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Posted by Michael Stern on Tuesday, October 13, 2015 4:41 AM

"Have a mouse on the house," said the girl behind the counter many years ago when I told her I was a first-time visitor to L.A. Burdick. As soon as I sunk my teeth into the dark chocolate ganache of this cute little cocoa creature, I knew that I was in candy heaven.

It was Cissy Hicks, who was chef and proprietor at the Dorset Inn in Vermont, who told me to be sure to detour to Walpole to experience this amazing place, and I'm sure glad I did. For chocolates, for pastries, for a cup of hot chocolate, there is no place I know that delivers so much pure and perfect satisfaction.

The hot chocolate comes in two varieties, milk and dark. The milk is liquid velvet, a chocolate daydream, so rich and fully satisfying. Dark hot chocolate, made from chocolate shavings and steamed milk, is a cocoa steamroller, truly the most potent chocolate food or drink I've ever tasted. It is only sweet enough to round out the cocoa bean's inexorable intensity. Even sipped in the tiniest increments, it is overwhelming ... in the best possible way.

To go along with that hot chocolate (or coffee, which seems downright ghostly in contrast), there are fantastic pastries: Gugelhopf, the Austrian/Swiss bundt cake that is perfumed with lemon and vanilla, is as buttery as cake can be. The almonds and hazelnuts that go into Burdick's classic Linzer torte are balanced by a slight haze of cloves. A cherry Danish is more delicate than most croissants; and the croissants seem like they might actually float off the plate.

All these wonders can, of course, be taken away. Or they can be enjoyed here in a pleasant little tea room with nicely-clothed tables topped with heavy brown paper.

If you like chocolate, do make this a road trip destination.

There are Burdicks in Boston and New York. The one in Walpole, New Hampshire, is what the management calls "home base."
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Roadfood of the Day: Donut Man - Glendora, CA
Posted on Tuesday, October 13, 2015

This donut is far from a finger food, stuffed with large chunks of summer-fresh peaches!
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Posted by Michael Stern on Monday, October 12, 2015 4:15 AM

Having eaten very well on a drive through southern New Hampshire and Vermont, I was cruising down Route 5 in Massachusetts looking for nothing more than an ice cream cone, maybe. Smiarowski appeared to be just the ticket, since it calls itself a Creamy (which I assumed was sign-painterese for Creamery). However, as I approached, I knew that the shreds of appetite I had remaining were about to be annihilated. A placard near the order window advertised “Polish Food and Ice Cream.” The enticing smells of old world cooking that wafted from the kitchen told me I had stumbled upon eats too good to resist.

At first I thought I might get away with just a hot dog, but a beautiful steamed frank topped with homemade sauerkraut demanded I drill deeper. So I ordered the Polish Power Plate, a double-barrel meal of golumbki (stuffed cabbage) and kielbasa with a choice of two side dishes. I chose beans and what’s billed as lazy pierogi, which the girl behind the order window told me is all the pierogi ingredients, but just not pocketed as dumplings. It looks a lot like what's called halushki.

Served on a heavy disposable paper plate and eaten at a picnic table, this is a grand country meal. The kielbasa is bursting-plump, spicy, and smoky. It is so well packed that it is a tactile pleasure just to sever a disc from the link using the plastic knife provided. Golumbki is something you’d hope grandma would make: sweet and meaty, topped with bacon and thick tomato sauce. Lazy pierogi is pure comfort food, a mélange of noodles, onions, butter, and cheese. And the beans are extraordinary: cinnabar red, more bacon-sweet than sugar sweet – a Yankee dish with a Polish twist.

There is a big selection of ice creams, both Gifford’s and Snow’s brand, available in cones and cups, sundaes and milk shakes. I chose Snow’s maple walnut, which was packed with nuts and very creamy. It was just the right flavor to crown a warm square of Smiarowski’s apple crisp.

Smiarowski Farmstand and Creamy is open from April through December.
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Roadfood of the Day: Village Burger - Dunwoody, GA
Posted on Monday, October 12, 2015

For those with a smaller appetite, the single-pattied House Burger is available, here with cheddar.
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Posted by Michael Stern on Sunday, October 11, 2015 3:19 PM

As diners go, New Hampshire's Peterboro Diner is a ravishing beauty in dark green and cream, made by the Worcester Dining Car Company in 1950.

Posted on Sunday, October 11, 2015
Item Results
Steak 228
Lobster 216
Cake 90
Barbecue 51
Pie (a la mode or not) 25
Chocolate 23
Caviar 20
Comments (1)
Roadfood of the Day: Exmore Diner - Exmore, VA
Posted on Sunday, October 11, 2015

Crisp, juicy, sweet, and large, Exmore's butterfly shrimp are pride of the fry basket.
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Posted by Michael Stern on Saturday, October 10, 2015 5:01 AM

If it’s your lucky day, you will eat at the Tilt’n Diner when roast beef hash is on the menu. Waitresses Cheri and Katy told me that the boys in the kitchen make it two or three times a week. It is terrific: subtly seasoned, moist and easy to fork up by the bite, with just enough spuds woven in among the beef to temper its protein potency. It’s pancake-shaped and gently fried so there is a crisp web on each side of the cake, but this hash is all about softness and comfort. Corned beef hash, on the other hand, comes from a can and tastes it.

Among side dishes available with eggs, pancakes, etc., are baked beans. They are made-here baked beans with porky sweetness, and they add a welcome true-Yankee taste to the meal. The rest of the breakfast menu is predictable, and lunch includes burgers, sandwiches, and such locally-liked hot dishes as American chop suey, fried cod, and shepherd’s pie with creamed corn. Maybe some day I will sample some of these things, but the next time I am in the neighborhood, I am going to call ahead and see if the boys have made roast beef hash.

The Tilt’n is a true mid-20th century diner with a large new room and kitchen added on the back. It is self-consciously do-wop, with oldies on the sound system and vintage pop culture memorabilia everywhere, but in fact it really is vintage… in looks, attitude, and much of the no-nonsense menu.
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Posted on Saturday, October 10, 2015

This $4 sampler includes all three falafel flavors, each a distinctly different color.
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Posted by Michael Stern on Friday, October 9, 2015 3:02 AM

It is a problem deciding what to have for breakfast at the Four Aces Diner because there are so many inviting choices. How could one NOT have a hot popover with maple butter on the side? Or an immense maple-glazed sour cream donut cut in half, buttered, grilled, and topped with whipped cream? I went for both and had no regrets, but I am sorry I did not taste the creamy pimento cheese polenta sticks and the sweet corn fritters topped with powdered sugar and maple syrup. Also among the specials the day I visited were smoked peppered salmon and cream cheese on a bagel, maple baked beans, and a blue-plate special of pan-fried calves liver smothered with onions and bacon.

I get happy when I see red flannel hash on a New England menu. It is an old-time dish that once was popular but now is hard to find. What it is: corned beef hash with beets added. Normally the beets are mixed in enough that the hash turns the color of red flannel. At the Four Aces, little cubes of beet are added, contributing their flavor in tiny pops, but not dramatically effecting the taste of the whole dish, or its color.

West Lebanon is north enough that road signs give distances in kilometers as well as miles, so I felt obliged to try the poutine (a Quebecoise passion) that was also on the daily-special menu. It is half good, the French fries crisp and elegant, the cheese more flavorful than most (while not at all squeaky fresh like connoisseurs demand), but the whole thing is undone by gravy that tastes ersatz. I don’t know if it actually comes from a can, but it tastes it.

Four Aces, which is Worcester Dining Car #837, is one of the most handsome, most well-worn classic diners I know. There’s almost no pattern left on the Formica counter, and there are places where decades of elbows have worn right through. But overall it presents a fine picture with its curving pink ceiling, dark wood booths, chrome-banded counter stools, and tiny-tile floor. If you're a diner lover, it's a must. And if you are hungry in West Lebanon, it will fill the bill.
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