Charity Pie Night benefiting Max Love Project

PIE NIGHT IS BACK!!! Come by Practical Art Friday, September 23rd, and eat some delicious homemade pies from our favorite local baker, Karen Olson, of Vonciel’s Pies. Gluten free? Vegan? No problem! Karen whips up amazing pies for all diets! Relish in the fact that you’re not only eating delicious, locally made goods, but you are also supporting our featured non-profit, MaxLove Project.

Did you know that 95% of childhood cancer survivors will go on to face a serious chronic illness? MaxLove is working to alleviate the reality of this statistic. They are on a mission to improve the quality of life for childhood cancer survivors (aka SuperKids). The volunteer driven, grassroots organization offers programs and resources focused on ‘super actions’ that promote lifelong healthy survivorship and disease prevention. These programs include culinary medicine, social support, integrative medicine, research, and advocacy. It is a Whole Body, Whole Person approach to maintaining and supporting healthy lives.


MaxLove is teaming up to support the efforts of Dr. Adrienne Scheck. Dr. Scheck, working out of the Barrow Neurological Center at Phoenix Children’s Hospital, is behind the groundbreaking diet that’s helped MaxLove Project’s Chief Inspiration Officer, SuperMax, thrive against brain cancer. This ketogenic diet is a powerful and nontoxic therapeutic addition to conventional treatment. There is a lot of promise in this non-toxic approach, and our SuperMax provides a powerful case study for its efficacy. But there’s still a lot more science that needs to be done.

That’s where you come in. All of the money raised in this month’s Charity Pie night at Practical Art will help support Scheck Laboratory on behalf of MaxLove. For more information about how your dollars impact the lab, or how you can help even more, click here.


So come to Practical Art Friday, September 23rd, eat delicious pie and support MaxLove. A $5 donation gets you a slice of a Vonceil’s Pies creation! A $10 donation gets you as many in-house tastings as you’d like! All donations, and 10% of all sales that day, will be donated to MaxLove Project!

We can’t wait to see you there!


PHOTO SPECIAL: Pie Tip #16 from Karen, Pie Maker Extraordinaire– Lattice Crust!

Hello, pie lovers! As the humble pie-maker behind each of Practical Art’s Charity Pie Nights, sometimes I’m able to finagle my sister and Practical Art’s co-owner, Lisa Olson, into venturing into my kitchen and capturing the process with her fancy photo equipment. I certainly felt like photo illustrations on the makings of a lattice crust could go further than just a text description. It’s like dough origami!


A lattice crust is all about following a pattern. In some ways it is similar to knitting, though I don’t actually knit myself, but I think the comparison works! First, roll out pie dough as done for the bottom crust. Then take a knife or a fancy design tool to make the edges pretty, and cut straight strips (or as straight as possible). The great thing about home made lattice crust is the ability to see the imperfections!


Now here, there is a cheat way, and there is the real way…. so choose wisely. You can *choose* to alternate strips vertical and horizontal till the pie is completed. Note here however that while most of your strips will be over and under pattern, not ALL will. In order to get them all over under patterned, I find I like to work from the inside out. I start with my two largest strips in the middle, then do to strips at a time, alternating my patterns from vertical to horizontal. This allows me to follow the pattern with ease because of the repetition, and I *think* it makes for the least amount of times required to fold back dough strips (which I like because the less you have to fiddle with your dough, the more flaky and delicious it will be!).

PieBlog16 PieBlog17 PieBlog18 PieBlog19 PieBlog20 Now, try out the lattice for yourself and see if you like to work in to out, out to in, or any style in between!

And if anything at all was even a smidge unclear, OR you’d just like to see one with your own eyes…. maybe taaaaste one…. come see us tonight for this month’s Charity Pie Night. All donations benefit the CO+HOOTS Foundation! Starts at 7pm!

This Month’s PIE BLOG – an FAQ session with the lady herself

“I may not be able to define a pie, but I know one when I see it.” Raymond Sokolov

If you’ve been to one of Practical Art’s Charity Pie Nights, which happens every Fourth Friday (psst…tonight!), you may have had some of the best pie you’ve ever experienced. If you then tried to elbow through the crowds to get back up to pie-maker extraordinaire and owner of Vonceil’s Pies, Karen Olson, to quiz her about all the magic that goes into these wonderful creations–  you probably found so much activity at the pie counter that conversation was a little tough. So, we’ve asked Karen to answer some of her most often received inquiries about her and her craft to allay everyone’s burning questions.

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Question: What is your favorite pie?
Answer: Sorry to usually disappoint here in person. I rarely have a quick answer, if I have an answer at all. My sweet tooth is BIG, and therefore makes this question a hard one to pin down. Though at the moment, it is Peach ginger (with ginger powder, extract, candies, etc…)

Q: Where do your recipes come from?
A: Back when I started baking in dark ages (just kidding … some days), I would look up recipes either in my mother’s cook books or online, and copy them to the exact measurement. Over time, I still search the internet and cook books often, but it is more often to get inspiration than anything else. Recipes can seem to get stale when made over and over, therefore it is fun to get a fresh flavor pairing, or to see if you can remove entire ingredients but get similar results! Some day, maybe I will even start writing my own “recipes” down!

Q: Why pie?
A: I love to bake. It is a plain and simple fact about me. The reason why I gravitated towards pie baking is the amount of time that goes into it. I like the idea that there is a period of prep, but then an even longer period of rest before you get your reward. It is a fast paced life, which makes it nice to slow down, even if just for an hour.

Q: Who is Vonceil?
A: Vonceil is one amazing woman. She is my mother’s mother, and if not for her, my own mother, and my great grandmother, I would not bake crust the way I do today. The funny fact about my Grandma Vonceil is that her own mother did not actually teach her how to make crust. It skipped a generation to my mother, who then taught me! Now don’t get me wrong here, Vonceil knows her way perfectly well around the kitchen! But the thing I love most about her besides the fact that she is my grandmother is her indirect influence on my baking.


Hope you enjoyed that little peek into Karen’s world o’ pie, and we also hope to see you for tonight’s Charity Pie Night— Friday, August 22nd, from 7-9pm.  All donations, and 10% of all sales from the day, will be donated to ADLA.

Great Pie for a Great Cause: Rising Youth Theatre


‘Tis the last full week o’ the month, which means…. Friday is A Share of the Pie: Charity Pie Night!  And this month, Karen Olson (you know her, you love her) of Vonceil’s Pies, is whipping up a dozen-or-so lovingly-crafted artisan pies to garner your green in support of Rising Youth Theatre.

Did you catch all the buzz about A View From the Tracks: The Light Rail Plays last month? That was RYT. They paired young artists one-on-one with professional artists to create 5 minute, 2 person plays. This unique opportunity for mentorship and artmaking hasn’t existed anywhere else! And, as both a metro-advocate AND a big fan of interventionist art (the surprise kind? that sneaks up on folks during their typical day?)…. I was hugely excited by this program.


Essentially, RYT’s mission is to ‘create youth driven theatre that is riveting and relevant, challenging audiences to hear new stories, start conversations and participate in their communities‘. Besides their most recent light rail performances, they also regularly conduct staged plays and workshops. A Theater of the Oppressed workshop they hosted last year explored the four categories of physical de-specialization through games and exercises.  It encouraged the audience to take part in a problem-solving dialogue about overcoming injustice.

This is theater with meaning, theater with impact.

“When you come into the theater, you have to be willing to say, ‘We’re all here to undergo a communion, to find out what the hell is going on in this world.’ If you’re not willing to say that, what you get is entertainment instead of art, and poor entertainment at that.” – David Mamet.

And considering the radical potential of youth, who better to find out from– not only what is going on right now in this world, but just where the heck it might go. Come by Friday to hear from Rising Youth Theatre members first-hand.

Pie_NightPractical Art’s “A Share of the Pie: Charity Pie Night” 

Friday, July 25, 7-9pm! 

A $5 donation gets you any slice of a Vonceil’s Pies creation! A $10 donation or $25 purchase at the shop gets you as many in-house tastings as you’d like! All donations, and 10% of all sales that day, will be donated to:

Rising Youth Theatre

Pie Tip #41 from Karen, Pie Maker Extraordinaire: Take the Good with the Bad

 Hello, art & pie lovers!

Tonight’s our monthly Charity Pie Night at Practical Art, and you know what that means! Yes! Not only do you get to donate to a worthy cause– this month? The Madison Education Foundation— but you get to indulge in a piece (or five) of pie lovingly crafted by our favorite sister/helper/baker, Karen Olson, of Vonceil’s Pies! Since the event doesn’t begin until 7pm, we figured we’d give you a little lead-in about all of the TLC that goes into these golden beauties with this month’s edition of Pie Tips from Karen! The tip?

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Take the Good With the Bad

“Do you get it right every single time? You do? Okay, then read no further– this tip is not for you.  But, if you’re like the rest of us (most of us!), you’re in the middle of a process and a practice with ‘perfection’ kind of just this idea way off in the distance.  We’re learning as we go, getting better with each new experiment in whatever our chosen craft.

I’m the pie lady. And, I’ll say, I’ve learned THEE MOST from pies that were, well, not quite successful. Sometimes it’s the oven that tells you: when your baked-good didn’t crisp, set, rise, etc, etc, etc…. any number of those meanie things an oven can pull; sometimes it’s your friends n’ family that offer some helpful critique on flavor; and sometimes, if you’re working in the professional sphere, it’s your audience of strangers that leave a particular pie unsold on the shelf, or who will jot a scribble on a comment card that says, “Needs more ______” or “…less ______”.

As humans, our reaction is to get defensive. And let yourself. Internally. Then, take a breath and come at it honestly and openly. Be the professional. Some folks are critical just to be critical, and recognize when that’s the case you’re best just to shrug it off. Learn to see some of the nuance between criticism and opinion– especially when it comes to flavor. Not all of our preferences and tastebuds are the same! But, if you’re listening and receptive to YOUR audience, you may be able to get a better sense of the ‘sweet spot’ you should be aiming for with that richness, with that spicy-ness, with that tartness. (And we all know what a delicate balance the spices are– a smidge of ginger, cayenne, rosemary, clove can really tip a scale!)

Ultimately, it’s nice when a pie is somewhere on the scale from good-to-great and you hear those murmurs of enjoyment from the crowd, a few ‘dang-this-is-good’s, and you can pat yourself on the back for a job well done. But the ones that weren’t so good is where you get the feedback that’ll make the next not just good, but GREAT.”

And, lastly, here’s a teaser for you! Next month’s pie insights are about the history of Apple Pie! Don’t miss it!  And, of course, we hope to see you tonight at Pie Charity Night!

Tip #77 from Karen, Pie Maker Extraordinaire: The Season is the Reason”

My reason for living? Pie Night.

Alright, that’s maybe a slight exaggeration, but Practical Art’s Charity Pie Night is certainly somewhere high in my ‘Top Ten Reasons to Keep On Keepin’ On”. And the gal behind the Strawberry Jalapeno Pie? Behind the Pear Cardamom with the Gouda Cheese Crust? Behind the Whiskey Pecan Pie? Behind all that wondiferous, fantamagical, delectability? The lovely Miss Karen Olson of Vonceil’s Pies. Each month, to precede pie night, she shares a little insight into the world of artisan-pie crafting. Today, she’s letting the cool veneer of anti-favoritism slip and sharing some personal preferences:

“What is your favorite pie to make?”

This is probably the most frequent question I am asked about pie-making. To be fair, I can’t know this for sure as I have not been keeping a running count of questions I have been asked, but if I had, I am going to say this is the winner.

It isn’t an easy question to answer. In truth, my favorite part is the crust, plain and simple. But from the pie eater perspective, this answer doesn’t quite satisfy.

Fact is, I have a giant sweet tooth (probably all my teeth). I could eat any type of pie and be pretty happy with the sugar rush to follow. If I HAD to choose one pie to make and eat for the rest of my life, I will cop out and say fresh seasonal fruit pie. If forced, I could narrow down to one fruit, but since this is my blog post, I am not going to today. My answer might change tomorrow anyway!

The point here: Fresh is Best. If it’s blueberry time, blueberry is my favorite pie to make. If it’s the season for Strawberries, guess what? Strawberry pie is my jam. When fruit is in season, it hardly needs anything but a shell to be put in, and an oven to bake in, to taste delicious.

Plus, getting into the seasons allows for you to get involved with your local community. Farmer’s markets are a great way to shop local agriculture. Also, checking out farms – like Schnepf Farms –leads to a day of fun, along with amazing spoils – fresh peaches – that can last much longer! In fact, the peach season is almost upon us, so be sure to check out the festivities online – – and get to picking fruit for your pies yourself!


Need to see it… errrr, taste it…. to believe it?

A Share of the Pie: Charity Pie Night!
Friday, April 25th, 2014 from 7pm-9pm
Featured charity: Free Arts of Arizona

A $5 donation gets you any slice of a Vonceil’s Pies creation! A $10 donation or $25 purchase at the shop gets you as many in-house tastings as you’d like! The delectables (made by our favorite sister/helper Karen Olson of Vonceil’s Pies have previously included Hipster Apple, Banana Peanut Butter Cream, and Strawberry Jalapeno. Bring your own plate or pick up a handmade one on the spot to keep things eco-conscious!
All donations, and 10% of all sales during the event, will be donated to this month’s charity: Free Arts of Arizona!

Tip #93 from Karen, Pie Maker Extraordinaire: “A Crust Above.”

Guess what today is?!  Friday, yes, for sure, but more importantly….it’s PIE DAY!

Come by Practical Art tonight for our monthly Charity Pie Night from 7-9pm, this month benefiting Phoenix Art Museum, and feast on one of Vonceil’s Pie’s delectable creations. To get you in the mood, and because she’s generous enough to share her artisan-worldly wisdoms, Karen’s penned her monthly pie tip! Read on!


It will come as no real surprise to most people who know me, but I talk about pie. A lot. What I have found over the years in my numerous conversations revolving around dessert is that there is a certain shared pride that comes from making homemade pie crust.  It is a badge of honor to say, “I make my crust from scratch”. Today, and for however long this blog may grace the inter-web, I would like to share that badge with you. This is my basic crust recipe: use it, change it, love it or hate it, but carry it forth into your kitchens with my blessing.


Single Pie Crust Recipe (basic)
1 cup flour (I prefer unbleached all purpose)
½ teaspoon salt
7 Tablespoons unsalted chilled butter
3-4 Tablespoons chilled water

Combine flour and salt in medium mixing bowl.

Either cut up the CHILLED butter into small cubes, or grate into flour mixture. Combine with either pastry mixer or hands, until butter and flour mixture becomes like sand in texture, between one to two minutes.

Add water, one tablespoon at a time, mixing with a fork until mixture is almost sticking together.

Gather dough in hands and press together minimally.

Flour countertop or use parchment paper to roll out dough. Use a pie plate for a reference to make sure dough will cover entire surface. Be sure dough will over cover the edge of the pie so that there is plenty of crust to crimp around the edge of the dish.

If using parchment paper, easily transfer dough over the pie plate and remove paper. If rolling dough out on the countertop, gently fold dough in half onto itself, and then again, transfer into the pie dish, and then unfold into the pan.

Now all that is left to do is decide what kind of filling to stuff that beautiful crust with! Once you have decided, either pre-bake the crust for cream pies, or fill it with fruit, cover it with a top crust, sit back and let the oven do the rest!


And, as always, come by, make a donation, and taste supporting evidence for this tried and true recipe! The proof is in the pie crust! It’s good pie for a good cause, and we promise, you’ll have a good time.