Kathi Hall Vincent, the creation behind Cotillion Southern Café.
If you have ever driven through Central Florida, you probably know Wildwood as the place where Interstate 75 meets the Florida Turnpike. The crossroads town has more to offer than fast-food chains at the exits, though. Just down the road from the major highways is the Cotillion Southern Café, an antique-filled restaurant where everything is “as Southern as possible.”
Located on Main Street (Highway 301) in the former Bank of Wildwood building, the Cotillion is a cozy blend of owner Kathi Hall Vincent’s passions in life: genealogy, antiques, old family recipes, and upscale Southern cooking. Her creative menu includes a Gone-with-the-Wind-inspired “Last Chicken in Atlanta” Pot Pie, and a “Twelve Oaks” Pork Platter, but it is Kathi’s homemade desserts that are the restaurant’s signature items. Her antique sideboard is filled daily with 8-to-10 desserts made fresh by Kathi herself. A four-layer Coconut Cake is the usual centerpiece and is often surrounded by made-from-scratch Jefferson Davis pies or her chocolate Southern Surrender Cake.
“I call it Appomattox Cake because you surrender your diet, waistline, blood pressure,” she says with a laugh. “It’s one of our most popular cakes.”
Almost all of the menu items are family recipes from Kathi’s grandmothers and great-grandmothers, and many of the dishes are named after them. A ninth generation Floridian, Kathi says understanding and appreciating all that her ancestors went through to settle the state in the 1700s makes her grateful for modern Florida’s Sunshine State of Mind.
“When they arrived in Florida, they were Loyalists. They had to deal with the British and the Spanish taking their land. Civil War deserters came and burned them out as well,” she says. “Then there were the Indians, malaria, unfortunate accidents, even murders, but yet they endured and passed on their legacies to the generations that followed.”
“We think we have trials and tribulations now, but when I look at what my grandmothers and their grandmothers had to endure it makes my problems seem trivial,” says Kathi, a mother of six grown children.
Mother’s Day: Simple and Beautiful
Mother’s Day is a special occasion for Kathi and her husband, Jimmy, who enjoy Sunday celebrations with family. It’s also a day when she’ll be honoring her own heritage with recipes passed down from her grandmothers.
“Keep the recipes uncomplicated so that the cooks can enjoy the celebration, too,” says Kathi. “It’s the simple traditions that we often remember the most. For me, it was having Florida Ambrosia at every family gathering.”
Cotillion’s Florida Ambrosia
1 cup Navel oranges, sectioned
1 cup red or pink grapefruit, sectioned
1 cup fresh pineapple, chunks
1 banana sliced
1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
Mix bite-size chunks of the fruit together, including juice, with confectioners’ sugar. Scoop into individual pedestal dishes and sprinkle with coconut. Garnish each dish with a cherry and add sliced bananas around the side.
For more information, visit www.cafecotillion.com.