Pie Sisters in Georgetown
By Rina Rapuano
Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2012
Before they opened a pie shop in early January, the Blakely sisters followed very different career paths. Alli, 32, was in finance; Erin, 30, who goes by "Bear" - a childhood nickname - was in fashion; and Cat, 28, who still works for the State Department, was a government contractor in Baghdad.
Alli says the time apart made their common, long-held dream of selling pies more urgent. "You could hear bombs going off" when they were talking to Cat, she says. "We told her, 'Just come back here and open up a pie shop!' "
Now the Great Falls natives live in Georgetown and spend much of their time making pies, taking shifts starting at 3 a.m., and baking throughout the day at Pie Sisters, their small storefront that sits at the foot of Key Bridge, with exposed-brick walls and a jumble of vintage kitchen items on the shelves.
Many of the recipes come from their Southern-born mother who baked at home. But the sisters have been tweaking some of them since they were girls. All pie production happens on the premises. Bear specializes in fillings while Cat and Alli often roll the flaky vegetable-shortening crusts by hand - no small task as they make about 30 full-size pies in a total of nine savory and sweet varieties each day ($5.50 per slice; $7 a la mode), not including special orders, and about 800 cupcake-size pies they call "cuppies" (pronounced CUP-eez; $4 each).
Bigg Riggs Farm in West Virginia is their main source for fruit, so you won't find peach and blueberry pies in February, but there is an apple pie whose filling is heavy on the cinnamon and nutmeg and is the undisputed customer favorite. Tart cherries are flash-frozen on the farm and jarred, using the sisters' recipe that calls for a complementary hint of almond extract. Other standard menu items include airy and not-too-sweet coconut cream and silky chocolate cream pies; and Key lime, which we preferred ordering by the slice to enjoy its traditional graham-cracker crust. (The Key lime cuppie filling seemed less tart - perhaps from having less filling - and comes in a regular pie crust.)
Savory choices are slim now but will expand, Alli says; gluten-free and vegan options are also in the works. In the savory category, tomato-cheese pie with basil channels a very rich pizza; chicken potpie packed with veggies tastes faintly of nutmeg; and chili pie topped with shredded cheddar is wonderfully homey. Alli says they use the same pie crust for sweet and savories, sprinkling sugar on one and salt on the other.
Pies of the day can be heated and are listed on a chalkboard that's posted on a recessed wall behind the counter, but customers waiting in a longish line can't see the board until shortly before they order.
Full-size pies cost $14 to $37 and must be ordered at least 24 hours in advance. On the horizon are gluten-free and vegan pies, and the sisters are always experimenting with new flavors. Coffee, tea and sodas are available, as well as glasses of whole milk from Trickling Springs Creamery in Pennsylvania.
"You can basically put anything into a pie crust, and it tastes great," Alli says.
We look forward to testing that theory.