In South Florida, one of the most sought-after desserts is Key lime pie, which originated in Key West. You can find the tart treat at local grocery stores, fancy restaurants and roadside markets. But despite our obsession with the pastry, only a handful of pie shops exist in South Florida.
Bob Roth owns Bob Roth's New River Groves in Davie, an orange grove and fresh-fruit market. His father, Al Roth, started the business in 1964.
They starting selling pies years ago, when Bob's wife, Terry, was pregnant with their son, David. "She was having cravings, and cooked a bunch of Key lime pies," Bob Roth recalls. "Today, it's our best-selling pie."
Terry Roth's recipe for Key lime pie has won local awards. In 2006, Roth and his wife took part in a ceremony in Tallahassee at which Key lime was named the official pie of Florida.
Terry passed away in 2002, but Roth says her legacy lives on through her recipes. "If we didn't sell the pies, I don't know how we'd survive," he says. "They're an incredible asset."
At the shop, you'll find Terry's versions of traditional pies such as apple, cherry, peach and blueberry as well as less familiar flavors such as chocolate turtle and Oreo cream. For people who can't get enough of Key lime, New River Groves also sells orange Key lime, mango Key lime and pumpkin Key lime pies, plus Key lime juice and Key lime fudge. "We sell more Key lime than anything," Roth says.
The Upper Crust Pies in Lake Worth sells close to 40 types of pie, including coconut custard, German chocolate, butterscotch creme, pecan and peach.
"I would have to say our French cream cheese is the most unique. It's our unsung hero, and tastes like cheesecake, but much creamier," says Jodi Quintero, who runs the business with her husband, Rudy Quintero.
The shop is open year-round, but is busiest during the holidays. The week of Thanksgiving, the Quinteros work from 2 a.m. to 7 p.m., and bake more than a thousand pies.
Rudy took over the business from his father, Raul, a "pie connoisseur" who taught him how to make the perfect pie. "We're really known for our crust," he says. "The perfect pie needs a flaky crust."
Raul taught his son a simple business philosophy: "He told me if you do one thing, do it well. For us, that's pie."
Over the years, the Quinteros' pies have passed the lips of pop star Celine Dion, Aerosmith drummer Joey Kramer and Parrothead king Jimmy Buffet.
When Jodi is at the pie shop, she's immune to the pastries' aroma. "The No. 1 thing people say when they walk into the door is how good the shop smells," she says. "I guess I'm used to the smell."
Marti and Frank Reich, of Hollywood, opened the Good Pie Company in Davie this past November.
The couple traveled the country to visit pie shops and gather ideas before starting the business. Now, they call themselves "pie-o-neers."
"I think [South Florida] is behind when it comes to food trends," Marti Reich says. "Trends take longer here. And, believe it or not, what we learned is that pies and pie shops are becoming a trend."
In their kitchen, which they share with the Cookielicious Pastry Shop, the couple take turns baking. Frank bakes the sweeter pies, including two recipes by Marti's grandmother.
"We have apple, blueberry, pecan, pumpkin, cherry, Key lime and banana-cream pie," Marti says. "But our strawberry-apple crumb is by far the best selling."
For people lacking a sweet tooth, Marti whips up what she calls her "savory pies."
"I'm always thinking of new recipes, but right now, I've been making butternut squash, spinach, chicken and Reuben pies," she says. "The Reuben tastes just like a Reuben sandwich. And it's delicious."
Although the couple haven't been in the pie business for long, they have already received positive feedback from customers.
"We have a customer who comes in all the time. He had a stroke, and said he can't taste anything but our pie. Another woman, who is undergoing chemotherapy treatment, has a hard time eating, but she loves to eat our pies," Marti says. "Nothing we use is canned. We use all natural ingredients."
So just what is it about pie? Yes, it's a holiday staple, but it's also associated with family, togetherness and, in some cases, the passing down of recipes from generation to generation.
Marti Reich says every piemaker should have two things in the kitchen.
"The secret to making a good pie is having a good attitude," she says. "Oh, and love. You can't forget about the love."
Bob Roth's New River Groves: 5660 Griffin Road, Davie; 954-581-8630, NewRiverGroves.com
The Good Pie Company: 5665 S. University Drive, Davie; 954-562-4760, TheGoodPieCompany.net
The Upper Crust Pies: 2015 N. Dixie Highway, Lake Worth; 561-586-5456, TheUpperCrustPies.com