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Slice of Small Town America: KCRW Pie Contest a Treat for All

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This Saturday, crowds and culinarians flocked to the Westfield Topanga Shopping Center to take part in the 1st Annual KCRW "Good Food" Pie Contest. Deep inside the mall was the event's center stage, where the 123 entered pies sat on long tables as a panel of judges comprised of local food writers, bakers, chefs, and gourmands took on the daunting task of tasting and evaluating every single one (not an easy job if you're a little hungover, eh Chef Stefan Richter?). Host Evan Kleiman kept the judges and crowd in check, presiding over this well-received event that served as a sort of culmination of her own months-long personal pie endeavor, the Pie-a-Day Project, as logged on the Good Food Blog.

As eager supporters and pie lovers clutched paper plates and plastic forks around the perimeter the tension mounted. Soon the judges narrowed the contenders down to the top five in each of 4 categories: Fruit & Nut; Cream/Custard/Chiffon/Mousse; Savory; and Interpretive (Defies Categorization).

The pies were clearly labors of love as the mounds of sliced fruit, carefully arranged crust petals, high-peaked meringues, and hand-written displayed recipe cards attested. Kleiman engaged the crowd by asking from which parts of town everyone hailed, and with the homey-kitchen aroma of the many splendid pies wafting through the space, it truly seemed like a slice of small-town USA in our very big city. But of course everyone was waiting to hear the winners, and for the ropes to drop so they could have a taste for themselves.

Finally, after terse negotiations and haggling by the judges (there may have been some name-calling, campaigning for favorites, and intense bartering, but I won't name names), the winners were declared:

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Best in Show
1st - #109 - Barbara Treves' Forever Favourite Apple Pie

Fruit & Nut
1st - #109 - Barbara Treves' Forever Favourite Apple Pie
2nd - #115 - Jeff Winett's Chocolate Walnut Rum Pie
3rd - #118 - Hae Jung Cho's Blueberry Hand Pie

1st - #22 - Marni/Joyce Landes' Chocolate, Peanut Butter and Banana Pie (daughter and mom team)
2nd - #15 - Daniel Hong's Banana Cream
3rd - #5 - Marina Castle's Dulce de Leche Coffee Peanut Butter Mousse Pie

1st - #137 - Chrystal Baker & Amir Thomas' Tarragon Chicken and Grape Pie
2nd - #143 - Zoe Jarocki's Mushroom Pie
3rd - #140 - Edie Black's Veggie Pot Pie

Interpretive (Defies Categorization)
1st - #123 - Nita Larronde's Yin-Yang Pie
2nd - #131 - Sharon Treinen's Ice Box Lemon Pie
3rd - #119 - Lisa Giardino's Mystery Pie (aka Ritz Cracker Pie)

And then the floodgates opened, and the good people of KCRW worked to serve up slivers of all the 123 pies to the very hungry mob (including some impatient folks who went in for the kill by hand or by their own fork). I was lucky to be situated near two of the top cream pies, including blogger Marni Landes (Happy Go Marni) and her mom Joyce's Blue Ribbon-earning Peanut Butter Banana Pie (One word: YUM!) and 2nd place Daniel Hong's Banana Cream. Bites of Strawberry Rhubarb, Avocado, and pumpkin ginger were enough to satisfy the cravings built up during the wait.

The crowds began to dissipate and the contestants came in to claim their pie-plates. The mood was joyous and festive, and the Pie Contest declared a great success. So pie-makers, if you missed out this year, keep your recipe cards handy and your eyes and ears open for next year's Pie Contest. In the meantime, if you're pie-inspired, with the holidays right around the corner, now's the perfect time for we need an excuse!

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