It’s over ladies and gentlemen! We entered the Good Food Pie Contest again, but this year was not a lucky one. Last year, we managed to pull out a win, which was a huge surprise to both of us. This year there was an entire batch of new winners taking home the top prizes.
The anticipation for the pie competition began early. Similar to last year, owner and head chef of Angeli Caffe, author and host of Good Food, Evan Kleiman, took up her mission to spend the summer baking pies and highlighting pie creations from guest posters. The Pie-a-Day marathon was back! Pie mania ensued on her blog, and we were lucky enough to contribute a recipe as well. Throughout the summer, a preponderance of pies popped up all over the place, finally culminating on the biggest pie celebration day Los Angeles has probably ever seen. The 2nd Annual Good Food Pie Contest took place on Sunday, September 5th. It was a perfectly sunny day in Beverly Hills. Actually, it was the the final afternoon of the Food & Wine Taste of Beverly Hills event. The timing of these two food events–one showcasing the talents of mostly local home cooks, the other featuring famous local chefs and restaurateurs–could not have been better planned.
Leading up to the event, we of course had to plan what pies would make the cut. The year before, we offered up a Sweet Potato Cheesecake Pie and the winning Tarragon Chicken and Grape Pot Pie. This year, we knew we would once again choose the sweet and savory entry route. We decided to make a few tweaks to the haupia pie submitted to the Pie-a-Day challenge, and we would go back to a favorite that showed up on this blog just over a year ago–Lamb and Sweet Potato Pot Pie. As usual, we can’t even make our own dishes according to the recipes, so there were a few changes. For the haupia pie, the pineapples were caramelized in butter, brown sugar and Grand Marnier and cinnamon and toasted nuts were added to the crust. The pie was topped with toasted coconut as well. Unfortunately, it proved to be difficult to find demi glace for pot pie, so that was replaced by a reduction of beef broth and red wine. Other than that, the recipe stayed fairly true to itself.
Over the course of the week, ingredients were grabbed off market shelves, crusts were made and frozen, fillings bubbled on the stove, and fruits were sliced and cooked. You know the deal–if there’s a way to cut time, we will find it. Preparing anything in advance that will stand up in the fridge or freezer is the way to go. The evening before the competition, photos of the almost-ready pies were posted to Facebook. There were just a couple more steps left, but that could take place the morning of the competition. Following an early rise that Sunday morning, it was time to bake the pot pie and dress the haupia pie with its toppings. Both pies–one warm, one cold–found themselves in the front seat of the car whizzing over Coldwater Canyon Boulevard to Beverly Hills. Any pie that did not make the 2:00 pm check-in at Bar 210 in Beverly Hills would not be included in the contest. Good thing it was Labor Day weekend! If you live in LA, you know that means people go out of town, so there’s no traffic. Always a good thing.
There were a few small changes to the pie contest this year that made everything flow very smoothly. First, the check-in location was separate from the contest area, and the process was quick and easy. Last year, the contest was held at the Westfield Topanga shopping center, which is somewhat of a parking nightmare. Check-in was a bit hairy with so many people crowded around the tables. This year, check-in was simple and quick! Even just after 1:00 pm, there was hardly a line at all. The KCRW volunteers gave us our name tags and pie entry numbers, instructed us how to label the pies and packed our beauties into the standing shelving units. This year, the pies would be refrigerated between registration time and the start of the contest. This was great for any chilled pie, but if we had thought about it in our pre-planning, this would not be the best thing for a savory pot pie. You only see 20/20 in hindsight!
The second change was the location of the event–just behind the Taste of Beverly Hills location, close to the Beverly Hilton. There was easy (though expensive) valet parking at the hotel, a shuttle that ran over to the location or free street parking if you were lucky. Although the hotel is in a fairly busy traffic area, it seemed much more accessible for contestants and attendees. That could also be attributed to the fact that this was a lazy Sunday over a holiday weekend instead of a busy Saturday in November like last year. The third amendment was instituted down time between registration and the contest. (This blog post actually saw its beginnings at the Starbucks near the Beverly Hilton during that time.) This no doubt worked in favor of the volunteers and judges, so there would be time to set up and prepare for so much pie tasting. From 4:00 pm-5:30 pm, there would be music from Chris Douridas and a fashion show sponsored by the Urban Craft Center. Onlookers would be able to peek at all the pies and figure out which ones they wanted to taste. At 5:30 pm, the waiting crowd would finally hear who won, and following that announcement, hungry hands would have free reign to dig into the pies. The lucky judges included:
Jonathan Gold, Pulitzer Prize-winning food writer, Weekly
Roxanna Jullapat, Pastry Chef, Ammo Cafe
Zoe Nathan, Chef & Owner, Huckleberry Cafe
Akasha Richmond, Chef & Owner, Akasha
Karen Hatfield, Pastry Chef, Hatfield’s
Eric Greenspan, Chef & Owner, The Foundry on Melrose
Christine Moore, Candy Maker & Owner, Little Flower Candy Company
Sang Yoon, Chef & Owner, Father’s Office
The competition was stiff! There were so many pies, so many people. You could tell these people came to take it all! The final and best change that stood out this year was the inclusion of another category–Best Crust. Peering over the pies, you could tell there were a lot of great crusts out there. Pale and crispy, all butter, a mix of butter and shortening, dusted with coarse sugar, golden brown, sweet and dense, flakey and light, constructed from crushed cookies, cut together mostly with flour. latticed with love, layered with precision. With this new category on the block, it seemed as though people were gunning to at least take home the medal for their crust if that’s what it came down to in the end.
The announcement of the finalists grabbed everyone’s attention, and those top tier pies made their way to the stage. The judges would do a final round of deliberating and decide who would be taking top honors. As they whispered amongst themselves, the remaining contests were able to serve their pies to the waiting crowd. With forks perched and plates extended, slivers of pie flew out of their tins. There were far fewer savory varieties available, so they went first. It seemed as through fruit and custard pies made up the majority of the 122 entries. If you have any interest in entering next year, let the numbers work in your favor and do a savory entry as that seems to be the way to go.
The final winners of the contest were announced amongst rounds of applause. There were perhaps three winners who grabbed more than one medal, including the owner of the Best in Show award for his meat pie. Find the full list of winners here on the KCRW
Good Food blog. Big kudos to Evan Kleiman and Harriet Ells for putting it all together. It was a blast! Until next year!