Where To Order a Stunning Pie For Thanksgiving
Our Local Bounty expert explains the San Diego pie landscape
Sugar & Scribe pie bites
Who doesn’t love pies? Some food pundits have proclaimed them as the next cupcake—but I hate to think of pies as a trend. Pies are the comfort foods of desserts, a culinary warm embrace. Pies are culture; they’re history and they’re geography. There are endless ways of making them, even if we’re talking your basic pumpkin or apple—all based on varying traditions and innovations in technique, local ingredients and, well, how you were taught, perhaps by your grandma. I’ve selected three San Diego bakers, all of whom make stunning pies, yet all of them very different. Take your pick for your Thanksgiving dinner.
Michele Coulon Dessertier
Michele Coulon has been baking professionally since she started making pastry for her family’s Ocean Beach restaurant, The Belgian Lion. Her charming patisserie on Fay Ave. in La Jolla Village is warm and comfy, and spills over with all sorts of sweet delights, including a variety of pies—all wrapped in a pure butter crust. She recently taught me how to make her traditional apple lattice pie, which seems simple enough, but is transcendent in the hands of an expert. The apples are sliced thick and mixed with sugar, a bit of salt, and cream for moisture. Then there’s her pumpkin, with filling made from fresh pumpkins she steams, peels, and purees. And her pecan pie? It gets a splash of bourbon in it this year. Finally, she’ll have her apple berry, which really features the berries, with the apples there to balance the berries’ acid. Coulon will have three sizes: minis ($1.75), individuals ($10), and full-size ($32). For a recipe and primer on how to make her pumpkin pie, visit Coulon’s blog. Michele Coulon Dessertier is located at 7556 Fay Ave.
San Diego native Elizabeth Harris can be found daily in the storefront and kitchen she rents at the edge of Sunshine Nursery in Encinitas. Elizabethan Desserts has a distinctly retro feel, as do Harris’ pies—including the piquant cherry made with slightly tart Michigan cherries, the strawberry rhubarb with its sweet fruit (including very young rhubarb) and exquisite lattice work, and the apple crumb and its mouth-pleasing crumbly top and sweet-tart Granny Smith apples. Harris uses butter and pastry flour to create a rich and flaky crust. Individual-size pies are $5.95. Full-size range from $24 to $28. The bakery is located at 155 Quail Gardens Dr. in Encinitas.
Sugar & Scribe Bakery
Maeve Schulz, the young owner of year-old Sugar & Scribe Bakery in PB, comes from a long line of Irish bakers. Her grandmother worked for British aristocracy in the 1930s. Her oldest child, Mary Margaret immigrated to Cincinnati as a teenager, continuing the baking tradition, and when her daughter Maeve was about two, Mary Margaret brought her into the kitchen—as you can see from family pictures hung in the bright and cozy shop. Mother and daughter often work together on a variety of Irish pastries and breads. Schulz so loves pies, though, that they’re what she served at her wedding instead of a wedding cake. She uses Irish cream flour—a cake flour mixed with some all-purpose—for some of her pies, along with butter and a butter blend with a smidge of sugar. Try her pecan pie, which is nothing like the cloying sweet versions you often find. Instead it’s infused with warmth, thanks to a touch of brandy and brown sugar, and just slightly crunchy. The apple pie is filled with very thin slices of apples with a top crust simply folded over and pleated from the bottom. Pies run from $12 to $16, full size. Individual pies are $5 and pie bites are $1.50 apiece. The bakery also makes gluten-free pies on request, which cost an additional $3. Sugar & Scribe Bakery is located at 1420 Garnet in Pacific Beach.