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Great American Pie-Off Comes to Hell's Kitchen

By Della Hasselle | September 23, 2011 1:23pm

HELL'S KITCHEN — Pie-lovers can stuff themselves with some of the city's best desserts Saturday when New Yorkers put their baking skills to test at a competition in Midtown.

The "Fourth Great American Pie-Off," hosted by the New York Theatre Experiment, will take place at Reunion Surf Bar when Top Chef Just Desserts host Johnny Luzzini judges dozens of pies ranging from rich desserts like apple custard to meat-filled dinner pies.

Food editor Jordana Rothman will also join the owners of the Big Gay Ice Cream Truck, located on the Lower East Side, to judge this year's event, with proceeds going to the kids music program "Lift Every Voice."

The event promises to be as eclectic as last year since there are no restrictions about what kind of pie contestants can enter.

Past entries have included traditional apple and lemon cream, as well as rich pies like caramel chocolate truffle, cafe au lait, chocolate-whipped cream concoctions and a Macaroon pie filled with ganache.

The pies also fell into more savory categories last year when New York bakers made creations such as pizza dough and meat pie, Mexican Shepherd's Pie, and paparadella Bolognese pie with a pinenut and fennel crust.

Some returning contenders have made an annual tradition out of the event, determined now more than ever to finally win one of the many prizes including restaurant gift certificates, a necklace from Oscar de la Renta, sunglasses from Tiffany & Co. and Broadway tickets.

New York blogger "Zesting the Pith" will enter his third pie in a row, after previously contributing a Macaroon pie with graham cracker crust, macaroon filling and ganache.

His other contribution was "a Chekhov Cherry Pie that includes three types of cherries (Ranier, Bing & Sour) in a vodka sauce, with a bottom crust inspired by Russian black bread and a birch forest lattice with a seagull alit on top."

"Neither of those pies won, but they were both totally delicious," the blogger wrote. "Although the judges made bad decisions when I last entered, I shan’t be detered this round."

Regardless of who wins, Facebook fans have been drooling in anticipation of the event for months.

"YES. PIE. YES," pie fan Shantha Susman commented.

The owners of Big Gay Ice Cream agree.

"Any cause that helps at-risk kids through music is one that really gets our attention, and to help them via PIE?" Bryan Petroff and Doug Quint wrote on their blog. " I mean, there’s no way we could refuse this."

The NYTE's 2011 Great American Pie-Off is at Reunion Surf Bar on 630 9th Ave and 44th St. on Saturday from 4-7 p.m. Entrance is $10 for two pie tastings and $20 for unlimited tastings.