Geneva Anderson digs into art

Dish: Petaluma Pie Company–a couple’s passion for baking, filmmaking and community converge in scrumptious pie. Grand opening is Saturday

Angelo Sacerdote and Lina Hoshino are opening the Petaluma Pie Company on Saturday, December 18, 2010, in Petaluma's Helen Putnam Plaza, in the space formerly occupied by Bella Luma Caffe. Photo: Geneva Anderson

Turns out that opening a pie shop is not as “easy as pie” but for filmmakers and bakers Angelo Sacerdote and Lina Hoshino, it is a step towards realizing their dream of having a business that expresses their values about food and community.  The Petaluma couple’s  Petaluma Pie Company has its grand opening tomorrow from 1 to 4 p.m. in the space formerly occupied by Bella Luma Caffe in Helen Putnam Plaza.  Petaluma Pie Company will specialize in serving sweet and savory pies, along with soup, salad, coffee, tea, beer and other beverages.  You may have already tried a slice during the past two weeks–the company’s “pie-let” period—when they were experimenting with pies and eliciting feedback. 

“We are trying to bring together all our values and contribute to the local economy,” explains Lina Hoshino.  “We moved here from Penngrove two years ago, bought a house, and we are big gardeners and we grow beyond what we can eat.  How do we deal with our surplus, keep things delicious, wholesome, local, and generate an income and deliver products that are affordable for people?  Petaluma Pie is a convergence of those ideas and the interesting challenge of trying to incorporate these values into real life practices.  Pie is our starting point.”

While the effort is truly collaborative in terms of dreaming up ideas for pies, Angelo Sacerdote is credited as the baker, responsible for the crusts and fine tuning of their ideas into actual pies and recipes that can reliably be replicated in small batches.  Sacerdote has a long history in food that is intertwined with creative work about food.  After stints as a cook and as a produce buyer in Upstate New York and interviewing dozens of people in the food industry, Sacerdote became passionate about how genetically engineered crops have been incorporated into our food supply without our knowledge.  His 2002 documentary “Fed Up! Genetic Engineering, Industrial Agriculture, and Sustainable Alternatives,” (Best of Festival documentary award, 2004 Berkeley Video and Film Festival) revealed that about 70% of the food we eat contains genetically modified ingredients that don’t appear on food labels and explored the lobbying interests behind this.  The project took him to California where, for the past ten years, he worked at Bay Area Video Coalition (BAVC), a media non-profit organization. He used their editing facilities and had his documentary closed-captioned in exchange for apple pies. Locally, he volunteered with the nonprofit Petaluma Bounty and loved its community gardens and commitment to local food self-sufficiency and community building. “We are really excited about supporting local food systems and we’ve got some friends who are starting to get involved in local initiatives too and the dream is to work together.” 

Lina Hoshino is a filmmaker and graphic designer of Japanese and Taiwanese ancestry who spent her teen years working in the family restaurant in New Jersey and then studied art at Carnegie Mellon University and became a filmmaker.  Her most recent film, is “Leap of Faith: How Enmanji Temple was Saved,” (link to YouTube film clip), a 20 minute documentary about how Sonoma County youth put their bodies on the line during WWII to protect Sebastopol’s Enmanji Japanese Buddhist Temple from being burned down during the period of forced Japanese incarceration.  “I’m trying to push the envelope into Asian- inspired foods but I don’t call myself a baker in the sense that Angelo does.”  

Flipping through a children’s book of fairy tales and rhymes, Hoshino shows me numerous pie references, many of which are British.  “Pie is not just a British thing,” she says, “it’s eaten all around the world and pie is a good way to explore other cultures.  Of course in Asia, China, Hong Kong they have those custard pies—a remnant of the colonization—but there are many other pies too.  In Japan, too, there are numerous interpretations.”

Demand for Petaluma Pie Company's Chocolate pie has been intense. The pie is mede from ingredients sourced locally and has an eceptionally flaky crust. Photo: Geneva Anderson

The timing for Petaluma Pie is perfect.   Christmas is just around the corner; Petaluma has become a foodie destination; and pie, which has been around forever, has been acknowledged in foodie circles as “the new cupcake.”   In the past couple of months alone, there have been articles in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and San Francisco Chronicle journaling pie’s ascension to the top of the dessert summit.  There are pie centric shops opening up all over the country and Sacerdote and Hoshino seem to have nailed it with their diverse menu that updates old favorites and includes new interpretations.    

 “We’ve taken Petalma’s pie pulse,” explained Sacerdote.  “Chocolate is a favorite, of course, but a surprising number love plain rhubarb pie, lemon meringue and lemon-oriented things and banana cream pie.  These are favorites that we’ll offer most of time.  We will also offer a few fruit but mainly vegetable-based savory turnovers that are a wholesome meal to go.”

Saturday’s menu will feature about 6 pies—available for purchase as 9 inch pies or by the slice: walnut pie, Shaker meyer lemon pie, banana cream pie, Fuji apple pie, chestnut pumpkin pie.  Savory pies (turnovers) will include:  cheese and onion pie, mixed mushroom pie. Savory pot pies will include: seitan mushroom pot pie (vegetarian) and smoked salmon pot pie.

Sacerdote did not go to culinary school but his hands-on experience started very early. “I did a long stint with Julia Child.  I’d watch her on TV, cook, and just experiment. I’m trying new ideas out all the time.”    Hoshino loves to experiment too and is working hard to perfect a green tea cheesecake.

Sacerdote will have one “super awesome flaky crust” using a combo of butter and palm oil.  He’s tweaked the classic culinary school recipe—butter or lard, water, flour and a pinch salt.  An all butter crust was out for cholesterol issues.  His ingredients: Giusto’s (South San Francisco) organic pastry flour, Straus Creamery butter and Spectrum organic sustainable palm oil shortening.   “It’s all about ratios and finding the right ingredients that work for what you want to do.  I mix butter and palm oil together so that there are still some larger pieces of fat in there that create the pockets that make the crust flaky while tenderizing and moisture-proofing the dough.  We are small but still are making several crusts at once and I needed something that was completely reliable.”

The mushroom and goat gouda hand-pie at Petaluma Pie Company is one of several small batch daily baked savory pies that can serve as satisfying meals in themselves. Photo: Geneva Anderson

Sacerdote does the preliminary dough rollout by hand then has some mechanical assistance from a dough sheeter for the turnovers that require exceptionally thin crusts.  “In our early hand-rolling experiments, we had too much crust.  “We found that if we get the crust really thin, then the flavorful ingredients are the focal point rather than the crust itself.”

Gluten free in the Pipeline: There have already been requests for vegan, no sugar, and gluten free pies. Sacerdote has perfected a gluten free crust using sorghum and rice flour that tastes fantastic and has an excellent texture and will be offering gluten free pies shortly.  The company is currently offering a vegetarian seitan (wheat gluten)  mushroom pot pie which is a delicious alternative to the traditional and somewhat tired soybean-based meat alternatives .

“We have a huge garden for a small property and we’re experimenting.” said Hoshino.  “We’re going to be using a lot of seasonal things so the menu will be changing constantly.”  So far, the couple grows heirloom squashes, pumpkins, kale, green onions, garlic, rhubarbs and berries– loganberries, raspberries, blackberries.  They have planted fig, pomegranate, persimmon, apple, pear, and walnut trees. They plan to augment what they don’t produce with local suppliers–Petaluma Bounty, local farmers and suppliers like Gourmet Mushrooms, Inc. in Sebastopol for organic exotic mushrooms.

Sacerdote pops up to show me a gorgeous French heirloom“Potimarron” pumpkin they grew.  Its name is derived from the French  “potiron,”for pumpkin, and “marron,” for chestnut, which are the two characteristic flavors of this particular pumpkin which is perfect for baking.  Hoshino shows me, a “Shishi gatani,” an heirloom Japanese Kabocha (pronounced kuh-boh-cha) or winter squash with a bumpy but lovely hour-glass shape.   The shishi gatani has a brilliant yellow-orange flesh, like a pumpkin’s, with a texture similar to a sweet potato and a sweet and slightly nutty flavor which makes it

With their warm colors and non-traditional shapes these locally-grown heirloom squash are not just decorative. Known for their amazing flavors, they are a primary ingredient in the delicious savory pies made by Lina Hoshino and Angelo Sacerdote at Petaluma Pie Company. Photo: Geneva Anderson

exceptional for baking applications.  It’s high in the antioxidant beta carotene and low in calories.  In Japan, the squash is often referred to as a Japanese pumpkin.  Hoshino uses the shishi gatani is the Japanese curry pie along with apples and vegetables.  Japanese curry is sweeter than most Indian curries and in Japan it is a comfort food which is popular but rarely made from scratch.

When you visit PPC, don’t get so carried away by the awesome pie aromas that you forget to look around.  Check out the cool “pie mirrors” on the walls made from pie pans lined with mirrors and the light shades made out of inverted mason jars.

 There’s also a wall where customers can grab a card and post their favorite pie tales.  When I last visited, there were a half dozen of so pie pales up.   “The fascinating thing about pie is that everyone has a story about pie, usually from their childhood.” said Hoshino.  “We’re filmmakers and we’re both really into stories and we’re thinking of offering a prize, a pie, for the best story.  We also have the opportunity to organize art exhibits this summer in the Helen Putnam Plaza and are looking for artists and performers who might be interested in that.”

Santa delivers a new sign: In November, the Petaluma Pie Company first made the local news when its custom-designed 3-D hanging sign was stolen, presumably as a Halloween prank.  The sign never turned up and the couple could not afford to replace it.  Earlier this week, the sign makers, Carleen Weirauch and Robert Moeller with Duncan Design Inc. in Santa Rosa, generously gifted them with a fabulous new 3-D sign to replace the missing one.  

Petaluma Pie Company's interior is warm and inviting. Owners and pie bakers Angelo Sacerdote and Lina Hoshino have created pie mirrors, a wall for customors favorite pie stories and a menu that will feature a mix of sweet and savory pies. Photo: Geneva Anderson

“It’s a crazy adventure,” says Sacerdote. “We have one oven right now and that means we will have to bake constantly– before, during and after hours—to keep up with demand and we also have to figure out how many pies to bake.” 

ARThound says “BAKE! BAKE! BAKE!”…it will probably be raining on Saturday and nothing beats a slice of warm hearty pie on a cold wet day.

Details: Follow your nose!   The Petaluma Pie Company, 125 Petaluma Blvd. North, Suite D, (formerly occupied by Bella Luma Caffe)  in Helen Putnam Plaza, on Petaluma Blvd. North, has its grand opening this Saturday, December 18, 2010, from 1 to 4 pm. 

Live music from Sweet Penny Royals, free pie samples, mulled wine and ciders.  Phone: (707) 347-9743.

Petaluma Pie Company's Lino Hoshino has been talking pie with customers for the past two weeks to get a sense of Petaluma's pie pulse. Photo: Geneva Anderson

December 17, 2010 Posted by | Art | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment