Highlights and more from the Florida Sweets slide show:
Florida was promoted as the “land of sunshine and citrus” on post cards and on orange crate labels shipped north in the cold weather. These were used as marketing tools to attract visitors to the state.
The hotel industry in Florida started in the late 1800’s with the two Henry’s of the Gilded Age, Bradley and Plant. They created fanciful hotels catering to an elite clientele. At “Plants Palace”, as it was known then, they served chocolate soufflé pudding with vanilla sauce, nougat ice cream and strawberries, to the seasonal visitors for dessert.
Unique places to stay, such as Chalet Suzanne near Lake Wales made Florida a magic kingdom long before Disney arrived. Chalet Suzanne closed their doors a few years ago, but the memory of their sugar sweetened broiled grapefruit still lingers.
Today we have so much more to choose from.
Jack and I found an array of sweets throughout the state, from doughnuts and pastries in places like Dough in Tampa, to Key lime cakes balls from Key Largo Chocolates and pies from Pie Heaven in Northeast Florida, at Atlantic Beach near Mayport.
Jelly and jams, marmalades and chutney …from homemade at Yeehaw Junction to rose petal and orange marmalade at The Breakers, the natural bounty that the state provides gives us an almost unending supply of flavors and as many shops, roadsides stands, farmers markets and grocery stores selling a taste. Davidson of Dundee, not only makes citrus candy they also have an entire line Florida fruit spreads in a jar. Gourmet jelly, commercially produced, and small batch products are found throughout the state.
But Florida is also known for another unique sweet, from Northwest Florida comes Tupelo honey. Honeybees arrived in North American sometime in the 1700’s and today there are beekeepers throughout the state selling their wears in stores and roadside stands.
Beekeepers in the 1930s, in Wewahitchka started a Tupelo honey business. Today, Ben Lanier and his wife, Glynnis, operate the family business, L.L.Lanier and Sons Tupelo Honey. Three generations in the honey business for more than a century qualifies them as experts in the only flavor of honey they bottle, tupelo. Glynnis told me she puts Tupelo honey in her coffee every morning.
But the state has all kinds of honey to offer from the panhandle to the keys. The Curtis Honey Company in LaBelle has been serving up honey, exclusively from southwest Florida, since 1954 and we found the East Hill honey company selling their product at the Palafox farmers market in Pensacola one Saturday morning.
The Fancy Candy stores at theme parks provide variety, but it’s the small hometown shops likes Barb’s Southern Style Gourmet Brittles in Tallahassee, and Toffee-to-Go in Tampa, that really give a true taste of Florida.
JW Renfroe Pecan Company is a Pensacola classic and for ice cream we have Southern Craft Creamery, in Marianna … making ice cream using milk from the cows they have tended to themselves. We found it for sale at Piggly Wiggly in Fountain and Bradley’s Country Store in Tallahassee.
From the ‘Indian Pudding’ of the Colonial Era, made with cornmeal, molasses and sugar, to the frosted, whipped cream topped cookies and cupcakes, our taste for sweets has evolved along with our culture
Home-made desserts served in restaurants might be oxymoronic but Caramel cake from Sweet Magnolias in Panama City was made by a home cook for the restaurant. Kathy Hanline and Sherry Groom opened Sweet Magnolias in 1989 and Sherry told me their success comes from using quality ingredients, no short cuts…..and recipes she has collected while growing up in the area. Her Aunts, mother and grandmother influenced her recipe choices for the restaurant: Coconut, Hummingbird, Lemon Blueberry and Caramel Layer Cake. Key Lime Pie and Peanut Butter Pie.
But when it comes to fresh Florida Sweets people have been enjoying the fruits of our gardens and fields for centuries. At one time eating watermelon was a social occasion, whether it was removed from the fields without the knowledge of the farmers
or properly loaded on trucks to take to market, summertime watermelon is still a refreshing sweet treat.
Zeno’s on the Boardwalk in Madeira Beach on the Gulf Coast … and Daytona Beach on the Atlantic coast… has a taffy pulling machine that’s hard to walk past without stopping for a minute to watch.
Salt water taffy is a natural along coastal towns, even if it didn’t get its start in Florida. But you can thank Florida for providing you with your morning orange juice.
The roots of the citrus industry were planted when the Spanish Crown ordered all ships bound for the west to carry cargoes of citrus plants and seeds.
Key Lime Pie has been around since the 1880’s, today it is the state pie of Florida. From chocolate shops to home-made flan, Florida is full of sweets. The sweetness found here continues to grow. Florida Sweets shares information from interviews with workers and shop owners, with recipes and locations for a sampling of some of what Florida has to offer.