Claremont shows sweet side at first pie festival

Mother says you are what you eat. If that’s the case, I guess I’m a Ninja Slice, Rizi Bizi, Old Glory, Just Peachy Almond Raspberry Tart. And I’m just fine with that.

I wholly blame my current state on Claremont’s I Like Pie Bakeshop, which allowed me the chance to fulfill a dream—judging a baked goods competition—at Claremont’s first annual Pie Festival last weekend.

For this pie lover, Christmas came early as Village West and East were decked out in homage to my favorite sweet treats. In an unwelcome twist, my stomach decided to play on my metaphor like a bowl full of jelly as I waddled out of the judging room. But who can resist the chance to taste more than 20 freshly made, home-baked pies before noon? Well, maybe you have more self-control than me.

Truth is, when it comes to pie and confectionary creations from the oven, self-control has no meaning. Some of my earliest memories consist of standing on a chair pulled up to our kitchen’s butcher block, stirring batter for my dad as he made crepes or helping “clean” the beaters for my mom after mixing up some cookie dough or frosting.

Inspired by these ventures, and a documentary consisting of custard-laden pastries doled out for the Commander in Chief, I declared at the age of 4 that my career of choice was chef for the White House. While my dishes have never featured in DC, my co-workers can vouch for my continued obsession with both baking and consuming dainty delicacies.

Since opening up its doors in the Village Plaza last November, I Like Pie has featured heavily in my sugar-induced daydreaming. I have been guilty of walking through the plaza just to catch a glimpse of the day’s pie selection, and admit I have tried just about everything (banana cream and BBQ chicken admittedly more than once). Jelly jar-sized portions allow indulgent customers like myself to justify the splurge.

It was on one such indulgent afternoon that I heard owner Annika Corbin was looking for judges for her debut pie festival. I flung myself at the opportunity to take part and have hardly shut up about it since. I am practically made of pie, after all. And when it comes to these crusted creations—whether apple, custard, mud or peach—my palate does not discriminate. I thank my former career as a Marie Callender’s pie girl (and self-titled pie taster) for finely honing my skills.

Only the promise of pastries and delicious baked goods could have stirred me from my slumber prior to the alarm on a Saturday morning. With hunger and sugar cravings in tow, I practically pranced my way over to the Claremont Depot, where the festivities were already humming. Booths lined with aprons and goodies like Bert & Rocky’s ice cream and bakeshop samples were already bustling because when it’s pie festival day, anything goes in terms of breakfast food.  No judgment from me, pie judging was my breakfast after all.

Inside the depot, where the judging commenced, was an assortment of all kinds of fruit-filled concoctions awaiting the judges’ taste buds. Table Four—Leslie Lakeman O’Guinn, Billy Cook and myself—wasted no time in getting started. We took our jobs seriously, listening intently to the words of wisdom provided to us by Ms. Corbin. As instructed, we each took turns passing around the desserts, giving each a careful once-over, like a jeweler inspecting his prized gem, and carefully consulting the judging scale.

Who knew there were so many different ways to prepare a peach pie! We had fruit that was bourbon-soaked, glaze-globed and cream filled. One was even suspiciously more like a fruit salad than the peach pie it proclaimed (more than one of us was a little terrified). And there was nothing ordinary about the American classic, apple pie. Ed’s Famous Apple Pie was laden with cinnamon-soaked slices, reminiscent of warm applesauce at grandma’s house, winning baker Alex Mosley second place in the apple category. The Amaretto heart-warmer, winning first place in the peach division, was just that and more.

More heartwarming than the pie happily at home in my belly was the number of people that showed up to commemorate the day. I was pleasantly surprised to see the hordes of pie lovers as I left the judges room. Many crammed around the depot as the pie-eating contest commenced, locals stuffing their faces into a tin filled with whipped goodness while family cheered in the background. Others paraded around the Village plaza for the apron contest while still others scurried around to Village businesses for the pie recipe scavenger hunt.

Blues and Brews, Restaurant Week, Pie Fest and Wine Walk, events like these are adding a little more character to our already colorful Claremont community. Now that’s worth celebrating. And what’s a celebration without a little pie?

Get a slice of Dee Ann O’Brien’s grand prize-winning creation, Almond Raspberry Tart, coming soon to the I Like Pie menu. The I Like Pie Bakeshop is located at 175 N. Indian Hill Blvd., Ste. 102B.  

—Beth Hartnett


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