Lemon Buttermilk Pie from Chile Pies & Ice Cream
Chile Pies & Ice Cream is known for their green chili apple pie ($7 a slice), an apple crumble pie made with walnuts and, yes, green chili peppers. I found the savory note interesting (and one taster declared it his favorite), but it was met with a resounding "yuck" by the majority of our pie eaters. The lemon buttermilk slice ($7), however, was universally lauded for its sweet, creamy tangy flavor—a buttery pie that was freshened by citrus. Topped with a slice of candied lemon, this was a simple pie made great by quality ingredients and excellent execution.
Lemon Chess and Strawberry Lemon Pies from Miz Lynn's Pies
We liked Chile Pies' lemon buttermilk slice, but we loved the lemon pies from Miz Lynn's Pies. Miz Lynn's lemon chess pie ($5 for a mini pie) balanced the elements of lemon and butter perfectly, making it taste both creamy and fresh. The strawberry lemon pie ($5) was more tangy on the lemon side, but the fresh strawberries added a sweetness that softened the sour. Combined, the flavors reminded us of strawberry lemonade, making it a perfect summer pie.
Miz Lynn's Pies: Available at retail stores and for catering; 415-240-2162; mizlynnspies.com
Mixed Berry and Strawberry Rhubarb Pies from Mission Pies
There was a serious debate raging over these mixed berry ($3.50 for a slice) and strawberry rhubarb ($7 for a mini pie) pies. However, there was no question that Mission Pies had produced some of our favorite, fruit-centric creations, beating out many other berry and rhubarb pies. The mixed berry was nicely tart, tasting like a "really good lambic." The strawberry rhubarb was an excellent combination of sweet and slightly sour, made irresistible by a crumbly top. We determined that the debate had more to do with personal affinities for rhubarb, and declared them both winners.
Apple Lattice Pie from Three Babes Bakeshop
It was love at first sight for me—the apple lattice pie ($36) from the Three Babes Bakeshop was just such a beautiful, perfect construction of pastry. It was what the pie of my dreams looked like. I almost couldn't believe that it would possibly taste as good as it looked. Thankfully, I was wrong. The crust, so lovely to look at, tasted as good as its golden-brown flakes promised And the filling, chock-full of juicy, fresh apples, had a wonderfully intense cinnamon flavor—it tasted the way cinnamon sticks smell. This was the pie I just couldn't stop eating, breaking off hunks of apple-cinnamon coated crust, telling myself that really, this was the last one. The only bad thing about this pie was destroying its immaculate exterior, but it shouldn't surprise you that it was well worth it.
Coconut Cream Tart from Tartine Bakery
Tartine's coconut cream tart ($6.50) is a study in seeming impossibilities. A cream tart, a coconut cream tart, with a slick of dark chocolate coating the bottom crust, should not be able to taste refreshing. And yet, it does: perhaps because the coconut cream avoids being overly sweet, and pairs so perfectly with the chocolate. Or maybe it's because of the crust, the flakiest of the bunch, giving every bite the feeling of airy lightness. Light and decadent all at once—leave it to Tartine to get it right.
Buttermilk and Fried Apple Pie from Born & Bread
"Holy BUTTER," was my first thought as I took a bite of Born & Bread's buttermilk and fried apple pie ($20). (This was quickly followed by "creamy sweet decadent delicious perfection" in rapid-fire succession.) This pie kept us all coming back for more. It's exactly what a special occasion pie should taste like. The buttermilk filling would be delicious on its own, but the addition of fried apples added a nice tartness to the flavor.
Born & Bread: Available for delivery; 415-505-4597; bornandbreadsf.com
Blackberry Pie from Lotta's Bakery
Lotta's blackberry pie ($3.60 per slice) made something of a comeback. At the very least, it was a surprise favorite, considering Lotta's peach pie was roundly dismissed for being poorly balanced. Both of these pies had a massive amount of fruit filling—but this was a good thing in the case of the blackberries. Tasting fresh and summery, this pie was certainly more about the berries than the crust. But with berries this good, you'll hear no complaints from us.
Lime Meringue Tartlette from Miette Patisserie
"I don't even usually like lime," claimed one taster before quickly shoveling another super-sized bite of lime meringue tartlette ($6 each) in her mouth. So imagine the reaction of those that do like lime. The fluffy meringue, the incredible balance of citrus-sweet flavors, and the amazing, dense crust combined to form bites so delicious that it's difficult to stop yourself from taking down the whole tart at once. The fact that the tarts are beautiful to look at doesn't hurt things either.
Tart Tatin from The Butler & The Chef
It's hard to order something bad at The Butler. Textbook-perfect French plates, mouthwatering daily specials, and crackly baguettes: this is everything good about French food. Their desserts are no exception. Seasonal fruit galettes are pastry perfection, but we were delighted to find that the tart tatin ($6 for a piece) was back on the menu. Instead of thinly-sliced apple layers, Butler's tart is made up of substantial, juicy apple hunks, coated in cinnamon and pieced together with a jigsaw puzzle's intricacy. Caramelized on top and served with a massive dollop of freshly whipped cream, this is, no doubt, the French take on pie at its finest.
Pecante and Chocolate Cream Pies from PieTisserie
In terms of a bakery knocking it out of the park, PieTisserie may have been the evening's winner. Both of the pies we sampled from baker Jaynelle St. John's operation were, in addition to being taster favorites, standouts for their creativity. Her pecante pie ($22), made with cayenne-spiced pecans, was a delicious riff on a classic. The spice, in addition to adding some serious flavor dimensions, prevented the cloying sweetness I often associate with pecan pies. Also excellent was her chocolate cream pie ($26), topped with a mountain of whipped cream and served in a pretzel crust. A perfect combination of salty and sweet—this pie was like your favorite chocolate covered pretzels times 1000. I loved the dark chocolate flavor of the filling, and while some people wished for a more mousse-like texture, I thought the pudding consistency added to the homey quality of the pie.
PieTisserie: Delivery only; 415-999-1446; pietisserie.com