You have to both admire and pity the contestants in this weekend’s Kitchen Window pie baking contest. On one hand, they had the honor of competing against Marjorie Johnson (above), the State Fair force of nature who is credited with winning 2,500 ribbons (including more than 1,000 blue ones). On the other hand, their competition was Marjorie Johnson. Not surprisingly, Johnson’s entry (a Toffee Walnut Apple Pie) took first prize, defeating culinary instructor Jon Belleau‘s second place Sour Cream Apple Pie. (Belleau is shown below, left.)
Her entry was a restrained and elegant interpretation of the classic American apple pie, with flaky but substantial crust, an interior constructed of thinly layered apple slices, and just a hint of toffee flavor.
On hand to help judge the contest (along with this writer and Becca Dilley) was Jacques Henry (above, right), the fifth generation owner of the French ovenware company Emile Henry. Henry was a good sport, but confessed to being a bit out of his element — pies are still largely unknown in France, land of the tart. “We’re not used to all the dairy and cream,” Henry said a bit helplessly, gesturing at an entry piled high with a fluffy white chocolate topping.
The event was one of two that Henry presided over on Saturday. The second was a wine dinner ($75, wine flight for an additional $20) featuring a five-course meal prepared in part by the attendees. Henry took a hands-on approach to instruction, helping assemble the Provencal Bouillabaisse, Tarte a L’Oignon, Coq au Vin, and Tart Tatin. A foie gras appetizer kicked things off on a festive note.