Are you making your own pie this year for Thanksgiving dinner, or getting yours from a bakery?
Minnesota Monthly food critic Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl has compiled her list of the best pies to go in Minnesota, from Cold Spring to Duluth to Rochester, and from plain old apple to Surly beer-chocolate-pecan.
BARS BAKERY, ST. PAUL
St. Paul's newest great bakery is known for its high-quality but delightfully simple baking. They use Hope Creamery high-fat butter from southern Minnesota, eggs from Tangletown Gardens, apples from Whistling Well Orchards near Afton, and Wisconsin cranberries. For Thanksgiving this year they're offering four pies: apple-cranberry; apple; pumpkin; and bourbon-pecan. All pies are $20, and the last day for orders is Sunday, Nov. 20.
BIRCHWOOD CAFE, MINNEAPOLIS
A perennial winner of best-pie awards, the Birchwood pioneered cooking in the local and sustainable vein, and all their pies are made with Hope Creamery butter. The pies they're offering this year are maple-pumpkin (and gluten-free maple-pumpkin); key lime; pumpkin-pear; apple-cranberry ginger; and Surly chocolate pecan. Prices range from $22-$27; last day for pre-order is Sunday, Nov. 20.
COLD SPRING BAKERY, COLD SPRING AND ST. CLOUD
The best bakery in the St. Cloud area is actually in nearby Cold Spring, but they set up a bakery kiosk in St. Cloud for the season, at the St. Cloud Crossroads mall. Thanksgiving pies at this rural bakery are a steal, $6-$10 each. They have the usual pumpkin and apple, but also classic banana cream and coconut cream, as well as old fashioned sour cream-raisin. Last day for pre-order is Monday Nov. 21.
DAUBE'S BAKERY, ROCHESTER
In Rochester, the best pies are from Daube's, especially the cheddar cheese-crust apple; the pear almond torte; the French silk; and the classic mincemeat. (Mincemeat is a spiced blend of nuts and fruit; no actual meat is used.) Prices range from $14-$20. The last day to pre-order is Tuesday Nov. 22.
HEARTLAND, ST. PAUL
James Beard-nominated chef Lenny Russo's restaurant has a to-go market that offers locavore and baked treats, giblet gravy, cranberry relish, Yukon Gold potato puree, and wild rice stuffing at $10-$12 a quart. But it also has all the classic pies, each made with local butter and local flours. Pies to pre-order include apple; pumpkin; and pecan. Prices range from $18-$20.
NEW SCENIC CAFE, DULUTH
Duluth's New Scenic Cafe is one of the best locavore restaurants in the state, and they're doing all their famous pies to go: Apple; apple-cranberry; chocolate-pecan; bourbon-pecan; and their most popular, a North Shore triple-berry blend of blackberries, blueberries, and raspberries. All priced at $25. The last day to pre-order is Monday Nov. 21.
PATISSERIE 46, MINNEAPOLIS
The winner of Minnesota Monthly's award for best bakery this year, Patisserie 46 is offering some very over-the-top foodie flights of fancy, like a pumpkin tart with Italian meringue; 24-hour slow-roasted apples in an apple tart made with hazlenut and almond flours; pecan tarts; and chocolate tarts. Most pies are priced at $25. Last day to pre-order is Sunday Nov. 20.
PATRICK'S BAKERY, RICHFIELD
A born-and-bred elite French baker who takes up the Thanksgiving spirit with gusto, Patrick Bernet of Patrick's Bakery is famous for his fluffy and spectacular meringue pies, like his cranberry meringue. He also makes both traditional pumpkin and chocolate pumpkin; bourbon pecan pie with chocolate; and all the breads and hostess-gift macarons you could ever want. Prices for pies are mostly $21-$25. Last day to pre-order is Tuesday Nov. 22.
A legendary bakery, this year offering an apple nougatine tart; a caramel-nut tart with or without cranberries; a sweet potato-pumpkin tart; and a pumpkin brioche. Prices range from $5-$30, depending on size. They have very small one- or two-person desserts, ideal for intimate Thanksgiving celebrations. Last day to pre-order is Sunday Nov. 20.
SALTY TART, MINNEAPOLIS
Another James Beard Award nominee, but for best pastry chef in the entire United States, Michelle Gayer's Salty Tart is offering an array of pies, including pumpkin chiffon; sweet potato; and bourbon-scented pecan. Prices range from $20-$24; The last day to pre-order is Monday Nov. 21.
SUN STREET BAKERY, MINNEAPOLIS
One of Minnesota Monthly's top new spots for 2011, young baker Solveig Tofte at Sun Street is making all the classics, from local-orchard apple pie to Parker House rolls. Most pies are priced at $20. The last day to pre-order is Monday Nov. 21.
TASTE OF SCANDINAVIA, NORTH OAKS, BLOOMINGTON, LITTLE CANADA
Best known as Minnesota's top Scandinavian bakery, and the best place to get from-scratch fresh lefse, Taste of Scandinavia also does all-American pies, like pumpkin with whipped cream; apple; cherry; and pecan. For a more Scandinavian treat, try the pumpkin torte covered with fall leaves, fashioned from fondant icing. Prices for pies range from $15-$17. The last day to pre- order is Tuesday, Nov. 22, but it's likely they'll have extras for walk-ins.
TURTLE BREAD, MINNEAPOLIS
This Minneapolis bakery is famous for its fresh fruit pies, especially raspberry and apple pies. They also have lots of Thanksgiving-perfect pies like pear-cranberry and bourbon-pecan. Most pies are priced at $23, which includes a $3 pie tin deposit. The last day for advance orders is Sunday Nov. 20.