On Monday, the Source hosts its Pie-Off. We have been collecting pie recipes from friends and readers, and on Monday evening will present the three winning recipes—and our judges, food critic Lisa Glickman and a surprise local chef, will determine the GREATEST (HOMEMADE) PIE IN CENTRAL OREGON. (7 pm, Broken Top Bottle Shop, free.)
In search of holiday pies, we dropped in at several bakeries and restaurants this past week around town, looking for seasonal pumpkin, apple and pecan pies.
1054 NW Milwaukee
The common wisdom is that crust makes the pie, a hypothesis I have tolerated but don't necessarily agree with, instead considering the crust as merely the container to hold the yummie stuff.
Nancy P's crust has me reconsidering.
Flakey but buttery—sort of like a well-crafted croissant—the crust adds heft to the pie flavor, but restrainedly so; no overwhelming happening here. Of course, it is no surprise that the renowned bakery would produce a sophisticated and quality crust. But they really have outdone themselves. In particular, the apple pie has a puffy rim that blooms with elegantly simple taste.
"This would be great for breakfast," one staffer quipped.
Oh, and right, the filling? Also, great. A nice, high apple content; slightly spiced and simmered, but still crunchy.
But did I mention the crust yet? (PB)
50 SE Scott St. #22
Pumpkin Pie ($4/slice, $28/whole pie)
Sparrow's silky, delicious pumpkin pie is, quite possibly, the best version of the holiday classic that I've ever shoveled into my face. The reason why is a good one—it just may be the most labor-intensive pumpkin pie anywhere. Sparrow bakers use zero canned ingredients in the creation of their magical pie, and instead roast a whole Cinderella pumpkin, a French heirloom variety also known as "Rouge vif D'Etampes," to achieve that rich, authentic pumpkin flavor. The fresh spices—cloves came through strongest—include the usual ingredients: ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg. The thin, somewhat bready and flaky crust proved a perfect vehicle for transporting the pie from the plate to my mouth. Between my greedy, Paul Bunyan-sized bites and defensively outstretched elbows, I'm not sure anyone else in the office was able to get more than a sniff of this glorious pie.
To get your own for the holidays, call Sparrow to pre-order (541-330-6321) as they only have a few on hand at any given time. Just be sure to pick up the pie the day before Thanksgiving—they're closed on Turkey Day. (JW)
Pecan Pie ($4/slice, $28/whole pie)
I had high expectations for this pie, because I really love Sparrow and their amazing bread, and I was not let down. The crust was almost more bread like, nearly doughy and not flakey. The thick crust was still crispy which was a great balance to the gooey filling of the pie. Nutty and crunchy ,the pecans on top were cooked just enough, and were coated with a perfect topping of caramelized sugar that I can only imagine would have tasted even better fresh out of the oven. The filling (a mix of egg, corn syrup and vanilla extract) was an amazing velvety pudding consistency with a subtle flavor that wasn't overly sweet and paired perfectly with the bold crunch of the sugary pecans. Yum! (BB)
801 NW Wall
Pumpkin Pie and Caramel Apple Crumble ($8/slice)
At $8 a slice and with a 20 minute wait for the slices to arrive (at a time when there were only seven other customers in the whole place), expectations are set high. Unfortunately, these were the most disappointing pies of the places we visited—decent, but not worth the price of a whole Safeway pie.
The apple crumble was hearty, more crisp apples than anything else. The crumble was sparse, more dry oat than buttery. Although advertised as a vanilla bean, the ice cream tasted more sharp, like spiked with brandy; it was the best part of the dish. We didn't taste any caramel.
The pumpkin pie comes as its own darling mini-dish; a wonderful presentation. With a long taste, there is a heavy all-spice ending, an interesting choice that sets Drake's pumpkin pie apart from traditionally silky or sweet pies—a darker, more musky taste. The whipped cream is also a derivation from traditional sweetness; although light, there is a pleasant sour cream tinge to the taste (advertised as spiced rum whipped cream, we all agreed it tasted more like sour cream).
All told, really good pies, but a bit presumptuous to charge twice what seems to be the going rate for pie slices around town. (PB)