August 27th, 2008 5:33 pm | by JOANNA MILLER News | Posted In: CLEAN UP, CLEAN UP, CLEAN UP, CLEAN UP

Mmmmm Pie. Double Mmmmm, PIE OFF!

bestpieApple or peach? Pumpkin or sweet potato? Banana cream or chocolate chiffon? And the biggest bone of contention—crust: all-butter? Crisco? Lard? Graham cracker or ginger snap? Double crust or Dutch crumb? The possibilities, clearly, are vast, and opinions about what version of this perennially classic dessert is the best are like…um, pie holes; everybody's got one.

Think your pie is the one that takes the cake? Then it's time to bring it! To the First Annual Portland Pie-Off, this Saturday, Aug. 30 at Washington Park, that is.

The Portland Pie Commission, consisting of bloggers LeAnn Locher, sometime WW freelancer Lizzy Caston and “Radio Gretchen”, recently coalesced out of a mutual curiosity for and all-around adoration of pie. The PPC has organized the community celebration and contest as a forum for fellow pie lovers to show off their skills, win fun prizes, swap recipes, and most of all, to eat a whole lot of sweet, sweet pie.

2654165516_efa7102c9b_mLocal pastry chef Kir Jensen (The Sugar Cube, see photo at left) and Lewis & Clark professor Jack Bogdanski will join a panel of judges rating pies in twelve different categories, including best fruit pie, best cream pie, best nut pie and best “faux” pie (Depression-era Ritz Cracker mock apple pie and Jell-O Dream Whip pie anyone?) Prizes will also be awarded to most original and best local pie (employing, of course, as many locally sourced ingredients as possible).

It's tough to think of a single food item that strikes as much of a personal chord as this far-from-simple, circular pastry. “Pie”, Radio Gretchen reflects, “represents the very definition of nostalgia: a longing for the past, often in idealized form. Pie is about mom, and holidays, and socials, and comfort.”

Participants are asked to arrive at 3 pm sharp, with $5 cash entry fee (which covers as many pies as you wish to submit), chairs and non-disposable utensils; eco-friendly compostable plates are being donated by VerTerrra.

Michael Arnovitz, a home baker and Pie Off contestant, hasn't yet decided what kind he's going to make. “Except I've decided not to make any berry pies," he disclosed. "I love fruit pies as much as the next guy, but I'm guessing that a bunch of people are going to take a whack at those, so I'm going to try something different. I'm leaning toward pies that were popular at other times in history, but aren't made much anymore. And since this is a contest, after all, I think I'll leave it at that.”

Showing up empty-handed will be tolerated, but the Pie Commission encourages all attendees to bring pie, “because," as Locher points out, “the more pie there is--no matter how novice its maker-- the more pie there is to eat and share!”

Subtext: Pie-spongers, step-off.

If you can't wait until the event and your pie Jones needs sating now, here's a few local bakeries and cafes that we think do a darned good job with the pastry in question:
Random Order Café, 1800 NE Alberta St., 331-1420.

Bipartisan Café, 7901 SE Stark St., 253-1051.

Half and Half, 923 SW Oak St., 222-4495.

Perry's on Fremont (particularly the banana coconut cream pie with warm caramel sauce, available weekends only), 2401 NE Fremont St., 287-3655.

Baker and Spice, 6330 SW Capitol Highway, 244-7573.

For more information on the event and to join ongoing pie-discussions, check out

Portland Pie-Off
3 pm Saturday, August 30th
Washington Park picnic shelter, a.k.a. The Elephant House (near the children's play area)

Photo of Oregon State Fair First Place Pie Ribbon courtesy of
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