Occasionally, alert readers can catch a glimpse of the inner workings of the Postcards from Florida column, pull away the curtain to look behind the scenes at the creative process.
Often, there's some culinary motivation involved. At other times, the editorial direction is dictated by another guilty pleasure. In its most inspired moments, a road trip combines both, such as a recent visit to a spring-training baseball game in Sarasota that included multiple trips to the concession stands at Ed Smith Stadium.
This week, food was the inspiration.
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Umatilla, FL 32784, USA
For years, I have listened to a colleague brag about the mom-and-pop barbecue at Old Crow Real Pit Bar-B-Q in the rural Lake County town of Umatilla, about 40 miles northwest of Orlando. The restaurant (41100 N. State Road 19; 352-669-3922) makes a nice lunch destination for a leisurely weekend excursion. It's a good midway point between the parks and shops of Mount Dora to the south and the uncluttered landscape of the Ocala National Forest to the north.
Old Crow just marked its 27th anniversary in February, which speaks to the quality of the food and service. With a dining area that's not much bigger than the family room of a suburban home, the atmosphere is something like the spirit of a church social.
I had a tasty pork lunch plate, sampled all three of the homemade barbecue sauces (I'd recommend the mustard-based one), read my book, listened to my neighbors at the next table talk about local news. I didn't eat dessert, but one look at the giant slab of cake at another table was enough to realize that it would've been big enough to share.
There's not a lot of action in Umatilla, although there's a nice park just north of the restaurant that is dedicated to Pvt. Robert Miller McTureous Jr., a World War II hero.
At the Battle of Okinawa, the Altoona native waged his own kamikaze assault against enemy troops. Facing heavy fire, he was killed offering cover for the evacuation of other wounded soldiers. For his valor, he was awarded the Medal of Honor.
McTureous' childhood home is on the park grounds, although the modest museum wasn't open on my visit. Not to worry, there are other quiet diversions nearby, including an assortment of antiques stores, produce stands and tree-lined roadway.
The drive is good for your digestion.