POSTCARDS FROM FLORIDA

Sweet stops at old-school shops in Florida

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Davidson of Dundee

Davidson of Dundee makes orange juice, candies and marmalades at its Polk County factory and store. (Orlando Sentinel / January 20, 2003)

It's possible to drive past landmarks for years without stopping, but that's not my style anymore.

I've looked behind the giant fake dinosaurs along Interstate 4 in Plant City, investigated the attraction behind that vintage aircraft on that same highway in Polk City and gazed at half-submerged Airstream trailers on the outskirts of Tampa.

If something catches my eye, I'm stopping.

Even if it catches someone else's eye, I'm open to ideas.

That's how goat-milk fudge inspired a recent road trip along U.S. Highway 27, south of the I-4 exit in Haines City. Long ago, that stretch of U.S. 27 used to be the home to Boardwalk & Baseball and Circus World, and it's now the route from Orlando to Legoland Florida in Winter Haven.

A colleague who covers the theme parks makes frequent Legoland runs and pointed out that old-school tourist stops line the highway, including one that proudly touts its goat-milk fudge. My co-worker, like so many of us, never had time to stop.

So I checked it out for him.

When it comes to candy, there are two essential shops on U.S. 27 between Haines City and Winter Haven. Ground zero for goat-milk fudge is Webb's Candy Shop (38217 U.S. Highway 27, Davenport), which also stocks homemade ice cream, ornamental glass, coconut footballs, teddy bears, hot sauces, gator-shaped chocolates and an assortment of fruit and citrus wines.

I didn't sample the wine, but the goat-milk fudge is rich and tasty.

In Dundee, a few miles south of Webb's shop, Davidson of Dundee specializes in fruit baskets and citrus candies, the chewy kind that I never liked because they stick in your teeth. To my surprise, the Davidson treats don't have that trait because the recipe from the family-owned company doesn't include pectin, a gel often used by candy makers.

Want to walk off all that candy? Historic Bok Tower Gardens (boktowergardens.org) is about 15 miles away in Lake Wales. The 50-acre garden is a quiet gem, with its ferns, palms, oaks, pines and seasonal blooms, accompanied by carillon bells.

On Nov. 10, the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra performs a 6 p.m. Sunset & Symphony concert at the gardens. Cost: $25 adults, $10 ages 5-12. Stop for candy first.

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