New England has a lot of quirky festivals and events but one of the quirkiest and best is the 9th Annual Pies on Parade Tour in Rockland, Maine. This annual pie festival, held in conjunction with National Pie Day (heard of that one?), showcases not only fantastic pies, but the wonderful small city that is its host.
This all started with the innkeepers of the Historic Inns of Rockland, four small inns whose owners were bored with a slow season during winter. Today the festival not only includes those four inns, but a total of 40 businesses and restaurants that celebrate and serve pies to tour participants. This year the event is on Sunday, January 27 from 1 to 5 PM, but come for the weekend, explore the Farnsworth Museum of Maine painters, superb galleries, and other attractions of the great small city.
What is a Pie : Make the definition a broad one
Think pie in its broadest sense. Think big and think delicious, and way beyond apple and blueberry. You’ll find those, of course, but the people who make this festival work use a broader palette, or is it palate? Most place involved in this fantasy serve at least one sweet pie and one savory pie, testing the senses, tickling the taste buds.
Eating Inn pies
Berry Manor Inn ( no, that is not a pun, it is the name of the family that originally built the mansion) is home base for the famed “Pie Moms” whose apple, cherry and blueberry pies are big, deep, filled with fruit and just about perfect. LimeRock Inn serves an outstanding Key Lime pie, the lime rock in the inn’s name, by the way, refers to limestone once shipped from Rockland to build the cities of the east coast.
Think breakfast pies as well. The lobster quiche I had at the Granite Inn has to have been one of the most delectable morsels of food that I have ever tasted. Thick and creamy and filled with bite-sized pieces of lobster, it was good enough to fantasize about. Captain Lindsey House served, among other things, small individual berry tarts with a creamy filling topped with fresh raspberries and blueberries.
Sampling pies all over town
Most of the restaurants and even other businesses, including the local bookstore, join in the fun. The Project Puffin Audubon Center served a fantastic cream puff that looked exactly like a tiny puffin, and at Lilly’s Café, in addition to a savory pizza, they offered a wonderful apple pizza with caramel sauce. Café Miranda also came up with a winner, a seafood and red onion pizza.
You will find focaccia, French Canadian tourtiere (traditional Quebecois pork pie, which is never that same from any French memere). You will probably also come across Sheppard’s pie, chicken pie, Cornish pasties, pirogues, and any other imaginable sort of pie, or pie-like food.
Book early to make sure you get your slice of pie
As you might imagine, it is best to book your stay for the festival as early as possible. The four sponsoring inns are all located within easy walking distance of downtown and the other participating businesses and museums. Book early at their website to ensure a space. If they are full, buy a ticket for the festival and look for a room at the Camden Harbor Inn, just up the coast in Camden. Tickets, which are limited in number, are required and can be bought from any of the inns, even if you are not staying there, but buy them early.
From the Greater Boston area take I-95 to Brunswick north of Portland and then follow Route 1 through Bath to Rockland.