“I say make the whole dinner a pie,” said my friend May when I asked for Thanskgiving pie suggestions. “Patton Oswalt may have been right about KFC’s Famous Bowls being failure piles, but that’s because they didn’t have a warm pastry crust surrounding everything. Head up to Betty’s Pie Whole in Encinitas (760-230-6781) and you’ll see what I’m saying.”
“We sell our Thanksgiving Pot Pies ($45) from November 1 through December,” said the pie clerk. (All pies nine inches unless otherwise specified) “It has a shortbread crust. The filing consists of turkey, mashed potatoes, green beans, and stuffing. It’s served with your choice of cranberry or chipotle sauce.” That covered pretty much everything except dessert. “For something sweet,” suggested the clerk, “try the pecan pie ($25). It’s super-nutty with a butterscotchy filling, and our crust is of course made with real butter. For those who want a traditional pumpkin pie we have either a crumble top ($25) or whipped cream top ($20).
Betty’s has a crumble-top apple ($25), double-crust apple ($28), and caramel apple pecan bread pudding pie ($24) — along with berry and chocolate offerings ($25-$28). “And we offer take-and-bake uncooked frozen pies for that fresh-out-of-the-oven experience: apple crumble ($24), cherry lattice ($28) and strawberry rhubarb ($28).” Please give one week’s notice on pie orders.
“As long as you’re heading north, check out Debbie’s Restaurant and Pie Shoppe in San Marcos (760-741-5680),” said Sharon. “We’ve been here 20 years,” says owner Debbie Bamford, “and we’ve been using the same pie crust recipe that whole time. It’s shortening-based, which makes for a very flaky crust. We make all the crusts and fillings here in the shop.” The secret to good pie? “It has to be made with love. Our most popular Thanksgiving pies are pumpkin and pumpkin pecan. The pumpkin pecan is like a traditional pecan pie, except we add a layer of pumpkin filling on top before we bake it. We also have a regular pecan pie and a pecan chocolate chip. In the apple department, we have traditional and Dutch crumble. Those are the most popular after the pumpkin.” Bamford also offers a variety of berry and cream pies. (Her personal favorite for every day is lemon meringue; she favors pumpkin at Thanksgiving.) All pies are $13.50. Hours are Monday through Sunday, 6 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Closed Thanksgiving Day. Please give shop 72 hours notice for all pie orders.
Bamford’s pecan chocolate chip reminded me of the fantastic chocolate pecan pie I picked up last year at Twiggs Bakery and Coffee House in Normal Heights (619-296-4077). “Yes, that’s a popular one,” said the clerk when I called. “It’s got pecan, chocolate, brown sugar, and bourbon.” ($22). Other popular holiday pies include pecan ($19.50), pumpkin ($15), apple with a crumble top ($15.50), and sweet cherry ($19.50) (All pies nine inches.) “We do keep extra pie in the store during the holidays,” said the clerk, “but it’s first-come, first-serve. Your best bet is to place an order about a week ahead of time. Also, we usually have our five-inch two-person pumpkin mini-pies; they’re great if you don’t have a crowd, or if you want to give our pie a test run before the big day.”
Heidi at Bear Buns Bakery in Serra Mesa (858-573-2327) boasted that her pumpkin pie ($13.50) was “really spiced up. It’s got a good amount of nutmeg, cinnamon, and pumpkin spice. And the crust is very flaky. We also have apple crumble ($15.50), pecan ($16.50), and sweet cherry ($19.50).”
My most surprising tip came from Kelly. “We make tons of apple pie for Thanksgiving. But when it comes to pumpkin, we go to Costco ($5.99). As my son Tom says, they’re big, cheap, and plentiful, and if you add a dollop of fresh whipped cream, no one will know it’s from a giant general store. When I go, I see customers pulling pumpkin pies off the shelves, palate after palate of pumpkin pies. Year after year, they keep coming back. They can’t all be wrong. Heck, my old friend Kate buys them. She’s got money, lived in University Heights her whole life. She could buy pumpkin pie from any boutique bakery around, but for her, it’s Costco for the holidays.”