RIVERVIEW — When Valerie Jones was growing up in small town in Central Florida, there wasn't much to do. She spent her after-school hours and her vacations learning to bake.
"I come from a family of bakers," she said. "My mother, my aunt, my grandmother, we all baked."
When she was in North Carolina, where she worked with children from distressed families, she would relieve the angst from a difficult day of work by coming home and baking cupcakes or cookies.
When she came back to Florida for family reasons, she decided to pursue her passion full time. This month she opened Butterscotch Lane, where she sells her cakes, cupcakes and cookies.
"I'm finally living my dream," she said.
Everything at Butterscotch Lane is made from scratch by Jones herself.
There are plenty of other places to buy baked goods, so Jones wanted to do things a little differently.
She offers what she calls "petite cakes" that are about 4 inches in diameter. In some other shops, Jones said, customers order a single slice of cake. The rest of the cake tends to dry out once it's sliced. Petite cakes let customers buy a single serving that's always moist.
Jones also offers custom-made cakes for special events, including wedding cakes. When Jones creates a wedding cake, Butterscotch Lane offers a staffer to come to the wedding to slice the cake for a nominal charge.
"I just wanted to be able to provide a level of customer service that some other places don't," Jones said.
Butterscotch Lane is at 5920-B Providence Road, next to SunTrust Bank on Bloomingdale Avenue. It's open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 2 to 6 p.m. Sunday.
A grand opening celebration, with free samples and door prizes, will be held from 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday. (813) 657-1001 or butterscotchln.com.
Brandon cafe serves French Caribbean fare
BRANDON — When people hear about Caribbean cuisine, they usually think of jerk chicken and other Jamaican delights.
But one of Brandon's newest eateries is introducing local diners to a different kind of Caribbean food.
The Red Fork Café specializes in food from the French Caribbean. Although there are some similarities to Jamaican cooking, owner Esther Etienne said there's a difference in the spices and a French influence in a lot of the cooking techniques.
Among the customers' favorite dishes so far, Etienne said, are conch stew with fresh conch simmered in tomatoes with basil and parsley, whole snapper and herring fritters.
Goat, oxtail and other Caribbean specialties also dot the menu.
A Caribbean cocktail, with fresh strawberries, merlot and sangria, is another favorite of Red Fork customers.
"People come in just for that cocktail," Etienne said.
Prices are low to moderate. Nothing on the menu (except for the snapper, which is market price) is over $14.95. Through December, lunch patrons can try a sampler of many different items on the menu for $5.75.
The Red Fork Café, in the Oak Park Plaza at 715 W Lumsden Road, is open from noon to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, noon to 11 p.m. Friday, 6 to 11 p.m. Saturday and noon to 6 p.m. Sunday.
Call (813) 685-4290 or go to redforkcafe.com.
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