While I was on spring break last week, my friends, Amanda and Emily, and I decided to take a trip to Julian, CA. Julian is an old gold mining town and home (so I’d heard) to some of the best apple pie. Ever. We had planned to hike in the nearby parks and make our way into town for pie after earning it, but days of rain prior to the trip had forced the parks to shut down all the trails. So we did what any three bright graduate students would do: we decided to put the various Julian apple pies to the test.
The first stop was Mom’s Pies, a charming little pie bakery on the main street, where you can watch pies being made by hand. The three of us each ordered a different slice of pie: Amanda went with strawberry rhubarb, Emily with apple cherry, but I was determined my first piece should be an apple crumb.
It was only 10 am, but I already wanted a second slice of this pie. It was precisely what you’d imagine an apple pie to be. I was tempted to buy a whole one to bring home, but reminded myself there were more competitors and more pies to eat.
Our second stop (after a brisk walk around the hills of Julian in the whipping cold) was Julian Pie Company, one of the most popular pie destinations in town. And I learned why.
This pie was the sweetest of the day: an apple crumb drenched in warm caramel sauce. Had it not been a few minutes shy of 11 am, we might have even opted for the large scoop of vanilla ice cream to go along side it. But we knew we had more pie eating to do.
Somehow, a few hours later and still in a sugar coma from the caramel apple crumb pie at Julian Pie, we managed to make our way to Apple Alley, another tiny bakery on the main street. One resident we spoke with that afternoon told us that she’d lived in town for 15 years, and Apple Alley was the best. Sadly, we were all too stuffed to eat anymore pie right there and then, so I had them wrap up a slice of traditional flaky apple pie (not as sweet as the apple crumb I was told) to take home.
It might have been a bit mangled, but this pie tasted exactly like the one my grandmother makes: not too sweet, good crust, nice apples.
Now the real question: if you drove me to Julian and left me on the main street with only 10 minutes to grab one pie, where would I go? Straight to Mom’s Pies.
Footnote: Technically to do this right, I need to go back to Julian and repeat this experiment again, with three slices of apple crumb pie in front of me. I was craving a bit of variety when I went, but I promise to go back and do another proper apple pie competition.