The Coop – Taste from a Traditional Style Southern Kitchen

The Coop - Southern Affair Cooking

My wife, Carol and I debated on where to have brunch or lunch for our 43rd wedding anniversary. We decided on the Coop in Winter Park since we had not been there before though we heard about it through a family member and friend.  

It is located at 610 West Morse Boulevard in Winter Park Florida.  This building had been Mike Hage’s Market in the middle of the last century.  First renovated by John Spang for the East India Market after standing empty for a time, it would later be occupied by a series of tenants who were not always so considerate of the vernacular commercial building.  John River had the foresight to reimagine the building as the perfect place for his new southern style restaurant, The COOP.  He brought the building up to current code standards added a lively vintage inspired sign.  The COOP’s adaptive reuse and renovation preserve the building’s unpretentious character and honor the Hannibal Square history.

We arrived at the Coop about 11:20am.  There was no waiting line so we placed our order right away, cafeteria style. Both of us chose chicken and dumplings, collard greens, peppered yams, cornbread, and biscuits. A slice of a Chocolate layered cake and a Pumpkin Bar was our delicious dessert choices. There was a tempting variety of desserts to choose from and it was not easy to decide! The entree and sides menu offers quite a spread of southern favorites, which the flavors of, should please the palette of most anyone, I’m sure.

The building and food at the Coop reminded me of my childhood in eastern North Carolina where I was raised. The support poles inside the dining area were also common to construction in the small towns where I lived as were the wooden floors. The soda beverage display was common in older Carolina but most of the containers I remember holding the soda bottles steeped in cold water.  Ice is much nicer!  The 610 W morse building was built in 1947. I appreciated greatly that in 2014 the founder of the Coop, John Rivers, renovated the building for the Coop restaurant and was awarded for his excellence of historic renovation.

My grandmothers were both raised in North Carolina and were well noted for their southern cooking. My mother held that tradition firmly as well. I remember my school and Navy buddies raving over our families southern cooking and mentioned it in their correspondence. The Coop brought back some memories of wonderful meals with them over the years. One of my grandmothers put a small measure of sugar in most of her dishes, including vegetables.  

I noticed there was a  measure of sweet in the collard greens at the Coop. My other grandmother didn’t use the added sweet which I preferred.  Also, I was raised eating unsweetened cornbread but I did enjoy their sweetened version. Carol was raised in Michigan where sweetened cornbread called, Johnny cake, was the norm. We found the biscuits much like grandmas’, very authentic to our past southern dining experience. We appreciate and acknowledge the efforts to authenticity in keeping recipe traditions that have proven to be a dining favorite with so many folks.  As we were enjoying our meal, we saw a continual line of people arriving, people of all ages. Carol and I had a tasteful time visiting the coop for our anniversary luncheon. We plan to make the Coop a regular visit and recommend it to others. If you are unfamiliar with southern cooking, treat yourself, your family or a friend to some new and delightful flavors. There is plenty of seating room for dining at the Coop, inside and outside.  You get your meals fast and the dining is homey and casual.

The car parking can be tight but not unreasonable.    

 The Coop


Garden Café Mclane, Sebring Florida

On December 10, 2015, Art and I had lunch at the wonderful Garden Cafe in Sebring, Florida. The most remarkable thing about this restaurant wasn’t just their great food. It was the open and close wall sections on every side that reveal a beautiful garden area.

Art and I had a great time chatting with Lolly Mclane about the menu and the wonderful deserts. It was a very friendly time to sit with her and talk about the Garden Cafe. We promised to return and to bring friends. Maybe you will join us on our next visit to the Garden Cafe.

Scott and Lolly Mclane, owners of Mclane’s Country Garden, have been serving customers by creating beautiful landscapes and providing quality plants to the Sebring area for the last twenty years. “The beautiful setting of our nursery always seemed like a nice place to sit down and have a bite to eat. Seeing a need for a nice outdoor dining location in the Sebring area, and an enthusiasm for delicious home cooking, the Garden Café at Mclane’s Country Garden was opened to the public in December 2011. Specializing in café bistro fare, customers have enjoyed our delicious quiche, specialty sandwiches, and fine desserts. Mclane’s Country Garden is proud to give our customers this new beautiful dining option while remaining one of the best landscape nurseries in the Highlands County area.”
Garden Café, Sebring, FL

Kenilworth Lodge

Kenilworth Lodge Sebring Florida

For our 40th wedding anniversary, we stayed at the Kenilworth Lodge in Sebring Florida. Art and I love history so this historical place was something we both enjoyed. Our stay there was a special time because it was during the Christmas season and the hotel was beautifully decorated.

Art is a caricature artist and was hired to perform for The Palms of Sebring Retirement Center.

The hotel was built in 1916 by George Sebring, who founded the town of, Sebring. The Kenilworth Lodge was a seasonal hotel, open only in the winter.  George Sebring was friends with the president of the Seaboard Atlantic Railway, and every train stopped in Sebring.

Kenilworth Lodge is a Mediterranean Revival hotel with a grand staircase and a 4,000 square foot lobby.  The Lodge is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

It was good that we visited the Lodge at the specific date because the hotel has since been closed. We sincerely hope that the Kenilworth Lodge will be reopened.  It would be unfortunate to have this historic place closed to the public.

Kenilworth Lodge in Sebring Florida

Florida Travel Series~Titusville, Florida

There are many places and faces to see in naturally beautiful Florida! It’s a pleasure to find other folks with a passion for traveling Florida’s scenic highways, byways, for a new experience and perhaps an adventure.  The wonderful people met along the way have interesting stories to tell.  While on my computer I crossroads with “OLD THINGS R NEW”, a Blog forum hosting an article about the town of Titusville written by Melody Hendrix.

Check out her post, enjoy the photography featuring scenic Titusville.



Cook’s Buffet in Deland

Cook’s is a wonderful historical place with really great food that brings back family memories. We suggest you order the buffet, to get the whole Cook’s experience.

We took my mom here when she was visiting for our daughter’s wedding. When Art and I were first married Art’s mother Esther first introduced us to the Holiday House in Winter Park.  It was our family tradition for many celebrations. Now we are so glad to share our traditions at Cook’s.

Bob and Willa Cook founded the original Holiday House Restaurant serving prime steaks, tossed salads and gigantic Idaho baked potatoes. Bob developed a special buffet style serving hand carved aged beef, fresh turkey, lamb, and ham. To accompany the meat choices were freshly prepared vegetables, salads, and homemade desserts. There were 14 Holiday House Restaurants throughout Central Florida with the one we frequented in Winter Park on Aloma which is now First Watch.

The food is fresh, delicious and served by a friendly staff.  The desserts are remarkable, to say the least.  Go check out those wonderfully, big cakes! The fresh salad bar is a great spread having fruits, and a variety of homemade salads, dressings, and sauces. And of course, the warm homemade bread is a favorite, making you want to ask for more. The homemade iced-tea is amazing and the coffee is smooth and flavourful. SEE MENU

Cook’s is in a 100-year-old building, their family’s former residence.  You can even take a behind the scenes tour of the kitchen if you like, business permitting of course.

We hope you are able to visit Cook’s some time to enjoy a classy and homey place with such good food.  We hope to see you there


Cook's Restaurant

Harry P. Leu Gardens

On June 5, 2017, Art and I visited Leu Gardens. The Harry P. Leu Gardens are semi-tropical and tropical gardens in Orlando, Florida, United States. The gardens contain nearly 50 acres of landscaped grounds backdropped by the serene Lake Rowena. Meandering trails shaded by 200-year-old oaks and forests of camellias have a bayou effect like walking back into history in the old south. The gardens are well kept and manicured displaying the natural beauty of many species of plants, indigenous, exotic and adopted. We enjoyed the many colorful flowers in bloom and species that we’ve have never seen before.  The historical home is a beautiful old country house, overlooking Lake Rowena, and filled with antiques and history.  The tour through the house is a must.

The gardens and historical home were donated to the City of Orlando in 1961 by Mr. Harry P. Leu and his wife, Mary Jane.

Harry P. Leu and his wife, Mary Jane, purchased the property in 1936. Mr. Leu owned a very successful industrial supply company. The Leus traveled extensively and brought back plants and seeds for their garden. The beautiful gardens bear witness to the legacy Mr. Leu left to the City of Orlando.

Art and I enjoy spending the day here as a getaway date to spend time together. The beautiful gardens provide a special place for us to relax, reminisce, and wonder.
Harry P Leu Gardens

Lake Mary Farmers Market

On Saturday, July 8, 2017, Art and I traveled to the Lake Mary Farmers Market for an interview with our friends Tom and Lisa Donohue, the founders of CleanPeace Soap. CleanPeace Handcrafted Soap is lovingly made by Tom and Lisa, in their kitchen with 100% food grade oils and either pure essential oils or fragrance oils. No animal fat nor detergents are used in their products.

What began as a hobby for friends and family, now, due to many requests for their products, has turned into a fine and artistic array of wonderful scents and color ladened natural soaps, bar lotions, and scrubs.  You can purchase Clean Peace Soaps online and at the Lake Mary Farmers Market. A few of our favorites are,”Garage Band,” “Almond Lovin,.  Carol says that showering in the morning using the “Sargent Peppermint”, wakes you up better than coffee!” There is a wonderfully scented soap for eveyone.  Enjoy!

They enjoyed the 60’s and 70’s music, with the vibrant art and an earthy, casual and independent spirit, that’s how their product mark was born.
Lake Mary, Farmers Market

Big Tree Park

Carol & I stepped back in time at a popular tourist destination. I first saw the Senator in 1960. I remember the car ride from Bayside, Va. to Orlando with my dad, mom, and three sisters.  It was a hot balmy summer day, driving with the windows open, no A/C, and we noticed the Big Tree Park sign along road 17/92 and my dad decided to take a break, stop and check it out. At that time there was a trodden path through the woods that led to the Senator and Lady Liberty, two very big trees. I wasn’t acquainted with the woods being so dark and thick.  I remember it felt a bit eery. As we walked toward The Senator, the balmy feeling increased. Seeing the tree ahead I couldn’t believe its size, it was definitely the biggest tree that I’ve ever seen. Now visitors walk through a natural hydric hammock swamp and make way on a boardwalk to the former site of “The Senator”: Before the fire, The Senator was approximately a 3,500-year-old National Champion Bald Cypress Tree. with a diameter of 17.5 Ft. and 118 Ft. high. The story behind the fire is a sad one.  Carol and I had visited the Senator in 1975, shortly after we were married. 

A memorial has been developed that includes interpretive signage along the newly renovated boardwalk, a playground piece that mimics a bald cypress tree stump and a clone of “The Senator” that was planted near the playground. The name for the clone is “The Phoenix”, and it’s growing at a fast rate. Big Tree Park is also home to the Senator’s sister tree, “Lady Liberty”, an approximately 2,000-year-old Bald Cypress Tree. This property was donated to Seminole County by Senator M.O. Overstreet and dedicated by President Calvin Coolidge in 1929.

There is a picnic area with a pavilion, a rubberized surface playground area, restrooms and ample parking.   There is currently no admission cost.
Big Tree Park

Wild Hare Kitchen and Garden Emporium

Today, Art and I took on an adventure in Old Longwood, Florida. We found this unique organic gourmet grocery shop that buys and sells locally, carrying locally-sourced eggs, produce, honey & milk, plus garden supplies.  They’re located at 335 N Ronald Reagan Blvd  Longwood, FL 32750, directly across the street from the beautiful historic houses.

A Local Good Clean Fair Food They Bring the Farm to You! Local Produce, Plants, Seeds, Raw Milk, Yogurt, Kefir, Grass-Fed Meats, Broth Making Supplies, Jams, Pickles, Lacto-Fermented Kimchi and Sauerkraut, Raw Cheeses, Honey, Pastured Soy and Corn Free Eggs, Handmade Soaps, Naturally Made Cosmetics and Cleaning Products.  

Their egg selection included duck and quail eggs.   Besides having packaged teas, a hearty, flavorful ginger herb tea is available to taste for free or purchase by the ounce or jug.  Bottled savory sauces, glass-jar pickled vegetables, and vegan pastries are among other unique items.
Wild Hare Kitchen and Garden Emporium