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Posted by Michael Stern on Friday, May 8, 2015 5:44 AM

Back in 2013, the Wall Street Journal declared that the cupcake trend had peaked; cupcakes were no longer the fashionable pastry they were when New York's Magnolia Bakery became a media darling at the turn of the century because its cupcakes were featured on the TV show "Sex and the City." One food writer even observed a "cupcake backlash" among consumers who realized it was all too easy to make their own.

Those of us who loved cupcakes before they were chic continue to love them even if their status among food oracles has sunk. As for making our own, we know for sure we never will make ones as good as those turned out by The Cake Box of Ridgefield, Connecticut.

These are handsome cupcakes, expertly baked and artistically frosted, modest in size but large in flavor, ranging from simple "Very Vanilla" and "Life by Chocolate" to such daily specials as Wednesday's "Almond Joy" (almond buttercream in a chocolate cupcake topped with toasted almonds and coconut), Friday's "Elvis" (banana cake filled with milk chocolate ganache with peanut butter frosting), and Saturday's "Peppermint Patty" (chocolate cake filled with mint buttercream). They are baked fresh every day, and they taste it: moist, buttery, made from ingredients of the highest quality.

In addition to cupcakes, the Cake Box makes wickedly good chocolate chip cookies, brownie bites, Italian macaroons, scones, muffins and cinnamon rolls. They also are known for elaborately decorated special-occasion cakes. While much business is take-out, you can sit down here in a comfy chair and enjoy pastries along with coffee or espresso.

Note that while there are a few gluten-free items available at the 1 Big Shop Lane location, proprietors Robert and Jordan also have a sister store, Swoon, completely devoted to gluten-free and nut-free pastries. It is located nearby in Ridgefield at 109 Danbury Road.
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Roadfood of the Day: Junction Drive-In - Kanab, UT
Posted on Friday, May 8, 2015

You Can Recognize Them By Their Tread

The four of us competed for these tasty morsels.
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Posted by Michael Stern on Thursday, May 7, 2015 4:54 AM

Technically speaking, Lobster Landing isn't even a shack. The ramshackle, 100-year-old, wood-frame shanty by the water is where you buy lobsters, oysters, and steamer clams to take home and cook. For dining here, you sit nearby at a plastic table in a sort of picnic area on a broken-clamshell deck that offers a makeshift tent for inclement weather. As for the choice of meals, there are exactly three, plus potato chips by the individual bag and soda you fetch yourself from a cooler near the order counter. As much as I like hot dogs and sausage-pepper-onion subs, I wouldn't dream of ordering one here. The menu's lead item, a hot lobster roll, is irresistible.

It comes in a big submarine bun, the center of which is cut away before toasting, thus making room for maximum amounts of lobster meat. Weightwise, I don't know how much claw, knuckle, and tail meat is piled into each sandwich, but there is no room for any more. This is a big lobster roll – although so good that ordering two is not out of the question (except, perhaps, financially). The meat, freshly picked and cooked, is bathed in butter but not swimming in it. Perfection, haloed by vivid waterside ambiance.
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Roadfood of the Day: RD's Drive-In - Page, AZ
Posted on Thursday, May 7, 2015

The Size is BIG

A wonderful open-faced chili, cheese, and onion burger.
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Posted by Michael Stern on Wednesday, May 6, 2015 5:37 AM

Located in the crossroads town of Leonore, Illinois (population 110), Smitty's Tap serves a size-twelve tenderloin piled with lettuce, tomato, and onion all nominally sandwiched in an incompetent bun. The pork is sweet and moist, the crust a bland halo of crunch. Smitty's also is known for its Illinois River Valley special of chicken & ravs Wednesday and Friday nights.

Posted by Michael Stern on Wednesday, May 6, 2015 4:18 AM

"Just Say No to Clam Chowder – Eat BBQ," proclaimed the moveable-letter sign outside Bonepile in Depoe Bay on the Oregon coast. While no sensible Roadfooder would focus on barbecue while traveling Highway 101, the superabundance of excellent seafood on the route does occasionally inspire yearning for something different. Should that yearning strike between Newport and Lincoln City, check out the Bonepile. Here you find a kitchen that uses local alder wood to smoke brisket, pork, chicken, St. Louis ribs, and baby backs, and offers half-pound hamburgers of beef and pork. Nary a fish dish in sight (although a shrimp crab boil is offered Saturday nights in the summer; and occasionally the smoker is used on local seafood). In case you don't get the message, the menu says, "No Tofu For You." At Bonepile, meat is what matters.

The St. Louis ribs are big and full-flavored, albeit a serious chew; and the brisket is sheer fatty luxury. Among the sandwiches is one known as the SOB: a splayed-open torpedo loaf filled with a mix of all the barbecued meats, sopped with spicy red sauce: a good-tasting mess of a meal. I was impressed with Bonepile beans, liberally laced with meat, sweet and cumin-perfumed, with maybe even a dash of curry. Cole slaw is crisp and refreshing, as is black eyed pea salad. Corn bread comes with honey butter. And the fruit pies, available in down-sized form to satisfy two normal appetites or one serious dessert-o-phile, are big-flavored Oregon beauties.

As you might expect from the sign outside, Bonepile is an aggressively fun sort of place, every inch of wall space covered with a collection of pop-culture ephemera that includes cartoons, movie posters, portraits of famous people and complete unknowns, a Moon Pie box, and a "Miracle Jesus" action figure with glow-in-the-dark hands.
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Posted on Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Bon Bons

Clockwise from left: Grand Cru (red wine), Cinnamon Praline, Bin 27 Port, Pistachio Marzipan, Love Bug (key lime ganache/white chocolate), Creamy Raspberry.
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Posted by Michael Stern on Tuesday, May 5, 2015 5:22 AM

Named because it is a gleaming silver mid-20th century Kit Companion travel trailer, the Old Tin Can is all about cheeseburgers. They are hand-pattied from locally-raised beef and they are cooked to order, medium-thick, and dripping juice. While the standard cheeseburger is terrific, especially when garnished with the works – onion, lettuce, tomato, etc. – there always is an interesting oddball burger on the menu, too. The cowboy burger is packed into a bun with bacon, barbecue sauce, and fried onion straws; the grilled cheese cheeseburger is made on thick, griddle-cooked toast; other specials include chili and avocado burgers and peanut butter-bacon-cheddar burgers; there's even a quinoa burger for vegetarians.

French fries are hand cut; and from a non-published "secret menu," you can order such occasional specialties as "The Mess" (French fries, grilled onions, bacon, jalapeno peppers, and special sauce) and peanut butter brownies with chocolate ganache.

The Old Tin Can is one of several food trucks that regularly park at Sandpoint's Oak Street Court across from Farmin Park. Dining is all al fresco, at picnic tables under tents. Other options at this happy eating spot include Tug's Hot Dogs, Hawaiian shave ice, Thai banana crepes, and Memphis barbecue. It is open from Spring until October.
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Posted on Tuesday, May 5, 2015

The Veggie is huge and delicious. This is half a sandwich; the other half is in the background
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Posted on Monday, May 4, 2015

Shore Dinner

Coastal New England's signature summer dish: a shore dinner. Pictured here are the lobster and a heap of steamer clams with a bowl of broth for dunking. Of course, you'll also want chowder, potatoes, corn, and a slice of Mabel's peanut butter ice cream pie.
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