Guess what? I won 2nd prize in the savory category of pies in the 6th Annual KCRW Good Food Pie Contest for the “Mr. Fitz Pork Pie!” Thank you all dear friends for keeping your fingers crossed, it was one of the most awesome days I’ve had in years. A total of 378 pies were submitted and I think there were approximately 79 in my category; in addition, the lovely young lady who won first prize in the savory category also took the “Best in Show” award, which means best pie out of all the pies in all the categories. So . . . I’m feeling pretty awesome!
As you may know I named this pie after my blogging friend Mr. Fitz because of his wicked sense of humor, playfulness, and awesome porcine wizardry in the kitchen. Do check out his blog right away!
Besides the obvious thrill and sense of accomplishment that came with winning, I had so much fun sharing fellowship with the other bakers in our tents, where we sliced up samples of our pies for the nearly thousands of people who waited in line for a free ticket which entitled them to (so sad!) two slices of pie. My husband and I had a particularly fun tent, with Mr. Bourbon Apple Pie, Ms. Vegan Olive Oil Crust Nectarine Pie, and Ms. Tri-Berry Thyme Crust Pie, and my next door neighbor was a 12 year old fella who made his own key lime pie!
The event is the brainchild of Evan Kleiman, who used to run a very well loved neighborhood Italian restaurant called Angeli Caffe that recently closed after 30 years and for the past several years has helmed the very informative and fun public radio show “Good Food.” You should by all means head over there right now and listen to as many episodes as your schedule will permit, and bookmark the rest! For God’s sake, my husband and I listened to an episode last week on “Pie Therapy.” And I feel very mentally healthy now!
Looking back on the whole experience I realize that in typical Sue fashion I really set myself up for some difficult work. Not only did I enter a pie in two categories, but for one category (savory) I chose a recipe that included braising 4 lbs of pork shoulder (just for one pie, and for each category we had to submit 2, one for the judges and one for the public, so that’s 8 lbs of pork shoulder!!!) in beer for 5 hours and then letting it sit overnight, then shredding it and reducing the braising liquid the next day . . . and for the other category (fruit) I chose a fruit (apple) that not only had to be cored, but also peeled and sliced. That’s 12 pounds of apples to slice and core. Next year if I do fruit it won’t be apple, that’s for sure. AND to top all of that off, I also wanted to create pies that screamed “I mean business” so I made 12 inch pies rather than 9 inch, that were 4 – 5 inches “high.” That meant that for each pie I made a recipe of 1.5 DOUBLE crust instead of just 1 crust. My hands saw a lot of butter and flour on Saturday and Sunday! Then to top all of that off, I was baking (and transporting and slicing and etc.) in the midst of a serious heat wave in Los Angeles. I got 3 hours of sleep that weekend. And finally, I really agonized over those pies, especially the pork one, painting its crust ever so gently with reduced Bud Light reduction braising liquid (so elegant sounding!) so that the stencils stood out and to add flavor, par-baking the bottom crust so that it didn’t meld with the wet pork mixture, picking out the burnt pieces of onion and pork skin, etc. But it was worth it. I’ve always felt, if you’re going to do something, really DO IT UP, and especially in competition, why not really try to win and do your total best?
But the day was not all work and no play . . . we had some serious comic relief. After we dropped off our judges pies we had about 2 hours until we had to be in our tent slicing and serving, so we headed into the UCLA student bookstore and food court and watched a little football and shopped around for Bruin memorabilia. (My husband is a UCLA grad and my father used to teach at the law school, so I’m definitely a Bruin fan. Not much love for the Trojans around here). After we watched a little football we settled on the Student Activities Center stairs and watched the public line up and listened to the kids concert that was going on in the quad at the bottom of the Janss steps. I noticed the woman sitting next to me, in a sea of about 500 people on the steps, looked an awful lot like Evan Kleiman. My husband struck up a conversation with her and soon I asked “Are you . . . . ?” and she said “Yes, the gruesome twosome” (referring to herself and her assistant Gillian Ferguson who was standing next to her). I then asked her all about her show and whether she missed working in a restaurant, etc., and when she expressed that she did, my husband, who was not familiar with her, said “Oh, well, do you like to cook for people at Thanksgiving . . . I mean, we should maybe get together like . . . next year . . . for Thanksgiving.” She was clearly amused and delighted at his sweet naiveté. I also got to chat with Aarti Sequiera who told me after the awards were presented that my pie was also on the short list for (the one and only award for) best crust . . . and three other judges had told me that my pie and crust was their personal favorite. So cool! Sang Yoon of Father’s Office, who is considered to have single handedly brought on the gastro pub phenomenon years ago, and who makes one of my favorite all time burgers, presented me my award. Cool again! Unfortunately by this time my husband had broken out in either an allergic or nerves-induced rash and was bright red and itching literally uncontrollably, so as the names were being called he was really dancing and prancing. Poor fella.
Stay tuned Friday for the recipe!