5 Tips for the Ultimate Pie Pairing Party

The wifey & I love having people over to our place for dinner & drinks. We enjoy going out to the new restaurants around town or hitting up The Map Room for whatever new beer is on tap; however, having people over to your home is way more intimate and let’s you cook & drink whatever you want. It’s a selfish thing.

We pretty much have stuck to “dinner parties” (is that too antiquated for 2012?) and I will often make a signature cocktail &/or try to pair wines or beers with our food.

Last weekend we wanted to try something different. My wife is a HUGE fan of pie – apple, blueberry, whatever. I am a HUGE fan of craft beer – West Coast IPA’s, Barley wines, whatever.

We wondered if we could pair the two ideas together and throw a party around it? So, that’s what we did. We held our first Pie Pairing Party on September 29th. Each guest (or couple) was required to bring a pie and had to pair it with a beverage. Goofy but simple premise.

We also wanted people to really bring their “A” game, so we told everyone that we would be voting for 3 categories: 1) Best Pie 2) Best Beer or Beverage and 3) Best Pairing.

We made a bunch of appetizers (paired with beers) and bought a bunch of extra beer, wine and champagne. We decided to start the party at 3 pm that way people could leave for dinner later. As it turns out, people frickin’ loved it and most people stayed until 9-11pm.

I was blown away with how creative people were, how much they wanted their pie and beverage to shine, and how hard it is to display 20 pies and their paired beverage on one dining room table.

I baked my first cake for this event, which was a Boston Cream Pie (cake?) and paired it with Left Hand Milk Stout. Both were awesome and while there wasn’t a prize for second place, we won the second best pairing combo (pat on my own back).

First place pie went to a savory pie, cooked by our friend Caitlin, that was ridiculously tasty – a Beef Brisket Pie with Cornbread Top (recipe). First place pairing went to Ben & Jill who’s combo was PB&J – they made a Peanut Butter Pie and paired it with a berry beer (Framboise). It was the best grown up PB&J I’ve ever had. First place beer went to our friend Allison who brought Samuel Adams Cherry Wheat Ale. While there were no Cicerone’s at our event, I have to say the Sam Adams Cherry Wheat Ale was awesome with most of the fruit pies.

The party was such a hit, we’ll definitely host a second Pie Pairing Party next year. Everyone had an awesome time and we learned a few things if you’d like throw your own Pie Pairing Party. Top 5 tips for throwing your own Pie Pairing Party:

1)   All about the friends: You have got to get the buy-in from your friends. It’s way more fun when people are contributing. We had about 40 people over and 20 pie/drink pairings. I like to think that the email invitation we sent out helped pump people up and also kept them from slacking in the contribution department.

I didn’t hide my excitement for the concept of our party and I clearly stated what I was doing (Boston Cream Pie & Left Hand Milk Stout) in our invitation. It definitely worked because it pushed our guy friends who don’t bake to either 1) bake or 2) buy a pie somewhere. It also forced our female friends to research beer, even if they aren’t beer drinkers. We got some awesome Barley wines, stouts and the crowd favorite of Cherry Wheat Ale from people who aren’t “into beer”.

2)   Food & Drink: Give your guests some appetizers, beer & wine to snack on before, during and after the main event of pie & beverage tasting. You’re still hosting people & as a host you should provide some food & beverage. We didn’t hold back and had some kick ass appetizers that were pretty demolished by the end of the night. We even paired beers with our appetizers to keep with the theme.

3)   Give ‘em time: It’s easy to bring a bottle of wine or a great six pack of beer to the party. It’s hard to bake something & figure out a beverage to pair with it. We gave our guests two and a half weeks notice. I also sent an email the week of the party to remind everyone, plus taunted people on Facebook that I knew were good cooks & would be up for the challenge.

4)   Plates & Utensils: Small plastic cups, paper plates, napkins, knives, forks & spoons. You’ll need them all to get down to business. We thought about doing “real” plates and glasses, but we’re not a restaurant (hello, 40 people). Also get some normal size cups for people to drink their beers/beverage. Keep in mind some people will want to drink good beers from a glass – have that option available if they want. Oh, and pie serving knives. Get one for every pie you think might be coming. We made this mistake and tried using steak & butter knives to help cut/serve the pies after our 4 plastic pie serving knives ran out– not the greatest.

5)   Compete: We made ours a competition, which seems to make events like this more exciting and people don’t want to look bad, so they participate. We made place setting cards so people could write their type of pie and beer/drink pairing. We used the back of those cards for people to vote for our 3 categories. We got busy eating and drinking and should have reminded people earlier in the night to vote…that way you don’t have to harass them as they leave (like we did). We also had awards, but since the votes were tallied after everyone left, they were of no use.  We also learned that we should have had a savory and sweet category for pies.  They are two separate beasts.

RECIPES THAT ROCK

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Winning Beef Brisket Pie with Cornbread Top

Season at least a 3lb brisket with salt and pepper and place in baking dish. Cover with thinly sliced onions.  Mix marinade in separate bowl and pour over top. Marinade is: 12oz jar of Heinz chili sauce, 1/4c brown sugar, and 1 beer (she used blue moon).

Cover with tin foil and bake for about 3.5 hours, checking for doneness periodically.  Remove tin foil and finish cooking uncovered for the last 30 minutes or so.  Remove from oven when done and let cool down in the liquid then shred into pulled pieces.

In a separate pan, carmelize 1 onion.  Mix pulled brisket with onions and add 50/50 liquid from the brisket and sweet baby rays BBQ sauce until it looks and tastes good.  Layer this in pie dish and top with shredded cheese.

Make 1 box of jiffy corn bread mix, adding in 1/3 jalapeño.  Spread this thinly (and carefully) over the cheese and bake at 400 until cornbread is done (about 15 minutes).

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Port Cocktail that everyone frickin’ loved

Simple & Strong, served on the rocks:

1 part Tawny Port,

1 part Aperol,

1 part Gin.

Garnish with a lemon twist and orange bitters.

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Peanut Butter Pie – try it with Framboise!

1pkg instant vanilla pudding (3 1/2oz), 1cup sour cream, 1cup milk, 1 1/2cups Reese’s pieces, 2 Tbsp veg oil, 8in crumb crust, frozen whipped topping

In a small bowl blend pudding mix, sour cream, and milk & set aside.  Melt Reese’s pieces in top of a double boiler with oil stirring until blended or in a microwave for 45 secs or until melted and smooth when stirred.  Gradually add to pudding and blend well.  Pour in crust cover and chill several hours or overnight.  Garnish with whipped topping. Enjoy!!

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Boston Cream Pie – adopted from allrecipes.com

In all honesty, we used the majority of this recipe, but changed a few things. We added more vanilla extract (2 tsp instead of 1) and 6 oz of chocolate instead of 3 oz. PLUS, instead of making the cake batter from scratch, we used a box of store bought white cake. The reason being is that reviews from this recipe and another we were looking at weren’t so great (some said too heavy, too light or flavorless). We were pressed for time and didn’t have room to mess around, so white cake in box was fool proof.

Ingredients:

6 tablespoons butter, softened2 tablespoons all-purpose flour1 1/2 cups cake flour2 teaspoons baking powder1/4 teaspoon salt3/4 cup white sugar2 eggs2 teaspoon vanilla extract1/2 cup milk1/2 cup light cream1/2 cup milk 1/4 cup white sugar1 pinch salt4 teaspoons cornstarch2 eggs1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract6 (1 ounce) squares semisweetchocolate2 tablespoons butter1/4 cup light cream1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Grease and flour two 9 inch round cake pans. Sift the all-purpose flour, cake flour, baking powder and salt together and set aside.
2. In a deep bowl cream 6 tablespoons of the butter with 3/4 cup sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the 2 eggs, one at a time, then beat in the 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. Add the flour mixture alternately with the 1/2 cup of the milk in 3 additions, Beating the batter smooth after each addition. Divide the batter between the 2 prepared pans.
3. Bake at 375 degrees F (190 degrees C) for 15 minutes or until cakes begin to shrink away from the sides of the pans and centers spring back when lightly touched. Turn the cakes onto wire racks to cool.
4. To Make The Filling: Combine the 1/2 cup light cream with 1/4 cup of the milk and cook over medium heat until bubbles begin to form around the edge of the pan. Immediately add 1/4 cup of the sugar and the salt, stirring until dissolved. Remove the pan from the heat.
5. In a small bowl, combine 1/4 cup of the milk with the cornstarch and whisk to remove lumps. Whisk in the 2 eggs. Add the hot cream mixture in a thin stream, whisking constantly. Return to the mixture to the saucepan, bring to a boil, and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until the custard thickens and is smooth (about 5 minutes). Remove from heat and stir in the 1/2 teaspoon vanilla and allow to cool to room temperature.
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