Spring has officially arrived in the Northeast.  (Thank GOD!) We returned from spring break in Florida last month and were pleasantly greeted by  70 degree weather upon landing at Newark Liberty International Airport.  Always great when you don’t have to dig out a sweatshirt (or worse, a winter coat) while waiting for the shuttle bus to the Parking Spot.   We spent some time catching up with our family on the weekends – the kids just adore their newest cousin with his drooly smiles and belly laughter, and mid-week we headed up to Orlando for a little Harry Potter adventure at Universal where we thoroughly enjoyed our Express passes, despite the diminished crowds (our Spring Break was apparently later than most this year and I’m not complaining about that at all). 

In the years before children, my husband and I would plan entire vacations around food, always looking for the most unique culinary experiences and freshest local fare. Over the years we’ve found some amazing restaurants off the beaten path and on the main thoroughfare, but few have wowed us with dessert recently.  

In true Plain Jane style, this vacation had some delicious gastronomic experiences.  One of our favorite places to eat while in Orlando is Emeril’s at Universal’s City Walk.  “Bam!”  It has a much different feel than Delmonico’s in Las Vegas, but is equally enjoyable with its bright open dinning room, views of the parks and the City Walk promenade and many New Orleans inspired selections.  If you ever get to go, I highly recommend the cornbread with bacon jam and honey butter and the pork belly with kale salad as appetizers followed up by the braised short ribs and shrimp and grits.  For those with children who only eat the childhood staples, Emiril’s makes one of the best pizza’s I’ve ever tried off a kids menu outside of an Italian restaurant.  Max asked if we could go back more than once and devoured the entire pie!  In fact, he was still talking about it after several weeks and complains that Emeril does not have a place in New York City.  

However, I would suggest skipping dessert and reserving the calories for ice cream in the park.  Those of you that follow the blog on Facebook, will not be surprised to hear that we were sorely disappointed in our dessert selections, which not surprisingly came highly recommended by the waitstaff.  While the key lime pie, banana cream pie and creme brûlée were touted as “outstanding,” they were mediocre at best leaving this lover of pie and sweet treats a bit heartbroken.  

The key lime pie was way too sour and the dollop of meringue insufficient to counter balance the pucker.  Bella instantly declared “mommy’s is better.”  Seriously Emiril’s?  The recipe on the side of the Nellie and Joe’s bottle with a little extra grated key lime zest is going to beat out that of a celebrity chef?  The answer is yes!  Check out our Pi Day post for that recipe as well as the leader in the banana cream category from the famous Buckhead Diner in Atlanta.   The banana cream pie at Emeril’s had the consistency of undercooked cake batter leaving it nearly unpalatable so that more than half was left untouched.  The Buckhead Diner banana cream pie will leave you happily smiling with a full belly and the desire to eat the entire pie in one sitting!!!!!  It is simply that good!  Our final attempt was the creme brûlée trio.  That was one third successful, but it was the chocolate and strawberry pots that drew us to it and they were “just ok.”  Vanilla creme brûlée to me is like chocolate chip cookies – a solid dependable dessert choice.  Nothing outstanding there, but the best of the night in the dessert category.  

After discussing dessert the entire shuttle ride back to Cabana Bay, we decided that maybe it was me.  Maybe I am the one that just can’t have dessert out any longer because I’m always looking for the best of the best… Something that is over the top worth the calories!  I’m on a hunt for the next best pie recipe to knock the current champion off the pedestal.  Perhaps my standards are too high?  OR maybe there is a dearth of great pastry chefs in America that share my love for pie.  Either way, our appetizers and meals were amazing as usual and we will salivate at the mention of then for months to come.  

As for great pie in the state of Florida, it wasn’t a total washout.  We devoured a chocolate cream pie from the Upper Crust on Dixie Highway in Lake Worth on the last night of our vacation in less than 3 minutes.  I mean come on!  Look at this pie!

I highly recommend checking out this second generation pie shop if you’re ever in the area.  I for one am starting a mental pie wish list for my next visit to the Sunshine State because these guys truly share a love for pie, my only regret is not discovering them earlier in our vacation!  

***photo credit: The Upper Crust.  Want to get really hungry?  Check out their amazingly beautiful website https://theuppercrustpies.com!