Tag Archives: pies

Queen Elizabeth Reigns – new Empress of West Marin Piedom

Elizabeth Hill picking huckleberries.

Elizabeth Hill picking huckleberries.

By Mary Olsen

Elizabeth Hill received her crown last Saturday, acing out 12 other offerings, and will reign as Queen of Tarts, at least until the next Annual Edith Gondola Pie Baking Contest. Elizabeth won the hearts of the judges with her tantalizing huckleberry tart. The crust was buttery and flaky, not soggy or overly salty. The huckleberry filling, so appropriate for our region and time of year, was not too sweet nor too.tart. The adeptly applied indigo-blue glaze glistened.

One bite and the judges swooned. Missy Will, local caterer, and Oscar Gamez, manager of Toby’s Feed Barn, were equally impressed with Elizabeth’s creation, using one of the recipes handed down from her beloved grandmother, Norma Wells.

Queen Elizabeth recounts: “One of the fondest memories of a childhood spent in West Marin was of picking huckleberries and making my grandmother’s huckleberry tart, one of the most delicious things I have ever tasted. She was lucky she had so many grandchildren because huckleberries are tiny and picking the four cups necessary for the tart is quite an endeavor! My grandmother would rig baskets or buckets we could hang around our necks for hands free picking and off we’d go into the woods.”

Judging’s Not a piece of cake

In case you think it’s all fun and games tasting homemade pies, think again. Pie Judge Missy Will explained this stressful job. ” The role of the judge is a difficult one. Every pastry must be tasted several times and evaluated under the strict judging rules. We have to think about the taste of the fat used, the salt level, and the texture. If it is a fruit pie, the characteristics of the fruit must be evaluated. Is it at the peak of flavor and freshness? Is there too much or not enough sweetener. And very important – is it firm and easy to serve or does it run all over the plate? We are under a great deal of pressure. People are standing around salivating and wishing they could dig in with their forks. It’s difficult to concentrate and get the job done under these circumstances. However, someone’s got to do, it and I’ll be the first to sign up next year.”

Missy’s judging partner, Oscar, also took the job very seriously.
“People have put their hearts into their creations. We would like everyone to win, but of course that’s not possible. Every entry was delicious but there’s only one first place. It’s a very difficult decision. However, I’ll be back next year.”

Kerry McGrath, Mary Jo Maendle, Missy and Oscar made a formidable team. They quickly and efficiently labeled the pies and got the work done

SUBHEAD: A sweet history

Amy Whelan has been putting on food events at the market for seven years. She came up with this event as a way to honor a faithful friend of the market. Each Saturday morning Edith Gondola, a local born Olema gal, and her friend May Veloza would arrive early for good seats in the front row of the cooking demo arena. Edith Gondola died April 16, 2014. In a strange twist of fate, Edith’s dear friend, May Veloza, was not able to attend the judging. Sadly, it was the day of her husband’s funeral.

The Gondola Family was deeply appreciative of the Pie Contest and this unique way of honoring their mother and grandmother. Her daughter, Doreen Cox of Sonoma said, “Edith was my mother and I know how much she enjoyed attending the cooking demonstrations at the Farmers’ Market.

SUBHEAD: Pickle contest coming October 18

Amy Whelan said she was lucky to find Mary Jo Maendle an experienced cooking contest judge, to head up the event. Mary Jo has served as a contest judge for the Marin County Fair for years and is familiar with the standards of
Mary Jo’s contagious enthusiasm and expertise has led to a whole series of food contests. The next event will be a Pickle Contest to be held October 18. In the future look for jam and jelly and chutney contests, or whatever Mary Jo’s imagination may conjure.

 Addendum: Farmers’ Market dilemma
The Marin County Environmental Health Department’s requires that all food served at the market must be produced in either a commercial kitchen or a certified “Cottage Kitchen” – a home kitchen that has been inspected and licensed. Therefore, tastes of the pies by market goers at last week’s contest could not be allowed. Alternatives are being explored.

Norma’s Huckleberry Tart
1 cup flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup chilled butter
1 tablespoon vinegar

Pulse ingredients briefly in a Cuisinart until dough just comes together.
Press dough into a 10″ tart pan lined with parchment paper.


4 cups huckleberries, divided, 2 Cups are baked and 2 cups are added to the tart immediately after the tart comes out of the oven.

1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons flour
2 teaspoons cinnamon
pinch of salt

Mix thoroughly, pour into prepared pan. Bake 40 minutes at 400 degrees. Add the remaining fresh berries to the top. The taste and texture difference between the cooked and fresh berries is one of the greatest things about this tart.