Pie champ does it again


When last we caught up with Phyllis Szymanek of Holland, she had just won the best-in-show award and several other awards at the 2011 American Pie Council Crisco National Pie Championship.

Now she’s back at it again. At the annual championship last month in Orlando, Ms. Szymanek walked away with two first-place awards and two second places.

Her Mama Mia’s Cherry Pie won first place in the all-important cherry pie category. The pie is an extravagant concoction of tart cherries, sugar, salt, cornstarch, butter, almond extract, orange extract, and red food coloring, crowned with a crumb topping and encased in a crust made with Crisco.

Crisco is one of the contest’s sponsors, but Ms. Szymanek uses it all the time anyway.

“My mother always told me ‘Phyllis, I always use butter-flavored Crisco.’ I’ve had good success with it, so I kept on using it,” she said.

Her other first place was also a cherry pie, this one with the required ingredient of Comstock brand cherry pie filling. Her winning Frosting Creations Cherry Sundae Pie is a complicated melange of ingredients: It mixes the cherry pie filling with orange and almond extracts, lemon juice, and melted butter; tops that with a layer of cream cheese, condensed milk, vanilla pudding, whipped topping, almond extract, pecans, and marschino cherries; and a frosting made of cream cheese, powdered sugar, store-bought frosting, whipped topping, cherry flavoring, chopped pecans, and a few whole cherries on top.

Almost as complicated was her American Freedom G.I. Joe Pie, which took second place in the fruit and berry category. That is a two-layer pie, plus a crust and a topping, that swirls together the flavors of blackberries (both fresh and in jam), cream cheese, and white chocolate, plus a few other surprises such as malted milk powder.

Her other second-place pie, which was in the nut pie category, has perhaps the best name of all. Honey Boo Boo Praline Mud Pie is made from chocolate and pecans, with a caramel topping and pralines on top.

For her efforts, she won $700 plus two baskets of goodies from Crisco and two baskets of goodies from Comstock.

And Ms. Szymanek is not the only area woman to bake her way to success at the contest. Perennial winner Grace Thatcher of Delta, Ohio, also picked up one second and one third-place award.

Ms. Thatcher scored the second place in the open category with her Extravagant Chocolate Raspberry Mousse Pie. The third place came in the Crisco Classic Chocolate Cream category with her Zhahn-Doo-Yuh Banana Panna Cotta Pie (it’s flavored with hazelnuts, mascarpone, and caramelized bananas).


Frankly, we aren’t surprised. The folks at Maumee Bay Brewing Co. put out some pretty good beers.

Now we can officially make that: some pretty good beers and one world-class beer.

Beer Advocate, a craft-brew magazine and Web site, recently bestowed a highly coveted score of 97 on Maumee Bay’s Total Eclipse Breakfast Stout. A 97 officially makes it world class, and it isn’t on the low end of world class, either. A 97 (out of 100) is in the middle of the world class scale, and there aren’t any classes above it.

In other words, this is a really big deal.

The relatively high alcohol Total Eclipse has only been available in bottles since last month, though it was always a big seller on tap whenever it was offered. Classified as an American Double/Imperial Stout, it has what serious beer drinkers describe as “chewiness.” It also has discernible flavors of coffee and chocolate.

Sort of makes you want to try it even if you don’t drink beer, doesn’t it?

Crawling to dinner

One night. Four restaurants, each of them trying to get your attention by serving you their best food. One neighborhood, the Monroe Street corridor of downtown Toledo.

Oh, and one hitch: No one is going to tell you which restaurants you’ll be going to.

Toledo’s second Dishcrawl will be Tuesday starting at 7 p.m. The location of the first restaurant, which will be the meeting place, will only be revealed 48 hours before the event begins.

The identity of the other three restaurants will remain a secret until the participants actually arrive there.

As a bonus, vegetarian options will be available to those who want them, though other dietary restrictions may not be able to be accommodated.

The cost is $45, which is refundable only up to 48 hours before it begins.

To register or more information, visit

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