Regardless of whether or not I have personal time to make pie, I still always have a desire for good pie, and I always love the hunt for good pies out there. This summer has been a hodge-podge of pies that weren’t exactly planned as a tour and didn’t all happen at the same time. First, there was the mini strawberry rhubarb pies from Yum! Kitchen and Bakery in St Louis Park, MN. Then the rhubarb crumb somethings from A Baker’s Wife in Minneapolis, MN. A 2 Gingers Irish apple pie from Sara’s Tipsy Pies which I ordered online and picked up at the White Bear Lake Friday farmer’s market. Donuts from Bloedow’s Bakery in Winona, MN. And lastly, two hand pies from Brick Street Coffee in downtown Mt Carroll, IL.
I heard about the mini strawberry rhubarb pies from an online announcement and thought it was an excellent opportunity to leave school early, have my sweet tooth satisfied, and be judge-y. After trying one, I decided I wouldn’t actually consider it a true pie and would therefore judge it in a non-pie manner. The bottom crust was strange and more like a biscuit cookie than pastry, and I felt it didn’t really impart any flavor to the whole dish. The top was a butter-based (not oat) crumble. Aside from a bottom crust that I barely noticed, I really liked it. The filling was set nicely, and tasted sweet and tangy and summery. I would have liked the crumble with a little more texture, but I still ate it. I’ve liked a lot of other offerings I’ve had from Yum before too, but I just wouldn’t go there looking to satisfy a pie craving or trust something labeled as pie.
I heard about the strawberry rhubarb things at A Baker’s Wife from Bearface who said they were amazing. I got there late in the afternoon and snagged the last two off the tray. They were in mini dishes shaped like pies but without a bottom crust and only a small sprinkle of butter crumble on top and the filling was runnier than a traditional fruit filling. That’s why I’m not sure what to call them, and again, definitely not what I would consider a true pie, so I’m using an alternate judging criteria. I’m going to give A Baker’s Wife and Bearface the benefit of the doubt on these because A Baker’s Wife makes really delicious stuff and Bearface only encourages me to eat really delicious stuff. I think the two strawberry rhubarb things I got were flukes, because for whatever reasons, they seemed off and I didn’t like them. The crumbles were mushy, the fruit was also cooked to complete mush, but the filling felt almost grainy to me – like the thickening agent hadn’t been full cooked even though the fruit was. Sweetness level was good; fruity, summery, tangy business was good; I just didn’t like it that much.
The pie from Sara’s Tipsy pies ended up being the only true pie entry on this tour. I found out about Sara’s from a recent Heavy Table shout out. I was predisposed to not like the pie because I generally feel like good pies don’t need fancy-ing up with caramel or booze or nuts or the kinds of things people are so interested in adding to pies these days. But I forced myself to keep an open mind and ordered a whole pie made with 2 Ginger’s Irish whiskey. Bearface met me and Pretty Boy and we picked up the pie along with two hand pies. I don’t remember the flavors but I didn’t like them as much as Bearface and Pretty Boy. The crust was too soft and crumbly and the filling flavor not predominant enough for me.
After the hand pies, we stopped into Caribou Coffee for coffee and forks to attack the pie. And did we ever attack the pie. We probably ate two thirds of the pie right there, before I even thought to take a picture. Probably a good sign. The crust was real pastry and held up well, though like the hand pies, was still on the crumbly side for me. I was surprise by how strong the whiskey flavor was in the filling. I liked the consistency of the filling, both the apple juices (good thickness) and the apples themselves (cooked but still with some texture). Now, a month later, I’m still undecided if I liked the whiskey flavor. Bearface and Pretty Boy again were fans but it was almost too much whiskey for me. My personal tastes aside, if you like whiskey, I’d recommend the pie. Not one of the best pies I’ve ever eaten and a little gimmick-y with the booze, but still a strong offering and actually one of the best available that I’ve found in the Twin Cities metro area. Next time I’ll have to try one of the ‘sober’ pies.
And then there was Bloedow’s. Bearface told me about Bloebow’s after WCCO listeners voted it the best donut shop in Minnesota. I’d never heard of it but was ecstatically excited that they fry their donuts in lard. Lard! For all my vegetarian leanings, I do love real lard. Pretty Boy and I stopped into Bloedow’s just before closing and were happy to find the donut and cookie and other cases full of treats. We tried a few donuts, the Bloedow’s version of a paczki, and a cookie. All were spectacular! We just really loved them. The donuts were pretty classic in terms of texture, sweetness, crust, and color (i.e. no crazy crunchy crust like maybe I would have liked but isn’t typically found on a classic donut), but in this case, it was a good thing. My one observation is that the Bloedow’s paczki did not match what I think of as a paczki. Bloedow’s version was pretty much just a jelly filled Bismark donut. Tasty, but not what I think of. I’ve only ever hard paczki around lent and made by Eastern Europeans. Anyway. I’d rank Bloedow’s up pretty high, so if you really love a good donut and food adventures, maybe it’s worth the drive. I probably wouldn’t ever drive all the way to Winona just for the donuts, but if I was in the area, I’d definitely stop.
Pretty Boy and I found the last entry on the tour by accident in Mt Carroll, IL. We had been at the motocross track in Mt Carroll all day, huddled in the trailer, avoid the heavy, heavy rain. Damp and rather cold. When there was a tiny break in the rain, late in the afternoon, we hopped in the truck and headed to Brick Street Coffee to dry off and heat up. They had an interesting array of baked goods which included a number of flavors of hand pies. We picked a cherry and an apple. The crust was plan and crumble-y, texturally similar to something like Perkins but not quite as processed tasting. The filling seemed like canned filling. It was rather plebeian but by no means offensive. We ate them both and warmed up with lovely cuppas until the rain cleared off enough for us to head back to the track, light up the grill, and get in a hot dinner before bed.
With only one true pie offering, I don’t know if this really constitutes a “pie tour,” but it iss what I ate. I always love donuts and, while I don’t always love the pie that’s out there, I’d serve a pie from Sara’s at a dinner party if I needed to serve pie, so that’s a good find. We’re heading to a race in Michigan this month which means more potential pie tour stops coming soon.