Well, Mrs. Pie Dude and I were feeling the need to get away for a long weekend, and a pie road trip to Door County seemed to be just the right thing. So we loaded up the SUV and went in search of the best that the cherry capitol of Wisconsin has to offer.
It's a little late in the season now and many shops and eateries were closing for the season, but we did find several worthy places. Our first stop was at Sweetie Pies bakery, located just south of Fish Creek. First established in 1995 by Susan Croissant (yes that's her real name), the shop offers a wide variety of pies. We sampled Apple Caramel Nut, Three Berry and Berried Treasure pie and were delighted by the freshness of the fruit and the flaky crusts. I asked the current owner, Dave Lea, the secret of his crust. He says they only use transfat free shortening, grade A butter and unbleached flour with a little water. No other ingredients are added. During the summer Sweetie Pies produces as many as 80-100 pies a day, and Lea says they baked a total of about 10,000 pies in 2009. He keeps tab of the most popular pies, and not surprisingly cherry pie tops the list. Other favorites include apple, apple caramel and strawberry rhubarb.
Dave Lea At Sweetie Pies
Further north in the town of Ephraim we came upon The Summer Kitchen. Owned by Nino Jaureguy, this spot offers a full menu, but specializes in soups and 16 varieties of pie. The restaurant is set amidst an elaborate garden, making it a lovely place for dining. After a hearty breakfast, we ordered a slice of the Pecan Pie. Mrs. Pie Dude raved about this one, marveling in the flavor and texture of the filling, describing it as much more than caramely corn syrup. We then took a slice of the Strawberry Rhubarb to go. Later that night we sat in the Adirondack chairs out side our inn, bundled against the cold, and ate the pie while watching the stars in the night sky. Maybe it was the bottle of Bordeaux we shared, but that might have been the best slice of strawberry rhubarb pie I ever ate. The fruit was sweet and tart, and held together very well, which is not easy with strawberries, without being too jammy.
Nino Juareguy with Pecan and Strawberry Rhubarb Pies
Travelling further north, passing through the town of Sister Bay, you'll come across Seaquist Orchards farm market. Fortunately, we got there the day before it closed for the season. Seaquist has a full bakery, freshly picked apples, and frozen cherries in containers ranging from a quart to 5 gallons. I have used Seaquist cherries in one of my pies and found them to be among the best. The market also features a wide variety of sauces, dressings, jams, and other food products, many of which you can sample in the store before buying. The bakery features many items including whole pies and by the slice. We got a slice of cherry pie, along with some other items and hit the road. The following morning that cherry pie made for a refreshing start to the day.
Some time ago a friend, knowing of my obsession with pie told me I should go to Greenleaf, Wisconsin for pie. He told me someone had mentioned a diner that offered many varieties. I asked for the name of the diner. No one could remember the name. "It's on Highway 57 at the crossroads," was all I had to work with. So on our way home Mrs. Pie Dude and I headed down Hwy. 57 south of Green Bay, like a modern day Robert Johnson searching for pie at the crossroads. Arriving at the corner of Hwy's, 57 and 96 we found a gas station on one corner and, in a nondescript building, D&G Restaurant on the other.
D&G is a throwback in more ways than one. Two days into November, the diner was still decked out in Halloween decorations. The tables and booths were filled for lunch, and some 13 types of pie were listed on a dry erase board at one end of the counter. After a plate of home battered fried chicken, our waitress delivered two slices to the table, Coconut Cream and Cranberry Walnut. The coconut pie was good, nicely accented with some toasted coconut sprinkled atop the cream. The cranberry walnut, however, was the real deal. I loved the filling, with it's tangy cranberry. But the crust had me puzzled. At first I thought they had added some corn meal to the crust dough. It was a little more yellow than usual, and had the crispiness of the corn bread crust. Soon the waitress returned with a glimmer in her eye, seeming to know that I would need to know what was in that crust. "Ground walnuts," she said. "We found that recipe years ago." I didn't get to talk with D&G's owner Gloria Berg, who was busy running a short handed kitchen, but I will be going back to crossroads, and I will fall down on my knees if I can get that recipe.