This Fourth of July marks the second annual Key Lime Festival of the Florida Keys, celebrating all things Key Limey, including the world's largest Key Lime pie.
There may be no singular food item more connected with a specific part of the country than the key lime and the Florida Keys. Smaller and more tart than its more well-known cousin, the key lime has a taste profile that is all its own and is featured in any number of culinary concoctions, from key lime martinis and key lime margaritas to key lime cupcakes and, yes, key lime pie. All of that and more will come together this July 4th-6th as Key West and the Florida Keys celebrate the second annual "Key Lime Festival of the Florida Keys."
One of the few crops that is native to the hard scrabble terrain that is this chain of coral islands, key lime quickly became a distinctive flavor immediately identifiable to the region it came from. When the railroad reached Key West one hundred years ago and it became possible to ship this seemingly exotic fruit to the rest of the country, people from all over had to come to Key West, Florida so they could taste it for themselves. It seems almost impossible to believe that it took this long for this official fruit of the Florida Keys to have its own holiday.
"I was looking at things like the hot dog eating contest in Coney Island and how that was such a staple of their Fourth of July celebration and figured we needed something like that," said David Sloan, local author, tour guide and event creator. "Then I started about the pie eating contests that my town held every year and the two ideas just clicked. Nothing is more American than the 4th and pie eating, and nothing is more Key West than the key lime pie, so it just made sense."
Central to the event that is sure to fill up the fabulous Key West hotels and inns is the creation of the world's largest key lime pie. Looking to expand on the record he just recently set on a nationally televised morning news show, Mr. Sloan is looking to make a pie that, as he puts it, will "feed every male, female and child Conch (the term for locals) for a week!"
For more information on the Key Lime Festival, visit www.keywest.org or for information on the Roof Top Cafe, visit www.rooftopcafekeywest.com
Robert Wills has taken part is many key lime pie eating competitions, but he only eats one piece at a time.