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Posted by Michael Stern on Friday, March 27, 2015 4:43 AM

We've been fans of Turtle Alley ( review) since it opened in 1999. We visit the original store in Gloucester, Massachusetts, as often as we can; and when that's not possible, we get our Turtle Alley fix via mail-order. Now there is another way to enjoy chocolatier Hallie Baker's ne plus ultra creations: make them yourself! Hallie's beautiful new book, Turtle Truffle Bark!, has recipes for everything from Pretzel Bark to Black-and-White Turtles to Cardamom-Cinnamon Truffles. The book's official publication date is March 30, 2015, but it's already selling like hotcakes.

Posted by Michael Stern on Friday, March 27, 2015 3:44 AM

Toni's is a few blocks off U.S. 41, the main road leading up through the Keweenaw Peninsula. We likely never would have found it if an enthusiast we met down in Houghton hadn't told us that we needed to detour there for the nisu and saffron breads. Those loaves, which are made by many Finnish bakeries in northernmost Michigan, were just a few of the wondrous eats to be had at Toni's.

Sticky buns, for example. We smelled them the moment we walked in the front door. Three big round loaves of pull-apart buns were set upon the glass bakery case to cool. Each roll severed from the motherloaf was modest-sized but big-flavored. Just inside the front door, to the left, we peeked into the semi-open kitchen, where bakers were rolling dough on a floured table and another woman was plowing forearm-deep to hand-mix a big pan full of ingredients destined to be the filling of pasties. Toni's pasties are exemplary, light and elegant yet profoundly beefy.

It was late fall when we stopped in. The modest, one-room cafe was buzzing with conversations among locals who were reminiscing about the summer and anticipating the snows to come. When we ordered pasties, the waitress beamed with pride and exclaimed, "The best, ever!" We left with bags full of oven-warm molasses cookies to munch as we drove.

Note: Toni's closes just before Christmas and reopens at the end of January.
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Roadfood of the Day: Upper Crust - Brookline, MA
Posted on Friday, March 27, 2015

A Perfect Slice

A favorite of mine when I lived in the neighborhood. I'd have one a couple of times a week.
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Posted by Michael Stern on Thursday, March 26, 2015 3:53 AM

More people of Finnish descent live in Michigan's Upper Peninsula than anywhere other than Finland, so it is hardly affectation that the menu of the Suomi Home Bakery & Restaurant lists dishes in Finnish with English subtitles. You can get familiar lounas lautanen (plate lunch) and rice pudding or banana cream pie for jalkiruoat (dessert), but we recommend aamiainen (breakfast – served all day), for which nisu bread, perfumed with cardamom, is made into Finnish French toast, and pannukakku is the star attraction. Described as Finnish pancake, pannukakku puts us in mind of a crustless egg custard pie – sweet, creamy, fundamental. One large cake, about a half-inch thick, is baked in a glass tray and served in sunny yellow 4x4-inch squares along with warm raspberry sauce. The sauce is wonderful, but we used it on nisu toast, unwilling to modify the unimprovable pancake.

In some ways, Suomi is a classic American town cafe, where locals come to share morning coffee and regulars are well-known by the staff. But in addition to the unusual food, the chatter lets you know you are someplace different. On our first visit one morning, it took a while to realize that cross-table conversations in the spacious dining area actually were in English rather than some Scandinavian language. It was the dialect known as Yooper, from U.P. (Upper Peninsula), a curiously musical blend that sounds Finnish and German and a bit Canadian and is especially strong northwest of Marquette.

The bill of fare at this handsome place, decorated with vintage photographs of copper country history, is not all Nordic. You can get bacon and eggs for breakfast (better yet, sausage and eggs; the dense, herby sausage links are made across the Keweenaw Waterway in Hancock) and hamburgers and ordinary sandwiches at lunch. And of course you can have a pasty filled with rugged clumps of beef and little irregular nuggets of potato and rutabaga. For Finnish finish, end a meal with a bowl of cooked, cooled dried fruit known as visku vellia.
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Roadfood of the Day: Dream Diner - Tyngsboro, MA
Posted on Thursday, March 26, 2015

Monte Cristo: a bit of a non-traditional spin on a classic, and very good.
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Posted by Donald Frantz on Wednesday, March 25, 2015 7:49 AM

To say Nashvillians are lucky would be the understatement of the century. There are many choices when it comes to finding a place to eat in Nashville, but the choice gets harder, because there are so many places to eat. Well, let me put your mind at ease.

The Riverside Grill Shack is the place to go when you are hungry on the Eastside of Nashville. The name might throw you, though. It is not located on the riverside, but on Riverside Drive, which does not run next to the river. The part they did get right was the shack part of the name.

I have been to some small places in my travels, but wow, this place is tiny! There is a sign on the detached covered screened-in dining area, that supports a sign "Luxurious Seating". When you see it in person, you will understand the joke. Enough about the shack, let's talk about the real reason to go there for a meal. THE FOOD.

Riverside Grill Shack has a limited menu, and really that is okay. Too many places try to do too many things and the quality suffers. That is not the case here. The menu consists of burgers, salads, wings and fries and not just any regular fries, but Uber Tuber Hand Cut Fries.

The burger is a 1/3 lb. locally raised, grass fed beef, seasoned just right and served with muenster cheese on a grilled bun. All the fixins are available and you can even add bacon for a small upcharge. The wings are well seasoned and meaty, the different styles of sauces make "which one to pick" a real hard decision. The wedge salads are huge and the bacon and bleu cheese salad was a perfect balance between crunchy and creamy. You can get real Coke in a glass bottle too, but if you want another choice of drink, they have canned Coke products.

There is limited seating, but it is easy to take your meal to go and find a spot by the "river" to eat. One hint I will give: take extra napkins/paper towels, because you will need them.

The shack is open for breakfast Friday through Sunday starting at 8am on Friday and 9am on Saturday and Sunday. They have a wide range of breakfast sandwiches, fried biscuits with some awesome ingredients, and fried cheese grits with triple pepper jack cheese.

This is not "Fine Dining", however it is mighty full dining at its best. Come hungry and leave happy and full.
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Posted on Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Fried Chicken

Our waitress estimated that 90% of the diners here order the crunchy crusted fried chicken.
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Posted by Michael Stern on Tuesday, March 24, 2015 4:36 AM

Jean-Kay's pasty shop was started by the Harsch family in 1975 in Iron Mountain and, as Jean Kay's Sweet Shop, its specialty was donuts. But Jean Kay Harsch suggested they change their business plan to make pasties. She felt the Upper Peninsula could use a place that made the Cornish meat pies the way her grandmother used to do it back when they were a staple in the diet of the region's settlers.

If you want to know what grandmother's pasties were like, I suggest a visit to Jean-Kay's of Marquette, a restaurant started by Jean Kay's son Brian, sold to someone else, then rebought by Brian when he didn't feel the pasties were up to snuff. Here you will savor a classic, made with steak (not burger meat) and suet (not lard). Although rutabaga-free pasties are on the menu, Brian explained the value of rutabagas in the filling – an ingredient frequently ignored by Jenny-come-lately bakers. "It is an amazing vegetable," he enthused. "Aside from its own flavor, it works with whatever else is in there to keep the moisture flowing. It is a conduit."

While Jean-Kay's is a small storefront with a few tables inside and out, the pasty-making part of the operation is big. Being USDA-approved, it can Fedex half-baked, frozen pasties coast-to-coast, any time between September and May. Available varieties include steak, veggie with cheese, and mini pasties that make wonderful hors d'oeuvre.
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Posted on Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Country Burger with Breaded Mushrooms

Another country burger, this time complete with seasoned potato wedges and one of Lora's specialties... breaded mushrooms with ranch on the side for dipping.
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Roadfood Recipe: Coconut Layer Cake
Posted on Monday, March 23, 2015 4:28 AM

Recipe of Coconut Layer Cake

Jo Mayer's coconut layer cake, featured dessert at the opening day breakfast of Fairfield County Hounds, is made from a recipe Jo got from her grandmother Geraldine. Its glossy icing is infused with enough sour cream to sing tangy harmony with coconut. Note that icing should be made the day before the cake is baked and the iced cake should be refrigerated several hours or overnight. So, plan ahead!

Preparation Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Servings: 8

See the full Coconut Layer Cake recipe...
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