Oaxaca trip inspires Pie in the Sky

Posted: Friday, March 03, 2006

Juneau baker Andrea Mogil always wanted to experiment with chocolate beverages, but she didn't know where to start until she talked it over with some people she met during her interpreter job last year on a state ferry.

They told her to visit Oaxaca, the chocolate-rich state in Mexico. Mogil spent two weeks there last fall and learned enough to open her own pie, quiche, scone, cake and chocolate-drink business, Pie in the Sky. The take-out kitchen opened Feb. 20, in the Seward Street corner of Bacar's restaurant downtown.

"They're very friendly down there, and they really welcome anybody who's interested in what they're doing," Mogil said. "That was a fantastic trip and really inspiring."

Mogil stayed at a bed-and-breakfast run by some people who spoke a little English. She took cooking classes from some women who owned a restaurant and picked up their chocolate tips. Near the end of her stay, she visited many of the artisans and family-owned companies that produce chocolate in the area.

Mogil was also inspired by her search for chocolate without milk or sugar.

She can make any of her drinks with water and soy, and with or without sugar. Her mochas do not contain chocolate syrup.

"I've had plenty of milk and sugar in my life, and I've noticed that I do a lot better without either of them," she said. "My frustration at not able being to get what I want has motivated me to get what I want" - drinks without milk or sugar.

A part-time flute teacher, Mogil has played in various musical projects and at the Alaska Folk Festivals. In college she spent some time as a working musician in Philadelphia, New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.

She moved to Seattle in 1990 and studied law. On the day she learned she passed her Washington state bar exam, she found herself overcome with a compulsion to bake a peach lattice-top pie.

"I remember back to my childhood, there was a woman who helped my mom clean the house and she used to make beautiful pies," Mogil said. "I remembered what she did and I stayed up until 3 in the morning making peach lattice-top pies."

Mogil baked on the weekends and took her pies to work at a civil law practice in Seattle's Pioneer Square, above the Grand Central Bakery.

She decided to move to Juneau after visiting town six years ago during the Alaska Folk Festival. Within six weeks, she had sold her car, bought a truck, rented out her home and given her notice.

Mogil's first baking job was as the pastry chef at the old Summit Restaurant on South Franklin Street. She moved to Rainbow Foods for two years, then spent one year and eight months as the head baker at the Fiddlehead.

"There's a saying that I've heard: 'There are two kinds of people in the world: line cooks and bakers,'" Mogil said. "(Baking) is very process-oriented instead of being fast and all about instant results. It takes a lot of time, and it takes a lot of faith.

"I like to get my hands into the food," she said. "I can work with lots of different textures, fragrances and aromas, and I can make things look nice. And I don't like to rush in anything I do."

Mogil also hosts the bake-off during the Family Grind, the monthly open-mike, all-ages variety show, 7 p.m. on the first Friday of every month at the VFW Hall, First Street and Gastineau Avenue. The next Grind is tonight. Anyone who brings a dessert is admitted free, and prizes are awarded for the top dishes.

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