Today is Shane’s Birthday & the grand finale of the Nine Days Of Pie. This may have been the biggest finale ever in 8 years of our holiday! A few weeks back, Shane was saying he wanted the 9th to be a quiet night at home, then a few days later, Shane said our favorite Portland pizza shop was doing Chicago stuffed pizza, but only on Mondays, he said he sure wished he could get one for his birthday, but his birthday was on a Thursday. After 21 years of marriage, I can take a hint.
I called our dear friend, fellow former Chicagoan, and the greatest pizza maker in Portland, Joe Studenroth of Bridge City Pizza and asked if he would want to participate in the Nine Days Of Pie. I explained that Shane was dreaming of a Stuffed Pizza for his birthday. He said “Of course! But, let’s do it over across the street from me at the Proper Pint, I supply pizza to them, and it will be good for them too.” That is true Chicago spirit right there! (For as gruff and rude as Chicagoans are known for being all over the world, we actually are full of heart and usually always willing to help our fellow human. We maintain that rough exterior as protection and defense, but don’t let this get around.)
Another thing I need to make note of since we are talking about Chicago and pizza. No one in Chicago really eats stuffed pizza, we all eat thin crust and sometimes thick crust, but not the super-thin foldable pizza of the east coast — ours actually holds toppings like sausage chunks, green peppers and mushrooms. Chicago pizza is about a rich red sauce, a nice crispy crust, and rather than being cut like a pie, we do squares known as “party cut” according to our pizza expert Joe (we never knew this city had a name.) The Stuffed Pizza, is something most Chicagoans eat once a year – on a birthday, or when a favorite aunt and uncle visit from Ohio, it’s not our daily pizza, not even a monthly pizza, it’s a lot like the Thanksgiving turkey, reserved only for special annual occasions.
Okay, back to the Nine Days Of Pie… So there was a daytime event planned, it was a pie demo at Pacific Pie Company and Sarah, the owner was planning a do an in-cafe demonstration with pie samples to give away. It was to run from noon to 3 pm.
Admittedly, I was running a few minutes late, so when the phone rang as I was rushing to get out the door, I almost sent it to voicemail. Instead I answered it, and it was Sarah, she said it was almost noon and no one was there. I said I was hurrying to get there, but it being three hours long, I thought many people would probably come and go as they could, stopping in during their lunch hour or what have you. She said she would cancel it in 5 minutes if no one showed up. I told her I was probably 20 minutes away, so if she felt compelled to cancel I understood. She continued that as a new mom, she really didn’t have time for all of this, and didn’t want to do anything if no one was there. I apologized for her wasted time and investment into the event, and hung up the phone. I felt terrible, but Shane was very happy and excited that I now had time to play with him on his birthday.
Since we were planning to be at The Proper Pint, an establishment with some 30 different beers on tap, I decided to search and see if any pies were made with beer. Much to my delight, I found a long blog entry from David Lebovitz discussing in great and comical detail, an outing with friends in which a beer tart was one of the desserts served. He offered the recipe he’d created i an attempt to duplicate the tart, and the recipe from the actual cafe which he said was too complex for a home cook to try. Never one to back down from a challenge, we headed to the Proper Pint to get ourselves some beer, namely a very dark beer, and an amber ale. They actually canned the two beers right there while we waited, it was pretty cool. (Sadly, the pies only used a fraction of the cane, so what will we do with the rest of beer???)
Historically, Shane’s favorite birthday pie is cherry, a few years ago I added to the delight with almond paste (a trick I learned while working for master chefs Nanci Main & Jimella Lucas), so this was a certainty of the day. I also had some peaches I had not yet used, so a peach pie with a crumble top was also made, and then the beer tarts, made with two totally different methods.
The pies were coming together at the speed of light (almost). Then, as soon as the peach came out of the oven we were out the door heading to Bridge City Pizza to make a dessert pizza and see what Joe had in store for us. Bridge City Pizza was slammed, in an apparent pre-Veterans day bonanza, so Joe set me up with a crust in which to create the dessert pizza. I used the leftover blueberry handle filling, blueberries, cinnamon and cream cheese. Atop it all came two cups of mozzarella cheese, and into the super hot pizza oven it went!
Joe said he’d see us later as we ran across the street to The Proper Pint. As with yesterday, people at The Proper Pint seemed a little confused the we were filling a table with pie that we were giving away for free. Britt, the sweet bartender, was adamant that we put a pitcher for pie donations on the table, and she forced it on us. Her and her cohort told those at the bar about The Nine Days Of Pie and slow but sure a trickle of curious beer aficionados came to the table to try some pie, and of course the official Nine Days Of Pie “Pie Worship” doughnut from Voodoo Doughnut – on it’s final day of existence.
Soon a lovely couple we’d met on Friday Night arrived, Ben and Elodie (I hope they will correct me on the spelling here if my guess is wrong). Elodie is from France came and brought not one but two beautiful French pies, one was a French Apple pie whose beauty of fanned apples on the top put all of my pies to shame, and a tart tatin, which is kind of an upside-down apple tart. Both were apple pies, but bother were completely different in taste. Elodie said tart tatin so beautifully, when I said it back to her in the American way she heartily laughed! A lovely couple that had come to the Proper Pint for beer were so enamored with he whole Nine Days Of Pie concept and spread they dropped a $20 int he pitcher and commenced to trying every pie, which was totally awesome! A couple I’d given pie to at The Abbey Bar the night before came in, and I was glad to see them again ad give them pie. Two younger guys in hunting type coats came up for pie and listened intently to the concept.
The the pizza began to arrive, Joe and Bridge City Pizza brought, not one, not two, but THREE stuffed pizzas over, a veggie one, a sausage one, and Joe’s personal favorite with pepperoncini peppers and a bunch of amazing fillings, it was incredible! Then came the dessert pizza, looking better than I ever thought possible, and a thin crust pizza with brussel sprouts, sweet potato and I can’t even recall. Bridge City Pizza had blown up the Nine Days Of Pie! They owned Day nine, taking a holiday of indulgence and turning it to 11!
Several friends stopped in and tried all of the various pizzas, more folks who had unwittingly stumbled on the Nine Days Of Pie in search of a beer came over to see what the pie and pizza may-lay was all about, and then our friends Verna and William popped in who live in Portland, but have often traveled to Astoria to partake in Pie during these “high time for pie time” days. Soon Joe was there to bask in the cheers for his pizza, and try the pies and especially the dessert pizza, followed not long after by his pizza crew, some long time staff, some newer faces, and as always one person who came from Chicagoland. They all celebrated with pizza and pie and pints.
This was a ninth day to end all Nine Days of Pie final days! And Shane, as the birthday boy, carefully hid a slice from every pie and pizza into a box and slipped it into the car for day after feasting for himself. For me the very best part of the Nine Days Of Pie this year was Shane’s giant ear to ear smile. He hasn’t really enjoyed the Nine Days Of Pie all that much for the last few years, but all Nine Days he has been smiling and happy, and tonight he was so happy, and had so much fun, it made this Nine Days Of Pie great for me as well!
I want to take a moment to thank Pacific Pie Company for participating, sort of. Thanks to The Proper Pint for hosting us, and their awesome staff for being so great! But above all, I offer a big, ten-fold bearhug of love for Joe and all at Bridge City Pizza!!! They are our FAVORITE pizza in Portland, and Joe is just the greatest guy! The first time we went to try a Bridge City Pizza it was only Joe there just a few months after he opened, and now he has a whole crew and a great following due to his great, amazing, and stupendous pizza! Southside all the way!!!