The Hippo


Jul 5, 2020








Apple pie from Finesse Pastries. Courtesy photo

Pie Day Competition 2015

When: Saturday, March 14, from 3 to 6 p.m.
Where: Studio 550 Arts Center, 550 Elm St., Manchester
Tickets: $20 for adults, $15 for college students and ages 13 and under when purchased online; $25 day of the event.
Call: 232-5597

A pie for a pi
3.1415 reasons to indulge on Pi Day

By Allie Ginwala

Monica Leap isn’t necessarily a fan of math, but she’s a fan of pie and fun. In honor of the date that aligns with the first five digits of Pi, Studio 550 is hosting a professional pie competition on Saturday, March 14. 

Leap, the program manager at Studio 550 Art Center, considered doing a pie competition last year but put the idea on hold. But this year’s pi-perfect date won’t come around for another thousand years.
“We figured this year we had to do it. No option,” she said. 
The pie day competition will feature entries from professional bakeries. 
“There are so many bakeries in the area, it seemed like a good opportunity,” Leap said. 
Finding bakers started close to home, she said, by putting up posters around town. The word spread quickly, and people started reaching out to Leap to join in. 
“It’s a perfect time of year for pies,” said Richard Tango-Lowy, master chocolatier of Dancing Lion Chocolate and one of the competition judges. “It’s cold outside and a pie is … such comfort food. That whole format of a pie just makes you feel warm and fuzzy and good and happy.”
Just shy of a baker’s dozen, the participating bakeries are The Bakeshop on Kelley Street, Finesse Pastries, Wicked Good Bakery, The Crust & Crumb Baking Co., Just Like Mom’s Pastries, The Black Forest Cafe, Saxy Chef, Baked Downtown Cafe & Bakery, Sunshine Scoops Ice Cream Shop and Bakery, The Bridge Cafe, Sweet Melissa’s Kitchen and Roundabout Diner & Lounge. 
They’ll be competing in three categories — fruit, cream and creative — and can enter more than one pie.
“We want people to be able to showcase what it is that they think they’re best in,” Leap said.
Chelsey Erickson, chef/owner of Finesse Pastries, jumped on the chance to take part in the pie day competition. 
“Monica sent out a general email and was talking about possibly doing this pie day, and I wrote [back] immediately and I was like, ‘Yes, yes, yes!’” Erickson said in a phone interview. “[I’m] excited to meet everybody and introduce myself. And hopefully I can sneak some pie too.”
Finesse is going to enter a pie in all three categories, Erickson said. 
“Our most popular pies are apple pie and chocolate cream pie and then, being [a] French pastry [shop], we need to do something cool and French,” she said.
The bakers must provide three pies for each recipe they are entering into the competition. Guests are invited to view the pies at 3 p.m. before the judges are served. Sampling for the guests begins around 3:30 and will continue until 5:30 p.m.
As they sample, guests can fill out a checklist that’s handed out at the door to take notes and prioritize which bakers’ pies they want to try. Once the rounds are made, they’ll cast their vote for favorites in each category. 
“Guests can definitely come in and pick and choose; they can kind of do a circuit if they want,” Leap said.  
While the people’s choice winner will be based on the most votes, a panel of judges will select category winners decided by a numerical scale ranking from 1 to 10 for crust, filling, creativity and overall experience. 
The judges for the competition are Susan Laughlin, food writer for NH Magazine; Helen Ryba, host and producer of “The Chef’s Plate;” and Tango-Lowy. 
“Everything to me is about what’s the experience,” said Tango-Lowy. “It’s always about tasting mindfully, paying attention to what you’re tasting. I keep a notebook when I taste anything. I think the big challenge for this is mindfully tasting 24 pieces of pie.”
To prevent the judges from going into pie overload, Leap thinks each judge will tackle two of the categories. 
“Otherwise that would be way too many and they [would] all go home sick,” she said. 
As an award, the winners will each receive handmade commemorative pie plates that Leap made herself, with the date of the competition on it.
“I believe personally that everything you do can ...  should be art, no matter what it is,” Tango-Lowy said. “I’m going to be judging pies from the approach of art, and given that it’s being hosted by Studio 550, I think that sort of makes sense. These things need to look beautiful  [but] art isn’t just what you see — art is what you experience.”
The pun-tastic Pi day pie competition fits well with Studio 550’s programming, which is all about having fun and bringing people together. 
“The core of what the studio is. Relax, you’re here to play,” Leap said. “A lot of what drives what we do is connecting people with an excuse to have fun.”
As seen in the March 12, 2015 issue of the Hippo.

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