Summer is road-trip season, so we're taking a culinary tour of America. But because Portland is a city of immigrants from other states, we don't have to leave town to do it. We're traveling to 50 Portland restaurants to try one distinctive food from each state. Our 50 Plates tour continues with Key lime pie from Florida, which joined the union on March 3, 1845.
The state: Florida, where LeBron used to live. I, myself, have taken extreme measures to avoid living there, and don't enjoy visiting, however it's a great place to read about, especially when it comes to food and drink. My all-time favorite alt-weekly story is "Eat at Doug's," about a club of manatee eaters outside Orlando. That’s less extreme than other famous Florida foods, such as “Causeway-style” People Face. Up in NoFlo, they eat a lot of Waffle House. Orlando is more of an IHOP town. The poor bastards are really hurting for dollar draft beers.
The food: Key lime pie, a brilliant alchemy of Key lime juice, sweetened condensed milk and egg yolk under a thick blanket of whipped cream. Fun fact: traditionally, cooks didn’t even bake these suckers, simply allowing a chemical reaction between the milk and acidic citrus juice to cook the eggs, like a meringue ceviche.
Other foods considered and rejected: The Cubano lost a heartbreaker here. Conch fritters were in the game about as much as those Miami Dolphins in the last game of Dan Marino’s sad, ultimately failed career.
Get it from: Palio cafe on Ladd’s Circle. I’ve been biking by for years and wondered about the place, then got a tip they have great desserts. Well, yes, they do. Palio's Key lime is silky smooth, bursting with fresh citrus flavor and comes with a hat of super creamy whip on a sweet and crumbly crust. It’s the best Key lime pie I’ve had in years and among the better pies I’ve had in Portland, period. The desserts are not baked on site, and in casual conversation the man behind the counter was cagey about the origins, telling me that mysterious couple (“he’s a gold prospector, I forget what she does”) delivers Palio’s deserts three times a week. “It’s damned good!” I told him. “Oh yeah, and it should be, considering all the sweetened condensed milk and real Key limes they put in it.” Now if we could just convince someone that skilled to do a traditional unbaked version.
Click on the map to see each state's distinctive food and where to get it in Portland.