Now into its third year, the in-house pie contest is a much anticipated tradition. There are prizes for the winner. This year KitchenAid donated a stand mixer, Le Bernadin donated a dinner for two, and I donated a copy of The Pastry Bible and my new synglas rolling pin for executive pastry chef Miro Uskokovic who started the tradition. The most appreciated prize of all is that the winners' pies get added to the restaurant menu. Pictured above (photographed by Woody) are Gramercy pastry chef Miro Uskokovic, executive chef Michael Anthony, GM Kim DiPalo, the other judges, and the two winners: Sohrob Esmaili, winner of the Best Pie Cassie Sciortino, winner for the Most Creative Pie This year, in addition to Woody and me, there were 4 other judges: Mike Anthony, Thomas Raquel, executive pastry chef from Le Bernadin, Daniel Krieger, professional food photographer, and Kim DiPalo. Because it is never predictable exactly what the traffic situation will be on route 80 coming into New York City, we always leave 2-1/2 hours ahead. This time, we arrived an hour early so we decided to share a small lunch at Gramercy. Wagyu beef cheeseburger just happened to be one of the specials and we couldn't resist, nor could we resist the crisp potato chips fried in duck fat! A thoughtful wait-person also insisted on giving us this lovely salad, knowing that we were soon to be tasting and evaluating loads of pies. This year there were all of 20! It was fascinating to discover the imaginative flavor combinations and designs though by the end we all felt quite stuffed! We all mostly agreed on the top two though the one I kept returning to was not one of the two finalists: the savory goat cheese pie topped with candied walnuts. The winner for taste was the beautifully crafted banana cream pie. And for creativity, the winner was the custard tart inspired by a Spanish cocktail using amontillado sherry (pictured below front). There was much lively discussion including where to eat in Chicago, what defines a "pie," (whether a tart qualifies) and what one values most in a pie crust. Each contestant made two pies--one to sample and the other to put on display. The display pies were served at the staff dinner. It was so moving to be part of the in-house event and to witness the extraordinary comaraderie, enhanced by the special event in which everyone was a 'winner.' Woody and I were winners too: on our departure we were gifted with copies of Mike Anthony's gorgeous new book V is for Vegetables and an assortment of sweet nibbles including Miro's extraordinary chocolate truffles. Our plan was to see a movie to avoid the height of pre Thanksgiving Day plus rush hour traffic and to sample some of the treats during the movie, but our desire to eat one more bite of anything didn't return until the next day! Here are some pie photos for you to enjoy:
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