March 14, the day when mathematics and baked goods collide, is known as Pi Day. And, in our food-obsessed world, Pie Day.
Pie, we know. For those who skipped geometry class, pi is the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter, a constant number that works out — when it’s rounded to two decimal places — to 3.14.
March 14th — 3/14 — get it?
“It used to be that the only people who knew about Pi Day were the nerd guys, you know?” said Dave Hulett of Dave the Pie Guy in south Minneapolis. “But it’s gone mainstream, and now everyone wants pie on Pi Day.”
When Hulett invokes “everyone,” he’s not exaggerating. Well, not much.
“Thanksgiving, Christmas and Father’s Day have traditionally been the top three pie sales days each year,” he said. “But I think Pi Day is going to beat Father’s Day. Last year, it was neck and neck. There’s even a chance that it could beat Christmas.”
Let that be a warning to those seeking out a slice of banana cream or lemon meringue on this day of days: Plan ahead, and go early.
“Every year, I think that I’ve got enough,” said Hulett. “And every year, it’s never enough.”
Owner Tracy Singleton recalls that Key lime pie has been a menu staple for forever. “Since we opened, I think, so that’s almost 24 years,” she said. Citrus is kind of an oddity for a kitchen that focuses on local, seasonal ingredients. “As far as I know, we haven’t been able to grow Key limes here in Minnesota,” she said with a laugh. “But it’s always Key lime pie season. And the whipped cream, that’s local.” And delicious, as is the pie, and it should be, what with two dozen years of pie-making practice. There’s a strawberry version, too (“the berries are local, from our freezer stash from last summer, and the eggs and flour are local, too,” said Singleton), and the restaurant’s team of bakers are also turning out coconut cream, apple and German chocolate cream pies. Slices $6 to $7.
3311 E. 25th St., Mpls., 612-722-4474, birchwoodcafe.com
Breaking Bread Cafe
“Baking is patience,” said Audley Rolle, who has been turning out lovingly rendered baked goods at the cafe for the past two years. “It’s just working with good ingredients and then giving them time.” That’s certainly the philosophy behind his superb sweet-potato pie, which starts by rubbing the starchy roots with olive oil and roasting them, “until they’re perfect,” he said. Once out of the oven, they’re the backbone of a creamy, not-too-sweet treat, one of many reasons (waffles, smoked brisket and biscuits with turkey gravy are a few others) to make a habit of this casual neighborhood destination. Slice $3.95, whole pie (48 hours’ notice preferred) $20.
1210 W. Broadway, Mpls., 612-529-9346, breakingbreadfoods.com
Dave the Pie Guy
Of the dozen or so treats that fill the counter at this cozy south Minneapolis shop and cafe, one pie stands out above all others: streusel apple. Owner Dave Hulett incorporates four different apples, and relies upon the fruit’s inherent sweetness — unlocked through a two-hour baking process — rather than heaps of sugar. “There’s a half-cup of sugar in this entire pie,” he said. “I let the apples do all the work. The longer you bake them, the sweeter they get.” The secret ingredient behind his flaky pie crust? Feta cheese. For his popular version of French silk (“I can’t keep it on the shelf; it fights for first place with apple,” he said), Hulett relies upon a premium chocolate bar and works toasted pecans into the crust. Other standards include banana cream and Key lime, and he also offers mince meat (raisins, dates and cherries, marinated in brandy) on a year-round rotation. Most slices $4.95, most whole pies $25.95 and $32.95.
3544 Grand Av. S., Mpls., 612-871-9544, davethepieguy.com
It’s not just burgers and malts that keep the kitchen busy at this family-friendly Brooklyn Center landmark. The counter at the front door is stocked with a huge variety of baked-on-the-premises pies. So many classics are present and accounted for, ranging from a lattice-top beauty filled with tart cherries to a spiky-topped lemon meringue. Blueberry-peach, pecan, raspberry, fresh apple, coconut cream, you name it, it’s probably here, or at least it’s in the kitchen’s repertoire. Buy them by the slice ($4.95), but the real deal is the whole-pie price; at $12.95 (plus $1 pie tin deposit), they’re one of the Twin Cities’ better bargains. There’s a savory side, too: single-serving (the portions are generous) heat-and-eat chicken and beef potpies, at $6.45 a pop.
5524 Brooklyn Blvd., Brooklyn Center, 763-560-4947, 50sgrill.com
See the full Star Stribune article, here.