“It’s kind of terrifying looking at this whole table,” says Andrea. “It’s a serious duty. I didn’t eat this morning in preparation.”
And yet, “it’s a dream come true,” says Adam.
It’s Pie Judging time!
And it’s official Pie Day in Olympia, duly declared by Mayor Stephen Buxbaum. (Did you know that pie is the official food of Olympia, also declared by Buxbaum? Now you do.)
Andrea and Adam (pictured top left) are the happy and slightly nervous winners of the annual OP&L “be a pie judge” contest at Pie Fest 2014, held February 22 at the Olympia Center. Both of them are well prepared.
“I bake 1-2 pies a week,” Andrea told us. “I attended a one day pie-workshop last year, and this year I am attending a week-long pie camp! I have vast stores of leaf lard in my freezer and connections with local farmers to get their best fruits and berries.”
Adam says he and his wife Sara love pie so much, they had it at their wedding instead of cake. He judges the pies Sara makes regularly. (“Does she like that?” “She does. She demands it. Sometimes friends bring pies over and ask to be rated.” Really? Wow.)
There is plenty of work to do. Nearly 50 pies baked by local amateur bakers wait to be sampled and scored by teams of celebrity judges. Then, the very best of the best undergo even closer scrutiny from a final team of professional bakers.
There are many traditional pies: apple and cherry and mixed berry. There are twists on the traditional: pink granny ginger apple, for example, and gluten free versions. And then there are the exotic ones: roasted pear with wild cherry, “bluebarb” (blueberry and rhubarb), asian pear almond, strawberry lemonade (made with lemonade instead of sugar), Maker’s Mark chocolate walnut (“you can really taste the booze” — the editors’ personal favorite, for obvious reasons).
Judging is taken quite seriously. Clipboards and scoresheets at the ready, they devote much time to each pie, weighing and discussing the nuances of filling sweetness and crust flakiness.
At long last, winners are duly crowned: Gail Wish (pictured bottom right, with lead fest organizer Kathy Giglio) takes the grand prize with an apple Asian pear chutney pie. (Yep, you read that right. Salivate and weep, people.)
Then we get to the truly important part: we eat the pies. Slices are laid out on a giant table in the middle of the room, and go on sale to the 200+ attendees, many of them picking up and scarfing down more than one.
The winning pies are auctioned off whole. In the under-13 age category, the winning pie is sold for $140 to someone identified only as “Grandma”.
All that tasty goodness meant that, this year, the Olympia Bakers Guild raised over $4,000 for the Thurston County Food Bank and Senior Nutrition Program.
And for next year? To shake things up, Andrea proposes several unorthodox filling combinations, including savory options. We finally settle on either a Hawaiian-themed spam-rum-pineapple pie or a beef jerky and bourbon pie. (There’s definitely an alcohol trend here.)
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