Strawberry rhubarb is the quintessential pie of summer. Strawberry and rhubarb are simply meant to be. The rhubarb’s tartness balances the strawberry’s sweetness. The dessert is neither too sweet nor too tart — it’s just right.
Marysville’s iconic Village Taphouse and Grill is famous for its pies. Rhubarb is the best seller this time of year, followed by lemon cream and blackberry. The stalky red plant is the star in three Village pies: rhubarb, raspberry rhubarb and strawberry rhubarb.
“Rhubarb is always really popular,” said Cheryl Olsen, baker at Village Taphouse and Grill. “It’s funny — as soon as the weather warms up, people start going for the tart and fruity.”
If you don’t like rhubarb because it’s too tart, that’s OK. Village offers nearly two dozen varieties of pies. There’s also apple, Dutch apple, blueberry, berry blast, bumbleberry, cherry, cherry cheesecake, cheesecake, banana cream, chocolate cream, coconut cream, peach, pecan, pumpkin, peanut butter, peanut butter banana, and sugar-free apple and blackberry. All of the pies are made from scratch.
“People have a slice of pie all the time,” said Alicia Adamson, who co-owns the restaurant with her sister, Christina Adamson. “I can’t believe how many slices of pie we sell. People come in just for a slice of pie.”
Village’s legacy dates back to 1937 when it was a pie shack on U.S. 99, the main highway before I-5. As Village Restaurant, it specialized in homestyle dishes, including meatloaf and chicken fried steak.
According to the book “Reflections of Marysville: A Pictorial History,” the pies were identified with the city almost as much as strawberries were. Its reputation grew after Village pies were served at the 1962 World’s Fair in Seattle.
In 2010, Alicia bought the restaurant, then located at 220 Ash Ave., and Christina moved her bar, the Wild Hare, into its lounge in 2016.
Then a fire destroyed the building on Feb. 19, 2017. Investigators couldn’t determine the cause, but the Adamsons said it most likely had to do with some faulty equipment.
Alicia Adamson said she was distressed after the fire burned down their restaurant. But her younger sister didn’t let her give up. So the sisters scouted new locations — and even considered a move to downtown Everett.
“She just powered up,” Alicia Adamson said. “The fact that she’s my sister and my best friend doesn’t hurt.”
It turns out they didn’t have to go far. The Adamson sisters, the fifth owners of the Village restaurant since 1937, moved just across the street at 1204 Third St. The Village and Wild Hare were merged under one name.
“I just knew that we needed to get open,” Christina Adamson said. “We worked hard to get where we were. You can’t just start that over instantly. Marysville is where we’ve been for a while. All of our customers know to look for us there.”
It’s been Village Taphouse and Grill since 2017, but Village’s menu hasn’t changed much with the sisters’ ownership. In fact, many of the menu items have been there for generations.
“A lot of the recipes are original Village recipes from 1937,” Christina Adamson said. That includes Village’s famous pies.
Why is rhubarb the bestseller each summer? Olsen said sweet berries and tart rhubarb combine for a pie that has nostalgia in every bite.
“It brings memories back,” she said. “I hear ‘My mom used to make strawberry rhubarb pie’ or ‘My grandma used to make raspberry rhubarb crumble’ from a lot of people. It has a homey feel.”
What’s Olsen’s favorite pie? If the weather’s cold out, she’ll go for pecan pie. If it’s hot, she’ll grab a slice of berry blast — it’s a mix of blackberries, blueberries, boysenberries, raspberries and strawberries.
But in all honesty, “I much prefer cake,” Olsen said with a laugh. “I like the filling; I’m just not much of a crust person.”
Olsen, of Arlington, has worked at the Village Taphouse and Grill since 2017. In addition to pies, Olsen bakes buttermilk biscuits, banana bread and blintzes for the restaurant. She estimates she bakes about 20 pies per day.
“It’s busy,” she said. “I’m never still.”
Her 15-year-old daughter, Olivia Olsen, a Lakewood High School student, helps with the baking whenever she’s needed.
Olsen’s tips for baking Village’s strawberry rhubarb at home: Mash the strawberries to bring out their flavor, score the top crust to allow steam to escape, brush an egg wash and sprinkle sugar over the pie for a polished finish.
If you don’t want to bake your own pie, you can order a slice from Village for $6 or $7, depending on the kind. Make it a la mode for $2 more.
Village Taphouse and Grill’s strawberry rhubarb pie
For the pie filling:
2 cups fresh rhubarb
2 cups fresh strawberries
1½ cups sugar
2 ounces cornstarch
For the pie crusts:
2 cups pastry flour
1 teaspoon salt
⅔ cup shortening
7-8 tablespoons cold water
Make the filling: Remove and discard the leaves of the rhubarb, which are poisonous. Rinse the stalks, then trim the top and bottom of each. Cut the stalks into ½-inch pieces. Rinse and stem the strawberries. Crush the berries slightly with a potato masher to release their flavor. Add the rhubarb, strawberries, sugar and cornstarch to a mixing bowl. Stir thoroughly.
Make the crust: In a mixing bowl, stir together flour and salt. Cut in the shortening with a fork until pieces are the size of small peas. Add water, 1 tablespoon at a time, and toss with a fork after each addition. Mix dough lightly. Press the pastry into a ball with hands. Divide the dough in half for a top and bottom crust.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
On a lightly floured surface, roll out each crust to a 12-inch diameter if you are using a 9-inch pie pan, or to 13-inch diameter if you are using a 10-inch pan. Lightly flour your rolling pin, too, so it doesn’t stick to the pastry.
Line the pie pan with the bottom crust. To transfer rolled-out pastry, fold it into quarters, place it in the pie pan with the point in the center, then carefully unfold. Trim to ½ inch beyond the edge of the pie pan.
Spoon the rhubarb and berry mixture into the dough-lined pie pan. Cover the filling with your top crust. Seal crusts by folding extra dough under. Score the top crust several times with a knife to let steam escape. Crimp the edge with your fingers or a fork.
Make an egg wash by beating an egg with 2 tablespoons of water and a pinch of salt. Brush the top of the pie with the egg wash and sprinkle it with sugar. Not only does the egg wash give it a polished finish, it will also hold onto the sugar sprinkled on the crust. Bake for 50-55 minutes.
Makes 8 servings.
Sara Bruestle: 425-339-3046; firstname.lastname@example.org; @sarabruestle.
Washington North Coast Magazine
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