Versus: Who's Got the Greater Pumpkin?

Two excellent slices of the elusive holiday pie.

The Dish: Now that Thanksgiving is behind us, just try finding a pumpkin pie in Seattle. It sells out pretty quickly around these parts, but we were fortunate enough to score some by the slice for this Versus challenge—and so will you, if you hurry! Between a classic French bakery and a mom-and-pop pie shop, which dishes it best? The Rivals: Le Panier, 1902 Pike Pl., 441-3669, PIKE PLACE MARKET. This French bakery sells a crazy number of pumpkin tarts this time of year. The dense, chilled tart (a fancy French way of saying "pie") is made with a phyllo dough base and filled with a traditional pumpkin-pie filling. But unlike your mom's pie, this dessert has a bit of a chewy texture because of the puffed-pastry crust. And while that crust doesn't exactly make it fork-friendly, it sure does have a nice mouthfeel. In fact, because the filling doesn't pull away from the crust as in most homemade pumpkin pies, you can easily eat this with your hands, like a piece of pizza. At $3.50 a slice, it's a fantastic treat on a cold winter day. 3.14 Bakery, 9602 16th Ave. S.W., 420-4784, WHITE CENTER. If you're craving a traditional homemade pie, 3.14 has you covered. This slice ($3) has everything you want and expect in a good pumpkin pie. Each one comes from a freshly baked, made-from-scratch pie, and the recipe has been handed down in the owner's family for generations. The pie is very rustic, like something you'd expect to pop out of your own oven. While you can almost feel the texture of each ingredient, the flavor is balanced, as is the crust, one of the flakiest and most buttery we've ever tasted on a pumpkin pie. The family that runs this newly opened White Center bakery has been making pies every Thanksgiving for themselves and loved ones, but this is the first year they're selling them retail. The first time we went, they were out of pumpkin pie, but promised more within the hour. When we returned, we got a piping-hot slice that smelled like cinnamon and spices. The Champ: We were lucky to have chosen two strong contenders for this challenge. Quite honestly, we've had some really bad pumpkin pies, and weren't sure what these two Seattle bakeries would deliver. Plus, more than a few establishments had run out of pie by the time we got to work, making us even more appreciative that we found two great places that were fully stocked. Back to the important stuff: The biggest difference between these two pies was construction. Le Panier's had the finesse of a French pâtisserie, refined in taste and appearance. 3.14's pie was less polished, but had a more intense flavor. It's the type of quintessential American pie they write holiday songs about, while Le Panier's is the kind you'd be proud to bring to someone's dinner party because it's beautiful and tastes good. Le Panier wins this challenge by a very narrow slice. jperry@seattleweekly.com

 
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