Trip Coach: August 14, 2007

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On Tuesday, August 14, roadfood experts Jane and Michael Stern of roadfood.com, answered your questions on roadside dining.

Jane and Michael Stern: Hello All;

This is Michael Stern, of Jane and Michael Stern, and I am delighted to be here for the next hour chatting with you about roadside restaurants. Questions, comments, critiques, and suggestions all are welcome.

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St. Louis, Missouri: Hubby and I will spend a week in St. Augustine, Florida the week of Sept. 9th, 2007. We need to know where to find a good fresh seafood restaurant, and an authentic Mexican restaurant. Do you have any recommendations? Thanks!

Jane and Michael Stern: You are in luck. St. Augustine is home of Barnacle Bill's (two branches), where you can have excellent Minorcan clam chowder (originally from the Spanish island of Minorca), spiced up with hot datil peppers (which the Minorcans brought with them when the settled) as well as beautiful, crisp-crusted fried shrimp, also available datil-pepper hot. For Mexican food, we enjoy Acapulco, with a great view of Matanzas Bay.

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San Antonio, Texas: Looking for kid friendly good food, non-chain resturants between Chicago and the Wisconsin Dells

Jane and Michael Stern: Being a bar, it isn't, by definition, all that kid-friendly, but you can't beat Monk's for burgers in the Wisconsin Dells. It's where the locals go. Closer towards Chicago, stop at one of the bakeries in Racine for that great Danish pastry, kringle, and in Muckwanago at he Elegant Farmer for the world's best apple pie.

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Alabama: I'm heading to New York City pretty soon and everyone tells me I should eat the pizza! Where is the best place to get a slice in New York?

Jane and Michael Stern: For whole pizzas, we like John's in Greenwich Village. In Harlem, Patsy's is a must for slices and whole pies, and just over the bridge in Brooklyn, Grimaldi's is great. In Coney Island, Totonno's is one not to be missed.

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Chicago, Illinois: Do you have any favorite meals that you've had on the road that you recreate regularly at home? If so, what's the recipe? -- Regina

Jane and Michael Stern: We've brought home literally thousands of recipes from our travels, many of which have become part of our regular kitchen repertoire. While it's not a meal unto itself (although it could be!) One of the all-time favorites is this pound cake, the recipe for which came from Elvis Presley's friend Janelle McComb. Janelle said Elvis could eat an entire cake in one sitting. When you taste it, you will understand!

2 cups sugar
12 tablespoons butter, softened
5 eggs, room temperature
2 cups cake flour, sifted twice (DO NOT USE "SELF RISING" FLOUR)
2/3 cup whipping cream (not whipped)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Butter and flour a 2.2 quart Pyrex pan.
Thoroughly cream together sugar and butter.
Add eggs one at a time, beating extremely well after each addition. Mix in half the flour, then the whipping cream, then the other half of the flour. Beat five full minutes. Add vanilla.
Pour batter into the prepared pan. Set it in a cold oven and turn the heat to 350 degrees. Bake 1 hour or until a sharp knife inserted in the cake comes out clean. Cool the cake in the pan 5 minutes. Run a knife around the edges and turn it upside down to remove from the pan onto a cooling rack. Cool thoroughly. Wrapped well, this cake keeps several days.

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Chicago, IL: Best BBQ: Texas or North Carolina?

Jane and Michael Stern: I'll beat around the bush and say that the best BBQ in North Carolina is at the Skylight Inn in Ayden: pit-cooked, whole-hog pork hacked to smithereens and dressed only with a dash of vinegar and hot sauce, plus salt and pepper: a pure pork epiphany. The best in Texas: fallapart-tender brisket at Louie Mueller's in Taylor. I'm not fool enough to say one is better than the other! Plus, what about barbecued mutton in Kentucky? That's good, too!

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New York, NY: I'm going to Montana - around Glacier National Park. Do you have any suggestions for me? Is there a Montana specialty I should know about?

Jane and Michael Stern: Sorry, I don't have a hot tip in or around Glacier, but southeast of there, if you get to Great Falls, you must try the steaks at Eddie's Supper Club: "Taste like that Ol' Marlboro Cowboy cooked them over the campfire," says the menu. As for local specialties, this time of year you should be able to find huckleberry ice cream, milk shakes, and jam.

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Albuquerque, NM: My husband & I will be on the coast of southern Maine for 2 days - Sept 19 and 20th. We will be driving from Boston and staying in the York area. We would like to make the most of our time and spend time between Portsmouth, NH to Portland, ME. I would like info about eating outside on the water at the lobster pounds I've heard so much about. All other roadside dining opportunities in the area would be welcome! Thank you, Debbie

Jane and Michael Stern: The south Maine coast is a bonanza of good eats, including Bob's Clam Hut just over the border in Kittery (next to the Kittery Trading Post), Flo's Hot Dogs up in Cape Neddick, the superb Maine Diner in York, and, in Portland, Becky's Diner on the wharf for a sleeves-up meal, and Fore Street for a high-end banquet. Underneath Fore Street is the Standard Baking Company, where the breads and morning pastries are fabulous. For the classic lobster shore dinner in an unbelievably spectacular setting, go to the Lobster Shack in Cape Elizabeth just outside of Portland. Here, music-to-dine-by is the sound of the surf crashing just below the picnic tables.

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New York, NY: It seems every frozen custard shop I pass on the road claims to be "the best in the country." I've tried a few that stand out (and a few that weren't worth stopping for), but I'd love to hear your opinion about which is truly the best. Thanks!

Jane and Michael Stern: In our book, the best custard is in Milwaukee, at one of two places, either Leon's or Kopp's. There's none better! Not only is the custard itself excellent; if you get a sundae with nuts on it, the nuts are crisp, salted walnuts that add immeasurable goodness to the sweet ice cream (and fudge sauce, too, I hope).

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New York, NY: My husband and I are planning a week-long scenic road trip in Eastern Wisconsin, including the Door Peninsula area. Any secret gems you can tell us about, particularly local seafood? -Thanks, Suzanne

Jane and Michael Stern: As you may know, the ritual meal in Door County is an Icelandic Fish Boil, a summertime outdoor custom that involves flames, butter, potatoes and fish. The best place to enjoy that is the White Gull Inn of Fish Creek. But if you are planning to go any time soon, make your reservation NOW. They get really popular this time of year.

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Ames, Iowa: What's the the best (and worst) part about traveling with your husband/wife for a living? Do you ever get on eachother's nerves? -Charlie

Jane and Michael Stern: The best part is that we have developed a terrific shorthand and almost never need to explain anything to one another. We know each other so well that sometimes merely a grunt is all that's necessary to communicate. It makes work easy. However, all that closeness can get a little claustrophobic sometimes! And communication by grunting is not necessarily the most romantic kind of interaction!

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New York, NY: I'll be traveling in North Carolina next month, driving I-85 for part of the trip. Where's the best barbecue between Greensboro and Charlotte? Thank you!

Jane and Michael Stern: Oh, you lucky traveler! You are some seriously good eating territory. A couple of essential suggestions are Price's Chicken Coop in Charlotte and Stamey's Barbecue in Greensboro--both in the top echelon of chicken and BBQ places, respectively. Many barbecue connoisseurs consider Stamey's the daddy of 'em all. Also in Charlotte, you don't want to miss The Coffee Cup for excellent soul food.

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Haleyville, Al: My wife and I will be spending our 40th Anniversary on the road in late Sept. thru the first nine days of Oct. doing the Pacific Coast Highway from Ontario, Ca. to Napa. We will spend nites in Buelton/Solvang, Cambria, two nites in Monterey/Carmel, 3 nites in San Francisco, and 2 nites in Napa before we return to fly home from Ontario. My question is are there any special restaurants or food stops we might consider on our journey? Thanks for any suggestions. H & A from Alabama

Jane and Michael Stern: You'll find no shortage of good places to eat. A couple of our must-eat faves include Norma's Ocean Diner in Seaside, Oregon, for great local seafood at low prices and Duarte's in Pescadero, California, an old stagecoach stop that does wonders with local artichokes and is also known for swell fruit pies.

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Cincinnati Ohio: We are traveling on August,16 starting in Missoula MT - traveling to Coeur d'Alene, ID Kalispel, Glacier National Park - Many Glacier and Bigfork, MT. We will probaly take Highway 2 either to or from Many Glacier. Do you have any suggestions for good local food stops along the way?

Jane and Michael Stern: I can't suggest anything along the way, but a couple of worthies in Coeur d'Alene are Hudson's Hamburgers, a local institution for decades (where you have it THEIR way, not yours) and the Wolf Lodge Inn for big steak-and-potato suppers.

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Poulsbo, WA: We will be in the area around West Point, NY in the latter part of September, 2007. Do you have any suggetions for fun places to eat lunch/dinner? We are hoping to find a restaurant with local color. We would like a resonably price restaurant that serves seafood, but we are open to your suggestions. Thanks, Martha

Jane and Michael Stern: Not too far east of West Point, in Patterson, New York, is a charming little place called Magnolia's. I don't believe seafood is a specialty, but they use local produce and make wicked-good desserts. I seem to recall that they have informal live music on weekend nights, too.

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NYC: Need a restaurant in West 40's or 50's of NYC to celebrate an event. Looking for great food at modest prices. Is that possible in NYC? Thanks, Hincede

Jane and Michael Stern: Great food at modest prices is possible in New York. In the neighborhood where you're looking, I love Margon, a minuscule Cuban place just off Times Square. But it's probably a whole lot more casual than you want (think urban hash house). Personally, my New York celebrations usually involve a pizza or a pastrami sandwich, but for something a bit more formal, what about Trattoria Dopo Teatro at 125 W. 44th? It's fancier than typical Roadfood--but it won't cost you an arm and a leg, the setting is lovely, and the Italian food is good.

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Arlington, VA: J&M,I love your work and your website! I'm going to the outer banks at the end of the week and wondering if there's anything there that you'd recommend? I hear the bbq's not so good.

Jane and Michael Stern: Thanks for the kind words. Sorry to say, however, I don't have any great suggestions where you're going. I wouldn't expect the BBQ to be great there -- look instead for Norfolk-style seafood (sauteed in butter) and big, beautiful Atlantic flounder, both of which are very local. For BBQ, you'll need to go inland to Windsor, and a great place in an old gas station called Bunn's.

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Jane and Michael Stern: It has been a fun trip. Thanks to all who participated. And I hope to see you on down the road.

-- MS

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