The holidays are rapidly descending upon us, holding with them the promise laughter, tears, gifts, weird hugs from certain relatives who will go unnamed and, of course, lots of food. Diets are eschewed; waistlines sacrificed for epic meals that will most certainly, inevitably, end in some kind of pie for dessert. Because who doesn’t love pie? No one, that’s who!
KCRW successfully hosted their 6th annual Good Food Pie Contest yesterday, which took place in and around the Fowler Museum on the campus of UCLA in Westwood. Evan Kleiman, host of "Good Food," presided over the festivities, which were free and open to the public, and included nearly 400 pies, KCRW DJ Anne Litt, various kid-friendly activities, and wilting 97-degree heat.
- First, the obvious: the event was awesome. But then there was pie everywhere, so maybe that’s somewhat self-evident. It was also very hot. Fortunately, the cream pies were put inside, out of the sun, for the judges’ tasting.
- This year’s judiciary was an impressive coterie from the LA food world, including Sherry Yard (Wolfgang Puck), Jonathan Graham (Compartes Chocolatier), Nicole Rucker (Gjelina Take Away), Zoe Nathan (Huckleberry), Lesley Barger Suter (Los Angeles Magazine), Akasha Richmond (Akasha), Annie Miller (Clementine), Meadow Ramsey (Sqirl), Na Young Ma (Proof), Hourie Sahakian (La Brea Bakery), Lincoln Carson (Superba Food & Bread), Christina Olufson (AOC, Lucques), Clemence Gossett (Gourmandise), Sarah Schreckengaust (Ladies Gunboat Society at Flores), Aarti Sequeria (Food Network) and others.
- There’s no way every judge could try every pie; it would be Pyrrhic, nigh impossible task. 400 bites of pie would equal… just way too much pie. Certain judges covered individual pie categories, which included Fruit, Nut, Cream, Cooked Custard, Savory, Vegan, and a special Fowler Museum-inspired category with the somewhat nebulous name, "World." A few judges snuck in at the end for the Best Crust and Best in Show samplings.
- Most of the talk between the judges had to do with the somewhat ontological query, "what is a pie?" Is a tart a pie? A flan? A quiche? I asked Russ Parsons (L.A. Times) about his definition of pie, and he said, "I’m very liberal. Not a hardliner." So who were the hardliners in the crowd? Parsons laughed and replied, "Evan Kleiman, raise your hand. Sang Yoon (Father’s Office, Lukshon), raise your hand."
- However, it was Kleiman who had to explain to the judges that it was acceptable if entries did not meet a strict definition of pie and wandered into pastry/crusty cake territory. She explained that a chicken pot pie galette in question correctly followed the contest entry rules. Yoon replied, "Ok, so that’s not a DQ. What about a tart?" Christine Moore (Little Flower Candy Co.) chimed and said she felt that the definition of pie "has to be limited to ‘baked in a pie plate,’" eliciting murmurs of assent from a few judges.
- Rose Lawrence (Red Bread) and I settled on a term for those who have a more permissive definition of and appreciation for all kinds of pie: Pie-Curious.
- Dave Lieberman (OC Weekly): "Pie is the quintessential American dessert. We didn’t invent it, but we perfected it."
- Somewhat ironically, the final vote for Best in Show came down to two pies that weren’t technically pies at all: the above-mentioned chicken pot pie galette, baked by eventual winner Allison Brooker, and the World category winner, a Mayan chocolate pie baked by Cybelle Tondu. Jonathan Gold weighed in on the controversy: "I don’t think a non-pie should win Best in Show. I’ve been doing this for five years and I think I make that argument every year." He continued: "The winner was delicious but it was a galette, with a biscuit crust… the Mayan was clearly a tart; it was a big tart, but it was a tart."
- For all you hopefuls for next year? Focus on your crust (Again, Jonathan Gold: "I always say the three most important things about pie are crust, crust, and crust.") and consider appeasing the pie militants by making a proper pie, in a pie plate. Or, hey, maybe don’t; enough judges seemed content to evaluate on taste alone!