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Posted by Michael Stern on Sunday, June 14, 2015 6:29 PM

A six hour flight from New York and warm sunny weather in Seattle made me need a tall cool one immediately upon settling down. Wow, did I find it. A half-block from my hotel (the Palladium, which bills itself as elegant and edgy), Moore Coffee Company had a sign in its window touting their new drink, horchata. Thin, icy, bright, not the least bit fatty, this slightly sweet rice milk cut through thirst like a sharpened razor. I plan to return in the morning to check out the coffee!

Posted by Michael Stern on Sunday, June 14, 2015 4:38 AM

Back in 2004, Darrell's took the blue ribbon in the first-ever Iowa Pork Producers Association tenderloin competition; and based on recent tastings, we can say with assurance that the kitchen has not lost its touch. This is one handsome hunk of pounded-tender pork, thick enough to be plenty juicy but also far wider than its bun, bound in a crunchy wave of crust with countless savory facets. Complemented by pickle chips and thick hoops of crisp white onion, it is an essential destination sandwich in a part of Iowa that is rich with excellent tenderloins.

There is a full menu of good-looking bar food, but you must save room for dessert. Rhubarb pie, made using stalks secured from customers' patches, is peerless, piled into a master-class crust, its tantalizing sugar-tart filling balanced by the cascade of soft-serve vanilla ice cream that is its traditional garnish. It's best in summer, but the proprietor gathers enough from his devoted customers that can freeze as much as he needs to offer rhubarb pie year-around.

We must tell you that Darrell's Place is so devoid of visual charm that the void is itself charming. Looking less like a restaurant and more like a large shed where trucks and tractors get stored, there is no outside landscaping or architectural personality whatever; only a Coke sign with the restaurant name marks the building, which is surrounded by a flat, grey tarmac that serves as a parking lot. The interior is all beer advertising memorabilia and, of course, a TV above the bar.
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Posted on Sunday, June 14, 2015

Death By Peanut Butter Sundae

The Death by Peanut Butter sundae: be prepared to receive many unbelieving stares as I did when tackling this tempting titan of rich, indulgent goodness.
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Posted by Michael Stern on Saturday, June 13, 2015 4:41 AM


Fenton's is a creamery devoted to ice cream, but in many ways it is a classic California coffee shop. Its menu of sandwiches, salads, chili, and hamburgers is dished out in a big, quick-service dining room where people come for hot meals as well as for coffee an' snacks. Over the course of several days in Oakland, I relished a crab salad sandwich on grilled sourdough bread, a guacamole burger, and a copious Cobb salad, as well as an order of chili cheese fries.

The best things I ate at Fenton's were sundaes. Two friends and I did a three way share of a top-of-the-line banana special, which is -- are you ready? -- three pounds of ice cream topped with pineapple, strawberry, and fudge, plus a banana, whipped cream, nuts, and a cherry. The menu divides the sundae selection into "Sundaes for the Adventurous" (the really big ones), "Sundaes for the Sophisticate" (classic black-and-whites, black-and-tans), "Sundaes for the Sedate" (only a scoop or two), and "Create Your Own."

From a repertoire of a couple dozen house-made ice cream flavors the stand-out for me was Swiss milk chocolate, a creamy concoction dotted with millions of little bits of candy; and of the toppings, the killer was "Jersey," a frothy swirl of malted milk chocolate.

In addition to table seats, Fenton's offers a handful of counter stools in back where you have a great view of the open kitchen where short-order chefs whip up meals at lightning speed.
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Posted on Saturday, June 13, 2015

Cream-filled, coffee roll

The cream-filled donut is a wonderful combination of airy light cake and densely rich cream. The coffee roll pictured here wasn't too shabby, either.
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Posted on Friday, June 12, 2015

Smoked Salmon

Northern Waters offers varieties of smoked salmon: dilled, sprinkled with black pepper and coriander, Cajun spiced, and traditional. These beauteous hunks are traditional, seasoned only with salt and pepper and the indescribable sweetness of maple wood smoke. Poke a fork into this meat and it separates into big, pink hunks that are rich and delicious.
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Posted by Michael Stern on Thursday, June 11, 2015 5:09 AM

Dish, which is the commissary of a residential/rental resort on the shore of ravishing Lake Pend Oreille, is tough to categorize. It is casual enough to feel like a shorts-and-sandals waterside grill, which in some ways it is. You can come for a hamburger, tacos, or fish and chips. On the other hand, those burgers, tacos, and fish and chips are extraordinarily good. No doubt about it: there is serious kitchen wizardry going on. Of that there is no doubt when you savor the complex goodness of buffalo meat loaf with chipotle barbecue sauce or sweet chili-grilled prawns with wasabi crème fresh. Anyone looking for a big-deal culinary experience in the vicinity of Sandpoint won't find a better opportunity.

This is Idaho, and potatoes star. Dinners of steak and salmon are accompanied by "smashed potatoes" – medium-size Idahos that get par-boiled, iced, semi-flattened, then fried until their soft insides are enveloped in a well-salted leathery coat. This is spud heaven, especially when supplemented by a few strips of what the menu bills as "world famous bacon" – mahogany ribbons that are smoky, peppery, and otherwise doctored up in undisclosed ways that give them succulence like the juiciest pork belly, but with all the crispy-chewy texture of thick-sliced bacon.

That same bacon also happens to be the unlikely star player in a lunch item that Dish offers, the vegetarian burger. Yes, according to proprietor Gary Peitz, three out of four veggie burgers served at Dish are ordered with bacon on top. Beefless they may be, but the bacon's piggy virtue is an intensely pleasurable animal-fat complement to the thick patty of root vegetables in which finely-shredded beets do an amazing visual imitation of rare ground sirloin. The burgers come on pretzel rolls and are decorated with lettuce, tomato, onion, and jalapeno aioli.

Note: Dish is open in the winter only for dinner, Wednesday through Saturday. The rest of the year it is open daily from 11am to 9pm.
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Roadfood of the Day: Bar - New Haven, CT
Posted on Thursday, June 11, 2015


The crust on a white clam pizza: in our opinion, well-nigh perfect
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Posted by Michael Stern on Wednesday, June 10, 2015 7:40 AM

The business card of Clamp's Hamburger stand says, NO SIGN, NO ADDRESS, NO PHONE, JUST GOOD FOOD. In fact, there is a sign about the size of a license plate on the side of the wood-frame hut: "Clamp's Est. 1939." Despite the lack of a billboard and a street address, you will have no trouble finding this place because there are cars and people crowded around any time it's open … which is late April to early September, every day from 11am to 2pm and from 5pm to 8pm. (Note: those hours are precise.)

Edwin and Sylvia Clamp started the business way-back-when, and now their great-nephew, Tom Mendell, is the boss. Tom told us that since 1939 Clamp's has never advertised and never had a phone (and therefore was never in the phone book), and while it did have a prominent sign, when the sign blew down in a windstorm back in the 1960s, it was not replaced.

Located on a pretty stretch of Route 202 at the uppermost edge of New Milford (just south of Marbledale), Clamp's has been a favorite destination for generations of Connecticut summer people and year-rounders. There is no seating inside, but grassy, tree-shaded groves to the right and left of the building are arrayed with wooden picnic tables. You place your order at one of two windows, pay for the meal, then wait for your name to be called. Meals are presented on round white trays.

While the menu lists many drive-in dishes, from chicken tenders to chili dogs, it's hamburgers that have earned Clamp's its reputation. Made fresh daily by a local butcher and cooked the way you request, they are modest-size patties with plenty of flavorful juice that leaks out and flavors the tender bun. Their edge slightly crisp, the fibers of the meat infused with a smoky taste that sings of summertime pleasures, they are quintessential picnic food. All condiments are available, but we highly recommend fried onions, which are cooked until caramel-sweet, as well as a sprinkle of salt and pepper to accent the flavor of the beef.
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Roadfood of the Day: Bantam Pizza - Bantam, CT
Posted on Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Sausage Grinder

This is half of the small sausage grinder. The large one is really, really large. The cheese and peppers you see here are no-cost options.
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