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Posted by Michael Stern on Sunday, June 28, 2015 5:49 AM

King of Crab Cakes

Forget all the spongy, bready, fishy blobs that pass as crab cakes elsewhere. To know the paradigm, you must eat in Maryland, preferably at Faidley's. In this eat-in-the-rough joint on one side of the boisterous, centuries-old food emporium known as the Lexington Market, a crab cake is a baseball-sized sphere of jumbo lump crab meat held together with minimal crushed-Saltine filler and a whisper of mayo and mustard that is just enough to be a foil for the marine sweetness of the meat.

While Faidley's offers "regular" crab cakes, made from shredded claw meat, and backfin crab cakes, made from slightly larger strips of body meat, the one you want is the "all lump crab cake." It is significantly more expensive than the others, but the silky weight of the big nuggets, which are the choicest meat picked from the hind leg area of the blue crab, is what makes these cakes one of the nation's most memorable local specialties.

Operated by the same family that started it in 1886 – and who still form each jumbo lump cake by hand – Faidley's offers minimal amenities. Stand up to order, then stand up to eat at chest-high tables provided. You can down raw oysters at the oyster bar, and in addition to crab cakes, the menu includes both Maryland crab soup (red) and cream of crab soup, as well as the unique Baltimore fish cake known as a coddie, composed of cod, mashed potato and onion.
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Posted on Sunday, June 28, 2015

A Cross Section of Cheesesteak

This is a very comforting sandwich; it totally hits the spot.
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Roadfood of the Day: Taco Town - Scottsbluff, NE
Posted on Saturday, June 27, 2015

A close up of the puffy taco shows the thick, crispy shell.
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Posted by Michael Stern on Friday, June 26, 2015 4:59 AM

Residing just up the street at the Palladian Hotel (a comfy-edgy place that says it "embraces Seattle counterculture"), I first was attracted to Moore Coffee by a little sign that says, "try our NEW horchata." The cool rice-milk drink turned out to be a superior thirst-quencher – thin and brisk rather than thick and creamy, just sweet enough with a faint starchy edge, so good that it invites the sort of straw-sucking that all too easily induces brain freeze.

As I savored the horchata, I noticed a wall-menu entirely devoted to waffles – sweet ones topped with the likes of Nutella, brie & berries, or PB&J; and savory ones such as the Monte Cristo (ham, Swiss, raspberry jam), the Caprese (mozzarella, tomato, basil), and one with bacon shreds and mascarpone. As a devoted waffle man, I vowed to return the next morning.

Moore Coffee opens at 6:30 every weekday, but the waffle irons don't get going until 8am, so I sampled coffee drinks while I waited. Lattes here come decorated with awe-inspiring foam art on their surface. I got one with a detailed image of a cat, then a horchata latte festooned with a heart-shaped pattern that reminded me of a Pennsylvania Dutch hex sign. I also enjoyed straight espresso shots that are intensely dark and big flavored but not the least bit bitter or burnt.

Waffles are the thin, crisp, old-fashioned kind, a joy in and of themselves but especially wonderful in the apple-cinnamon incarnation I sampled. For this, a quartered waffle is topped with thin slices of crisp raw apple and a dusting of cinnamon; and in the middle of the plate comes a heap of apples that have been cooked until soft and caramel-sweet. There's a cup of syrup, too, but I thought it disrupted the plate's delicate waffle-apple-cinnamon accord.

In addition to waffles, Moore's food menu includes pastries, sandwiches on French bread or sourdough, quesadillas, and tamales.
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Posted on Friday, June 26, 2015

Rib Platter

The meaty baby backs are incredibly tender and literally finger-lickin' good!
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Posted by Michael Stern on Thursday, June 25, 2015 6:50 AM

What Graceland is for Elvis fans and Australia's Gold Coast is for surfers, so Starbucks Reserve Roastery & Tasting Room aims to be for coffee hounds. Just a few blocks from the normal-size store in Seattle's Pike Place Market that was Starbucks' original location (in 1971), the immense space roasts, brews, serves, and celebrates coffee on an epic scale. Master barristas and roasters are on hand at various stations throughout this house of caffeinated worship to discuss every aspect of the process from bean to beverage. Yes, it is a place to have a cup of coffee (as well as an artisanal pizza from Chef Tom Douglas's adjoining Serious Pie), but it is also a museum, a library (with over 200 books about coffee), a store selling every imaginable coffee-making accessory, and a veritable theme park attraction. It's at 1124 Pike Street and is open from 7am to 11pm.

Roadfood of the Day: Rosita's - Scottsbluff, NE
Posted on Thursday, June 25, 2015

Tacos

Rosita's way of quick-frying corn chips give the restaurant's tacos a fragile nature unlike any others.
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Roadfood of the Day: Swan Market - Rochester, NY
Posted on Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The jager schnitzle comes topped with a tasty brown mushroom gravy. In the background is the excellent German potato salad and the bread dumplings.
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Posted by Michael Stern on Tuesday, June 23, 2015 5:40 AM

Many people who grew up eating at Frankie's say the hot dogs served at this 1937-vintage roadside stand are the best on earth. I would not say that. After all, I am from Chicago. Plus, I do love Blackie's on the other side of Waterbury and Denmo's down the road and Super Duper Weenie in Fairfield and Walter's in Mamaroneck, not to mention the Sonoran dogs of Tucson, the half-smokes of DC, and also Dixie dogs and New Jersey rippers and Texas hots and Flo's and Yocco's and Zack's. However, I definitely would consider Frankie's foot-longs for any East Coast Top Ten list.

The dogs themselves are firm and chewy, grilled so there's good snap to their skin, barely garlicky and very porky. Alone, one of them is not so interesting. Bed it in a Yankee split-top roll that has been well buttered on the outside and griddle-toasted to a golden crisp, then top it with mustard and add a generous portion of Frankie's hot sauce and you have a street-food dish that is transcendent. The buns are not all that different from the region's best, except that they seem to be extra buttery and crunchy-brown on their outside surface and fleecy-soft, utterly fresh, within. The mustard is standard issue. But the relish, ah, the relish: that is extraordinary. It is a dark, pepper-flecked mystery, hot but not ferocious, just sweet enough to tantalize taste buds and sing harmony with dog, bun, and mustard. Onions, sauerkraut, and chili sauce also are available, but I can't imagine topping my wiener with anything but mustard and the splendid sauce.

I like Frankie's hot dogs so much that I confess to not having explored the menu, which lists burgers and assorted sandwiches including Philly cheese steaks, fried vegetables of every sort, whole belly clams, fried shrimp, and chicken wings. The one other item I do wholeheartedly recommend is the lobster roll, which is the most expensive dish on the menu -- $15 as of summer, 2015. That's a relative bargain considering that this roll holds a very large amount of lobster: big, warm pieces with just the right amount of resiliency. They are bathed in enough butter to quickly catalyze disintegration of the toasty bun that holds them. No, it is not just-picked lobster meat like you'll find in the best places along the shore, but it is far better than you'd expect from a raffish wiener joint like Frankie's.

Note: There are three Frankie's in Waterbury and one each in West Haven, Bristol, and Meriden.
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Posted on Tuesday, June 23, 2015

French Toast Special

A breakfast special of raisin French toast couldn't have been any better.
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