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Just Too Much, Any Way You Slice It

The price of getting a fresh pumpkin pie on the Web is enough to chill you.

November 15, 2001|CHRISTINE FREY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Whether you have turkey or tofu for Thanksgiving dinner, most everyone can agree on dessert.

Pumpkin pie.

To test the tastiness of desserts delivered long-distance, we ordered four online. Although not quite as good as Grandma's, the pumpkin pies (and one pumpkin cheesecake) fared better than we expected. However, none were worth the price.

All had to ship in one or two days to preserve their freshness, doubling their cost. For the price of one pie online, we could have purchased two or three from the local bakery.

BamaPie: Cooking.com, at http://www.cooking.com, featured half a dozen gourmet pies, including a 10-inch pumpkin pie with orange walnut streusel from the BamaPie Kitchen. Before purchasing the pie, we visited BamaPie Kitchen, at http://www.bamapie.com, to see how much it would cost to buy directly from the baker. It was $24.95 at BamaPie-$8 cheaper--but shipping fees were almost twice as much. After we compared the total costs from both sites, BamaPie was still less expensive. The pie, including two-day shipping, came to $36.93.

We ordered the pie Tuesday, and it arrived Thursday afternoon. A large Styrofoam container held the pie box and a small bag of dry ice, which kept the dessert cold. Of all the desserts, it arrived in the best condition.

Our critics gave the pie mixed reviews, ranging from "the most pumpkiny" to "crust blah." Most thought the orange walnut streusel topping did not mix well with the pumpkin filling.

Dean & Deluca: Known for its fine foods, Dean & Deluca didn't offer just any pumpkin pie. It offered a $40 spicy pumpkin cheesecake "baked with traditional spices, natural ingredients and a few inspirations--like a gingersnap crust, a swirl of butter cream and Belgian white chocolate curls."

Although the site, at http://www.deandeluca.com, noted that it might take as long as 48 hours for the dessert to ship, it required next-day delivery. With the shipping fees, the total came to $68.90, making it the most expensive one we bought.

The cake, which shipped from the Patisserie Angelica bakery in the Bay Area, arrived two days after we placed the order. A cold pack kept it fresh, but bubble wrap stuck to the top of the cake.

It proved to be not just any pumpkin cheesecake. In fact, it wasn't much of a cheesecake. Had we read the fine print, we would have noticed that the $69 cake was only 6 inches in diameter--about enough for eight servings. After sampling a very tiny piece, most of the reviewers agreed that it was a tasty cheesecake but didn't satisfy the craving for pumpkin pie. No one thought the cake was worth $69.

Family Farms Direct: Billing itself as "America's online farmer's market," Family Farms Direct, at http://www.familyfarms-direct.com, offered nearly a dozen fresh fruit pies. Its pumpkin pie sold for $29. With the mandatory next-day shipping, the total cost came to $48.75.

The pie arrived from Oregon three days after we ordered it. Wrapped inside a foil space pack, it was still frozen when the mailman delivered it. Directions included with the dessert suggested we heat the pie in the oven for 15 minutes or keep it in the refrigerator for 24 hours before eating.

We couldn't wait that long, so the filling was a little mushy when we dove in, but most of the reviews were positive. Although one person thought the crust was a failure, others said it had "good flavor" and was "perfect traditional."

PiePeddler: Based in Virginia Beach, Va., PiePeddler distributes its desserts to area establishments and also sells them online. Its site, at http://www.piepeddler.com, featured 16 different pies for $18 each. (When we returned to the site a week later, however, they were selling for $22.) Shipping costs ranged from about $12 to $30, depending on where the pie was to be sent. The total cost for one honey pumpkin pie shipped to California: $40.75.

The site noted that pies were delivered only Monday through Friday, but it did not indicate when the pie would actually ship. A week after we ordered the pie, we received an e-mail notification that it would go out in the mail the following day. It arrived two days later--completely frozen and crust in crumbles--packaged in a Styrofoam box.

We were a little disappointed by the broken crust (it wouldn't have displayed well on Thanksgiving Day), but it was the freshest.

"That was one fine pie," a critic noted. And it was.

Within 15 minutes, it was gone.

*

Christine Frey covers personal technology. She can be reached at christine.frey@latimes.com.

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