When I heard this summer that Evan Kleiman of KCRW's 'Good Food' was going to bake a pie a day for one month I was intrigued, in awe, and followed along as she reached her goal. Then when I heard that she was hosting a pie judging contest I just had to go and watch (and next year I'm going to enter). The event, KCRW's Good Food Pie Contest, took place on Saturday, November 14th at the Westfield Shopping Center in Canoga Park. The judges were all local chefs and foodies: Mark Peel of Campanile; L.A. Times Food Editor, Russ Parsons; Stefan Richter of Top Chef and L.A. Farm; Eric Greenspan of The Foundry; Elizabeth Belkind of the Cake Monkey Bakery; Amy Scattergood from the L.A. Weekly; Amelia Saltsman, author of The Santa Monica Farmers Market Cookbook; Eddie Lin of Deep End Dining and Extreme Cuisine; and Clifford Wright, author of Best Soups in the World and Bake Until Bubbly: Casseroles. No cooking slouches here. I'd long been a fan of Mark Peel's, having met him several times, and having eaten at his Los Angeles restaurant Campanile on a regular basis. I'd certainly trust him to judge my pie fairly if I entered one. Now that I write this I see that based on the judges it was actually a tad more elite than what I witnessed at the county fair but the spirit was the same. Home cooks presenting their best possible pie creations hoping to take home a winner's ribbon.
Evan acted as master of ceremonies as 123 pies were set out on long tables. Judging took place in these categories: Best In Show; Fruit & Nut; Cream/Custard/Chiffon/Mousse; Savory; Interpretive (Defies Category). Once the judging started the judges moved from their assigned pies to the next on their list -- they didn't taste every pie entered; each judge had to taste ten to twelves pies. We spectators were held at bay by ropes and stanchions but were close enough to feel like we were in the mix. It was a hoot to watch as they all intermingled, rubbed elbows, and occasionally commented on what they were tasting. An added pleasure of the afternoon was seeing blogger friend Chrystal Baker of The Duo Dishes in the crowd. I knew she wasn't there as a spectator as she and her blogging partner, Amir Thomas are always cooking. Sure enough she won first place in the savory category for their pie 'Tarragon Chicken and Grape Pie.' A pie they had on their menu when they cooked at Canalé a few months back where I met them. Robert and I were very excited for her. The winning pie (Best In Show) was none other than an apple pie baked by Barbara Treves. Once the judging was complete they lifted the ropes and the spectators were allowed in to taste the pies themselves. It was a fun and relaxing thing to do on a Saturday afternoon in November. And, like I said above, next year I want to enter a pie myself. Guess I better get baking so I can perfect my crust and decide what to fill it with.
Mark Peel, chef/owner of Campanile.
Eric Greenspan, chef of The Foundry.
Stefan Richter, Top Chef and chef of Stefan's at LA Farm.
Robert with Evan Kleiman of Good Food and Angelli Caffe.
Judging is under way.
2nd round judging.
Chrystal Baker of The Duo Dishes with her first place ribbon in the savory category.
Chrystal Baker of The Duo Dishes and me.
Upcoming Posts: my personal, childhood food history as told by my mother, Dawn Goodman. Reviews: Cooking Light, a review of the redesign of the Time Inc. magazine. Bread Matters, a review of the new bread book by Andrew Whitley.