Eat This Now

Perfect Pie: Lauretta Jean’s Serious Slice

Behind serious all-butter crusts and farm-fresh produce, Kate McMillen’s new pie stand is a player.

By Karen Brooks April 13, 2011

Lauretta Jean’s chocolate pie “sliders” at the PSU Portland Farmers Market

Even on the worst of days, a pie shop can put the world back on its axis. There’s something about the smell of baked flour and butter, the beauty of fresh-crimped dough, the audacity of custard and whipped cream heaped in a pastry shell, that makes your tongue laugh.

Lauretta Jean’s doubles this happy factor with its location alone: smack in the middle of Saturday’s Portland Farmers Market at PSU. This new “shop” includes a faux pastry case starring a salvaged glass door, a mini Camp Chef oven for heating, colorful vintage serving trays, and a wooden pie locker. The personalized setting adds to the eye-popping selection of fruit or berry pies (whole or by the slice), handsome quiches, sweet little savory hand pies, and seasonal galettes, recently chunked with Japanese kabocha squash, goat cheese, and deeply caramelized onions.  

Lauretta Jean’s farm fresh fruit pies

Thirty-one-year-old Kate McMillen bakes for the Thinking Pie Person, dishing out classic American pies with careful twists and serious all-butter crusts, with secrets gleaned from her Idaho grandmother Lauretta Jean. Her formulas helped transform Random Order Coffeehouse on NE Alberta Street into Portland’s pie HQ. Now, she’s rolled out on her own, and the early results are a good reason to get out of bed on Saturday morning.

Two weeks ago, McMillen laid down a tone-perfect meatball hand pie, juggling delicate meat, hot stretchy mozzarella, a touch of tomato sauce, and a fragile skin of flaky crust. The terrific pies can be had by the slice, plain ($3.50) or with McMillen’s vanilla-bean ice cream ($5). Is there any doubt? Does anyone cares that it’s still 40 degrees when homemade ice cream is on the table?  

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And what’s not to love about chocolate cream pie “sliders,” made with three kinds of excellent Vintage Plantation chocolate (55 percent, 72 percent, and unsweetened) under a cloud of whipped cream and chocolate shavings? At $2 a pop, this is the stuff dreams—and cult followings.

Market hours are 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays. But know this: you snooze, you lose. The best stuff sells out quickly.

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