You've driven all the way to Mount Dora for dinner at Norman Van Aken's new restaurant. You are not amped at the idea of a post-prandial two-hour drive, am I right? Mount Dora is perfect for a weekend getaway, so make it a food-focused field trip. Wander Donnelly, Fourth and Fifth streets to find an array of noshing options (Working Cow Ice Cream; $9.95 lobster rolls at Let's Do Lunch) and gift ideas (Piglet's Pantry Dog Bakery, because you know your pooch hates it when you go away for the weekend). And then there are these, each of which merits a bit of time:
KaDee Kay Gourmet Kitchen Products is the kind of encyclopedic kitchenware store where serious cooks get lost. This isn't the froufrou Williams-Sonoma catalog stuff (seriously, a tartan plaid holiday casserole?) — you'll find cheesecloth and piping bags, extracts and herbs, cookie cutters and of-the-moment tools like a corer for stuffed cupcakes. 237 W Fourth Ave., Suite 2, (352) 383-3600.
Speaking of, Cupcake Delights, with its pale pink walls, wide plank floors and outrageous multicolored glass chandelier, offers up at least 18 daily cupcake varieties. Owner Judy Owens, whose Snickerdoodle cupcake won best overall at the Orlando Cupcake Challenge, has been in this location for 3 ½ years and in Mount Dora for nine. Five months ago she added a second location in Holmes Beach on Anna Maria. What to order? The carrot cake, red velvet and classic buttercream get high marks, accessorized elegantly by a sophisticated array of coffee drinks. 122 E Fourth Ave., (352) 383-2200.
Continuing in this vein, Le Petit Sweet is the kind of aspirational shop that gets brides flushed and flustered. It's a "custom cakery" that also specializes in macarons and bite-sized desserts, with a pressed-tin ceiling and hip little lounge area in which to nibble (okay, gobble) your sweet treats. 110 W Fifth Ave., (352) 729-2453.
You're getting thirsty, for sure. Maggie's Attic is a go-to local spot opened in 2003, a wine bar (400 selections!) and beer retailer (200 craft options!) with eclectic seating and live music some nights outside, just across the courtyard from KaDee Kay. There's also an oddball assortment of gifts, as well as wine tastings on the first and third Saturday of the month. 237 W Fourth Ave., Suite 5, (352) 383-5451.
Fully fortified, you're ready to buy some gifts for folks back home. The first stop is the Spice & Tea Exchange. Sister property to the one in Madeira Beach, this location has about the widest array of mortars and pestles I've seen in a while. With teas, sugars, gift accessories (check out the Florida Sun and Sizzle, a citrusy salt blend and pirate-inspired pepper), the light and airy shop is owned by Kim and Glenn Gordon. 431 N Donnelly St., (352) 729-6762.
And finally, swoop by Mount Dora Olive Oil Co. for a dram or two of deep emerald extra-virgin and a matching cruet of inky balsamic vinegar. The shop branches out with intriguing specialty items (Blenheim apricot white balsamic, harissa-infused oil), with dreamy stocking stuffers like pour spouts, bone salt cellars and carved wooden salad tongs. 351 N Donnelly St., (352) 735-8481.
Contact Laura Reiley at [email protected] or (727) 892-2293. Follow @lreiley on Twitter.