EVERETT — There’s really nothing like Washington fruit. Berries sprout unbidden in forests and along roadsides, waiting for some lucky hiker or bear to stumble across their spiky vines. Drive east on U.S. 2 long enough and you’ll see orchards laid out for miles on either side of the highway, plump apples gleaming in shades of red, yellow and green.
Growing up in Yakima, Angela Freese admits she took that for granted. As children, she and her sister spent countless summer afternoons at their grandma’s farm plucking blackberries and cherries. When they’d collected enough — accounting for what they ate as they picked, that is — their grandmother would turn the bounty into beautiful pies with syrupy juice bubbling beneath lattice tops.
“It was something I didn’t realize I’d miss so much until I moved away,” Freese said.
Freese’s grandmother would undoubtedly swell with pride at seeing the selection of pies now laid out in her granddaughter’s north Everett shop. In the glass cases at Pisces Pies, cherries and blueberries and coconut cream wait patiently in buttery crusts to catch someone’s eye, smelling almost as delicious as the fruit on the farm did in the summer sun all those years ago.
Nestled in the city’s charming Northwest neighborhood, the building at 1502 Rucker Ave. dates back at least 100 years, Freese said. It was once a butcher shop, then a mini mart, then a variety of neighborhood hangouts and restaurants, until Freese bought it last year. With the homespun magic of homemade pies, Freese is working to make Pisces Pies a place for friends and neighbors to gather once again. And when you can stroll by and see her rolling out the scratch-made crusts through the big front windows, who wouldn’t be tempted to stop in — for the smell of it, at the very least?
Freese has been sharing her pies with Snohomish County and beyond for four years. At first, she baked off a couple dozen to take to the Lake Stevens Farmers Market, then expanded to Arlington and Anacortes. It was a way to reawaken her creative energy and reconnect with those childhood memories as she juggled a busy career in marketing and graphic design.
But as she gained loyal customers from farmers markets and began taking custom orders online, Freese started to consider reconnecting with that calling full-time. She leaned into baking heavily during pandemic shutdowns, and when it was time to think about returning to work, she realized she really didn’t want to.
“I had this moment of figuring out, ‘Oh, I don’t actually want more than this,’” Freese said. “At the core of me, I’m hands-on, I’m a creative. And now that I have (the restaurant) as my own space, I’m pretty sure I’m in the right spot.”
Freese poured her life savings into purchasing and renovating the Rucker location, hiring staff and ripping out old flooring by hand. Pisces Pies opened on March 14 — Pi Day — and, so far, the shop has been a hit with the community, Freese said. She added a full coffee bar during renovations, which has attracted couples and groups of friends who regularly stroll in off the street to linger over coffee and a slice of pie.
The twin fish featured on the shop’s logo are embossed on the flaky lids of the gluten- and sugar-free pies that fill a huge glass case at the center of the shop, bright red fruit juice emphasizing their shapes. Freese — who is herself both a Pisces on the zodiac and an avid swimmer — came up with the name one day between laps in the pool.
It’s a rare treat for many folks with dietary restrictions to find a lush, flaky slice of pie with their name on it, but Freese offers gluten-free, sugar-free and vegan variations of all her pies. The traditional pies, usually topped with intricate latticework, are made using an adapted version of her grandmother’s recipe — itself probably tweaked from a 1970s-era Betty Crocker cookbook, Freese said.
Just like her grandma, Freese uses nothing but real butter in her traditional crusts — no shortening to be found here. The result is a delicious, tender and flaky crust still sturdy enough to contain the juicy fruit filling bursting from the seams.
Choose from classic flavors such as apple and Bing cherry, or check back in summer and fall for seasonal favorites such as boysenberry and chocolate bourbon pecan. Freese delights in experimenting with flavors not typically found in your grandma’s kitchen, too, searching local fruit stands for tayberries and black raspberries.
In April, most local fruit isn’t yet in season, but a slice of cherry pie made using fruit frozen the summer before brought me right back to childhood memories of my own grandma’s scratch-made pies. The gluten-free blueberry slice was similarly satisfying, despite gluten-free pastry’s reputation for stodginess — I am a gluten fiend myself, so take my opinion with a grain of salt, though I could hardly tell the difference.
The cream- and custard-filled pies typically use a graham-cracker crust, also available in a gluten-free variety. I’ve always had a soft spot for a good graham-cracker crust, dating back to my first attempts at New York-style cheesecake around age 10, so naturally I had to snag a generous slice of the gorgeous chocolate cream pie tempting me from behind the glass. The crust was perfectly crumbly and just salty enough to set off the downright decadent dessert, which I ate unabashedly in my car between interviews that afternoon.
Freese admits her crust recipe isn’t without controversy. She offers a thinner crust option on her website’s “Build a Pie” menu, but like any good pizza joint, folks have very strong opinions on what makes the best crust: half-and-half butter and shortening, thin and crispy, thick and flaky, the list goes on. But Freese is sticking to her roots.
“I’m happy to accommodate anyone’s requests if they place a special order, but I don’t see myself changing the original recipe anytime soon,” Freese said. “I’ll keep doing it the way Grandma did it.”
Pisces Pies, 1502 Rucker Ave., Everett. Open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday to Sunday. Rotating daily pies available by the slice or whole, or place a custom order online: piscespies.com.
Whole fruit pies cost between $15 for a small 5-inch pie or $30 for a 10-inch large; cream pies and specialty flavors are $25 for small and $40 for large. Gluten-free, sugar-free and other custom options add additional charges. Stop by the shop to check out the daily selection of pies by the slice – fruit slices are $6, cream $7.
Riley Haun: 425-339-3192; email@example.com; Twitter: @RHaunID.
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