Along California’s central coast, a classic tavern dishes out old-fashioned summer goodness in a flaky crust.
Duarte’s Tavern, Pescadero, Calif.
An astonishing 13,000 diners a month—locals and visitors alike—brave the lines to grab a table at northern California landmark Duarte’s Tavern, a family-owned institution that’s been going strong since 1894 in the small, coastal farming town of Pescadero (202 Stage Road, 650-879-0464, duartestavern.com ). They may come for cream of artichoke soup or crab cioppino or baked oysters. But they almost always save room for pie.
One pie trumps them all, selling 10 times more than any other kind: olallieberry. The red, knobby fruit that looks like a blackberry’s big cousin has a sweet-tart flavor. Olallieberries are harvested along the California central coast for only six to eight weeks in summer, usually starting in mid-June. But Duarte’s freezes at least 30,000 pounds each season to be sure it will have enough to make this signature pie year-round.
Why are folks so obsessed with olallieberries? “Part of it is the unusual name,” says Kathy Duarte, fourth-generation owner of Duarte’s. “Plus the pie is quite good. The crust is fantastic, and the filling is not covered up with a lot of sugar or tapioca. It’s old-fashioned, straightforward.” No wonder the James Beard Foundation named the tavern an American Classic in 2003.
Kathy Duarte’s grandmother, Emma Duarte, started the pie-making tradition. But olallieberry wasn’t one of the fillings until her son, Ron, started growing them in the 1960s and gave her some. If you can lay your hands on a stash of olallieberries—especially from one of the local u-pick farms in summer—making your own pie is, well, a piece of cake. (If you can’t, substitute blackberries in similar quantities.) Duarte’s recipe has a crust made with shortening (no butter or lard) that emerges from the oven tender, golden, and flaky, with juicy berries bubbling away inside. One bite and you’ll understand why the passion for this pie has endured.
Duarte’s Olallieberry Pie
Adapted with permission from Kathy Duarte, Duarte’s Tavern
1 ½ cups cake or pastry flour, plus ¼ cup for filling
¾ cup vegetable shortening
¼ cup whole milk
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 pounds fresh or defrosted frozen olallieberries
1 cup granulated sugar
1. Preheat the oven to 375°F.
2. In a large bowl, combine the flour and shortening. Using a handheld pastry blender, work the shortening into the flour, stopping as soon as pea-sized lumps form. Add the milk and salt, and stir with a spoon until the lumps combine to form a soft, easy-to-work dough. If it feels too dry, gently stir in one or two more teaspoons of shortening.
3. Divide the dough into two equal pieces. Using your hands, gently shape one piece into a ball. The dough should be soft—even a little sticky. (If it feels dry, the crust will be hard.) If the dough seems too sticky, add a small amount of flour while rolling the dough ball a half dozen times in a circle with your hands until it holds together. Place the dough ball on a well-floured counter and flatten with a few quick strokes of a rolling pin. Flip the flattened piece and roll it a few more times, adding a little flour to the pin if the dough sticks. Flip the dough again and continue rolling to form a circle of dough 9 to 10 inches in diameter and up to ¼ inch thick. Fold the dough circle in half, transfer it to a 9-inch pie pan, then unfold it and trim the edge, leaving a ½-inch rim of dough around the pan.
4. In a medium-sized bowl, gently combine the olallieberries with the sugar and the remaining ¼ cup of flour. Pour the berry mixture into the bottom crust.
5. Roll out the remaining dough for the top crust and place it over the berries. Fold the edge of the top crust over the bottom crust and seal the two together by pushing lightly with your fingertips. With a paring knife, cut a few slits in the top crust to allow steam to escape.
6. Cover a cookie sheet with aluminum foil and set it on a low oven rack to catch drips from the pie. Place the pie in the center of a rack above it and bake for 1 to 1 ¼ hours or until it’s golden brown and steaming. Allow the pie to cool for at least 15 minutes before serving.
Photography by Audrey Suzanne Jamieson 
This article was first published in August 2011. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.