The Quest for Key Lime Pie
As far as I'm concerned, if it isn't chocolate, it just isn't dessert. But when in Rome -- or in this case, the Florida Keys -- it seemed appropriate to expand my sweet tooth's horizons and sample that staple of Key West: key lime pie. Now, I'm no expert when it comes to pies, so I brought along my best friend Julie, a woman who thinks nothing of whipping up three different versions of fresh peach pie for supper. Julie and I set out to find the world's best key lime pie.
First stop: a restaurant named Shuckers and a waitress named Rosie.
But they do pack a punch. And that citrus kick is what gives the egg and condensed milk custard of a key lime pie its signature flavor. Now if you've never seen one, key lime pie is yellow, not green. It rests on a graham cracker crust and is topped by either whipped cream or meringue. Shuckers' version came with whipped cream. Julie and I picked up our forks.
Not bad. But it was just the start of our quest. Since Key West is just about 30 miles from Cuba, we decided to try the dessert with a Latin accent at a restaurant called Plantains.
It was very good, interesting texture, not too sweet. Our only complaint: the whipped topping came from a can, instead of homemade. But all those calories were adding up. It seemed time to do a bit of walking - and a bit of research. We hiked over to the place where it was rumored key lime pie was first invented.
Edith Amsterdam and her husband Alexander are the current owners of the Curry Mansion Inn.
The story we have is the Curry's had a cook/maid named Aunt Sally -- Borden's came out with condensed milk, there was no milk on this island, and as soon as she saw the milk, she knew what to do with it.
What she did was combine the canned milk with eggs and the juice from the local key limes -- and the dessert became a culinary legend.
It turned out that the lime cooks eggs and milk and makes into a custardy consistency, and flavor of the limes kills the cooked milk taste of condensed milk.
But there's still the question of the topping -- what's more traditional, whipped cream or meringue? I put the question to Bob Talman, co-owner of the Key West Key Lime Shop.
If key lime is your flavor, this is your store. You can get key lime candy, key lime biscotti, key lime linguini, key lime white chocolate coffee, even key lime shampoo and moisturizer. Bob Talman says he did draw the line at key lime dog biscuits. Of course, you can also get a key lime pie to take with you or have one mailed to your friends and loved ones. The store currently ships up to 75 pies a month.
Now if you're not planning a trip to Key West anytime soon, don't worry. We left town with Aunt Sally's original recipe, which I'll give you right now:
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