This Hotel’s Key Lime Pie Is So Good People Fight Over It

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An incredible key lime pie

By Sarah Greaves-Gabbadon
CJ Travel Editor

How delicious does a key lime pie have to be that grown people fight over it?

Better ask Bitter End Yacht Club’s head pastry chef Winston Butler, whose sweet specialty has been a must-eat for guests and visiting boaters at the venerable Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands resort for more than 40 years,

“It’s pretty good,” says the Vincentian, making the understatement of the year. This is, after all, the pie that has widened thousands of waistlines since he first started making it in 1979 under the tutelage of his brother Ulric, who was then the resort’s chef.

“I was a waiter but because the hotel was short-staffed I helped out in the bakery between dining room shifts,” Winston recalls. “My brother was a stickler for using fresh limes from the property and I’d have to squeeze every one of them by hand. Back then we only made maybe five pies a day and served them by the slice in the Clubhouse restaurant. But people really loved it, so in 1983 we started to sell whole pies in our Emporium store on the marina so that boaters could enjoy it, too.”

Which brings us to the fights.

“One Thanksgiving we had only half-a-dozen pies left and there were two women in line. A Puerto Rican lady was buying all of them, but an American lady behind her asked her if she’d allow her to have just one. They argued back and forth until the American lady finally said, ‘I’m going to die if I don’t have a key lime pie for the holiday.’ The Puerto Rican lady just looked at her and said, ‘Die, die, die!’ And she walked away with all six.”

What could inspire such avarice? “We make it fresh and we don’t use any chemicals or preservatives, and never any food coloring,” says the affable chef, who has honed his craft all over the world, including at New York’s prestigious Culinary Institute of America. “The filling is simply egg yolks, condensed milk and lime juice, and we never use gelatin. The meringue is made the French way, with just egg whites and sugar, and we never put cream on top.”

winston

But the proof of the pie is, as they say, in the tasting. And one taste is all we needed to appreciate the tart and tangy treat, which is grounded by a Graham cracker-base and crowned with an inch-and-a-half-high cloud of meringue. Served straight from the freezer, its texture is somewhere between traditional pie and ice cream cake, the flavor somewhere between appetizing and addictive.

During busy periods Winston makes as many as 20 pies a day, which are sold in both of the resort’s restaurants as well as the marina grocery, where you can pick up an eight-inch pie for $25 or a 10-incher for $30. Just be sure to come early. Because, as that American woman was rudely made aware of: Winston’s key lime pie is to die for.

 

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