KQED Food Blog: Bay Area Bites: Pie oh My!
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Saturday, May 19, 2007
Pie oh My!
"Promises and pie-crust are made to be broken." -- Jonathan Swift

One sunny afternoon recently, I found myself in the Mission with a fork poised above a towering slice of double-crust apple pie. Before I could mangle the freshly baked fruit sculpture in front of me, my binging companion spoke up. "First you have to test the crust," she said, flaunting her culinary school education with a flick of the wrist. "A perfect crust is so flaky that it can be easily cut with the side of a fork."

The crust shattered nicely. With the pie cleared for landing, I sank fork-first into the dimpled depths of gently spiced apples, savoring one bite and then another before it was time to move on. Though my taste buds pleaded for just one more nibble, this was my first visit to Mission Pie, and I was staring down one small tart, two oversized pieces of pie, and an entire galette. I had work to do.



Mission Pie opened in January with a simple concept: to make good pie. After the "I'm so thin, you're so thin" 1980s and the anti-carb hysteria of more recent years, dessert is finally back in style. It's so in, in fact, that entire restaurants are devoted to nothing but sweet nothings, cafés dedicated solely to chocolate are popping up all over, and dessert tastings are available on more and more menus. In this environment, the pie café is an idea whose time has come.

Mission Pie is an offshoot of Pie Ranch, a non-profit educational farm in San Mateo County that works with Mission High School students. "The original idea was to create a food business as an urban anchor point for Pie Ranch so the youth we work with would have a place in town to come to," said Karen Heisler, co-founder of both Pie Ranch and Mission Pie. "Pie seemed like the obvious choice."



In addition to their farm duties, teens ring up purchases and whip the cream by hand with wire whisks. Right now, the pies are baked at Destination Baking Company by Joseph Schuver, a principal in both businesses, but plans are already underway to build an on-site bakery that will be operational by next March. Then the students can start turning out flaky crusts layered with banana cream or apple themselves.

Most of the ingredients are organic and many are local. Pie Ranch supplies things like pumpkins and berries when in season, while other items -- Sierra Orchards walnuts, for example -- are grown nearby. Scones, savory Mystipies, and organic fair-trade Taylor Maid coffee are also for sale. The café is small but inviting, with pies displayed on bright pink and orange cake plates and daily selections advertised on a colorful chalkboard outside the entrance.



Pies here are refreshingly old-fashioned. On our visit, I fell in love with the walnut tartlet ($2), a miniature variation on pecan pie that layers caramel-colored walnuts with sweet curd that's a little bit jiggly, a little bit firm. My partner in pie suggested pairing bites of walnut and apple ($3.50) so I greedily piled some of each on my fork. Genius. The open-faced strawberry galette ($5.50) was a bit too tart after the sweeter choices, but I liked how the jammy fruit was sprinkled with crunchy oats and sugar crystals, and the egg white-washed crust was near perfect. A thick slice of sweet potato pie, decorated with a gigantic blob of whipped cream, tasted lighter and brighter than pumpkin.

We managed to eat most of our gargantuan order, and I took home the rest to my boyfriend. He ate the leftovers with eyes closed and when he was finished, he pushed the plate away, patted his belly, and smiled. Proof positive of Kathy's observation: "Pie is a make-people-happy kind of food."

Mission Pie
2901 Mission Street (enter on 25th Street)
San Francisco
(415) 282-1500
Open 7 days a week

Labels: , , , ,

 
 

2 Comments:

Anonymous Tana said...

Who knew you were a Sopranos fan?

How cute is dat?

5/19/2007 11:04 PM

 
Anonymous Catherine said...

Indeed! (Though I'm sorta eh about the final season thus far.)

5/22/2007 10:58 AM

 

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