The nation's best pumpkin pie is made right here in Santa CruzNow that it's pumpkin month, at 45 bay area farmers markets you can find Beckmann's Bakery's pumpkin pies, which are the best in the country.
Beckmann's, celebrating 25 years, sells its pies only at farmers markets, an operation run by Tony Stumbaugh and his boss Scott Adams. Stumbaugh was investigating ideas to increase sales and found the American Pie Council, an industry organization that aims to preserve America's pie heritage. Joining the organization, they headed to Florida and the National Pie Championships.
Transporting 20 frozen pies was the first challenge. "Everyone at the airport was looking at us funny," Stumbaugh said. "We had this giant thing packed super well with so much dry ice we were worried we were going to get arrested by Homeland Security."
Besides the contest and pie seminars was a pie festival in Celebration, Florida, a community developed by the Walt Disney Company, which featured a never-ending buffet of mass-produced desserts.
The scene was distinctly different three miles away in the ballroom of a posh hotel.
"At the resort, that's where the cream of the crop was," said Stumbaugh. "I was standing in this room where there were a thousand pies waiting to be judged. Being a pie freak I was salivating and overwhelmed all at the same time."
Beckmann's entered five flavors into the Commercial-Independent division for smaller bakeries.
"We were looking at some of the other pies that we were competing against," recalls Stumbaugh. "All the other people in the super-gourmet category have been coming year after year. Their pies were just gorgeous.
We looked like the kindergarten pie. We didn't have a lot of style. In order to compete on that scale we need to figure out the decorative front."
Stumbaugh found the Southern Hospitality welcoming and co-competitors supportive. They received accolades from their peers for placing first at their first event with the pumpkin pie, which Stumbaugh calls their prettiest; its top decorated with fancy dough leaves.
Next year, the team will bake their pies from scratch on-site to improve their chances in other categories, and not enter the locally loved olallieberry which was too foreign for the judges.
"It was very surreal this whole kind of pie culture," Stumbaugh said. "It's like finding your people, or your friends you didn't know you had."
By the end of the year Beckmann's will be shipping frozen pies from their soon-to-launch website.
Beckmann's Old World Bakery,
104 Bronson St # 6, Santa Cruz, 423-9242. Find Beckmann's pies at Live Oak, Felton and Scotts Valley farmers markets. ★★★
This fall Johnny's Harborside is selling Rodney Strong wines to benefit the Big Brothers and Big Sisters HeartMath Program. Special Thursday happy hours from 6 to 8 p.m. will be held on Oct. 4, Nov. 18 and Dec. 16 offering raffle tickets with Rodney Strong purchases.
On Nov. 11, the annual fall fundraising dinner will feature a six-course dinner with Rodney Strong wine pairings. Reservations are available now.
Johnny's Harborside, 493 Lake Ave., Santa Cruz, 479-3430. Visit johnnysharborside.com.
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