Ummm, pie ...
What could be more deliciously decadent than a family day trip undertaken expressly to seek out and sample the tastiest Pacific Northwest pie?
I was inspired to take my brood on such a pie pilgrimage through the example of a brilliant friend who documented her own family's pie adventure on Facebook. There was something so audacious and just plain fun about the idea of my own family piling into the minivan and cruising around all day long, bopping from one cool neighborhood pie palace to the next. Happily, we were rewarded throughout the day by more than one little slice of heaven.
First stop: Twede’s Café
Address: 137 W. North Bend Way, North Bend, WA
Claim to fame: "Home of Twin Peaks Cherry Pie"
Twede’s cherry pie and “Damn fine cup o’ coffee!” will forever be immortalized, thanks to David Lynch's 1990–1991 cult TV classic series Twin Peaks. Though the restaurant operates under new ownership and has been updated due to a fire in 2000 that destroyed the Lynchian diner aesthetic exemplified in the series (visualize classic diner appeal: dark, campy, tobacco-stained ceilings), its owner, Kyle Twede, explains, “Twede’s is among the top ten visited places in King County. Whether you’re a Twin Peaks fan — AKA “Peaker” — or not, doesn’t matter a lick," he says.
“We get all kinds … hipsters, naturalists — whatever strikes your fancy about Twin Peaks. We have guests who say, 'We’ve never seen mountains this big!” He is referring, of course, to the towering and beautiful North Bend territorial view.
But let's get down to fat-to-flour ratio: What’s special about the pie? “For four straight years, we baked cherry pie off of all the recipes we could find, especially grandmothers’ recipes, until we found the one we liked. That was over 10 years ago," Twede says. "The current recipe is by far the best. It has nine components to it, where usually pie crust is made with just water, shortening, flour and salt. Plus we love to top our pies with crystal sugar!”
This pie delighted and surprised with its biscuity crust and sweeeeeeet red cherry filling, topped with the kind of whipped cream that drives kids — at least my kids — crazy!
Any way you slice it: The classic cherry pie, pop culture interest, welcoming small-town North Bend appeal and striking mountain vista make this one slice worth the drive. Bonus points for the trial-and-error process that resulted in this damn fine slice.
Next stop: High 5 Pie
Address: 1400 12th Ave., Seattle, WA
Claim to fame: Super-secret all-butter crust.
Cherry-almond and apple are two of High 5 Pie’s most popular classic pies. The kids and I ordered a slice of chocolate cream pie. 'Cause, why not, right? Taking a picture turned out to be the equivalent of trying to document the elusive Sasquatch: Here one minute and nearly gone the next. By the time I got to the table, the kids were clanking forks and digging into the rich chocolaty goodness.
According to High 5 staff, what sets their pies apart is their delicious, flaky all-butter crust, made from a recipe handed down to owner Dani Cone by her grandmother. Family support and this luscious recipe helped establish High 5 Pie. This foundation sustains its patronage, which communes to the idea that pie is the perfect embodiment of sharing, family (however you define that) and celebrations, both big and small.
How you slice it: Work up a small celebration (examples I've used include: We all have blond hair! You lost a tooth! Tomorrow is Laundry Day, w00t!), and go for it.
Next stop: American Pie Bakery and Café
Address: 5633 Airport Way S., Seattle, WA
American Pie Bakery and Café is located in the eclectic, always-fermenting Georgetown neighborhood, where the boys and I first worked up our appetites by indulging in a romp at Sandbox Sports.
I told the owner that I wanted to try a slice of their most popular pie. He says, “That would be our sour cream apple custard, but the last whole pie just walked out the door.”
A condolence-prize serving of sour cream blueberry — a close second in customer esteem, he assures me — was lip-smackingly enjoyed due to its unimpeachable virtues: 1) Flaky crust (the only one on the tour so far made with lard); 2) Unctuously plump blueberries; and 3) A crumb topping that imparted a pleasant, crunchy texture counterpoint to each bite.
The American Pie Bakery and Café is a place to enjoy a slice of pie and a slice of Georgetown life, as we sat on a 1950s-era swirly green-and-white-colored Formica table and rusty-orange pleather booth, surrounded by walls trimmed with guitars (a nod to the owners' love of music) and a general vibe that magnetizes hipsters and families to it every day.
Tip: If you’re a vegan, make sure you ask what the crust is made from on your slice o' choice, as most of the shop's pie crusts contain lard. Happily, they do offer a number of vegetable-based options.
Next stop: Dahlia Bakery
Address: 2001 4th Ave. Seattle, WA
On cooking reality shows, contestants are routinely challenged to transform ingredients into edible delighters, under impossible time constraints: “Make us one bite that tells us who you are.” No real pressure there — if you’re chef Tom Douglas, that is.
If Chef Tom were pressed into a signature-bite challenge, no doubt he would choose to present his famous — and Obama-approved — Triple Coconut Cream Pie.
Dahlia Bakery is an eat-on-the-go destination. While tiny, every inch of the place is full of delicious food to beguile and befuddle the senses. Tiny bites of the Triple Coconut Cream Pie are generously dispensed, and these encourage follow-on purchases of mini pies, individual slices and, of course, whole pie acquisitions. Dare to dream.
A little slice of heaven: This pie is utterly delectable, and practically a Seattle institution. You have not lived fully until you try it.
What makes it special: Coconut in the crust; coconut in the filling; and toasted coconut and nibs of white chocolate placed expertly atop a fluffy bed of outta-sight whipped cream.
Next stop: Antique Sandwich Co.
Address: 5102 N. Pearl, Tacoma, WA
I love this place. Situated a block away from Point Defiance Park & Zoo, the Antique Sandwich Co. was where my mom took me (from age 5 on) to enjoy open mic nights and a holistic type of baking and cooking aesthetic that I have aspired to replicate in my own kitchen to this day.
Antique Sandwich Co. offerings are unequivocally delicious and nutritious. The eatery was opened in 1972 by two sisters who are celebrating their 40th year in business. Totally familiar with every aspect of their menu — it hasn’t changed much, if at all, since I was a child (which is a great!) — I was planning on relishing their rich and totally unique cheesecake. Happily I was schooled that “cheesecake is actually a cake — not a pie.”
Instead I set my sights on the blackberry pie, and it did not disappoint: Because their pies are sweetened with honey, they are not overly sweet; in a similarly healthy vein, their pie crusts are made with 100% whole wheat flour and 40 years of love!
It's been a slice! Pacific walrus face-to-face + Antique Sandwich Co. visit = priceless family memories.
Carolyn Ossorio's Road-Tested Apple Pie Recipe
Dozens of odometer revolutions and pie slices later, I had noted plenty of nuances between the various pie crusts we sampled. Once back in my own kitchen, I was inspired to tweaked own beloved apple pie recipe, and I'm sharing it here with you. If you don’t have the time for a pie pilgrimage of your own, making a pie at home with your kids is just as much fun!
3 cups all-purpose or pastry flour
Note about flour: Pastry flour has a higher gluten content, which aids the elasticity needed to hold together the buttery layers in flaky doughs such as croissants, puff pastry and pie crusts. The main difference among flour types is in the gluten content, which varies depending on whether the flour is made from hard wheat or soft wheat.
- 1 cup of Crisco
- 1/2 cup of cold butter
Note about butter: Unsalted butter works best in baking because it gives you more control over the salt factor. Salted butters can contain anywhere from 1/4–3/4 tsp of salt per half cup. But if salted is what you have in the fridge, by all means use it.
Beat one egg and add to it:
- 1 T white vinegar
- 1 t salt
- 6 T cold water
Cut the butter and Crisco into the flour until it forms large crumbs that start to cling together. Add and gently incorporate the beaten egg, vinegar, salt and cold water mixture. Remove the dough from bowl or mixer; shape it into a ball. Cut ball in half and wrap each half loosely in Saran Wrap or a Ziploc bag; flatten each half with a rolling pin and then chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
- 8 apples (Gravensteins are best, but any sweet apple will do. I also love Pink Lady!)
- 4 T salted butter
- ½ cup sugar
- 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
- 2 T cornstarch
- 2 t vanilla
- 1 t cinnamon
- ½ t nutmeg
Peel and core apples and slice thinly. In a large saute pan on medium-high heat melt butter and sugar. Add apples. Cook until all the juices that are released from the apples boil away, leaving you with tender apples (about 10 minutes of cooking time). Set aside cooked apples to cool.
Roll and prepare bottom and top pie crust.
In a separate bowl, mix together the rest of the ingredients and then combine with the cooled cooked apples. Pour combination in prepared pie crust. Wrap a strip of foil around edges of pie crust before putting in the oven to prevent the edges from burning.
Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 60 minutes. Let pie cool completely before slicing and serving.