GREAT BARRINGTON, Mass. — Some people bond over martinis, others find their connection through grueling bike rides up mountains. Common denominators are rare, unless, of course, we are talking about pie. Say what you will, good tasty pie is what makes the world go 'round. Political differences are forgotten, screaming children are placated and "piece" is enjoyed by all.
At least, this is what happened at the first-ever "Anything Goes Pie Contest," held on Sunday at the Route 7 Grill.
More than 40 entrants, including crust novices and meringue extraordinaires, tried their hand at sweet and savory to the delight of tasters and judges. The delicious desserts made their home under a tent, where folks of all ages and walks of life – writers, grandmothers, sunburnt toddlers – lingered over strawberry chiffon, vegan sweet potato and triple ginger like kids in a candy store. The contest coordinator, Gina Hyams, author of the recently released "Pie Contest in a Box" (Andrews McMeel Publishing, LLC, 2011), stood amidst a flurry of pies and sharpies, signing books and handing out judging cards for all who wanted a little taste of Berkshire heaven.
While the stakes were not high for the entrants, the contest itself supported more than just local taste buds. Proceeds from the contest (each person who would judge the pies was asked to make a donation of $5 or $10) went toWBCR-97.7, Great Barrington's local and very diverse radio station. More than $700 was raised for the station and according to station manager Paul Rapp, "a new Berkshire tradition was in the making." Good news for everyone as they waited with bated breath to dig into the pies and begin the judging.
Once Hyams gave the go-ahead, the hovering, chattering crowd became a silent, well-oiled machine, each taster intent on the task of finding the pies they had chosen to judge and letting the flavors of chocolate, ricotta, cherry and even beets, roll around on their tongues before making that final decision.
What a tough decision it was, too. I elected to try five very different pies. Amidst the swirl of sweet and savory and tart and syrupy it was difficult to pinpoint my "favorite." The judging categories ranged from 1-Inedible to 10-Sublime, and I can assure you my clean plate was a testament to the "feasibility" of eating every pie without prejudice. Having myself made a pie for the contest, I could taste the hard work, nostalgia and generosity that went into creating each delectable disk.
But, all good things must come to an end and all contests must eventually have a winner. This pie-for-all was no exception. Third place went to Kilian and Tiernan Ramer (a very young brother and sister team) for their no-bake Butter Hazelnut Chocolate Pie. Second was swept up by Amy Rudnick for her Sour Cherry Almond Streussel Pie. The grand pie queen of the day was another young contestant, Liv Korth, for her Chocolate Raspberry Pie. Each winner received a custom-made apron from MoHo Designs.
Of course, the best part, aside from watching a bunch of kids "take the cake" in the winner's circle, was watching everyone go back for more once the judging ended. By the end of the afternoon, most of the entries were reduced to crumbs and memories. A community radio station walked away with the reassurance that the show would go on and all of us walked away with a smile, most to steal a quick cat nap and dream of pie.