to be from NYC and to know how to work a crowd!). And I must be a big enough person to admit that it was remarkably good! I would love to know the ingredients, because there was no "off" tofu taste; it was smooth and creamy, and there was just a slight hint of peppermint. *I* -- the Queen of the Tofu Loathers -- would actually make this, even if I learned that some soy stuff was a part of the mix.

Jim's blueberry pie was a thing of beauty throughout! I absolutely loved it!

The coconut cream pie was rich and smooth and lovely -- I liked it very much ... :)

The spinach pie was cold (an unfortunate hazard of an event such as this, with no ability to keep things warm) and soggy. Had it been served hot from the oven, had the spinach been squeezed more before baking or had the pie been baked more thoroughly, it might have been wonderful.

Also clockwise, starting at the top:

My peanut butter pie. I am proud to say that when we got to the table, there were only 2 pieces of it left -- if it wasn't the first to go, it was very close to it. As Tom and I selected our options, I watched as my empty pie plate was taken away. People's Choice Award, perhaps??? I hope those who managed to get slices of it enjoyed it.

Our slice of the chocolate meringue pie didn't have much meringue, which is unfortunate -- I love meringue. But it was very rich and very good nonetheless.

The blueberry cream pie was kinda sour, with a lemony-ish cream that didn't really enhance the blueberries. I'd had much higher hopes for this one.

The French rhubarb pie was a bit sour ... to be expected with rhubarb, but it could have used some orange or some strawberries or some cinnamon to soften the blow.

And then, after the indulgence, it was time for the prizes. Jim's Beef & Guinness Pie won for best savory entry -- yay!!! I didn't get to try it, but it did look like a hearty, rustic thing of beauty.

The Vegan Chocolate Pie won my category -- Sweet, Not Fruit -- and I can honestly say that I'm not offended. It was surprisingly good!

A Raspberry Meringue variety won Best Fruit Pie.

There were several Honorable Mentions that I don't remember, and categories for Best Pie Crust (featuring a beloved Grandma recipe, made by a 20-something young man -- who'da thunk???) and Best Use of Local Ingredients (which was won by a kale and polenta pie, I think). There was even a Kids' Pie category as well; as Kim Bayer, one of the organizers, stated (paraphrased, since I didn't write it down word-for-word) -- "It's important to teach your children how to bake pie, since they'll be the ones bringing you pie in the nursing home!"

And then there was a newly devised category created by the judges on the spur of the moment, for Best Name: "How're Ya Gonna Keep 'Em Down On the Farm Now That They've Seen Paree?" This was in honor of a pie whose baker admitted her entry was a failed attempt at making something from a Julia Child recipe. But the title won the day!

So, we came, we saw, we ate ... and ate and ate! I didn't win a prize, but Tom and I had a fabulous time anyway celebrating food and fellowship ... a perfect Saturday night ... :)

Oh, I'm so flattered! Look at the lovely compliment this post received from Andrea at Pumpkin Tart:

I want to give a special mention to my favorite blog post of the month. I thoroughly enjoyed reading every word (though I may be biased based on subject material).

I'm so thrilled! Please return the love by checking out her recipe for Chocolate Tapioca Pie, a comfort food extraordinaire ... :)


The Girl Creative

Smart and Trendy Moms

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Pumpkin Tart said...

As someone who has a weekly feature on her blog called "PieDay Friday", I truly loved your post!
Your peanut butter pie sounds delightfully awesome! This is my favorite blog posting of the month!

I just might have to visit Michigan next summer!

Meg said...

mmm pie this is inspiring me to get off my butt and bake something tomorrow!

Charmaine Poulin said...

Oh my.....what a wonderful day that must've been! Thanks for sharing!

Kylie said...

Um, DIVINE! Where would you even start! lol.

I'm a new follower

Rachel (Diary of a Recovering Chocoholic) said...

Oh what a great event! I would love to have a pie party with my friends!

Cranberry Morning said...

'...a community is only as good as its homemade pie' is a great line! :-)

It would not be safe for me to be in a room of homemade pies. Where do you start? How do you stop? Too much tension for me. They sound so delicious!

Kel said...

WoW! That is a lot of pie! i definitely would have left there with a belly ache. I have no control when it comes to baked goods. Swing by tomorrow if you get a chance and join our first Saturday Spotlight Blog Hop! Have a fabulous weekend!


Unknown said...

Oh great gravy..70 pies??? It would be like going to heaven!! mmmmmmmmmmmm.....I'm so glad I posted my peanut butter cup pie, now I feel like I was part of the event!! Will definitely be trying your peanut butter pie...yum!!

Steph @ Professors_Wife said...

I'm pretty sure i would have eaten myself into a coma at this event! Your PB Pie looks absolutely AMAZING!

Sheila said...

One word:


Pamela Scott said...

great post now I am so hungry for pie!!!
I am your newest follower from Friday Follow over 40..

I can't wait to read more of your blog...

Peggy said...

I want a pie and coffee now!! LOL
I am now following you through
Follow Friday 40+!!
Peggy Gorman

lindalou said...

Lovely. I just love's so much better than cake. What fun this must have been and your pie sounds wonderful. I also want some of the peanut butter.

Lisa said...

Ha! I love that you call yourself a food floozie! I can totally relate!
Stopping by to follow you from Friday Follow. Have a great weekend!

Bella @ Lil Daisies said...

I am now following your LOVELY blog! Hope you will come over and return the blog love and join up with me?

Bella @ Lil Daisies

RoseBelle said...

Costco pies are nowhere near homemade pies! Geez, all those pies look so scrumptiously good!

I'm your newest follower!

Heather S-G said...

How cool! I adore pie...cold, warm, a la mode, w/ name it! You are a lucky lady ;) And your pie does sound fabulous...did u know I grew up in GR!? Although, I'm kinda embarrassed to say, I haven't heard of this brand before (gulp). Still have family there, so I'm hunting it down next time I'm up there!!!

Robin said...

I may have to stop reading your blog until my parents come home. I just realized it is almost 6pm and I have no thoughts on dinner. I am now hungry after reading about pie. What a terrible position to be in. A couple of nights ago I had pretzels for dinner. Does this scream loudly enough that I really don't like to cook? *sigh* Now I just want pie.

Karen Mortensen said...

I love pies but I love raw pie dough. It is so good.

Rose said...

love pies better than cake. this isn't the place to go if dieting. Rose

Natasha in Oz said...

Boy, I wish I could have been there too...I don't know if I could have stopped myself from trying more than one slice of EVERYTHING though!

Well done to you! I really should make your pie one day!

Best wishes,

Beth Zimmerman said...

Sounds like a perfectly lovely event! YUM!

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