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Mar 14, 2011 11:56 PM

Petaluma Pie ~ All Things Pie, All the Time

Last month I finally had a chance to drop by new bakery, Petaluma Pie Company. It’s taken over the little nook that used to be Bella Luma café. It has a few seats on the public plaza with fencing around it for a defined premise where customers can consume wine and beer, as well as a counter and some café tables inside.

Love the motto here: “Men may come, and men may go . . . but pie goes on forever.” George Augustus Sala

The hand-operated eggbeaters on display are cute too. They foretell the old-fashioned, handmade, artisanal product to be found here.

A freestanding cold case houses an array of cream pies and lemon meringue. On top of the counter, a hot box keeps a variety of savory hand pies warm and ready-to-eat. Meyer lemon Shaker pie, Pink Lady apple pie, and a sugar-free apple share the stage in multi-level pie stands.

My first visit I tried a 4” Rhubarb Mini Pie, $4, warmed up. Straight, unvarnished rhubarb, in its naturally tart, refreshing brilliance unadorned by other fruits, and just barely sweetened. The very tender, almost crumbly, flakey golden crust matched the excellence of the rhubarb filling. And the bottom crust was fully cooked and not soggy. I asked whether it was strictly butter or included some shortening. The co-proprietress behind the counter asked, “Are you a baker? That’s a baker’s question.” I begged off, and she explained that the crust uses organic local butter (Straus) and non-hydrogenated vegetable shortening. There’s also a vegan crust by special order.

Then Thursday I stopped by again intending to pick up a whole cream pie ($18) to take to a dinner party. Alas, no whole ones available at that time of day, and the proprietor said he’d whip one up for me if I could return in a couple hours. I shook my head "no", and he countered with a suggestion that I select four mini-pies for $16 to have a variety of tastes. Sold!

From the cold case, I chose the lemon meringue, tangerine joy, and banana cream mini-pies. The chocolate cream, coconut cream, and almond cheesecake pies were passed over this trip for another day, but not for long. And, I repeated the rhubarb mini-pie to share with my friends. While those were being boxed up, I enjoyed Fatayir Sabanikh (Spinach Pie), filled with fresh spinach seasoned with sumac and exotic spices, a perfect late, light lunch.

The banana cream pie was our favorite of the pie sampler, and won kudos from those of us who don’t even like banana cream pie normally. Very intensely flavored yet still firmish banana slices, luscious vanilla creamy pudding-like filling, and a pale but crisp crust. The lemon meringue was also excellent with a fabulously concentrated, beautifully balanced tart-sweet lemon filling and well-browned, fancifully piped meringue. The tangerine joy (chiffon) was pleasant enough but much lighter in flavor, and seemed washed out in the company of the other two.

I love the very short, tender, tasty crust. But even more, the judicious hand with sugar, hitting just the right tone to highlight the fresh, bright and natural flavors of the fruit. Less is more was never truer. Petaluma Pie has the makings of a soon-to-be Sonoma County classic.

Petaluma Pie Company
125 Petaluma Blvd N, Petaluma, CA 94952

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  1. Visited this place on my way back from Bodega Bay. I got two mini pies: the banana cream and the chocolate cream. I agree with Melanie that the Banana cream is great. Sometimes the cream can overwhelm the pie - but, not in this case. I think there was just the right proportion of cream to banana to pudding to crust. And it wasnt too sweet (likely because the cream wasnt a big gloop at the top like on some versions of this pie) - the bananas definitely had their chance to shine.

    I wasnt so keen on the chocolate cream pie. The flavor was very light - similar to your experience with the tangerine joy. I did like the hard chococlate tear drops at the top.

    The crust was very good and as you describe - limp/pale but still crisp. It wasnt like wet cardboard or a stiff cracker - really held the pie well.

    1 Reply
    1. re: majordanby

      Glad you had a chance to try it. I noticed that Petaluma Pie had a booth at Saturday afternoon's farmers market in town. But alas, that was the last market for the season.

      I've also had apple pie here during Gravenstein season. The crust stands out these days as more bakers go to an all butter crust that tastes good, holds up well, but tends to be heavy and dense. I like the tenderness of the crust here.

    2. They are strongly considering mince meat pie for Christmas!!!

      To celebrate their first anniversary, on Sunday December 4th they are going to hava a tasting of the Christmas pies. Check that date though as I'm a cruising on about four hours sleep in two days.

      >>>I asked whether it was strictly butter or included some shortening. The co-proprietress behind the counter asked, “Are you a baker? That’s a baker’s question.”

      Or a Chowhound's question

      I am soooo sorry I didn't snap pictures because pie making was in full swing. However, my day started at 3am it, it was 1 pm, and Tuesday included a morning at the Berkeley Bowl. I couldn't see straight, never mind snapping photos.

      I wasn't paying attention to the mini in mini pie. Even though you mentioned the size, I was thinking more the size of Upper Crust, Beckman's or Berkely Bowl's small pies.

      They are the size of a frozen Swanson chicken pot pie ... and size is the ONLY thing they have in common.

      Sob ... chicken pot pie was on the menu today and they sold the last one just as I walked in.

      You did the perfect job of describing that crust. What I like about it is the way it does hold up and not get soggy. Also, it doesn't call attention to itself. It is the suporrting cast to the starring filling.

      I have to say the pumpkin pie grew on me. You were also right on target about the judicious use of sugar.

      This is not a pie full of spice ... which I like because a few pie slices I've had this year overdid it. It is the smoothest pumpkin pie I've ever had, almost light ... not whipped light ... I can't think of a comparison.

      So, I'm thinking ... this needs more sugar ... and as I'm getting to the last few bites ... it hits me ... there's probably some molasses in here ... but it is so muted and one of the best uses of molasses I've ever had.

      These are just the nicest people in the world. In a day that I frowned on Fremont Diner, this is one of the three places that were rays of sunshine on this cloudy day.

      Bought the banana creme and pecan, but we won't try them until tommorrow. I'm kind of looking forward to the pecan now. It might be really interesting if it isn't super sweet like most.

      2 Replies
        1. re: rworange

          Picked up a chocolate-coconut pie yesterday PM. Everyone at the dinner table liked it; not too sweet, with the best crust I've had in a long time. Nice people behind the counter too. Would go back to try other flavors.

        2. I went to the holiday pie tasting yesterday. Here's the holiday pie menu: mince pie, pumpkin, classic apple, honey infused quince & apple pie, Southern sweet potato pie, Shaker Meyer lemon pie, Shaker cranberry orange pie, dark molasses pecan pie, chocolate coconut.

          Not part of the pie tasting, but we had the chicken pot pie, hot chocolate and hot cider. All great.

          The pie that seemed least interesting to me turned out to be the clear winner: chocolate coconut.

          I went with a friend whose tastes doesn't run normally to upscale, local or organic. Let's say she gave me the organic hot chocolate mix from Grocery Outlet because it tasted too healthy and the kids missed the HFCS. So when she likes something I am pretty clear everyone will like it.

          We both took a taste of of the chocolate coconut and at the same time did an OMG, this is great. As she said there is usually something off with chocolate and coconut pie. However, this had great chocolate flavor and lots of fresh coconut topped with their fabulous whipped cream.

          The mince was good,Unfortunately they don't have hard sauce with it. Actually they don't seem to have even heard of hard sauce. The Shaker orange was ok. Maybe the sample wasn't large enough of the Shaker orange for me to appreciate it. The photo on the website looks wonderful.

          The pie tasting was a bit awkward. It was in the tiny shop. They didn't have a posted list. Even with five people in the shop at the time it was sort of crowded.

          They make a nice chicken pot pie. They also started making wild salmon pie which I want to try next. There was a generous portion of good-tasting chicken, fresh-tasting peas, carrots in a thin sauce.

          The friend was also impressed with the apple cider and told me to take a sip. It was excellent with a deep cider flavor not overwhelmed by spice. One of the best I've ever had.

          Also, the hot chocolate is vote for best of the Bay Area. No screwing around with exotic ingredients. Just a straight forward classic prep. So satisfying. More in this post

          In previous visits I had some hand pies which so far haven't wowed me. Both the apple and blue cheese as well as the mushroom with cheese were heavy on the produce and the cheese being just a background note. I liked the mushroom oddly enough when it was cold.The third photo is the mushroom pie, the last the apple.

          One photo I missed was the round of compressed chocolate disks like those used in real Mexican hot chocolate. I didn't look closely and was going to rely on the photo for the brand. Looked interesting though with a few variations.

          1. Last weekend I dropped by Petaluma Pie. The seating area's smaller now with part of it repurposed to an increased production area. I was told this happened a year ago. It's open 7 days a week now, and the variety of pies offered daily has increased.

            I was lucky to stumble onto one of the series of holiday pie tastings and got a chance to sample the sweet potato pie topped with fresh Straus whipped cream. Wonderful, maybe the best sweet potato pie I've every had, tending toward a spicy flavor profile with a noticeable amount of nutmeg but not so much that it becomes harsh.

            I also bought a tiny pumpkin pie for comparison sake, and while this was excellent in its own right, I preferred the sweet potato pie. I took home a pecan mini pie, and this had a problem. The filling separated into a liquid phase and a gritty crystallized portion. Plentiful nuts, and of course the crust is always great, but the custard part of the filling was only set around the rim. I'm wondering if anyone else has tried the pecan pie and if this might be a one off. The recipe does not include corn syrup, so is considerably less sweet, but I've had few non-corn syrup versions that have acceptable texture, including this one.

            The next pie tasting will be Saturday Nov 30 -- brandy mince pie.

            1. Yesterday I returned to Petaluma Pie expecting to pick up a mini sweet potato pie. But alas, none available. The owner said that they make sweet potato just about every day but somehow did not on Monday. The special pie of the day was quince-apple, so I bought that instead at $5 for a mini. This is a double crust pie with the top looking like a beret with a small pastry leaf added as decoration. A lot of style for something so little. And predictably, this was wonderful with firmish barely sweetened fruit and the light and tender crust.

              I also got a handpie for the road. Tuna melt appealed to me for some reason, $4.95, 4" across, and available hot straight out of the warming oven. The crust is crumblier, tastes more buttery, and is rolled thicker than what's used in the pan pies. The tuna was seasoned with diced celery, whole grain mustard and capers that also added texture, and had a layer of melted Swiss cheese. Really delicious.

              I regret not buying a pot pie (6", $6.95) so that I wouldn't need to cook today.