November 13, 2013

Soup to Nuts: This Thanksgiving, eat some gourmet-style humble pie

Halverson’s Humble Pie, that is – one of the sweet or savory pies created by a former diplomat at Maine Pie Line.

By Meredith Goad mgoad@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

If there were ever a time for diplomacy, it’s when you’re sitting around the Thanksgiving table.

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Briana Warner at her bakery, Maine Pie Line, in Portland, with her Halverson’s Humble Pie, one of dozens of pie varieties that rotate on her menu.

Photos by John Ewing/Staff Photographer

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Warner’s Portlander hand pie contains yellow onions, portobello mushrooms, rosemary, dried cranberries and local goat cheese.

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MAINE PIE LINE

200 Anderson St., Portland

249-5121; mainepieline.com

 

BRIANA WARNER will be baking five kinds of pie for Thanksgiving:

Roasted pumpkin maple: This Thanksgiving favorite is made with actual roasted pumpkin (no canned pumpkin) and real Maine maple syrup.

Salted caramel apple: Local Maine apples tossed in homemade salted caramel sauce, and topped with a crumb crust made from oats and pecans. Drizzled with salted caramel.

Pecan bourbon pie: There is no corn syrup in this pecan pie.

Dave’s Decadence: This chocolate ganache pie is made with salted caramel sauce, olive oil and a cookie crust.

Pumpkin ginger cheesecake pie: Made with a cookie crust, this cheesecake pie has swirls of pumpkin and fresh ginger.

All pies are 9 inches and cost $25. Deadline for ordering is Nov. 25, although sooner is better. Pies will be available for pick-up from 5 to 9 p.m. Nov. 26 or from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., Nov. 27.

Maine Pie Line will also join other businesses at 200 Anderson St. to create gift baskets for the holidays. Baskets will be available for viewing at an event Nov. 20. Call or watch the website for details.

Well, this year, if you put your foot in it, put a fork in it. Just about any sticky scenario you face on Turkey Day can be smoothed over with a good slice of pie.

Trying to repair that silly rift that’s estranged you from your nephew for two years? Hand him a slice of bourbon pecan pie and ask him who he thinks will win the game.

If you must talk religion or politics at the table, go with chocolate pie – any kind, as long as it has lots of endorphin-inducing chocolate gooeyness to give your ignorant, unreasonable cousin a better personality.

Feel you need to tell the truth when your mother-in-law asks you how you liked her lumpy gravy? Lovingly hand her a slice of pimped-out apple pie before delivering the bad news.

When it comes to pairing diplomacy with good pie, no one does it better than Briana Warner, owner of the new pie bakery in East Bayside called Maine Pie Line.

Warner, 30, grew up in Pennsylvania and studied international relations and economics at Yale and George Washington University. She first started baking pies when she was dating her husband, Matt, and found out how much he loves them. But she didn’t get really serious about them until the State Department posted her to Guinea, a tiny west African country south of Senegal and north of Sierra Leone, as an economic and political officer. There was a lot of political turmoil at the time – the embassy had to be evacuated while Warner was there – and she used pie as a cultural bridge.

The daily fare in Guinea consisted mostly of rice, stewed meats and smoked fish, and no sweets.

“I had to be really creative,” Warner recalled. “I had an avocado tree outside, so I learned how to make a sweet avocado pie. I made a lot of mango pies, a lot of papaya.”

Warner would bake a mess of pies for youth groups invited to her home in Ceonakry, and she’d explain that pie is an American tradition, baked by mothers and grandmothers on holidays such as Thanksgiving.

“They loved it,” she said. “I’d talk to political leaders, and I’d bring pie. It was good public relations. Everyone wanted to hear more about it, and everyone loves a dessert.”

From there, she and her husband moved to Brussels, where Warner worked as a political officer and special assistant to the ambassador at the United States Mission to the European Union. In Belgium, Warner found lots of European tarts, but still no American-style pie. So she made them herself.

“I would make a different pie and send it out to 20 people and say ‘Come up and give me constructive criticism. Tell me what I need to change,’ ” she said.

Warner also spent a lot of time in the United Kingdom, where she learned about pasties, the traditional hand pies filled with meat and vegetables. She also traveled to Germany, Spain, Hungary and Slovenia.

“Everywhere we went, I’d have a dessert and I’d say, ‘I wonder how I could turn this into a pie?’ ” she said.

In Germany, the dessert was cherries that had been soaked in anise liqueur for a few days, a combination Warner thought would make “the best cherry pie ever.” For her version, she soaks the cherries for three days and includes cardamom as well.

At a Japanese restaurant once, Warner tasted a dessert made of chocolate meringue that had green tea ice cream on it. She worked on a pie version for years, and the result was her green tea pie – a chocolate meringue crust filled with a sweet green tea pastry cream and topped with toasted sesame seeds.

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