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Posted by Michael Stern on Friday, July 10, 2015 3:13 AM

I’ve always been intrigued by restaurants that do double duty. Jane and I have eaten well in bait and tackle stores, upholstery shops, bowling alleys, gas stations, and a pistol range diner. On a recent trip through Vermont, we came across a novel hybrid: the Depot Cafe, which is a restaurant in a furniture store. Buffetbuster has noted that Ikea’s meatballs may qualify it for this category, but at the Depot Café, you don’t just snack. You dine. You dine surrounded by lamps, settees, tapestries, tote bags, and piles of rugs, as well as customers shopping for those things. What makes it even more interesting is that the cuisine has a Turkish accent.

Depot's signature dishes are cooked in a wood-fired oven. That includes stylish, thin-crust pizzas available with toppings that range from a classic tomato sauce, cheese, and pepperoni to the “Taste of Anatolia,” which is Vermont lamb, onions, and parsley. I swooned over the Hajro’s Special pie: freshly roasted asparagus (I could see into the kitchen as the stalks were cooked to order for my pie), feta cheese, and a punchy Kalamata olive tapenade. Jane went for the wild mushroom pie, which was topped with a variety of mushrooms, caramelized onions, and mozzarella.

Beyond praiseworthy pizzas, the Depot Café offers kabobs, brick-oven chicken and salmon, and brilliant salads. We love the garlicky humus, served with extraordinary pita bread that is chewy, full-flavored, dotted with peppery little seeds.

If you have sweet tooth, leave room for dessert. Baklava is honey-drenched and nutty. Side it with a cup of true Turkish coffee and you will be up all night reminiscing about a really good meal in a really interesting place.
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Roadfood of the Day: Munch Box - Chatsworth, CA
Posted on Friday, July 10, 2015

The Valley’s Best Chili Dog

Spicy chili makes this dog the Valley’s best.
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Posted by Michael Stern on Thursday, July 9, 2015 5:00 AM

It’s less than 100 miles from Burlington, Vermont, to Montreal, Quebec, so it shouldn’t be too surprising to find a serious bagel bakery on the shore of Lake Champlain. What’s surprising is how good these bagels are – every bit as delicious as Montreal’s signature breadstuff. That means that unlike the poufy, insignificant bagel balloons that have become all too popular around the U.S., these are relatively small, very dense, slightly sweet, and perfumed by smoke from the wood-fired oven in which they are baked. The man who makes them, Lloyd Squiers, worked at St. Viateur in the City of Saints, so he knows exactly what he’s doing; and it is a pleasure to walk into this place, inhale the smoky perfume, and watch him work the oven to create the magnificent little rounds of chewy goodness. What a treat it is to get bagels still hot from the oven – plain, buttered, slathered with cream cheese (plain or flavored), or piled with lox (cured in Maine), onions, tomato, and capers.

The bagel repertoire is huge, and if there is a particular kind you want, you can call ahead and ask Mr. Squiers to make it. Among the choices are poppy seed, onion, garlic, rosemary sea salt, sesame, sesame sunflower, and one plastered with Montreal Spice, which is an herby mix of coriander, garlic, pepper, and salt. There even are gluten-free bagels, made with rice flour.

If all this place made was bagels, it would be well worth any Roadfooder’s attention, but there is more. The same dough is used to make pizzas on occasional Thursday nights; and every day the menu offers such items as veggie hash, fingerling potatoes seasoned with the brilliant Montreal spice, locally-made yogurt, and stupendous smoked brisket that is on a flavor-moisture-tenderness level with the best from a good Texas smokehouse.

What a fun destination this is. Located back from the road in an out-of-the-way industrial area, open every morning at 4, and bustling with the good cheer of proprietors and staff who obviously relish what they are doing, it is a four-star Roadfood gem.
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Posted on Thursday, July 9, 2015

The famous sopapilla burger.
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Posted by Michael Stern on Wednesday, July 8, 2015 5:50 AM

Having produced maple syrup for eight generations, Bragg Farm Sugarhouse knows what to do with it. This picturesque spread in East Montpelier, Vermont, sells not just syrup and candy (as well as cheese and crafts of all kind) but soft-serve ice cream flavored with maple syrup, in cup or cone, known as a creemee. The ice cream itself is smooth, subtly sweet and quite delicate -- best appreciated all alone in meditative licks. Having done that, I moved on to a more challenging variation, a sundae known as a maple apple drizzle. That's ice cream topped with an intense stewed apple compote reminiscent of the Maple Hurricane Sauce over at Polly's Pancake Parlor in New Hampshire, plus nuts, whipped cream, and a cherry. It was wonderful. However, after several spoonfuls of this powerhouse concoction, when I spooned up a bit of nothing but maple ice cream, I couldn't taste it. My tongue was that jaded. And I mean that in the best possible way.

Posted on Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Jemez Burger

The "Famous Jemez burger" is topped with Swiss cheese and a healthy helping of black olives.
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Posted by Michael Stern on Tuesday, July 7, 2015 4:16 AM

NOTE: This review was written by Allie Spangler, a new Roadfood intern in the Tacoma area. Allie also took all the photos. -- MS

A new rule of thumb: you know when it slides around on the bun, it’s going to be good. This is what the burgers and dogs are like at Shake Shake Shake, a retro all-American diner a block down from the iconic Stadium High School in Tacoma, WA. The aqua and tangerine orange 1940’s inspired classic diner is located in a corner brick building with big front windows and boasts both spacious indoor and outdoor dining areas. Inside, you’ll find a roomy dining area with a raised rounded milkshake bar, funky recycled bowling alley chairs, and an oversize metal lit sign that reads “EAT” on the back wall. First, follow the signs to the register to order, then take a seat either inside or out. The outdoor eating area has a friendly neighborhood vibe; orange and aqua picnic tables with red and white striped umbrellas are scattered around a large cinderblock fire pit. Painted murals of the surrounding neighborhood line one whole side of the airy space; strung market lights sparkle above; handy napkin and condiment stations are posted at each corner.

Shake3, as locals call it, serves classic American diner/drive-in burgers that you’d find on a family road trip. Fresh, hand-pounded patties, made from hormone-free Angus beef, sport crispy edges, lots of melted cheese, creamy house made secret sauce, crisp iceberg lettuce, sweet pickles, tangy relish, and crunchy white onions all on a standard toasted burger bun. They’re difficult to eat, but well worth it – just grab a big handful of napkins! The signature hickory burger has the same piled-on ingredients plus a wonderful smoky bacon-y sauce. Fries are of the shoestring variety (you can't stick just one in your mouth!) and there are crispy tater tots as well -- a seemingly strange side for a burger or dog. The most popular frank, the ‘Tacoma dog,’ is a Nathan’s Famous foot-long split in half, griddle cooked, and topped with mustard, pepperoncinis, relish, and crunchy raw white onions. It’s served with a knife and fork – a good idea, as all the mouthwatering ingredients defy hand-holding.

True to the restaurant's name, shakes are delicious: served in classic diner milkshake glasses with surplus piled into a silver tin cup. They are creamy and rich. The house specialty Tiger shake is a nod to the local Stadium High School’s mascot and includes Tacoma’s famous Almond Roca candy crushed into it with salted caramel and chocolate sauce drizzled on the inside walls of the glass to create a striped “tiger” look. A few other milkshake options: classic chocolate and vanilla (of course), miso butterscotch, pb&j, frozen latte, red licorice, coconut, and nutella. You can even make your shake a ‘boozy’ shake – an interesting concept, but one that I did not test out.
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Roadfood of the Day: Economy Candy - New York, NY
Posted on Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Goldenberg's are probably my second favorite all-time candy. Seen mostly under the label ''Chew-ets'' nowadays, it's nice to know I can still get the old label here on the Lower East Side.
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Posted on Monday, July 6, 2015


This close view of a drumstick gives a slight idea as to the juiciness that awaits once the skin is crunched.
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Posted by Michael Stern on Sunday, July 5, 2015 5:04 AM

To call Bridgewater Chocolate's Extra Chewy Peanut Bar a candy bar trivializes its magnificence. It is indeed bar-shaped, but it is eight inches long, outlandishly wide and thick – a snack big enough to sate the sweet tooth of 4 or 6 or 8. But it isn't size that makes it great, it's quality. This astonishing piece of candy is made with the best ingredients money can buy (it costs $18.95). Its flavor is reminiscent of a Baby Ruth, but a Baby Ruth with class: cream-rich nougat infused with peanut butter and crushed roasted peanuts, all wrapped in a dense milk chocolate robe decorated with a dark chocolate web. Old-time fans of Connecticut's top-tier chocolatier might remember the Extra Chewy Peanut Bar as part of Bridgewater's regular catalog, but making one is so labor-intensive that it now only is available in limited production runs. I happened to stop in when only two of a recent batch remained. I was assured they would be back – for Christmas, if not sooner. review

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