Briana Warner has used pie to bring violent youth leaders to the table in Guinea and tested her recipes on ambassadors in Belgium. But after several years of her pies playing a secondary (though complementary) role to her work as a diplomat with the U.S. State Department, Warner is now making pie her primary focus. She and her husband (a Bangor native) decided to return to home soil and settle in Portland. Earlier this month, she opened Maine Pie Line in the growing artisan stronghold that is East Bayside. The location allowed her to hit the ground running in a tight-knit food and beverage community without a huge capital investment.
Maine Pie Line is a pie-only bakery that makes a variety of unique sweet pies and savory handpies. The pies are currently available at a handful of local shops and restaurants, and are also available for local delivery.
Here are seven things to know about Maine Pie Line:
1. The slogan is "Pies like your mother never made." The pies are inspired by Warner's travels, elevating them beyond the traditional. For instance, the Drunken Cherry Pie uses cherries soaked in anise, an idea she picked up in Germany. And the savory handpies are influenced by her time in the UK, where she found delicious meat pies that made a great meal and could replace a sandwich. "They weren't the gross pasties they used to have," Warner said. "It's a different way of eating a beautiful lunch. Of course, you can top it off with a piece of chocolate pie."
2. The Maine Pie Line website offers online ordering (an alternating selection of three sweet and one savory) and Warner will personally deliver pies to locations in Portland and South Portland as long as she has 48 hours notice. "It's a great way to meet people," Warner said.
3. In partnership with Bomb Diggity Bakery (which is located in the same building, as is Urban Farm Fermentory), Maine Pie Line is offering a weekly CSB (Community Supported Bakery). Shares and half shares can be purchased by the month and include a weekly supply of sweet and savory pie, soup, bread, cookies, muffins and scones. Pickups are on Wednesday afternoons. While the haul will vary, it is guaranteed to beat a bucket of cabbage and turnips.
4. Fresh, local ingredients are used whenever possible. "I'm using organic pears that a friend picked in Bangor and the apples are from my father-in-law's farm," Warner said. Local maple syrup and honey are used as sweeteners in many of the pies. One exception: the Shoo Fly Pie, which requires molasses to achieve the proper sweetness. It's inspired by central Pennsylvania, where Warner grew up. "My dad picked one up every Saturday from the Amish."
5. "People seem to like meat pies with beer," Warner said. At a recent Portland GreenDrinks event hosted by her neighbor, Warner sold out of meat handpies very quickly. She has a mobile vendor permit, so there's a good chance the savory pies will be popping up at other local beer events.
6. The pies are also available at some local shops and restaurants. Speckled Ax and PeRx-U-Up Cafe are carrying the handpies for lunch. DiMillo's, J's Oyster and Shay's Grill Pub all carry the sweet pies for dessert. Browne Trading Company will soon offer the pies for sale.
7. Warner's former colleagues abroad miss her pies. Here's a comment left on a recent story on Maine Pie Line in The Forecaster: "Dear Pie Princess, Your colleagues at the U.S. Mission in Brussels miss you terribly. Our sweet tooths are aching for your brilliant pies. OMG! I remember the one you made at Christmas - the egg nog one. Then there was the chocolate silk and the cranberry tart, and the hundreds of others too numerous to even mention." Belgium's loss is Portland's gain.
· Maine Pie Line [Official Site]
· Rethinking Pie in Portland: Diplomat-Turned-Baker Opens Maine Pie Line [The Forecaster]
· All Coverage of Maine Pie Line [~EMAINE~]
Briana Warner shows off one of her savory pies. [Photo: Tom Minervino]