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Friday, July 25, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 66.0° F  Fair
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Scrambling for slices at Pie Palooza 2009
900 pieces of pie in three hours

Credit:Linda Falkenstein
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Pie Palooza, the celebration of local ingredients as reconceived residing atop a flaky crust, is not just all about the pie. It's also a benefit event for the REAP Food Group, and it completed its most successful turn this past Sunday at larger digs in the Goodman Community Center.

The 5th annual event ran from 9:30 a.m. until about 2 p.m. "We served over 900 slices of pie in just over 3 hours," reports REAP Food Group Executive Director Miriam Grunes. "In all, we served 450 people." The funds go toward REAP programs, including promoting healthy foods in schools.

With this fifth version, says Grunes, everything went smoothly. The pie donors "understand the event and they're so excited. The bakers really seem to love it, and they have a lot of fun." And the pie selection was impressive.

It works like this: advance tix are sold for three seatings (9:30, 10:30, and 11:30 a.m.) with a final 12:30 p.m. seating reserved for walk-ups. This reduces the chance that the lines for pie are crazy and ensures that everyone has a place to sit down. Even so, the pie line can be a place of not inconsiderable panic. With an array of different pies and no opportunity to say, as one might at a family holiday dinner, "I'll have a teeny sliver of them all," the pressure to "pick the right one" -- well, two, everybody gets two pieces of pie -- is the main factor that slows down the line.

It's not mandatory to pick one savory and one sweet slice. Two pieces of pie are your birthright, and it doesn't matter which type they are. An additional piece of pie could be purchased on a whim for $5.

Not every pie is always available. REAP Food Group Executive Director Miriam Grunes admits she didn't get pieces of some of the pies she'd had her eyes on. A wild rice and spinach quiche with blue cheese and caramelized onions from the Mermaid Cafe was quite popular, says Grunes, but I didn't see it; nor did I catch the black bean and tomatillo pie or the Moroccan nut pie.

I ended up with a slice of the leek mushroom strata (which is, arguably, not a pie at all, as it lacked a crust) from Crema Cafe and the pecan-sweet potato-cranberry pie from L'Etoile. The hit in my group of four pie-eaters, though, was the spaghetti pancetta pie from Lombardino's. A simple side salad of fresh greens dressed with a light vinaigrette, prepared by REAP supporter (and Isthmus contributor) Terese Allen offset the pastries. Apple cider and coffee were also included in the price of the ticket.

At least for this participant, Pie Palooza produced the overwhelming need to make a pie from scratch. So far I've dragged out the pie plates from the top shelf of the cupboard and located the index card with my Aunt Betty's special pie crust recipe. Now all I have to do is stop poring over recipes and decide on what to actually bake.

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