The current exhibits at LACMA are reason enough to go to the Wilshire cultural institution. There was a lot more than “just art” happening around there on Saturday, though. On a grassy area in between them and the Page Museum was Brazilian Day, a celebration of the South American country through dance, song, merchandise, and food. Behind the museum was another happening that was all about pies, pies, and more pies: KCRW’s 4th Annual Good Food Pie Contest. It was an extremely tasty afternoon.
The contest brought pie people from all over Los Angeles and from all sorts of culinary backgrounds to see if they could steal awards for the best pies in the city, as judged by local food celebrities like Jonathan Gold, Michael Voltaggio, Huell Howser, and more. To give you an idea of what was going on, here’s how the contest worked: there were five categories pie makers could compete in–Fruit, Nut, Cream/Chiffon/Mousse, Savory, and “Metropolis II Inspired”–and they had to bring two pies in order to be considered (one pie for the public to try, another for the judge’s to taste). From here, their pies were tasted at a judging area before public tasting and–after some pie eating by all–winners were announced.
We arrived to LACMA stuck in a cloud of traffic as it seemed like everyone, their mother, their grandmother, their sister, their aunt, their uncle, and maybe a bus of all of their cousins were trying to get in and around this area. By way of some aggressive, “Oh shit!” handle grabbing driving, we found a (free!) parking space just East of the museum on 4th. As we were walking over, we popped into the Brazilian Day celebrations which consisted of a lot of clapping, dancing, singing, and trying to get people to enter a Brazilian tourism contest that benefitted a charity. We wandered through the festival and into the LACMA pavilion trying to figure out where we were going to. As you walk through oil soaked air, we remembered how great a trip to LACMA is. It was also great to see so many people in and around the museum, be they proud Brazilians, pie connoisseurs, local art lovers, or tourists.
After some dawdling in the heat, we made our way to the grassy area surrounding the Observation Pit and Pit 13, which is where the event was taking place. At this point, around 1PM, a small line had formed of people waiting for 2PM pie tasting time. Bakers were laying their pies out, introducing themselves during the “Eat and Greet,” and had a pie pow-wow to learn how the event was going to work (visitors had three tickets each, which were worth one piece of pie; no pie to be handed out without a ticket; etc.). The bakers were all apron clad and spanned from hip, KCRW listening grandmothers to cute young men with baking moxie. It was a very diverse cross section of food fans.
The pies were crazy, too. There were bright green pistachio pies, leathery black cherry pies, paper thin Moroccan pies, beautiful glassy ratatouille (!!!) pies, some sugar coated hand pies, a few pie pops, tall cream pies, dense savory pies, and so much more. We walked around the pie area countless times and found a new pie each pass. There was a tiny selection of Metropolis II pies, which we were bummed a little bummed about (and no one took our suggestions!). Some pies were also rudely antagonized by the heat and sunlight, resulting in some runny–but warm!–slices.
As all of this pre-event business and pie perusing was going on, the judges were hidden away in a LACMA loading deck to taste all of the pie entries. Each of them slowly moved from one pie to another as they had to make their way through three long tables covered in pies. Their task of tasting and ranking pies seemed enviable at first but, after watching judges go into pie after pie after pie, we started to feel a little queasy. Our pie judging dreams were laid to rest very, very fast.
At 2PM, the pie tasting began for all and–although the public could only try three–it was very overwhelming. Where to start? What to eat? Do you go on the word of the baker or the look of the pie? Do you want a fruit, savory, and cream pie or a nut, Metropolis, and savory pie? These were all decisions that had to be made in a pretty quick time period: pie enthusiasts had to do some heavy judging of their own before eating anything.
The long line of pie eaters dwindled down and the winners were announced at 3:45PM. There were three winners in every category, all of whom were entered to win the Best In Show. For fruit pies, Jess Fillippi’s Blueberry took third with Gretchen Putnam’s Freeform Apple in second and Nicole Mournian’s Blackberry Huckleberry Ginger (!!!!) in first place. For savory, Claudia Choi’s OMG Pie was third, Nancy Mehagian’s Bistilla was second, and–yet again–Nicole Mournian’s Pork and Peas landed in first place. Nuts saw Morgan Simmons’ PB&J in first, Robyn Poarch’s Southern Pecan in second, and Sarah Culver’s Maple Chocolate Pecan in third. The Metropolis pies had Tonya Dooley’s Chocolate Cappuccino Brownie in first, Jennifer Wang’s Taro Pie in second, and Mira Green’s “Auto-Pie-a” in third. It should come as no surprise that the best in show *and* best crust went to Nicole Mournian, whose Pork and Peas stole the show. (Go figure: Nicole is a pie maker at the always brilliant Gjelina.) We were lucky enough to catch a photo of this Best In Show pie before it was judged, too.
The 4th Annual Good Food Pie Contest was an excellent foodie Saturday in September and shows that KCRW is very mad about pies. If you missed out on the event, it will be back next year and we urge you to check it out (and to enter your pie in!!). Don’t fret about waiting until next year to indulge in pies, though: KCRW has a Pie Guide To Los Angeles that is splendid required reading. You can also feast on a ton of photos we took while at the event below and, like us, start craving pies for your next meal.