Wednesday, March 16, 2011

pie. pie. pie.

Ever heard of a pie slam?  You are not alone.  Until last month when I signed on as a willing participant, I was as clueless as the rest.  This, after I swore I would never enter another cooking or baking competition.  Having previously subjected my culinary endeavors to the scrutiny of judges in both a whoopie pie bake-off and a holy tomato contest, I can attest to this:  I do not care for losing.  Not one bit. DSC_2438

So, what exactly is a pie slam?

The pie slam, as we know it, came into being when two gals with a penchant for baked goods and the written word joined forces to host a pie baking contest with a twist.  In addition to baking a pie, contestants of a pie slam must write a short story about said pie and then read their story aloud before an audience and panel of five judges who determine the best combined story and pie.

When my husband gently reminded me of my sacred vow to never again compete in the food arena, I was quick to dispel his qualms by pointing out how vastly different this was.  The pie slam wasn’t going to be just another baking competition, it was a chance to merge baking and writing, two of my favorite things.  How could I resist?

Jessie Oleson, of Cakespy, and Wendy Sykes, of Four and 20 blackbirds, hosted the event in Cakespy’s Capitol Hill headquarters on March 14, also known amongst math nerds as ‘Pi Day’ (i.e. 3/14).  The five judges included Nancy Guppy of ArtZone, Dani Cone of High Five Pie, Kate Lebo of Good Egg, and pie slam co-conspirators, Oleson and Sykes. 

On the day of the pie slam, nine contestants placed their entries on two long tables draped with cotton candy pink linens.  Dainty blue cards showcased the names of the contestants and their pies.  The room filled with nervous anticipation as starting time drew near.

the pies


Each pie was distinctly different, from traditional fruit varieties to the fantastical lunchbox pie topped with chocolate-dipped potato chips, yet only one would take home the blue ribbon.

At half past six, Wendy Sykes introduced the judges and called the first contestant to read her piece.  It was me.  My heart raced as I stated my name, pie and the title of my story (see below).  Being first is no picnic.  My voice wavered at first but steadied as I delved in to my piece and hoped for the best.  One by one, the entrants came forward and shared their stories.

the contestants


The judges sampled each pie in conjunction with its story. 

1. Max Snyder shared his highly entertaining account of baking an apple ‘pie’ in his dormitory.  2.  Sarah Spiller reminisced about her grandmother’s pies and revealed her love affair with pumpkin pie.  3.  Stephanie Crocker, of Sugar Bakery, considered which pie she loves best and settled on apple with a domed top.  4.  Brook McDonald read a playful poem about her Lunchbox Pie, a peanut butter banana filled creation topped with chocolate covered potato chips.  5.  Wendy Johnson shared tender memories of the pies her mother baked for her father and recalled which one he loved best: blueberry.  6.  Alexander Jhin merged cake and pie in his story and in his ‘Pake’, a chocolate cake baked atop a cherry pie.  7.   Aharona Ament told a story of a boy named Fig, who was born on Pi Day and loved to bake.  She baked a fig, apple and walnut pie.  8.  Kate McDermott, of Art of the Pie, used a pie server as a prop as she engaged in a dialogue with pie and considered why she loves it so.  She baked a shaker lemon pie.  8.  Sarah Dapcevich (that’s me) told the story of a couple who shared a piece of pie at their favorite restaurant.  The pie she baked and wrote about was chocolate cream pie with macadamia brittle and malted whipped cream.

Pie slam collaborators, Wendy Sykes and Jessie Oleson, tally the results

While the judges deliberated and tallied the scores, pie slam attendees mingled, noshed on pie, perused Jessie’s cute-as-a-button shop and admired her delectable artwork. 


In the twinkling of an eye, the results were in:  First place went to Kate McDermott, of Art of the Pie, for her shaker lemon pie and pie dialogue.  She took home a handmade blue ribbon and a framed watercolor by Jessie Oleson.  Runner up was Alexander Jhin with his inventive ‘pake’ and witty story involving a cupcake who aspired to be more than just a cake.  He received a retro oven mitt, handmade by Wendy Sykes.  Congratulations to the winners and to all the contestants in the first annual Cakespy Pie Slam.  See you next year!

DSC_2502  Jessie’s husband, Danny, and pugs, Porkchop and Olive, came out to support the pie slam

Below is the story I entered in the pie slam.  It’s a fictional tale drawn from several meals eaten at Bar Tartine, my favorite restaurant in San Francisco.  I have a theory that a restaurant is only as great as its dessert menu.  Considering the fact that dessert is typically the last impression, it is surprising how often a stellar meal is punctuated by a mediocre confection.  The pie in this story was an actual dessert served at Bar Tartine and it did not fail to impress.  I tried my best to recreate the pie and have included a recipe should you care to make it yourself.

  Win or lose, the pie that won my heart

The Most Beloved One

Vera caught her breath as she doggedly mounted the final step of the endless staircase leading up from the subway platform. A sudden gust of wind tousled her loose waves and she shivered a little, bracing herself for the chilly five-block stroll from metro station to restaurant. Never mind the broken escalator; Vera avoided those mechanized steel beasts even when she was wearing sensible shoes, which of course tonight she wasn’t. It was a small price to pay for looking this good, she rationalized. A shock of electric blue dress peeked out beneath her gray wool coat and she smiled the satisfied smile of a woman who knows she will turn heads.

Clyde caught hold of Vera’s arm and linked it with his own as she gladly leaned in to the warmth of his body. His easy manner and boyish good looks complimented Vera’s own youthful countenance and confident stride. The two turned a corner and joined the Thursday night crowd already hungrily pacing the sidewalks in search of dinner and respite from the biting cold. This short stretch of pavement was home to some of the best dining the city had to offer; a veritable tablecloth spread before the discerning diner.

Amid the myriad of choices, Vera and Clyde remained devoted to but one. One beloved establishment captivated their hearts, minds and bellies in flawless succession. Vera felt her pulse quicken as they approached the entrance. Black lacquered window frames reflected a neon glow from the street lamp hovering overhead. A near invisible sign hung from two metal hooks, arrogant in its austerity as though taunting passersby to overlook the place.

The famished, windblown duo stepped inside where a rustic chandelier crafted entirely of antlers shed soft light on scattered tables, diners, and wait staff. Wide plank walnut floors were a throwback to earlier days. A few well-appointed vases overflowed with wild, brambly flowers, softening the edges just enough. Vera let out a contented sigh as the din of the bustling interior drew her in. Across the table, she locked gazes with Clyde, their faces aglow in eager anticipation.

They sipped tart sweet huckleberry aperitifs, inhaled still warm, thyme-scented gougeres, like bitty poufs of cheesy, eggy nirvana, and sunk their teeth into fragrant, unctuous dates filled with tangy, creamy local gorgonzola. They marveled over thick slices of bread with a dark crusty exterior and chewy, satiny center. When the main courses arrived, there was room still for delicate pillows of ravioli with ricotta and stinging nettles and goat prepared three ways, each a revelation of taste and texture.

As far as Vera was concerned, the question of dessert was no question at all, rather a resounding affirmative. True to form, Clyde insisted he could scarcely accommodate another crumb, let alone dessert; but you go ahead, he murmured. Overcome by a sated stupor, Clyde reclined in his chair while Vera intently perused the nightly selection. Despite his admonition to the contrary, Vera knew her man could never resist anything dark and chocolaty. She zeroed in on chocolate cream pie with malted whipped cream and macadamia nut brittle, willing it to be as ungodly good as it sounded.

When the pie arrived, Vera’s desire to share was momentarily dampened as she contemplated the less than generous slice set before her. She slid the first forkful in her mouth and audibly moaned as the silky chocolate filling and buttery graham cracker crust mingled with comforting malted whipped cream and the salty sweet crunch of macadamia brittle. With his fork poised, Clyde no longer waited for an invitation. Vera didn’t mind. Pie this good was meant to be shared.


my two biggest fans

A big shout out to my dear husband and sweet daughter, who gamely accompanied and cheered me on at the pie slam.  I may not have won first prize but I went home with my two most prized ones.  XOXO

  this one prefers lollies over pie.  kids.

   before and after: the downside of trying all nine pies

No comments:

Post a Comment