Pie Time Again

We can’t let summer slip into rain without one of the best parts of the season: blackberry pie! Especially when my mom comes up to teach the technique, and my brother brings his kids to help out and partake. That’s my niece, Nora, Mom, and Skyla teaming up to perfect the lattice crust, above. One of the benefits of slacking off on yard maintenance around here is that the blackberries–a hated, thorny, aggressive, invasive species 11 months of the year–now make for easy picking without leaving home. The kids teamed up to gather a bucket of berries, then Mom showed us all the secrets to the light, flaky, savory crust we love. The masterpiece, below. So good. The best dessert around, and potentially even better for breakfast. If we’re lucky enough to enjoy another dry stretch, should be one more push of ripening berries. Make and eat as many pies as you can! And don’t forget the vanilla ice cream.

Family Fun

My brother and his family came out from Brooklyn, and my mom came up from California for some good Pacific Northwest fun. We spent time on the water for a little fishing–that’s my niece, Nora and me multi-tasking with boat-driving selfie–and mostly just enjoyed our time together. The cousins, Skyla, Weston, Nora and May, live in such different worlds, and see each other only a few times a year, but they love each other so much it lifts my spirits just to watch them together.  I am so thankful for our family, and for the NY and Cali members to make the effort to be here.

We went berry picking, and the kids teamed up with their grandma to learn the secrets of making The Greatest Pie In The World.

Just the smell of the pie cooking took me back to my childhood, and when it came out of the oven, we could hardly wait for it to cool. This is the pie I dream about–crisp, flaky, tender, savory crust and sweet, slightly tart blackberry filling. The very taste of August in the Northwest. Now…if the kids just learned enough to make it again themselves, I think we can squeeze in a few more before the weather turns. If only the whole family could be here to enjoy it!

Birthday Gluttony, Continued…

More people cooking for me. Awesome. This time the whole crew at DTF.

More people cooking for me…awesome. This time the whole crew at DTF.

To really top off the birthday celebration–I know, I was milking it–we headed into Seattle for a little time at the Burke Museum, some back-to-school shopping, and then…wait for it…DIN TAI FUNG! Kind of a tradition the last couple years, and I haven’t been back since the last birthday, but I’ve been dreaming about those soup dumplings for an entire year.

Ta-Da! Shanghainese soup dumplings--xiao long bao--at DTF.

Ta-Da! Shanghainese soup dumplings–xiao long bao–at DTF.

And they did not disappoint. Tender noodle wrappers that burst with ginger-y pork broth when you bite into them. Actually, everything at DTF is pretty mind blowing. We also had the subtle, delicate won ton soup, a lightly pickled red-chile cucumber salad, savory seaweed salad, crispy potstickers and the hand-cut noodles. And more soup dumplings. All of it with an exceptional intensity of flavor you just don’t experience anywhere else. Hard to believe this is a chain restaurant, but if you’re ever in the area, it’s more than worth the wait.

Mom's blackberry pie, vanilla ice cream, my two best buddies and their goofy dad. Great day.

Hey look, the goofball in the middle is only one-year old.

When we returned home, it was, of course, pie time. Did I mention this is The Greatest Pie In The World? Oh, man. The perfect ending to a fantastic birthday. And on that note, I think I better go jogging now.

Birthday Pie Making


My mom came up to celebrate my birthday with us, and we wasted no time in putting her to work. First on the agenda: My favorite pie in the entire world.  Of course, it started with a picking session. I was concerned that the berries might be waterlogged or moldy after the hard rain we had Friday, but we went to our favorite cut-leaf blackberry patch and found them in perfect shape. (Cut-leaf berries are firmer than the ubiquitous Himalayas, so they hold their shape better for baking and and stand up to rain. They also have a more intense, complex flavor.)


Back at home, Weston learned the art of the perfect filling.


While Skyla absorbed the secrets of the perfect crust. Oh, that crust!


All three teamed up to put the pie together. Then we had to wait 40 minutes while it baked.


And voila! The greatest pie in the world. The crust: crisp, flaky and tender at the same time. The filling: tart and sweet. And with four helping hands, it was the fastest my mom ever made a pie. Meanwhile, I just kicked back, watched, learned and let my mouth water. What a birthday present. Thanks, Mom!

A brief commercial message: My mom’s pie recipe–it should really be called “The Greatest Pie In The World”–which she adapted from her mom’s recipe, will be included in the second edition of Closer to the Ground. Available in October.