Jim Abbott on Florida Travel
Postcards from Florida
January 5, 2013
About 20 years ago Orlando had its own much-beloved kumquat celebration.
The Queen Kumquat Sashay, brainchild of then-Orlando Sentinel columnist Bob Morris, was a spoof on traditional holiday pageantry that featured units such as the World's Worst Marching Band and the world's most famous accordionist, Donald Hulme.
That's ancient history now, but there's still a Florida destination that offers a big tribute to the tiny kumquat. In rural Dade City, southwest of Orlando between Brooksville and Lakeland off U.S. Highway 301, the annual Kumquat Festival has been a tradition since 1996.
The celebration will unfold again on the final Saturday of January (this year on Jan. 26), when the downtown business district will host a street festival with music, colorfully decorated window displays, antique cars and culinary treats that make innovative use of the kumquat, a tiny, tart member of the citrus family.
That list includes kumquat pie, kumquat cookies, smoothies, ice cream, marmalade and kumquat salsa. Apparently, they make beer with it, too, but I might draw the line there.
The daylong Kumquat Festival caps a month of themed events such as a 5K race, recipe contests and a Miss Kumquat Pageant. Visit dadecitychamber.org for the month's schedule.
Aside from an enthusiastic pitch from a cheerful local ambassador at the Chamber of Commerce, kumquat fever wasn't too apparent on my recent visit to the Pasco County city. There's a Mayberry vibe on the sidewalks that connect the antiques shops and homegrown restaurants in the central business district along Seventh Street.
After visiting the chamber, I arrived too late to dine at Lunch on Limoges, one of the town's signature eateries. Fortunately, the dining room is connected to the restaurant's gift shop, so it was possible to experience a bit of the country-flavored elegance while browsing the cookbooks, knickknacks and clothing.
It's not the only spot to blend dining and shopping. At Del Carmen Mexican Store and Restaurant (352-518-0419), I combined a meal of "camarones a la diablo" (shrimp with hot sauce) with a look at the Latin CDs, boots, groceries and deli in the stores next to the restaurant.
Keep that in mind if you need a break from the celebrated citrus at this year's fest.