My entertaining dreams are simple. I want to throw open the doors of my Richmond Fan home to host my friends in a relaxed, fun environment – without it being too much work. When it comes to events, I tend to go overboard, but a few years ago, I found a concept for the summer bash of my dreams: a pie party! I hosted 60 people for my #meadowpieoff, judged by Metzger Bar & Butchery chefs Brittanny Anderson and Olivia Major. Here are a few tips to make your pie party an easy success.
What’s a pie party? It’s basically an open house with pie! Ask friends to bring a pie or a beverage to share, sharing food prep responsibilities. I like to add an element of good-natured competition to make it interesting by appointing a judge to evaluate the pies and award prizes.
Why pie? Everyone loves pie. Make it savory or sweet, and there are so many creative interpretations: pizza, quiche, tarts. The bounty of summer produce makes the options endless.
Related: Savory Tomato Pie Recipes
When being judgy is good. One of the most exciting elements of this party is the competition. Every year, I ask friends to serve as judges. They taste and rate the pies, we announce winners at the party and even offer prizes! It’s all in good-natured fun, but that little motivation adds a conversation point and encourages people to pull out the stops with their pies. I was lucky to have Metzger Bar & Butchery chefs Brittanny Anderson and Olivia Major serve as judges this year. They were so official – they even came prepared with spreadsheets measuring presentation, flavor, crust, the works! If there’s a local restaurant you frequent, ask the chef if they would be interested in participating. Alternatively, think of your most talented baker friend and name them the pie party judge! Our best sweet pie winner was an Indian Summer pie (peach curry) and best savory was a breakfast pie with a bourbon bacon lattice crust.
Dress your table. Your pie table will be the heart of your event. With my first pie party, I chose berry-colored flowers, a clever nod to the theme. But I was on a budget, and my small flowers were underwhelming and a touch random. This year, I came up with a more impactful – and still on budget – plan. I ordered monstera leaves from my local florist, Strawberry Fields Flowers & Finds; summer in the South is already a jungle – I went with the theme. Arrange some leaves along the surface of the table and place some in vases for height. I liked the idea that the pies would be nestled in the oversized green fronds. Add texture with flowers or air plants. I even found a light-hearted gold dinosaur vase at the florist for an element of surprise!
Another easy décor tip. Set the dress code: colorfully casual. The room will feel festive when full of friends dressed in bright colors – with zero work.
Label appropriately. This could easily be an activity for the whole family. To help identify everyone’s pies, I provided little signs on skewers which guests self-labeled upon arrival. To make the signs, unevenly brush watercolors or paint along the edge of art pad paper. I chose berry colors with dashes of silver and gold. When dry, cut the paper and tape to a skewer. The signs add some consistency and a pop of color.
Pair with beer. Pie and beer? Now you’re talking. Hardywood Park Craft Brewery is just a mile from my home, so I asked co-founder and brewmaster Patrick Murtaugh for his tips on pairing pie and beer. “Try to find resonating and contrasting flavors. Stouts and chocolate are resonating flavors, an IPA or more bitter flavors and something sweet are contrasting. Try not to overpower the flavor of the beer with the pie – or the pie with the beer.” I served Hardywood’s Virginia Blackberry white ale and Peach Tripel, which feature local ingredients, as well as Hardywood Pils; ask your local brewery for interesting pairing ideas.
That’s it! Invite friends, bake a pie and throw wide the doors. It’s the perfect time of year for laidback, delicious pie party!