BY MANDY MILES Citizen Staff
A hometown rivalry will get national attention tonight, when the Travel Channel features a showdown between two local venues that boast the best Key lime pie in town.
Tonight's episode of "Food Wars" pits the pie-making giant Blond Giraffe against the handmade pies of Theresa Paturno at Blue Heaven, in a 30-minute throw-down that starts at 10 p.m.
"I put my heart and soul into every pie that I make; can a machine say that?" said Paturno, head pastry chef at the Bahama Village restaurant. She is challenged by Blond Giraffe owner Tania Beguinati, who said, "My recipe is so amazing that even a monkey can make it and beat Blue Heaven."
Film crews were in town in June, visiting Blue Heaven on Thomas Street and the Blond Giraffe pie factory on Truman Avenue. Louie's Backyard hosted the taste test, which was judged by local food writer Margit Bisztray and Linda Hoskins, executive director of the American Pie Council, based in the Chicago area.
Supporters from each side were at Louie's holding signs and cheering on their favorite pie maker.
Nate Etter, who works for a public relations company that promotes the Travel Channel, said the competition was not open to nominations from all Key West pie makers, and said country music star Kenny Chesney had raved about Blue Heaven's Key lime pie during an appearance on "Oprah."
His comments led to a rivalry between the popular restaurant and pie-making giant, which has four locations in Key West and headquarters in Pompano Beach.
Although the winner was decided in June, the results have not been made public, and viewers will learn tonight who wins.
The episode focuses on Blue Heaven's handmade pies, with sky-high meringue, and the Blond Giraffe's mechanized production line.
Blond Giraffe uses homemade sweetened, condensed milk, bottled Key lime juice from Mexico and pre-made graham cracker crusts, Beguinati tells "Food Wars" hostess Camille Ford.
"We only use Key lime juice," she said, adding that the Blond Giraffe's recipe does not include any eggs, while Blue Heaven's uses several egg yolks in its pie filling.
Blue Heaven's Paturno uses the juice from some Key limes, but the filling uses more of the traditional Persian limes, which Paturno squeezes by hand.
Richard Tallmadge, owner of the Restaurant Store, also appears on the episode as a "food historian," explaining the history of Key lime pie.
"It was originally concocted by fishermen sometime around 1860," Tallmadge explains, adding that the original recipe called for eggs, sweetened condensed milk, Key lime juice and soda crackers for the crust.
The recipe has evolved over the past 150 years to make Key lime pie one of the most famous and popular desserts on local menus.