When you visit Key West, you will feel transported to a different era where everything moves slowly and sitting in the shade sipping a fruity drink seems like a productive way to spend an afternoon.
Key West is the southernmost city in the continental United States, as tourists are reminded by a marker that indicates the exact spot where you have travelled as far south as possible. The town certainly feels tropical and locals, known as Conchs (pronounced "Conks") treasure the leisurely lifestyle of the islands, which seems a million miles away from the hustle of the big Florida cities to the north.
Ernest Hemingway lived in Key West for many years in the 1920s and 30s, nurturing his passion for deep sea fishing while working on many of his most famous books. The Hemingway house has become a major tourist attraction and is preserved as it was when he lived there. Hemingway was a cat-lover, and the house is still occupied by the progeny of his original pet "Snowball", fed and cared for by the estate. As you walk through the house, cats sprawled luxuriously on the bed or couch will lift their heads to give you a supercilious look, annoyed at being disturbed.
Key West is also famous for its feral chickens. Descendants of birds that escaped from farms centuries ago they now overrun the streets of the city, protected by laws that prevent anyone from catching them.Tourists find them charming, many residents less so. If you are sleeping in late after a long night of partying, a chorus of crowing roosters may not be the most welcome wake-up call!
Duval Street, which cuts across downtown Key West is the heart of the entertainment district. There you will find Sloppy Joe's, which was Hemingway's favourite drinking spot, and also the World's Smallest Bar, with room for just two customers. This street is lined with cafes, restaurants, bars and shops and is great fun to explore.
Restaurants in Key West take pride in featuring it's unique cuisine - lots of fresh local seafood cooked with Cuban, Caribbean and American influences. Conch chowder, conch fritters, pink shrimp, lobster and stone crab are all delicacies you must try at least once when in Key West.
We ate at the Blue Heaven restaurant, well known for its delicious, inspired cuisine and casual, laid back ambiance. The lobster roll, black beans and rice with blackened fish and the warm, moist corn bread were fantastic but we had heard so much about it's famous Key Lime pie, we made sure to leave room for that! Reputed to be the best on the island, it was sweet, tart, creamy and addictive, all at once!
My easy to make mini pies are perfect for serving small individual portions. The hint of coconut and cardamom in the crust makes them especially irresistible. Don't be surprised if your guests want more!
You can make one large 9 inch pie in place of these mini portion sized ones if you wish. If you don't have a mini cheese cake pan, use a muffin pan instead.
Mini Key Lime Pies
1 1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs, such as Honey Maid brand
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tbsp desiccated unsweetened coconut
2 tsp ground cardamom
1/4 cup melted butter
1 can (300ml) sweetened condensed milk
4 egg yolks
1/2 cup Key lime juice, bottled or fresh
1/2 cup fresh whipped cream
Preheat oven to 350F. Generously spray a 12 cup mini cheesecake pan with cooking spray.
Combine graham cracker crumbs, brown sugar, coconut, ground cardamom and butter in large bowl. Spoon about 1 tbsp of crumb mixture into each muffin cup, pressing down gently to compact. Bake in oven for 8 min. Remove from oven (leave oven on) and cool completely to room temperature, about 15 min.
Meanwhile, make the filling by beating egg yolks with condensed milk in deep bowl. Add lime juice and beat again until well combined. Pour equally onto baked crusts in pan. Bake for about 18-20 min or until tops are very lightly brown and cake tester comes out almost clean. Do not over bake, it is OK for the centers to be slightly wobbly. They will set as pies cool.
Cool to room temperature, loosen edges of each mini pie with a knife, then cover pan with plastic wrap and chill in refrigerator for at least 3 hours.
To serve, carefully remove each mini pie from pan and top with freshly whipped cream.
Makes 12 mini Key Lime pies