A Humbling (Pie) Experience: Judging the Third Annual Pie Social

Pie Social 2012 judging.jpg
Lauren Saria
The judges, hungry for pie
Eating pie is pretty much the best way to spend a Saturday afternoon, and at Saturday's Pie Social, there were plenty of celebrity pies to enjoy -- 14, to be exact. At first, as we judges waited around for a seemingly endless procession of pies to be brought to the table, it seemed a bit daunting to have to taste them all. Luckily, I started my day with a five-mile hike to get nice and hungry, and it turns out that I never tire of eating pie.

See also:
- Pie Social 2012: The Winners
- Sticky Toffee Pudding at St. Francis

The Best of the Best

Proof? I went back for seconds of the pie presented by Jeff Kraus of Crepe Bar, one of my three favorites. And I wasn't the only one; fellow judge Vermon Pierre also went back for more after turning in his scores.

Crepe Bar chocolate cherry espresso pie.jpg
Lauren Saria
Roasted cherry dark chocolate espresso pie
Kraus' roasted cherry chocolate espresso pie was technically a tart (the pie's close cousin), but after one bite, I didn't care about definitions. It had a thick filling that was a marriage of custard and ganache, and between that and the crust was a thin layer of gooey dark cherry filling. Not only was it beautiful, but with well-balanced flavors, it tasted every bit as good as it looked. Fans of dark chocolate and espresso, or dark chocolate-covered cherries, will be in heaven if Crepe Bar adds this to the regular menu (please do!).

Urban Beans Pink Diablo pie.jpg
Lauren Saria
Surprisingly addictive Pink Diablo Pie
The two other standouts for me were the Pink Diablo by Virginia Senior of Urban Beans and the blackberry pie with blue cheese crumble by Brady Breese of Urban Cookies Bakeshop. The former was so good that all I wrote down was "wow!" An adventurous feat, Senior's pie combined a walnut crust, prickly pear cheesecake, lime curd, meringue, mint, and agave habanero sauce. The result was a semi-savory Southwestern pie just sweet enough to call dessert. The complex taste was like washing down spicy food with a prickly pear mojito. The mint was the perfect finishing touch, and all in all, this was the one I continued dreaming about all afternoon and evening. This pie was truly a strike of culinary genius.

Brady Breese blackberry blue cheese pie.JPG
Lauren Saria
Blackberry pie with blue cheese crumble
For someone who taught himself how to make pie just in time for this contest, Brady Breese certainly fooled us with his unique creation and near-perfect crust. The blackberries were juicy and made up most of the flavor profile, and the blue cheese baked into the crumble on top added the right touch to make the pie a special twist on a classic. Blue cheese and blackberries belong together in a fruit and cheese course, so why not combine them in a pie? This isn't one that everyone will love, but anyone who likes the two main ingredients will want to make this at home. On that note, can we have the recipe, pretty please?

Location Info

Crepe Bar

7520 S. Rural Road, Tempe, AZ

Category: Restaurant

Urban Beans

3508 N. 7th St., Phoenix, AZ

Category: General

Urban Cookies and Bakeshop

4711 N. Seventh St., Phoenix, AZ

Category: Restaurant

Tammie Coe Cakes

610 E. Roosevelt St., Phoenix, AZ

Category: Restaurant

Hyatt Regency Phoenix

122 N. Second St., Phoenix, AZ

Category: General

Honey Moon Sweets

606 W. Southern Ave., Tempe, AZ

Category: Restaurant

Treehouse Bakery

1348 W. Roosevelt St., Phoenix, AZ

Category: Restaurant

St. Francis

111 E. Camelback Road, Phoenix, AZ

Category: Restaurant

District American Kitchen and Wine Bar

320 N. 3rd St., Phoenix, AZ

Category: Restaurant

Mama Toledo's Pies

, Phoenix, AZ

Category: Restaurant

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