Before I get into the story, I want to make sure you have a chance to get the recipe. Barbara’s recipe was later published on food.com. Click here for the recipe.
Back in 2009, as my wife Barbara was training to be a Pilates instructor, Evan Kleiman, a famous local chef/ restauranteur and host of KCRW’s Saturday morning food show Good Food, announced the first ever KCRW pie contest. Barbara has been making pies for gatherings with family and friends for years and, with a bit extra time on her hands, she decided to flour up and enter the contest which was fast approaching. Barbara takes on big challenges and I love her sense of adventure. When Barbara makes up her mind to do something, she’s all in.
After a few weeks of experimenting with new ideas and combinations, she finally settled on baking an apple pie, but this was not just any apple pie.
The night before the contest, one final trial run was needed. When the pie was just about ready there was a knock at the door. My brother Alan and his girlfriend Jen came by to take advantage of the last test run. Champagne in hand they said they wanted to offer their two cents. No, they really wanted pie. The champagne was a good touch though.
Early the next day, Barbara baked the pie and we headed to Topanga Mall in Woodland Hills, the site of the contest. With about 123 entries from around LA, other parts of California, and some entries from out of state, the pies were checked in and then laid out on all long tables, and once ready the judges began to sample. There were a number of categories including cream pies, savory pies, and nut pies. The largest category was fruit pies and the competition was intense. The judges were selected from local restaurants, as well as food writers and food critiques. One of the judges was Mark Peel, the owner of Campanile, at the time one of LA’s most talked about restaurants. As we watched from behind the ropes in the gallery that surrounding the pies, the judges began to winnow down the field of contestants. After several rounds of culling, Barbara’s pie remained in the mix. It was now the judges final sampling. Who would win? Mark stood over Barbara’s pie, took a small bite and then took another. He signaled over to another of the judges and asked him to dig in and try it. They both stood over the pie nodding, talking. Another judge was asked to come over, and the group of judges stood over the pie. All were nodding. I whispered to Barbara, “I think they like your pie”, and she said, “Don’t say anything.” With the sampling concluded and the judges ballots all turned in, Evan began announcing the winners, beginning with each category, 3rd place to first. The last category was the fruit pie with its numerous contestants. 3rd place, 2nd place, and finally 1st place was announced. Barbara’s pie was announced the winner. Barbara walked up to Evan, collected her blue ribbon and was about to walk away when Evan said, “Stay close.” There was one more award to be given for the Best Pie in the show. Evan said a few more words. The Best of Show category, the number one pie was yet to be announced. Yes, not only did Barbara win Best of Category she was also winner of Best of Show. A second blue ribbon and some great cookbooks were awarded. The spectators were then allowed to come in and taste what remained of the pies. By the time I got to Barbara’s pie dish to try a bite only a few crumbs of crust remained. No matter. Barbara won and it was time to celebrate. That evening we headed down to Evan’s restaurant Angeli’s on Melrose for dinner. It was the perfect ending to a Blue Ribbon day.