YPSILANTI PIE WALK TAKES THE CAKE

(We’re posting this from on board Sustainable Table’s bio-fueled bus where we've joined them for the final leg of their Eat Well road trip today, winding up a cross-country trek that’s celebrated our nation's most sustainable farms and restaurants, along with America’s best homemade pies. We’ll be visiting some Hudson Valley farms, orchards and a vineyard on the way to the Harvest Barbeque this evening at Gigi Market in Red Hook, where the road tour’s final pie contest will take place. We’ll have a hard time topping the pies served up in Michigan, though, according to Sustainable Table founder Diane Hatz, who blogged that “Ypsilanti just might win for best event of the tour!”)

Guest blogger Heidi Kumao, an artist and educator at the University of Michigan School of Art and Design, covered Sustainable Table’s stop in Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti, Michigan for Eating Liberally, and got to taste the pies Diane raved about. Heidi’s no stranger to fabulous pastries; she and her husband Michael created a 6,000 Volt Wedding Cake to commemorate their electrifying union. Here is Heidi's post:

The Sustainable Table gang rolled through Ann Arbor, Michigan last Saturday, Sept. 1 and I shadowed them for the whole day, taking in all kinds of tasty, edifying tidbits about local food and farming along the way. Sustainable Table was ably hosted by Slow Food Huron Valley and Project Growing Hope, a local organization "dedicated to helping people improve their lives and communities through gardening." Based in Washtenaw County, Michigan, they work with neighborhoods, schools, community groups, and families to develop and sustain gardens.

Over the course of the day, the tour wound its way from our famous local deli, Zingermans, to the Ann Arbor People's Food Coop (hosts of a recent talk by Anna Lappe) and on to Ypsilanti (gotta love that name!) to the Ypsi Food Coop and a Project Growing Hope community garden. The day had a grand finale at the Ypsilanti Ladies Literary Club where the "Pie Lovers Unite" extravaganza took place.

Having the Sustainable Table folks visit our area helped introduce me to the many groups that care about local farms and food. I learned a little more about how Food Coops work (guided by their membership!) and the fact that some food coops (not ours!) actually carry COKE--because that's what their members want!

The Ypsi Coop was really impressive on a number of fronts. Adam Chase, their Educational Coordinator, provided a delightful overview with tons of interesting information: the bakery's wood-fired oven uses only old wood palettes for its fuel, thus never sacrificing a tree for the yummy bread. This Coop has 4 solar panels on its roof, generating a small (it's a start!) portion of their electricity. It sells herbs and greens grown by kids at the Growing Hope Gardens as well as eggs raised by a local small farmer in the city (yes, chickens in the city!). Google Peter Thomason's battle to have chickens in the city, the Michigan "Right to Farm Act" and the IRS definition of "farmer."

We visited West Middle School where Project Growing Hope has a community garden and I learned that there are 27 community or school gardens in Washtenaw County!

The day ended with a grand pie celebration, inspired by Sustainable Table's Pie Tasting Tour and creatively organized by Kim Bayer and Slow Food Huron Valley. Diane from Sustainable Table complimented the organizers and said that the Ypsi event might be one of the best events on the tour so far!

People were invited to bring pies for the pie contest and to share recipes. There were 4 judges and many willing tasters (me included!).

Below: the judging table. There were approximately 32 entries.

The pies were all placed on a giant dining room table (see below) and everyone feasted! Everyone helped themselves to seconds and even thirds, and there were STILL leftovers!


At the end of the night, the judges awarded prizes for different top pies: most local, best savory, best taste, most creative. Each winner received an apple basket filled with local ingredients to make an apple pie: local apples, local flour, local sugar, etc. Below, Kim Bayer and the prize baskets.

Overall, a terrific day!