Best Bets: Anytime's a good time for key lime pie

The key lime pie at McEwen's on Monroe.

The key lime pie at McEwen's on Monroe.

Key lime pie is more popular at Alfred's on Beale during the summer months, said manager Brian Bazar.

"Something about the key lime," he said. "People think of the (Florida) Keys and going to the beach and cooling off a bit."

Jose Gutierrez, chef/owner of River Oaks restaurant, and his key lime pie. 'I love citrus,' he said.

Photo by Michael Donahue, Photos by MIchael Donahue/The Commercial Appeal

Jose Gutierrez, chef/owner of River Oaks restaurant, and his key lime pie. "I love citrus," he said.

Powdered sugar tops Alfred's key lime pie.

Powdered sugar tops Alfred's key lime pie.

With the frigid February temperatures, I'm cooled off enough. But the beach and hot weather sound great, so I thought I'd try to evoke the warm months by sampling some key lime pies around town.

Something about the pie at Alfred's reminds me of those home-made pies you get at little cafes in the country. Alfred's chef Bennie Thompson said their pie, which sells for $4.92, is made of eggs, condensed milk and Nellie & Joe's Key West Lime Juice. It has a graham cracker crust.

They also will oblige customers with whatever they want on the pie, Thompson said. Some people want ice cream, whipped cream, strawberry juice or chocolate. I took mine the way I got it -- sprinkled with powdered sugar and a dab of whipped cream with a lime slice on the side.

Jenny Dempsey, the pastry chef at McEwen's on Monroe, came up with the recipe for their popular key lime pie, which is a lunch item that sells for $5.25. She grew up in South Florida. "I remember our first house," she said. "We had a key lime tree and a lemon tree in the yard.

"My mother used to make a key lime pie, and I liked it 'cause it was so tart. That's kind of where I was going with the flavor."

Dempsey uses condensed milk, eggs, lime juice and a crust made of brown sugar and graham cracker crust in her delicious pie. She also uses Nellie & Joe's lime juice, which she likes because it doesn't have that "bright green" or "nuclear green" color. "It's pretty natural looking."

Key lime pies were a holiday treat; her aunt used to make them. "It was pretty much one of the staples at Thanksgiving or Easter or Christmas."

Jose Gutierrez, owner/chef at River Oaks restaurant, was attracted to key lime pie because he likes the flavor. "I love citrus," he said.

His first effort was "way too sweet. Too acidic."

It took three or four tries for him to come up with his creation, which sells for $8 a slice. Gutierrez uses a mixture of whipped cream, sour cream and sugar for his topping. "It's closer to the taste of French whipped cream," he said.

Not only is the pie terrific, but I could have just eaten the cookie-like crust for a dessert. It's made of various nuts, including macadamia and hazel nuts.

Alfred's on Beale is at 197 Beale; 525-3711. McEwen's on Monroe is at 120 Monroe; 527-7085. River Oaks restaurant is at 5871 Poplar; 683-9305.

Michael Donahue: 529-2797; donahue@commercialappeal.com

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Comments » 2

mather writes:

I love good key lime pie, with maybe some whipped cream on the top to play its sweetness against the tartness. What I don't like is vaguely citrus-flavored cheesecake passed of as key lime pie by some local eateries.

mather writes:

in response to mather:

I love good key lime pie, with maybe some whipped cream on the top to play its sweetness against the tartness. What I don't like is vaguely citrus-flavored cheesecake passed of as key lime pie by some local eateries.

"passed of" should be "passed off".

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