Best of Sacramento 2013: Food & Drink

Best pie for dessert—or breakfast: Kira O’Donnell’s Real Pie Company

photo by ryan donahue

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Pie lovers—are there any pie haters?—are rejoicing the return of Kira O’Donnell’s Real Pie Company. Her original storefront had an enviable problem: It was too busy. O’Donnell was not prepared for the lines and pressure, and she closed the shop after 12 months.

Now, she’s back—but not better than ever, because her pies already were perfection the first time around.

O’Donnell is taking things slow and will be selling her pies two days a week out of the gate. Avoiding the complications that come from maintaining a storefront, she’ll be vending from the East Sac Mercantile, a consortium of businesses all under the same roof. She’ll be featuring some late-summer stone-fruit pies and then easing into autumn with apples, figs, quinces, persimmons and walnuts.

Grandma Margaret taught O’Donnell to bake, and she even uses her rolling pin to roll out the pie dough. “I’d like to think her spirit is with me when I bake pies,” O’Donnell said. She honed her baking skills in a few different restaurant kitchens, including Chez Panisse.

A self-described “control freak,” O’Donnell constructs all the pies herself; she only allows her employees to do the fruit prep and roll the dough.

She’s been asked many times, but won’t share the secret to her tender crust, except to say that it’s composed of only flour, butter, salt and water. Somehow, she takes that simple mixture and creates a dessert that is not only delicious, but gorgeous to look at.

I will never forget a mixed-berry pie I got from Real Pie Company in 2008. It had star shapes cut out of the flaky, browned crust, and the deep-purple juices had bubbled through, and it was just as good with coffee for breakfast as it was after dinner. I’ve eaten a lot of desserts in my time and forgotten most of them—except maybe my grandma’s ambrosia (which I wish I could forget)—but this was a pie to remember. Now that O’Donnell is back, I can pack away my memories and get back to eating Real Pie. East Sac Mercantile, 3257 Folsom Boulevard; (916) 705-9621;