Last month I finally had a chance to drop by new bakery, Petaluma Pie Company. It’s taken over the little nook that used to be Bella Luma café. It has a few seats on the public plaza with fencing around it for a defined premise where customers can consume wine and beer, as well as a counter and some café tables inside.
Love the motto here: “Men may come, and men may go . . . but pie goes on forever.” George Augustus Sala
The hand-operated eggbeaters on display are cute too. They foretell the old-fashioned, handmade, artisanal product to be found here.
A freestanding cold case houses an array of cream pies and lemon meringue. On top of the counter, a hot box keeps a variety of savory hand pies warm and ready-to-eat. Meyer lemon Shaker pie, Pink Lady apple pie, and a sugar-free apple share the stage in multi-level pie stands.
My first visit I tried a 4” Rhubarb Mini Pie, $4, warmed up. Straight, unvarnished rhubarb, in its naturally tart, refreshing brilliance unadorned by other fruits, and just barely sweetened. The very tender, almost crumbly, flakey golden crust matched the excellence of the rhubarb filling. And the bottom crust was fully cooked and not soggy. I asked whether it was strictly butter or included some shortening. The co-proprietress behind the counter asked, “Are you a baker? That’s a baker’s question.” I begged off, and she explained that the crust uses organic local butter (Straus) and non-hydrogenated vegetable shortening. There’s also a vegan crust by special order.
Then Thursday I stopped by again intending to pick up a whole cream pie ($18) to take to a dinner party. Alas, no whole ones available at that time of day, and the proprietor said he’d whip one up for me if I could return in a couple hours. I shook my head "no", and he countered with a suggestion that I select four mini-pies for $16 to have a variety of tastes. Sold!
From the cold case, I chose the lemon meringue, tangerine joy, and banana cream mini-pies. The chocolate cream, coconut cream, and almond cheesecake pies were passed over this trip for another day, but not for long. And, I repeated the rhubarb mini-pie to share with my friends. While those were being boxed up, I enjoyed Fatayir Sabanikh (Spinach Pie), filled with fresh spinach seasoned with sumac and exotic spices, a perfect late, light lunch.
The banana cream pie was our favorite of the pie sampler, and won kudos from those of us who don’t even like banana cream pie normally. Very intensely flavored yet still firmish banana slices, luscious vanilla creamy pudding-like filling, and a pale but crisp crust. The lemon meringue was also excellent with a fabulously concentrated, beautifully balanced tart-sweet lemon filling and well-browned, fancifully piped meringue. The tangerine joy (chiffon) was pleasant enough but much lighter in flavor, and seemed washed out in the company of the other two.
I love the very short, tender, tasty crust. But even more, the judicious hand with sugar, hitting just the right tone to highlight the fresh, bright and natural flavors of the fruit. Less is more was never truer. Petaluma Pie has the makings of a soon-to-be Sonoma County classic.
Petaluma Pie Company
125 Petaluma Blvd N, Petaluma, CA 94952