With soul music filling the air, Chocolate Pear squared off against Apple Crumb outside Mitchell branch library Monday night — and the community was the winner.
The occasion: Opening night of a five-week Monday night Beecher Park Summer Concert Series and Hi Fi Pie Contest, an annual series, sponsored by the Westville Village Renaissance Alliance, which brings families from the neighborhood and citywide onto the lawn to enjoy music and sample homemade pies, which are then judged in a competition.
Manny James and the band Soulclectic provided the music at this first installment and Caseus food truck the savory sandwiches, as people of all ages stood in line for a taste of some of the 17 homemade pies. Each week’s pie requirements follows a different theme, with Monday night’s being apple/pear/quince pies.
Cinnamon, cardamom, brown sugar butter, and of course apples went into contestant Ella Calcote’s perfect Apple Crumb pie. Inspired by her grandmother’s recipe, Calcote donated her time and pies to both serve and bake the pies to the event attendees. “This is family now,” she said.
Family definitely seemed to be the theme for the summer celebration, with generations bonding over their love of music, community, and pie. The lawn behind Mitchell Library was hardly visible under the layer of picnic blankets and swarms of pie-bearing children.
“It’s the perfect event,” said event organizer and Executive Director of WVRA Lizzy Donius. “Everybody makes it happen by baking.”
The event is branded as a friendly competition, with neighbors baking two pies each for a chance at being named the winner. With a diverse range of pies from a rich Chocolate Pear Frangipane Pie to an aromatic Orange Blossom Apple Pear Pie, the delectable assortment was sure to satisfy a range of palettes.
The event is a way of “bringing families out” as well as “people that you don’t always see all the time,” said WVRA volunteer Jaime Kane.
“What’s better than pie?” asked Naomi Senzer, colloquially known as the “Pie Boss.” Senzer searched for people with “the best palettes in New Haven” and contacted the two judges for Monday night’s competition: Kiara Matos, of Whole G bakery, and Adrienne Kane, author of the book United States of Pie.
At the end of the event, the winners were announced. The judges took the mic and crowned Libby Abraham’s Pear in a Matcha Crust with a Wasabi Glaze Pie as the winner, clearly impressed with its avant-garde approach to a basic pear pie. The second winner was Ginny O’Sullivan’s Cranberry Apple Pie, which the judges commended for being “just the right amount of tart and sweet.” Alice McGill won the junior division; Rayhan Ali was runner-up.
Regardless of the outcome, families and friends enjoyed the evening together in perfect weather. “It’s one of the things that makes Westville such a wonderful place,” said Donius.