We hereby declare this the summer of pie.
Hugh Amano, he of the unemployed chef/blogger beat, is organizing a pie-off, fresh on the heels of his first successful potluck with strangers. Exact date and location TBA, but Amano is aiming for a late June lakefront shindig.
In September, we can look forward to the now famous, fifth annual Bucktown Apple Pie Contest, which draws hundreds of spectators.
But perhaps the most visible champion of pies is Hoosier Mama Pie maven Paula Haney. Foodies citywide rejoiced when she finally opened her stand-alone shop at 1618 1/2 W. Chicago in March.
Churning out sweet and savory pies is apparently only part of what Haney does. She gamely participated in our story on having pie for your wedding. And she's going to be a judge at a June 6 pie contest, part of a fundraiser for Blue Sky Inn, a job training program for homeless youths.
We first wrote about Blue Sky Inn's Lisa Thompson in 2007. Back then, she and a few youths worked out of a rented kitchen. They sold their baked goods at a few farmers markets. Some kids worked hard. Some stopped showing up.
The program has since grown -- not by leaps and bounds, mind you, but in the nonprofit world, a little is a lot. A year ago, Thompson opened the Blue Sky Bakery & Café at 4749 N. Albany. She still only works with two to three youths at a time. The disappointments outnumber the success stories. Both of the youths interviewed in our story are still living in shelters; one of them was shot in the leg while leaving a GED class.
Thompson met Haney when both were working out of the rented kitchen. Haney had the overnight shift; Thompson and her crew would come in after her, around 6 a.m.
The two stayed in touch, and now Haney will help out at this fundraiser at Lush, 1257 S. Halsted. In addition to the pie contest, there will be picnic lunches up for auction, made by Charlie Trotter, Rick Bayless, Ina Pinkney and Randy Zweiban; and lots of wine. Admission is $12 the day of -- so even if you've never heard of Blue Sky Inn, well, it's only 12 bucks. And again, we're talking pie.
The backstory is pretty sweet, though, wouldn't you say?