Imagine Northeast Iowa

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The Proof is in the Pie at The Picket Fence Cafe
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The Proof is in the Pie at The Picket Fence Cafe

On a beautiful summer day, there’s nothing like having a delicious homemade meal with a view of the Mighty Mississippi River. In Guttenberg of Clayton County, families can be seen hosting picnics in the park by the river every weekend. Some families bring their own picnic favorites, and others will seek food made in-house on River Park Drive. When I’m craving a meal with a view, I pick up an order from The Picket Fence Café, where the meat is naturally raised on the owner’s farm, and Jane makes her specialty homemade pies.

As I opened the door to the café, the smoky aroma of farm-raised pork filled my senses, and drew me to the counter to order my meal. As I got closer to the counter the salty, savory essence of the ham influenced my decision to order the Grilled Ham and Swiss sandwich for my picnic, with a side of creamy potato salad. The waitress at the counter gave a bright smile and asked if I wanted a slice of pie, and I gazed at the selection of pies available. I was drawn to a freshly baked red raspberry pie that had just been put into the display case. The perfectly golden crust had yet to be cut into, and I was almost couldn't taint such a sight... almost.

With my to-go box in hand, I waved goodbye to Jane and the waitress behind the counter and left the historic building to find an open table in the park. Like every summer weekend, families were gathered in the park to have picnics of their own; their children were playing tag with one another while tables were being set for a picnic lunch. I found a lone picnic table by the Municipal Marina and unpacked my savory meal, earning another strong whiff of the savory hot ham sandwich. I practically inhaled my sandwich and potato salad, for my stomach was set on my prize for the day; that red raspberry pie.  

With a delicate hand, I took my first bite and thought back to baking pies with my grandmother as a child. She’d always ask me to crimp the crust to give it a nice edge before she’d cut out the pale blanket of crust so it could vent. Then, to finish it off, she’d give the pie a generous dusting of cinnamon and sugar before putting it in the oven and turning the notch on her old white timer. Once the timer’s buzz could be heard through the house, the pie came out, wildly bubbling at the seam and through the vent holes. The Picket Fence Café’s pie brought back so many memories, from its’ flakey buttery crust, to its sweet, juicy filling. I gazed upon the Mississippi River, savoring every bite of the pie and watching the water as it flowed with the mighty current, yet gently splashed against the rocks along the dike.

 I nibbled on the remaining bite of crust edge, and my picnic in the park was finished. A colony of gulls had been flying over the area, surveying the ground for any dropped goodies. With a high pitched call, they flew away from the park and followed the river with the sun reflecting off their bright white feathers. It was a delightful picnic in the park in the small town of Guttenberg, and I couldn’t have asked for a better view to pair with my meal.


Written by Jayna Felder | Photo Credit to Noni Zamboni

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