Ralph and Lori go to New England, July 2010

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Ralph Melton
Double Chili Cheeseburger
2010/07/18 22:52:16
This is how our summer is going: on Tuesday, June 29, we returned home from our Kentucky trip. On Saturday, July 3, we left again for a week-long road trip to New England.

Our first stop was Clem's Cafe in Blairsville, Pennsylvania, for some of the better barbecue around these parts. This was the first time I had been to their new location, and my assumptions had changed a bit as well. On my last trip, I had assumed that they smoked their barbecue; since then, I've realized that there are a lot of folks in western Pennsylvania for whom "barbecue" means high-heat grilling over a wood fire. Was Clem's really smoking, or were they grilling instead?

Now that I knew enough to ask the question, the answer was obvious: they're cooking over a large grill, with flames leaping up past the grill at times.

Inside, the restaurant smells like barbecue. My memory of the previous location was that it did not have any particular smell, so this was a pleasant improvement.

I asked the young woman behind the counter what the sausage was like, and got an uninformative answer, so I decided to try it. Answer: it was sweet Italian sausage, which didn't quite match Clem's barbecue sauce.
Lori's pulled pork sandwich was a much better match for the dark, rich sauce.

We noticed Cheerwine in the drinks case, so gave that a try. It reminded me of the fruity flavors of Dr Pepper.

Filet Mignon
Re:Ralph and Lori go to New England, July 2010 2010/07/18 23:07:58
I love flames!

That IS a dark looking sauce...

Did you sit at a picnic table outside?
My kind of place!

Re:Ralph and Lori go to New England, July 2010 2010/07/19 00:01:38
That sausage might not match the sauce, but it still looks good to me. I haven't had one in a while.
Filet Mignon
Re:Ralph and Lori go to New England, July 2010 2010/07/19 10:51:00
I have many many reasons to prefer the mustardy sauce from around here, but that's another one--those heavy, dark sauces can really drown a piece of meat.  Looks like they have a nice setup though!  Great pics Ralph!
Fire Safety Admin
Re:Ralph and Lori go to New England, July 2010 2010/07/19 10:59:35
I don't say this about many bbq places in Pennsylvania, but I am a fan of Clem's.  The new building is nice, but the previous one had some serious rustic charm.  BTW, that is code for it looked like it could have fallen down at any minute.
Ralph Melton
Double Chili Cheeseburger
Re:Ralph and Lori go to New England, July 2010 2010/07/19 15:55:49
ellen4641, they did have picnic tables in back, but we ate indoors.

buffetbuster, my own memory of the previous location was that it looked down-at-heel from the outside, but the inside was bland and modern, with the same wood paneling that the new building has. But I may be misremembering; I only visited there once or twice.
Ralph Melton
Double Chili Cheeseburger
Re:Ralph and Lori go to New England, July 2010 2010/07/19 17:30:17
I'd planned to dine on Old Forge pizza, but I misinterpreted the GPS and took a wrong turn onto a toll road, with the next chance to turn around twenty miles away. So we went on to our next stop: Charlie's Pool Room in Alpha, NJ. 

Most of my expectations of Charlie's Pool Room came from this Roadfood thread. I was particularly excited about the prospect of talking with Joe and John, because some of my favorite Roadfood experiences have been ones where I've been able to talk with the proprietors.

We had a little trouble finding the place at first; it looks like just a house. There are no conspicuous signs.

As we approached, Joe Fencz came out and greeted me. I explained that I'd read about Charlie's on Roadfood, and he spoke at length about the Holly Moore, buffetbuster, and the other Roadfooders who had come by. The conversation was a bit odd, and in order to describe it, I'm going to have to digress to describe what it was not.

What it was not: Some of the Roadfood restaurants we've visited have seemed too conscious of their reputation. (Loveless Cafe comes to mind as an example of this.) By analogy, imagine a nice, kind girl who gets elected homecoming queen, and afterward, is still nice, but with everything she says, it's clear that she's oh-so-conscious that she is Homecoming Queen, with the capital letters intact. It's not vanity exactly, and though it's not quite a desirable trait, it's easily forgivable in a nice girl.

The conversation with Joe Fencz was not like that. But the conversation was dominated by talking about their Internet reputation. (One particular quote: "we would have closed five years ago if it weren't for the internet.") So to return to the homecoming queen analogy, imagine that the homecoming queen is not at all oh-so-conscious in that way, but that the conversation is still dominated by her being elected queen. If you find that as difficult to imagine as I do, then that may convey how difficult I found it to understand and characterize the conversation with Joe. Lest there be any misunderstanding, I did enjoy the conversation, and Charlie's Pool Room did live up to my expectations as a place to talk with the proprietors.

The restaurant itself is an unusual place. There's a single table with five chairs for diners. The pool table that once was the namesake profit center for the pool room now holds neat stacks of religious tracts. Hand-lettered signs decorate every vertical surface with a mixture of testimonials for Christ and testimonials for hot dogs. I didn't get as many good pictures as I'd hoped, but this picture gives a sense of the place. (You can click on the picture and choose 'All Sizes' to see a larger version, and doing so on this picture may let you read more of the signs.)

I am no hot dog connoisseur; I found the two mealies I ordered savory and lip-tingling, but not rapturous. Lori ordered two dogs with onions and Grandma Fencz's secret tomato and onion sauce; that combination made it easier to appreciate the smoky, full-flavored taste of the dog itself. The dogs were surprisingly filling; I thought that two dogs would leave me enough appetite to eat something else, but I was full afterward.

Two more pictures of the front door:

Up next: ice cream at Scotty's American Grill at Eddie's Drive-in.

Re:Ralph and Lori go to New England, July 2010 2010/07/20 01:34:47
Ralph is posting the reports, I'll chime in from time to time.

Charlie's Pool Room was a neat experience. I especially liked the handmade "Hot Dog King" posters...though I really can't imagine eating that many hot dogs in one sitting! Joe and John were very sweet, and I enjoyed visiting with them (it actually felt like a visit, even though we'd only just met!).

Ralph fails to mention a key feature of Charlie's Pool Room -- it has a Ms. Pac Man machine! Relive the 80's while having a good hot dog! :-)

On Clem's, I have to agree with buffetbuster...the new building doesn't have the charm of the old one. It also feels a lot sturdier! :-)  The food is as good as ever, though.

Filet Mignon
Re:Ralph and Lori go to New England, July 2010 2010/07/20 08:07:10
So what you're saying is that Charlie's Pool Room doesn't know it's pretty?
Buffalo Tarheel
Double Cheeseburger
Re:Ralph and Lori go to New England, July 2010 2010/07/20 11:04:12
Nice report so far and an interesting discussion on Charlie's.  It still sounds like a great place to visit.
Ralph Melton
Double Chili Cheeseburger
Re:Ralph and Lori go to New England, July 2010 2010/07/21 17:15:30

The sauce at Charlie's Pool Room was a bit spicy for Lori, so she insisted that we seek out ice cream. Urbanspoon told us of a place called Purple Cow Creamery near downtown Easton, near the Crayola Factory. Unfortunately, it had just closed as we arrived. It looked like a lovely place; perhaps we'll try again sometime.

The Crayola Museum was long closed, but we took some pictures anyway:

We asked pedestrians on the street where we might go for ice cream, and they suggested the drive-in across the river. Armed with those directions, we managed to locate Scotty's American Grill at Eddie's Drive-in. I believe that the subtext of the name "Scotty's American Grill at Eddie's Drive-in" is "Have you seen the cost of neon these days? Eddie doesn't own the place any more, but the sign is not going to change before Scotty is sure that his new restaurant is working out."

Lori ordered a cookie sundae:

I noticed an Italian hot dog on their menu, and considered ordering that. But the girl at the counter said that the hot dog contained potato chips, which sounded fairly nontraditional. So I ordered a cone of black raspberry ice cream. Signs said that it was Turkey Hill ice cream, so I don't think this was a unique ice cream opportunity. But the picture came out pretty well:

After receiving our ice cream, we ended up talking with Scotty himself. We enjoyed chatting with him; he was clearly proud of his operation and hopeful that it would flourish. He gave us a good recommendation for a motel down the road. He clarified that the Italian hot dog had fried potato slices instead of potato chips, and he said it had won local awards as a traditional Italian hot dog. Given that, I wished I had tried it - but after the mealies and the ice cream, I didn't have enough appetite to give it a try.

I don't feel that I can judge Scotty's as Roadfood-worthy based on a sample of Turkey Hill ice cream, but I liked the place and I liked Scotty. I'd encourage locals to check it out and judge whether it's as good as I think it might be.

Up next: The Original Pancake House.

Ralph Melton
Double Chili Cheeseburger
Re:Ralph and Lori go to New England, July 2010 2010/07/21 17:21:39

So what you're saying is that Charlie's Pool Room doesn't know it's pretty?

That phrasing doesn't quite seem to fit for me, but I'm not sure in what way it's amiss. Maybe instead it's that CPR knows that it's pretty but is still humble - but I'm not sure that's quite right.

Buffalo Tarheel, I would certainly say that Charlie's Pool Room is worth visiting. I'm certainly glad to have visited there.
Ralph Melton
Double Chili Cheeseburger
Re:Ralph and Lori go to New England, July 2010 2010/07/23 00:37:59
July 4 began with Lori going to Mass. The Mass Times iPhone app made it much easier to locate a convenient church. We ended up at Our Lady of Lourdes in Whitehouse Station, NJ. While she went to mass, I took a walk around through the riding-mower neighborhood. This sort of neighborhood is basically human-maintained deer habitat, but I still thought it was nifty to find a well-preserved deer track:

I took this picture to demonstrate what I mean by "riding-mower neighborhood", and then realized that the house was associated with a Christmas tree farm behind it. It doesn't really change my characterization of the neighborhood to say that it contained a Christmas tree farm.

Lori strongly prefers to eat breakfast food for her first meal. But I didn't see a Roadfood-listed breakfast place convenient to our route. So instead, we went to Original Pancake House, because Michael Stern had once mentioned it as his favorite chain restaurant, and I had not been to one.

I ordered the Dutch baby pancake, because I've only had them rarely. I might have enjoyed it more if I weren't expecting it to taste like a pancake; compared to a pancake, it had a very eggy taste, and it had the high-gluten skin of popovers or puff pastry. The fruit that filled it was excellent.

Lori had the Independence Day special: pancakes with strawberries, blueberries, and whipped cream. Her pancakes were light and fluffy, and her fruit was very good.

I was impressed with what the Original Pancake House had for kids visiting:

I have since learned that there are Original Pancake House restaurants in the Pittsburgh area. We'll consider checking them out.
Filet Mignon
Re:Ralph and Lori go to New England, July 2010 2010/07/24 20:00:56
Ralph, the Dutch baby has been our go-to weekend breakfast for a while and it's the thing we pull out when we want to impress company.  You're right in that it doesn't taste like pancakes--it's basically three eggs with 1/2 cup flour mixed into them and then 1/2 cup milk, and cooked in a whole lot of butter.  It's one of those things that you have to serve *immediately* or it starts to collapse on itself, so I've never ordered one at an OPH for that reason.  I absolutely love them when they come right out of the oven, but then I like the eggy taste.
Re:Ralph and Lori go to New England, July 2010 2010/07/25 12:37:35
Mmmm -- I had so many good pancakes on that trip. The ones pictured above were some of them. 

Then again, for breakfast today I had leftovers of the bread pudding I made last night. I used the recipe we got at the New Orleans School of Cooking, which we attended during our trip to NOLA for the Roadfood Festival. It makes a good breakfast as well as dessert!

I purchased two cookbooks on this trip (I think -- it was at least two). I love trying to recreate some of what we enjoy on the road in our kitchen! 
Filet Mignon
Re:Ralph and Lori go to New England, July 2010 2010/07/25 13:16:16
Great report and pictures.  Your meals look oustanding!
Ralph Melton
Double Chili Cheeseburger
Re:Ralph and Lori go to New England, July 2010 2010/07/25 14:46:36
We drove from New Jersey through New York and Connecticut to Massachusetts. We managed to dodge New York City this time, unlike the last time we went to Massachusetts. Yay us.

We had a very nice visit with our friends Jude and Jennifer and their three-year-old daughter, whom I will refer to as Punk in emulation of Jude's online habit. We had brought birthday presents of butterfly wings, a tutu, and a tiara, which were received with great enthusiasm.

But we did not foresee that this gift would have some horrible consequences. As Punk was running down the hallway in her wings, the wire loop that formed the border of one wing caught against the protruding handle of a cabinet in the hallway.
The result was like a cartoon: her body swung upward until it was level in the air, and then cruel gravity interceded and slammed her to the ground. Alarums and consternation ensued, followed by an attempt to persuade her not to run while wearing the wings. "No! I have to run with the wings!"
And then a few minutes later, the wings caught the cabinet handle again. She was going a bit more slowly this time, so it wasn't quite as bad. At this point, she was persuaded to the merits of a rule that when running with the wings, she had to take a route that did not lead near that cabinet.

Jude and Jen chose Osaka, a Japanese restaurant in Northhampton, for dinner. I had the Ishi Yaki Chicken, for which they bring a stone grill to the table and let you cook the thinly sliced chicken yourself. The flavor was basically just grilled chicken, but I'm glad that I ordered it; the fire and the cooking was fascinating to all of us, and absorbing Punk's attention probably made the meal much more pleasant.

Lori ordered the avocado chicken, "Grilled chicken rolled around avocado with Chef's special sauce." It looked good and tasted good, but it was very hard to eat; the avocado was much softer than the grilled chicken, so cutting or biting into the chicken caused the avocado to squirt out like toothpaste from a tube that's been stomped on.

Afterwards, we went across the street to the flagship store for Herrell's Ice Cream. Herrell's was the second chain founded by Steve Herrelll, inventor of the smoosh-in concept for ice cream. The ice cream is rich, creamy and delicious.

Herrell's store window. The sign reads: "Please do not feed the bears. They are on a strict diet... ice cream only!"

I ordered a cone of girlsenberry (a mix of grape, blueberry, and raspberry). It had great texture and a wonderful berry flavor: 

Lori ordered vanilla ice cream with peanut butter swirl, hot fudge, and peanut butter cups smooshed in. She said that the Reese's Cups were unnesscessary with the rich peanut butter swirls in the ice cream and the deep, dark chocolate fudge. She loved Herrell's. 

Punk enjoyed her ice cream so thoroughly that she ended up with chocolate stains on the backs of her knees.

Herrell's had some great looking pies and cakes, too. But I would probably get ice cream twenty times or more before I sampled the pie.

We dropped Jen and Punk off at their home, and then went with Jude to watch fireworks on the UMass campus. Good fireworks, and lots of good conversation.

We accepted Jude's kind offer of their guestroom and slept very well.
Ralph Melton
Double Chili Cheeseburger
Re:Ralph and Lori go to New England, July 2010 2010/07/27 01:26:21

We bought a maple soda, some maple cream candies, and a cider donut. The maple soda was a fascinating flavor. My usual experience of maple syrup is that the flavor is about eight parts sweet to one part maple. (Yes, I should experiment with darker maple syrups). By contrast, this was about three parts maple to one part sweet. Very strongly maple, not very sweet. I liked it a lot.

The maple cream cookies were about two parts sweet to one part maple, which is still far more maple flavor than my usual maple syrup experience.

The cider donut was to me just a donut. I didn't taste much cider in it.

Ralph Melton
Double Chili Cheeseburger
Re:Ralph and Lori go to New England, July 2010 2010/07/29 01:42:05
We made it to Dot's in Wilmington, VT. Wilmington is a cute little town, and Dot's is on the main street, next to a variety of Cute Little Shops™. Dot's clientele seemed to be a mixture of antique-shoppers and motorcycle riders.

Our first view of Dot's:

The pretty stream that flows next to Dot's:

I had their chili, because it won awards at the Vermont State Fair. It was good chili, spicy and hearty and full-flavored, but I regretted ordering it, because it didn't seem to suit the location and the day.

Lori had the berry-berry pancakes, served with local maple syrup. From the outside, they didn't look very berry-ful...

but inside, they were packed with berries. Lori enjoyed them a lot.

For dessert, a piece of chocolate cake. I'm not a big fan of chocolate cake, so I can't tell the difference between a good chocolate cake and a very good chocolate cake. It was dense and moist; I'd call it good but not extraordinary.

An interior shot of Dot's:

Afterwards, we yielded to the siren call of the Cute Little Shops. We actually found a t-shirt and a glass plate that I found worth buying, as well as things for Lori to ooh and aah over.
This bear/pig was in front of a shop that we did not actually enter, but it was still eyecatching enough to warrant a photo:

Up next: Simon Pearce

mr chips
Filet Mignon
Re:Ralph and Lori go to New England, July 2010 2010/07/29 08:57:43
Great report and I have enjoyed reading it. I love the original Pancake house(the original is here in Portland, Oregon) and there is also one in nearby Salem. Waiting eagerly for more.
Ralph Melton
Double Chili Cheeseburger
Re:Ralph and Lori go to New England, July 2010 2010/07/29 18:59:50
I took only one picture from the backroads drive from Wilmington to Quechee, and part of me regrets that I didn't take more. We didn't see stunning scenes that demanded I pull the car over, and in many cases I wouldn't have been able to stop for a picture anyway. But even if we didn't see vistas that scored a 9 or a 10 that demanded to be photographed, we saw a whole lot of almost-photo-worthy 7s and 8s of tree-lined roads, verdant hillsides, and quaint little towns, each with their small white wooden church. The cumulative effect of seeing all that beauty over the course of hours was quietly splendid in a way that I don't know how to convey with a few pictures, even if I had taken them.

After a few GPS challenges, we finally made it to Simon Pearce in Quechee, Vermont. Simon Pearce is a glass factory, but they also have a very nice restaurant on the premises. It was an enormously scenic dining experience, because the building is on the side of the river that powers the glassworks. This picture is not as good as I would like because I was taking it through the screen, but I'm including it so that I can say "this was the view from our table".

I took this picture a bit later from a nearby balcony which was not screened in:

During our meal, we saw kids jumping off the rocks into the water, and saw a few bold kids swinging out hand-over-hand on the underside of the bridge to drop from the bridge into the water below. We felt a worry on their behalf that they did not seem to feel themselves.

The first thing we were served was excellent bread. The Ballymaloe bread was simply a good, hearty brown bread, but the little cheddar scones were fabulously light and tender.

We both ordered a cup of the cheddar soup. The soup was splendid with a very rich broad flavor that played across my whole mouth. We bought the Simon Pearce cookbook on the basis of the cheddar soup and the cheese scones.

We then shared the strawberry, brie, and spinach salad. I felt that the best part of this was the strawberries and the candied walnuts. The brie had some ripe, earthy flavors that I wasn't expecting from my supermarket-brie experience; they were probably intended by the creator, but I felt the flavors were a bit too brash to meld well with the strawberries and walnuts.

We shopped a bit in the glass shop, but the prices were too much for me to feel cheerful about.

From there, we drove to Dorset. We stopped at a farm stand/grocery store because I had fantasies of snacking on locally grown fruits, but nothing seemed to be in season yet. I bought a bottle of Fentiman's Dandelion and Burdock Soda, because I'd never had any such thing before. I don't have good ways to describe the flavor. I felt it had a big round flavor that reminded me of a bubble-gum-flavored soda - but Lori didn't agree with that description at all. I could taste the ginger and anise, though I found those flavors just details. I did like the flavor; I would certainly get it again if I saw it for sale, but I probably wouldn't get a six-pack, even for a party.

Up next: Dorset Inn

Re:Ralph and Lori go to New England, July 2010 2010/07/30 02:15:06
For those of you who don't know, I am a schoolteacher (3rd grade). It took a lot of restraint not to stand up where we were and bellow to the boys "you stop that right now -- you're going to break your necks!"  

They actually were scaring me a little. They also were having a fantastic time of it!

The soda tasted fairly herbal to me. 

Lastly, Vermont was really beautiful!  We will be back!
Double Cheeseburger
Re:Ralph and Lori go to New England, July 2010 2010/07/30 12:04:48
I love this report. It's amazing how those pancakes, so skinny-looking from one angle, seemed to pack a thick layer of berries after all. That bread looks really good, and I'm intrigued by Maple Soda.

Vermont is indeed a beautiful state. I was there for my first time a couple of weeks ago, and it took my breath away, for precisely the reasons you mention.
Ralph Melton
Double Chili Cheeseburger
Re:Ralph and Lori go to New England, July 2010 2010/08/05 14:00:15
Heading from Quechee to Dorset required a bit of backtracking, but we were driving through lovely Vermont countryside, so we didn't mind.

As we were driving through Rutland, Vermont, this store caught Lori's eye. We didn't quite stomp on the brakes, shift into reverse on a busy road, and back up to the store; we merely pulled in at the next parking lot, turned around, and hastened back with all due speed.

I believe that this is the yarn-store equivalent of a chicken statue in front of a restaurant:

The yarn store had signs in the windows saying "Knit Locally", and a section of advertised-to-be-local yarns. So I ended up asking the proprietor about the virtues of local yarns, with an eye to whether local yarns were distinctive in Roadfoody ways. 
Was there a distinct character of local yarn? Well, not really, except that they all took their wool to one spinner, and maybe that imparted some general characteristics, but she couldn't really identify anything local. 
Were there yarns that could only be obtained locally? Yes, there were, but they were all heavy, coarse yarns that weren't very nice to the hand.
So I am not really convinced by this "Knit Locally" proposition the way I am about local food.

Ralph Melton
Double Chili Cheeseburger
Re:Ralph and Lori go to New England, July 2010 2010/08/05 14:01:02
In Dorset, we ate dinner at the Dorset Inn, which was probably the single nicest meal we ate on our trip.

The Dorset Inn has been in continuous operation since 1796, which is much more impressive than the 1976 my fingers keep typing. A stately white building with white columns, it is nestled among other picturesque white buildings on the village green. Lori was entranced by the white and green town square - she said it looked like a painting from a classic book.

For an appetizer, we had the Vermont Ploughman: "Smoked Vermont pheasant & apple paté, Cabot clothbound cheddar, Vermont sausage & Rupert Rising bread". It was quite good; I particularly liked the smooth savoriness of the pate on the crisp tart apples.

My entree was the Mother's Chicken, and it was amazing.
The chicken was outstandingly rich and flavorful, with a mouthwatering crisp skin.
The corn tasted extremely fresh and bright, with just a touch of butter to underline the splendid fresh-corn flavor.
I remember that the broccoli was outstanding - I no longer remember what made it so good, but I remember telling Lori "You must try this broccoli!" (Lori is less of a broccoli fan, and though she agreed it was good, she didn't rave about it the way I did.)

Lori got the turkey croquettes, which were tender and moist and very very flavorful. The seasonings were perfect. One of the chefs chatted with us for a moment and explained that it was hard to serve roast turkey in a restaurant, because you couldn't easily serve a big bird fresh from the oven to order - but turkey croquettes made it possible to serve turkey whenever it was ordered. Lori says the corn and peas on the side tasted like they'd been harvested that morning. Everything on both plates was mouthwateringly perfect.

At one point in our planning, we had thought to spend the night at the Dorset Inn, but we had decided not to in hopes that getting a few more hours of driving in would let us see more of Maine the next day. However, as we were eating, travel fatigue set in, and we were entranced by the decor... so when Lori suggested that she ask about a room for the night, I agreed. She came back with the news that she'd been offered a rate for bed and breakfast that was far cheaper than the "Mid-Week Gourmet Getaway" that we had been considering in our early planning. Bonus!

For dessert, I got the patriot pie: blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries in a graham cracker crust. This was splendid: not only were the berries gloriously full-flavored, but I found myself noticing how good the graham cracker crust was, which is rare for me with a crumb crust. And then I noticed that the texture of the strawberries hit a very special point that requires a lengthy explanation: 
I am familiar with two common textures for cooked strawberries. One common texture is that the strawberries are firm, such that when you try to cut them with a fork, doing so squishes other berries and fillings nearby. The other common texture is that the strawberries are cooked to the point of being squishy already, on their way toward being strawberry jam. The strawberries in this pie hit a rare middle ground: my fork glided through the strawberry with light pressure, but the strawberry half that was left retained its shape.

Lori got the maple creme brulee. It had a lovely maple flavor. Lori describes it as "sensuously creamy". Ralph feels that he got the better of the two desserts, Lori feels that she got the better dessert, and all is right with the world.

We weren't driving any farther, so to accompany our desserts, we shared a glass of Eden Ice Cider. Ice cider is like ice wine; the apple pulp is frozen and the ice removed to concentrate the pulp before fermentation. This was amazingly good, much more apple-y than a good apple. After one sip, I said to Lori, "these Vermonters have been holding out on the rest of us." After a second sip: "to be fair, I must acknowledge that if I had this stuff, I'd be very tempted to drink it all before letting it leave the state."
A running subplot of the rest of our trip became seeking out more to bring home. Since I'm posting so slowly, I'll summarize that plot: after failing to find it at four or five liquor stores, we finally managed to find it at a specialty liquor store in Salem, where we bought all three bottles they had in stock.

We were delighted with our dinner at the Dorset Inn and recommend it highly.

Next: Breakfast at the Dorset Inn

Fire Safety Admin
Re:Ralph and Lori go to New England, July 2010 2010/08/05 14:11:38
What a splendid meal the two of you had at Dorset Inn!  The dessert especially sound like it was worth the visit.  Did you get to see any of the mascots(dogs)? 
Ralph Melton
Double Chili Cheeseburger
Re:Ralph and Lori go to New England, July 2010 2010/08/05 19:58:32
It was indeed splendid. The dessert certainly was utterly worth the visit, but if the dessert sounds more worthwhile than the entrees, then I'm not praising the entrees enough, because they were absolutely superb as well.

We didn't see any of the dogs mentioned in the Roadfood review. There has been a change of ownership in the last few years, so I assume the dogs left along with Sissy Hicks.
Re:Ralph and Lori go to New England, July 2010 2010/08/06 20:13:12
What a delightful trip report! I can see why you really perked up at the Dorset. Rarely do I 'see' how good the food is in pictures, but it looks like they really go all out to serve a masterpiece meal. Your descriptions of it had my mouth watering...
Ralph Melton
Double Chili Cheeseburger
Re:Ralph and Lori go to New England, July 2010 2010/08/08 00:49:48
Spending the night at the Dorset Inn wasn't quite what we expected. The room wasn't what I would have expected from a country inn; it was decorated in an Art Deco-ish style, with a vibrant pattern of black-and-white diamonds on the furniture. But it was very comfortable.
And it had free WiFi, which pleased me excessively. One of my regular rants is that cheap motels are likely to have free WiFi, but nice elegant hotels are likely to charge $15 a night for an internet connection, and to make it gratuitously hard to use more than one device with the network. I know that it's not economically rational of me, but I would gladly pay a $20 greater room rate for a motel with free wireless instead of a cheaper room rate with $15/night wireless. My theory is that pricey hotels are mostly aiming at business travelers who pass the internet charges onto their employers without a second thought; that would explain why the Dorset Inn is an exception, because it's aiming at romantic-getaway couples instead of business travelers. (The same applies to the mini-bar. The room at the Dorset Inn didn't have a mini-bar, but it did have a few free bottles of water.)
Unfortunately, even getting this pleasant treatment from the Dorset Inn set me off ranting about this, while Lori patiently nodded along with a rant she'd heard many times before. But at least I was ranting about how much more pleasant this was than normal hotels.

Further evidence that the Dorset Inn was our sort of hotel: breakfast was still available a few hours after many hotels have swept away the breakfast crumbs. Breakfast was served in the lovely Garden Room:

We started breakfast with local apple cider. It was rich, sweet, and sumptuous.

I ordered the Potato-Bacon Pancake, expecting something hearty and savory. It was all that, but somehow I had missed the fact that it was topped with poached eggs and hollandaise sauce. This was a delight, with crisp tender potatoes, intense shreds of bacon, and the whole thing caressed and highlighted by sumptuous egg and hollandaise. This was the dish that clinched our decision to buy the Dorset Inn cookbook. The bacon was well-hidden in this picture, but there was plenty of it in the pancake.

Lori ordered the Blueberry Pancakes with warm maple syrup. These were seriously good pancakes, and the maple syrup was among the best I can remember - but I still think I got the better of the two breakfasts. (I should also mention that the fruit served with both breakfasts was excellent, lively and fresh.)

Double Cheeseburger
Re:Ralph and Lori go to New England, July 2010 2010/08/08 08:57:31
Ralph and Lori - been enjoying your great foodie photos, and now am craving that Potato-bacon pancake - what a great idea.  You've put out a few new things to try - I'm really interested in the apple ice wine, will have to look for that next time we head north. Glad you are enjoying your trip to our beautiful area of the world - there's nothing like New England in the summer and fall.
Double Chili Cheeseburger
Re:Ralph and Lori go to New England, July 2010 2010/08/08 10:18:39
Ralph and Lori, thanks for posting this wonderful report. I've really been enjoying it. Ralph, that potato pancake with the poached eggs looks so good!
Vince Macek
Double Cheeseburger
Re:Ralph and Lori go to New England, July 2010 2010/08/08 17:19:22
This is one of those reports that makes me wish technology allowed me to stick a fork into the screen and take a bite!

The Original Pancake House is a pretty widespread chain - there's one in Lansing, Michigan, and there's one in my neighborhood on Cheshire Bridge Road in Atlanta. I went by there yesterday noon and families were lined up out in the Georgia heat, that's how good it is.
Ralph Melton
Double Chili Cheeseburger
Re:Ralph and Lori go to New England, July 2010 2010/08/10 23:13:41
We stopped for a shopping visit at the Vermont Country Store, because Lori wanted to see the place that had sent her so many catalogs. Lori found a great many things to consider buying. I mostly hung out in the food section trying all the free samples. We did buy a couple of Vermont Country Store-branded sodas for the journey. I found my Raspberry Lime Rickey pleasant, but much sweeter than I would have found most refreshing - mind you, I think I like much less sweetness in my beverages than most people. Lori's vanilla cream soda was a pretty good cream soda, but not outstanding.

We saw New Hampshire only by highway. We made arrangements for a late lunch with a Warcraft friend; he claimed that Andover, New Hampshire was almost devoid of restaurants of any quality, and he claimed (without contradiction from Roadfood.com) that Concord, New Hampshire had no restaurants of local note. So we met him at a T. G. I. Friday's in Concord. The conversation was pleasant, but I realized when we left that I had no memory of my sandwich other than the taste of the Italian dressing on the accompanying salad. Enough about Friday's.

A backwoods drive through lots of pretty scenery led us to Shaw's Ridge Farm, a dairy farm / miniature golf course / barbecue restaurant / ice cream shop. We were intent upon seeking it out, because the intrepid researchers behind The Quest for the Best Ice Cream of New England had given it stellar reviews, and we felt a purely academic (those two words are a lie) interest in confirming their research. (For Science!)

There were lots of pretty flowers around the ice cream shop:

And the grounds had a very cute playhouse that made me wonder if there was a story there:

Lori got a hot fudge sundae made with the native blueberry ice cream. As buffetbuster has pointed out, sundaes pose a problem for photography, because all that shows is whipped cream. Lori judged it excellent; I recall that it had a vivid blueberry flavor.

I chose the native strawberry ice cream, because the Best New England Ice Cream report said, "The standard by which all strawberry ice creams should be measured. If every strawberry ice cream tasted this good, people would switch their ice cream allegiance from chocalate to fruit flavors." Unfortunately, with the utmost respect to my esteemed colleagues, I was unable to replicate their results. The ice cream was pretty good, certainly, but it had large strawberry chunks and whole strawberries. What's not to like about whole strawberries? Well, when frozen into ice cream, they turned into big slushy hunks that did not have the creamy texture of ice cream. I would have enjoyed this ice cream much more if the strawberries had been chopped small enough that I got ice cream in every bite, instead of having bites that were nothing but strawberry slush.

I'm not sure what possessed me to sample the barbecue sandwich. It wasn't hunger. Perhaps it was just a recurrent perverse curiosity to see what happens to foods whose authentic forms I know when they are taken far out of their native element. (The clearest example of this was probably Haus der Taco. But I digress.) Unfortunately, in my judgement, Shaw Ridge Farm should stick to ice cream. The beef brisket sandwich was fairly tough, and it was not sliced against the grain, so it came out in long shreds that needed to be worried at to tear off a bite. We ended up discarding the sandwich mostly uneaten.

Next: Red's Eats

Ralph Melton
Double Chili Cheeseburger
Re:Ralph and Lori go to New England, July 2010 2010/08/12 00:52:53
Thank you so much for all your kind words; I really appreciate knowing that people enjoy my reports.
Ralph Melton
Double Chili Cheeseburger
Re:Ralph and Lori go to New England, July 2010 2010/08/12 00:54:00
Our drive to Wiscasset, Maine did not achieve our goals. We wanted to see the ocean, but we also wanted to make faster progress than following the fractal coastline closely would provide. So I guessed that US 1 would provide a good balance, because driving Highway 1 in California had been so superbly scenic. I was quite wrong; US 1 hardly ever showed us water. Mostly we saw stores; in some places, we saw trees sloping down in a way that indicated that there was coast nearby and beach turnoffs. At one point near Portland, I declared an intention to take the next beach turnoff, so that we would see at least some coast before dark - but we did not see another beach turnoff before Wiscasset. In retrospect, we should have taken the interstate; we still wouldn't have seen much ocean, but we would have seen more countryside before dark.

Our GPS led us astray on our way to Red's Eats; there are apparently two places that can be addressed as "41 Main Street, Wiscasset", and the one our GPS picked was an abandoned building out in the woods that Lori described as a "chainsaw-killer-in-the-woods" sort of place. Google Maps pointed us to the same location. Finally, I checked Roadfood.com for the address, and tried the cross street that it gave, and that brought us into town.

I was looking forward to the lobster roll at Red's Eats a lot; various Roadfood sources credited it as one of the best lobster rolls, and its lobster roll had been featured in the Rick Sebak documentary Sandwiches You Will Like. I've been a bit wary of lobster since a bad tomalley incident in my teens, so I was eager to try an acclaimed lobster roll and have my lobster prejudices reversed.

It's hard to get a good picture of the lights with the iPhone, but this does capture something of the spirit of the place. There was no line.

I had an impression that one of the Roadfood books had spoken well of the onion rings, so we ordered them and the lobster roll:

Then came the moment of truth: how would I respond to this lobster roll of legend? A drum roll builds the suspense... then comes the verdict: the lobster roll was nasty. It tasted like old rubberbands soaked in brine. We ate at it for a while, because it was praised and because we'd paid a fair amount for it, but we ended up throwing it away. I didn't know whether this was a rare bad lobster roll, a change in quality since the former owner died, a doom pronounced upon late-night lobster rolls, or just a distaste for lobster in general.

The atmosphere was unpleasant as well - it was thickly swarmed with mosquitoes. We judged the crisp onion rings fine but not outstanding - but perhaps I judged them so harshly because of the horrible mosquitoes.

For dessert, we saw a whoopie pie on the menu that boasted of being Martha Stewart's preferred whoopie pie. We hadn't had one before, so we bought it. Now we know: whoopie pies are the same thing as what are called "gobs" in Western Pennsylvania, except that gobs are somewhat smaller and substantially cheaper for the amount you get. I don't know whether there's a zone between Western Pennsylvania and New England that has neither gobs nor whoopie pies or a zone that has both gobs and whoopie pies.

Next: another answer to the lobster question.

Ralph Melton
Double Chili Cheeseburger
Re:Ralph and Lori go to New England, July 2010 2010/08/16 01:17:45
July 7

I hadn't included the Maine Diner in my initial list of New England destinations, because I had not been impressed by the seafood chowder they served at the New Orleans Roadfood Festival. But Lori wants to start the day with breakfast food, and it was one of the few places nearby with a Roadfood listing that mentioned breakfast, so we put it on our list. I'm very glad we did.

The Maine Diner is a very cute diner with a blue and white color scheme:

I explained to our waitress that I was interested in lobster, but had had a bad experience with lobster the night before; what would she recommend to a lobster newbie? This is a question of particular interest at the Maine Diner, because their menu includes lobster roll, lobster mac and cheese, lobster quiche, lobster benedict, and lobster pie. She said "well, people like the lobster roll", and though I was full of trepidation because of the nasty Red's Eats lobster roll, I decided to go for it.

I remember exactly what she said when she brought out the lobster roll: "if that isn't good, deah, I'll take you home and make you one myself." (One of the peripheral discoveries we made on this trip: the New England accent is alive and well in a way that, say, the stereotypical Pittsburgh dialect is not. We heard that strong non-rhoticity in many restaurants and even on the radio.) I didn't have to put her offer to the test, though, because this lobster roll was excellent. The meat was cool, sweet, and tender - quite the opposite of the Red's Eats lobster roll.

Lori chose the Country Breakfast, which tells what part of the country it comes from by the inclusion of baked beans. It was all good, although the biscuit was not a great Southern biscuit.

We hesitated about dessert, because we were meeting up with Chris Ayers for a Roadfood tour later that day. But the menu listed Indian pudding, and I had never tried Indian pudding before, and we didn't have plans for Indian pudding on our tour. So we had Indian pudding with ice cream. It was splendid! It had a base of hearty grain flavor, but the flavor was lifted and softened into something sumptuous, like a burlap sack made into a quilt. I would definitely have it again.

One more story from the Maine Diner: as I was coming back to my table from the restroom, the proprietor looked at me with a glint of recognition and said "you're from around here, aren't you?" Well, no; I haven't been to New England in years. Then he took another look, and he got it: "You were at the New Orleans festival!" I was very impressed, because I wasn't close to recognizing him as Myles Henry from the festival. We chatted for five or ten minutes about the New Orleans Roadfood Festival and about our Roadfooding through New England. It really tickled my fancy to be recognized - it made me feel much more famous than I believe myself to be.

I'm very glad that we gave the Maine Diner another chance; we had a great time there.

Ralph Melton
Double Chili Cheeseburger
Re:Ralph and Lori go to New England, July 2010 2010/08/21 23:31:26
After the Maine Diner, we met up with Chris Ayers, one of the main contributors to roadfooddigest.com, whom we had enjoyed meeting on previous Roadfood tours. He been of great help in planning our trip, and he had kindly volunteered to take us on a tour of area Roadfood places; this was one of the best excursions of our trip.

I think it best conveys the experience to describe all the places we visited in one post:

We met up with Chris at the Clam Box, famous both for the quality of its whole-belly fried whole-belly clams and for being shaped like a paper container of clams.

The clams had a strong flavor that reminded me of silty sea-floor - at once earthy and oceanic. I can see why whole-belly lovers prefer the much more flavorful taste of the clam belly to the more rubbery, less flavorful foot, but I have not yet become fond of them.

Next stop: Agawam Diner, where Chris had already investigated the selection of pies to bed had. (Side note: we saw lots of classic diners in New England, and lots of stainless steel exteriors - far more than other places I've been.)

We three shared three pieces of pie. I had the strawberry-rhubarb pie. At this point, I don't remember much about the filling - I do remember that it wasn't cloying the way some strawberry pies can be, and the crust was firm and flaky, much better than an average diner pie.

Lori chose the squash pie, because we were not familiar with squash pie. It tasted a lot like pumpkin pie.

Chris chose the banana cream pie, which was very good - I'd give it the nod as best of the trio.

From there, to Gloucester, for Turtle Alley Chocolates. We had met Hallie at the New Orleans Roadfood Festival, and really enjoyed chatting with her. And when I mentioned on the Roadfood forums that we were planning a New England trip, Chris had mentioned to me that Hallie had mentioned us by name - so Turtle Alley was one of our must-visit destinations in New England. Hallie recognized us immediately when we stepped through the door. (We recognized her, too, but I think identifying her in her own store is far less impressive.)

We talked with Hallie for about an hour. She told us about her participation in the Great American Food and Music Fest, which did much to satisfy my nosy curiosity about the bad reports I'd seen on Roadfood.com. We told her about our delight at discovering a pair of dried cherry-almond turtles that had been mislaid after the New Orleans festival. She apologized for not showing candymaking to us because it was too hot and humid for candymaking. We had a great time talking with her, and would gladly go back again.
For every person who came into the store, Hallie mentioned their preferred candy preferences. I no longer remember the details, but I feel that if I came in next summer, she would remember my fondness for the cherry-almond turtles.

We bought a few things: a lavender caramel pop because Lori had enjoyed hers so much in New Orleans (very clear lavender flavor), a cayenne pop because many Roadfooders had spoken well of them in New Orleans, but she'd sold out before I could try them (just spicy enough to wake up the taste buds a bit), a "blondie truffle" (penuche in dark chocolate; Lori liked it a lot, but I found it too sweet), and more cherry-almond turtles. I think that the white turtle is Chris's purchase; I believe it to be white chocolate with blueberry.

Fourth stop: Nick's Roast Beef.

The roast beef sandwich didn't delight me, though the rare roast beef was vastly better than Arby's. But the restaurant felt very friendly. The staff were interested in talking with us, and gave us a Nick's bumper sticker and their hopes that we'd add to their wall-ful of photos of their bumper stickers in exotic locations.

I was impressed with Nick's onion rings. They were very crisp on the outside, with insides that severed neatly at a bite, and they managed to maintain their crispness to the very last one.

From there we headed closer in to Boston (I think; I just followed the GPS without a true understanding of the geography) to Tripoli Bakery, because Chris was interested in sampling their bakery pizza. I cannot remember the distinctive qualities of bakery pizza, but it hardly matters, because they were no longer serving pizza that day.

We chose a cannoli because they had signs behind the counter saying that the cannoli were filled to order. (I remember that there were multiple choices involved of filling and shell, but we chose something fairly standard.) This was a really good cannoli: the shell was very crisp and delicate, so much so that you could bite through the shell easily without squishing out the filling. I am now convinced that filling cannoli just before eating it does make a big difference.
We also had a whoopie pie, which was fine but not memorable.

Our last stop with Chris was at Rancatore's Ice Cream and Yogurt, and this stop was one of the highlights of our trip.

Lori had the bittersweet chocolate ice cream with hot fudge sauce. When I asked Lori for a description just now, she looked at me soulfully and said "there are no words." The hot fudge sauce was really outstanding, thick and dark and rich. Lori says, "The ice cream was sinfully rich and delicious. It had a wonderful bittersweet chocolate flavor in all the best senses of the word, really just perfect."

Chris had grape nut with raisin ice cream, which I sampled but have little memory and no photograph.

I feel that I got the best of our three choices, though, with my gingersnap with molasses ice cream. It had a stunningly bright, rich flavor, like a brass band playing. It was absolutely splendid, a perfect ten out of ten - except for the realization that it could be even better, because if it had been paired with that thick sensuous hot fudge sauce, the flavors would have gone together like lovers embracing. I am bugged by the contradiction between "perfect ten" and "better with hot fudge", because making contradictory statements confronts me with the fact that I'm not as rational as I like to believe. But despite that, I am not willing to recant either of those statements, so you and I will just have to live with the contradiction. (Perhaps the resolution to the contradiction is that by "perfect ten", I really mean "more delicious than I can evaluate.") Clearly more research is called for to resolve this question, ideally research involving gingersnap ice cream with hot fudge sauce.

Lori wanted to get a drink after we finished our ice cream, so I ended up with a can of that New England specialty, Moxie. It was an unusual flavor, and I'm not sure how to describe it. I'd read descriptions of it as bitter, but I didn't identify it as particularly so (though perhaps more bitter than sour or sweet); what I really noticed about it was that I tasted it almost exclusively at the back of my tongue, even when I brought it forward in my mouth. It was very odd.

Chris was a delightful host, and we enjoyed chatting with him all day and enjoyed the food tour he gave us. I hope that we can provide such a splendid tour to visitors to Pittsburgh.

Filet Mignon
Re:Ralph and Lori go to New England, July 2010 2010/08/22 10:44:58
Ralph -

What an awesome thread!  Fantastic!

Many breakfast places in and around Chicago have the German or Dutch Baby Pancakes...there are several names for the same oven baked, 30-minutes required, fruit topped, etc...My boys love 'em and yours looked really good!

It's funny, we've eaten at every restaurant in Wilmington BUT Dot's...just a glaring omission.

Those are some great pie shots!

Looking forward to meeting you and Lori in ABQ!


BTW - That was an impressive number of stops with Chris...not sure I could handle that many!
Ralph Melton
Double Chili Cheeseburger
Re:Ralph and Lori go to New England, July 2010 2010/08/23 19:43:34
ChiTownDinerBTW - That was an impressive number of stops with Chris...not sure I could handle that many!

That surprises me!

I figured that I was in the farm leagues of Roadfooding, and you were among the pros. When we visited western Kentucky, Louis mentioned that when Carolina Bob had visited a few weeks prior, they had visited sixteen restaurants in two days. When we toured the North Shore with Chris, he mentioned that buffetbuster had visited just previously, and they had covered twenty Roadfood-listed restaurants in a weekend. By comparison, we covered just over twenty Roadfood-listed restaurants in a whole week. And buffetbuster has told stories of being impressed by your eating capacity. So it surprises me that you're impressed by the number of stops.

It was much easier do that many stops because the three of us shared food everywhere, and didn't eat a lot at each place. I'm glad of Chris's willingness to share with us.

From a standpoint of trying to check off as many Roadfood-listed restaurants as possible (which is not my only motivation, but is a motivation for me), New England is a great region, because there are so many Roadfood-listed ice cream stops you can make between full meals. (Though many of the New England ice cream stops were very generous with their portions. I joked that ordering a kid-size ice cream cone meant that you would be handed a cone the size of a small child.) 
Re:Ralph and Lori go to New England, July 2010 2010/08/23 22:20:17
WOW--I'm full after reading your report, but what a wonderful report it is! You're hearty Roadfooders, but we all reap the benefits--thank you! After reading your report, you've almost tempted me to reroute my own trip from 'out west' to New England and do some serious sampling of those yummy ice creams, but on second thought, New England will have to wait for another time...

Thanks to you and Lori for all the stops you made in the name of research!
Double Chili Cheeseburger
Re:Ralph and Lori go to New England, July 2010 2010/08/25 18:08:21
Oh gawd am I homesick now.

As the former business manager for Joe, and a friend, I am SOOOOOO psyched to hear you rave about Rancs. Joe's ice cream is so good there is almost no other ice cream I will eat any more. Seriously. (Only Fenton's...) And I never have hot fudge unless it's his. (And I'm sadly too far away to have any these days!)

BTW should anyone crave his stuff, he WILL ship in dry ice. Pricey, but if you gotta have your Rancs, then Joe will be sure you get it.

Loved your report... love the choices (but Chris & Amy know their stuff, of course)!

Glad you had great eats!
Double Chili Cheeseburger
Re:Ralph and Lori go to New England, July 2010 2010/08/25 18:09:29
OOPS! * only Fenton's OR Whitey's.

Had to correct that for you, BB.

Filet Mignon
Re:Ralph and Lori go to New England, July 2010 2010/08/25 18:45:16
Thanks for a thoughtful, comprehensive report.

Too bad I didn't know you were in Nothampton.  I was there that weekend and would have loved to cross paths.

Again, superb report.  I enjoyed it very much.
Filet Mignon
Re:Ralph and Lori go to New England, July 2010 2010/08/27 09:21:42
I'm just catching up on this . . taking notes on Red's Eats . . Haus der Taco, LOL.  Gorgeous stuff Ralph!
Double Cheeseburger
Re:Ralph and Lori go to New England, July 2010 2010/08/27 11:31:08
Fantastic report...I am a true lover of whole bellies and I agree with your description. However, you grow to love them even more with constant repetition....(I wish). Thanks for making me ravenous.
Filet Mignon
Re:Ralph and Lori go to New England, July 2010 2010/08/27 12:37:14
I love your trip report.  I much enjoyed your commentary.

Sorry to hear of the disappointment at Red's.  From the glowing reports, I always thought that it must be the best place on the planet to get a New England hot lobster roll.

I have the Sterns' Dorsett Inn book from several years ago.  It's good to hear that they still serve such good food.
Ralph Melton
Double Chili Cheeseburger
Re:Ralph and Lori go to New England, July 2010 2010/08/27 17:37:38
We retired to our hotel for an hour or two of digestion coma, then Chris contacted us to inquire whether we were interested in dinner. We agreed on Santarpio's Pizza.

Santarpio's gave us the most brusque service that I can remember. (Boston's Durgin Park is famous for grouchy service, but the one time we ate there, our waiter was pleasant and friendly.) An example of Santarpio's service: we were shown to our table with a scowl and a gesture that clearly meant "Siddown."

The four of us shared a pizza with garlic, pepperoni, and half hot pepper. Details are slipping, I fear, but it was a good pizza, with a crust that was thin and fairly crisp, and good flavors of crust and topping.

I wasn't as fond of the barbecued sausage and lamb; both were fairly tough and to my taste, overcooked. It was nifty to see the open grill they were cooked on next to the door, but my picture didn't come out acceptably.

(I didn't get a good picture, but this picture from the roadfood.com review is very representative of what we ate.)

Next stop: Salem Diner

Ralph Melton
Double Chili Cheeseburger
Re:Ralph and Lori go to New England, July 2010 2010/08/27 17:41:56
cecifAs the former business manager for Joe, and a friend, I am SOOOOOO psyched to hear you rave about Rancs. Joe's ice cream is so good there is almost no other ice cream I will eat any more. Seriously. (Only Fenton's...) And I never have hot fudge unless it's his. (And I'm sadly too far away to have any these days!)

I couldn't judge whether Rancatore's was the best we had on that trip - Herrell's or Dr. Mike's would give it tough competition. And Lori opines that it's unfair to ask her to judge without giving her a return trip to retest all of those in detail. But Rancatore's was certainly well worth raving about.
Ralph Melton
Double Chili Cheeseburger
Re:Ralph and Lori go to New England, July 2010 2010/08/27 17:57:03
I don't see that I've told the Haus der Taco story on this forum, so it may not have been clear what I was referring to.

In 1993, my family took a trip to Germany, and spent several days in Heidelberg. Around the corner from the hotel where we were staying was a restaurant named "Haus der Taco".
Now, I'm from Dallas, and I was extremely doubtful that this restaurant could make a taco like I could get back home. But I was curious... and over the course of our days here, my curiosity ratcheted up to the point that I felt compelled to give it a try.

Once I entered the place, I speculated that it was a Doner Kebab run by Turkish immigrants, with a slight recustomization to appear Mexican. (The stereotype of Turkish people I wish to invoke is that of having no particular affinity for Mexican food.)

The taco I finally received made me think that it was made by people who had read recipes for Mexican food, but who had never eaten it themselves, and who had had to make substitutions to get by in Germany. The taco shell was a large pita, wrapped into the shape of a waffle cone. It was filled with gyro meat (I don't know what animal), lettuce, tomato, and sour cream; it wasn't spicy at all.

It wasn't bad at all... but definitely not authentic. I'm glad I gave it a try, though - I've gotten more mileage out of that story than almost anything else we saw in Heidelberg.
Ralph Melton
Double Chili Cheeseburger
Re:Ralph and Lori go to New England, July 2010 2010/08/27 18:02:32
MiamiDonSorry to hear of the disappointment at Red's.  From the glowing reports, I always thought that it must be the best place on the planet to get a New England hot lobster roll.

I had the same impression myself. I'm willing to believe that they have good lobster rolls at other times, but mine was nasty.

If I were to go back, I would try to go during the day, ideally when they have a line. I speculate that perhaps our lobster roll was sitting around turning nasty before we arrived, and one that was made fresh to meet the demands of a line would be better. This is pure speculation, though; I don't really know what I'm talking about. (But it would be worth waiting in line to avoid the mosquitoes.)

Ralph Melton
Double Chili Cheeseburger
Re:Ralph and Lori go to New England, July 2010 2010/08/31 00:11:29
We'd spent several days driving from place to place, so on Thursday we felt a need to do just one place at a time, without thinking about trying to make a schedule. So we went off to Salem. 

For brunch, we went off to the Salem Diner, which really looks like a classic diner. It has not been restored - look for faded boomerang-print formica in the backgrounds of the food photos.

Lori had the blueberry pancakes, which were fine, even good, but not exceptional.

I ordered the turkey hash and the loukaniko sausage. I had never heard of loukaniko before, and I am the sort of person who consults Wikipedia while reading a menu; it may therefore match my dining experience to quote from Wikipedia:

Loukaniko (λουκάνικο) or locanico is the normal Greek word for pork sausage, usually somewhat dried.
There is a variety of sausages in Greek cooking, but perhaps the best-known is flavored with fennel seeds and orange peel, sometimes smoked; another popular flavoring is greens, especially leeks.

This was the fennel and orange peel style, and it tasted unlike other sausage of my experience. I could taste the orange peel and the fennel if I focused on those flavors, but they melded together into something broad and exotic. The texture was familiar, like a hot link or a dry kielbasa, but the flavor was very unusual to me.

The turkey hash was very mild in texture and in flavor. It was very homogenous, much more finely textured than I usually get in corned beef hash.

Up next: The House of Seven Gables

Ralph Melton
Double Chili Cheeseburger
Re:Ralph and Lori go to New England, July 2010 2010/08/31 00:14:08
Fantastic report...I am a true lover of whole bellies and I agree with your description. However, you grow to love them even more with constant repetition....(I wish). Thanks for making me ravenous.

I keep thinking about this remark, and I've decided that I feel very complimented by this. I'm very pleased that even though I'm not a lover of whole bellies yet, I was able to describe them in a way that touched your happy memories. Thank you very much for your kind words.
Filet Mignon
Re:Ralph and Lori go to New England, July 2010 2010/08/31 14:27:58
Fennel and orange peel sausage?  I would eat that!
Ralph Melton
Double Chili Cheeseburger
Re:Ralph and Lori go to New England, July 2010 2010/09/03 00:44:10
From the Salem Visitor's Center, we learned that Salem is not just the home of witch trials, but also the home of Nathaniel Hawthorne. The witches get much more of the advertising, though - which is probably just as well, because it would be hard to make a recognizable caricature of Nathaniel Hawthorne to decorate an ice cream stand. The House of Seven Gables (the setting for the Hawthorne novel of the same name) sounded interesting, and I was in a strong mood of "Don't plan ahead. Pick an interesting thing, do it, repeat." So we went to the House of Seven Gables.

(If we had been planning, we might have gone to one of the sensationalist witch museums first; the House of Seven Gables closes at 7:00, but the sensationalist museums close at 5:00. I would not have expected that.)

Two pictures from the walk to the House of Seven Gables:

It was an interesting tour. (No photographs inside the House of Seven Gables, because they weren't allowed.) The house was a mansion, but it had grown progressively from a much smaller house, and it showed several different styles from its development.

I found it particularly interesting that the House had been restored in 1913 - but restored to match the novel in ways that had never been real before:
• A secret staircase was added to support one scene in the novel where a character appears in the living room by surprise.
• A cent-shop was added in a front room because one of the characters in the novel ran such a shop, though there had never been a shop in the house.
• Even the seven gables were a reconstruction-to-novel. There had been seven gables on the house, but I believe there had not been seven gables all at once, and I know that there were only five gables on the house at the time Hawthorne was familiar with it.

The tour included one of the best visual aids I've met: they had a model of the house made of several blocks, so the docent was able to say "The house started as this small block. Then (adds block) they added this addition onto it. Then they removed these gables..." It was really well done.

The tour also included a tour of Hawthorne's birth house. It was not in its original location; a church had wanted the original site of the house for a parking lot, so had sold the house to the House of Seven Gables organization for one dollar - buyer pays for delivery. It was definitely a much more modest house than the House of Seven Gables, which underscored that the House of Seven Gables really was a mansion.

The gardens around the house:

The House of Seven Gables itself:

Across the street from the House of Seven Gables was Ye Olde Pepper Candy Companie, a candy store. I'm usually suspicious of anything called "Olde", but this place seems to have some legitimate claim: they say that they're the oldest candy company in the United States, dating back to 1806. Their candy specialty is Gibralters, large diamond-shaped lozenges (about the size of a business card) with about the firmness of an after-dinner mint. They were reasonably tasty, but I won't be responsible for bringing them back into fashion.

It was yet another hot and humid day, so we stopped for ice cream at Captain Dusty's. This wasn't Roadfood-listed (or mentioned in the Roadfood Best Ice Cream in New England), and it's probably fair that it's not - or maybe I adjusted my experience to match my expectations. I had a raspberry lime freeze, which was pretty good but too sweet for my taste; Lori had a scoop of bobcat ice cream, which turned out to be butterscotch with chocolate chips.

I'm probably being too harsh on Captain Dusty's, because it did have some definite individual character - check out the Doggy Sundae on the menu board.

Up next: walking tour of Salem

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Ralph Melton
Double Chili Cheeseburger
Re:Ralph and Lori go to New England, July 2010 2010/09/03 18:32:14
The Salem Witch Trials Memorial has stone benches engraved with the names and fates of the victims. Many of the benches were scattered with pennies, and in some cases, the pennies were arranged into patterns. We learned later that the pennies are a recent occurrence, and the patterns even more recent - but we didn't learn why people are putting pennies on the benches, nor why they were arranged in patterns. (My best guesses are people paying their respects or teenagers with time on their hands.)

We signed up for a walking tour from Hocus Pocus Walking Tours, after some interviewing to try to ensure that the tour wasn't too gruesome or woolly-headed. (Salem has a great variety of shops, museums, and tours catering to the sort of woolly-headed New Ager who is likely to believe themselves to be a reincarnation of one of the witches burned in Salem. (The convicted witches in Salem were hanged, not burned. That's part of my snarking.))

This demanded a quick dinner from a place in the Salem mall, and it was not very good. My memory is that my crabmeat sub tasted only of mayonnaise.

The tour was pretty good, with a reasonable mix of history, witch trial details, and a few ghost stories. It dragged one murder story out across three stops, which surprised me a bit; I would expect that in three hundred years, Salem would have acquired enough interesting murders to make it unnecessary to pad out this one to fit. I forget all the names involved, but the story chronicled a young man who hired an assassin to kill a wealthy man so that his mother (the rich man's housekeeper) would inherit his fortune. Unfortunately, he bragged about his scheme in the pub where he was establishing his alibi, thus proving that egregiously stupid crime does not pay.

We finished up with ice cream from Maria's Sweet Somethings, at the recommendation of the tour guides. Ralph had the black raspberry ice cream, Lori had the snickers ice cream. It was good, but not particularly astounding. It might have been the smallest cone we got in New England. Being smaller isn't a bad thing, since most of the cones we got were too large for my taste, but the price was comparable to that of the large cones we'd gotten elsewhere.

Maria's did have a great outdoor display. I had taken this photo earlier in the day.

Up next: Cappy's Trackside Kitchen and Plimoth Plantation 

Re:Ralph and Lori go to New England, July 2010 2010/09/03 20:14:33
It's time for me to chime in again with a few thoughts on the food and the sightseeing.
Reading the post about our day with Ayersian made me sad, because I would gladly hang out with both of them far more often than geography will allow. Thanks again, both of you! 
It also made me sad because there is no Rancatore's in Pittsburgh. I might have to beg for ice cream shipped in dry ice for my birthday...and my birthday is in December, so the ice cream would likely stay cold between New England and here. Not sure if I'd want Rancatore's, Herrell's or Dr. Mike's...they were all SO incredibly good. I'm getting hungry typing this!
I also am now craving some of Hallie's amazing turtles...the apricot and cherry version is my personal favorite. Talking with Hallie was a lot of fun too!
As the proud holder of a BA in English, I really enjoyed visiting the House of Seven Gables. It was really pretty neat, even if the house didn't actually look like that in its prime (See my wonderful husband's explanation). I was sorry to have missed the campy witch museums, but they simply provide us with another reason to return to the area. There also is great shopping in Salem...I didn't do enough of that, either :-)
Ralph Melton
Double Chili Cheeseburger
Re:Ralph and Lori go to New England, July 2010 2010/09/04 09:46:13
Friday, July 9
Roadfood.com didn't offer us many breakfast places near Boston (only Charlie's Sandwich Shoppe, who didn't answer their phone), so I picked a breakfast place from Urbanspoon: Cappy's Trackside Kitchen. Cappy's turned out to be a little restaurant with a train theme.

I ordered the shrimp, crab, and mozzarella omelet, which was very mild-flavored. I'm used to crab being mild, but both this and the crab sandwich I had the night before were almost flavorless.

Lori ordered the caramel apple pancakes. I found them a bit too sweet, but they were pretty good.

Our strongest memory of the restaurant was the waitress, who was a young woman with an accent like a gangster's moll, sporting day-glo pink nail polish and wearing a t-shirt and track shorts. My initial guesses about her were wrong, though: she talked knowledgeably with us about our iPad and discussed her experiences with her iPhone 4.
Up next: Plimoth Plantation

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Ralph Melton
Double Chili Cheeseburger
Re:Ralph and Lori go to New England, July 2010 2010/09/04 16:41:41
 spent most of the day at Plimoth Plantation, a living-history site with reenactors playing the roles of Pilgrims who are remarkably willing to talk with strangers about the banal or intimate details of their lives. (Lori teaches about the Pilgrims in her third-grade class, so collecting photos and details here was a particular goal of hers from this trip.)

I'm not going to provide a complete description of everything we saw there, but here are a few high points:

• At the Wampanoag settlement, Lori asked this woman about the pronunciation of a few Wampanoag words, and mentioned that she had a bookTapenum's Day: A Wampanoag Indian Boy In Pilgrim Times, a story told with photos from Plimoth Plantation. She replied, "Oh, he's my husband." Unfortunately, though she said he was around the settlement, we didn't encounter him. (We suspect that there might have been fewer reenactors outdoors, and more people taking necessary breaks in air conditioning; it was quite hot and humid.)

The Pilgrim settlement made me think of many questions that I couldn't figure out how to ask in character. For example, I wanted to ask "what do we know about the accents of the original settlers?" Some of the characters had Dutch accents from growing up in Holland, and some of them had accents that sounded Irish to my clueless ears - both of these are plausible, but neither of these obviously takes into account four hundred years of drift in accent, and I have no idea how much accents change in four hundred years.

At one house, a tourist boy asked, "How did they get any privacy?" A reenactor commented, "Privacy isn't something you have; it's something you're granted once in a while."

Another question I felt inhibited about asking: this boy was carving his first spoon, and he was using a knife so dull that I pulled Lori back in worry whenever she came within a few yards of him. I felt a great yearning to ask, "When that boy inevitably slashes himself with that knife, what seventeeth-century first aid will you do for him?" But I felt it would be impolitic to say that.

This gentleman was our favorite of the reenactors at Plimoth Plantation, and he held forth at length on the condition of the settlement and its needs and expectations. Our single favorite line was this: "You see what's wrong with that street? It doesn't have dung in it!" (The context was the lack of draft animals in the young settlement.)

We had intended to eat at Plimoth Plantation, particularly because they had some seventeeth-century foods on their menu. But we were thwarted: the cafe closed before the village did. So to sate our hunger, we ate at a selachian place nearby called Monster Subs.

The shark theme extended even to the watermelon in the refrigerator. (My apologies for the blurry picture.)

I spotted American Chop Suey in the cooler and coaxed Lori to try it with me. I shouldn't have bothered. American chop suey turns out to be the concoction of macaroni, ground beef, and tomato sauce that I've met under the names of "chili mac" or "American goulash". (I'm curious about the name, though - the name implies that it was named by people to whom "chop suey" was a familiar term for "medley of food.") It was heated very unevenly, which brought it down several notches.

From there to Plymouth Rock and the Mayflower II. The Mayflower II had only a few reenactors, but they were very good. The captain of the ship clearly felt that his passengers were religious crackpots, but he was willing to transport them as long as their money was good.

This man was a deacon among the religious Pilgrims. (Though the word "Pilgrims" wasn't applied to those settlers until around 1800.) His general attitude was that they weren't breaking from the English church at all, except in a few minor points about which the Church of England was so touchy and unreasonable. He could hold forth on these topics for several minutes at a time without allowing a word in edgewise.

After that, we went to Plymouth Rock. I had a wholly wrong impression about Plymouth Rock. I figured that it would be a rock large enough to be a landmark - after all, they named a place after it. I was wrong. This is Plymouth Rock. It's a bit bigger than a washing machine. It would be easy to imagine a band of college guys moving it as a alcohol-inspired prank.

Ralph Melton
Double Chili Cheeseburger
Re:Ralph and Lori go to New England, July 2010 2010/09/07 22:39:46
For dinner on Friday, we met up with Katherine (a friend for over three decades, now) and her partner at Elephant Walk, a French-Cambodian restaurant.

Lori had the lemongrass chicken, which the menu describes thus: "Sliced chicken breast sautéed with lemongrass, onion, red bell pepper and scallion; sprinkled with freshly roasted, crushed peanuts"

I had the Mee Siem au Poulet. I'll quote the menu: "Rice noodles sautéed in a sauce of shredded chicken breast, tofu, garlic, salted soy beans, pickled shallot, Chinese chive, bean sprouts and red bell pepper; topped with shredded omelet". It was quite tasty, but after two months, I find myself unable to remember much about how it tasted. The conversation with Katherine and Rob was by far the best part.

We had gone almost a whole day without eating at a Roadfood-listed place. But a check on the iPad guided us to a nearby Roadfood-listed ice cream shop: Lizzy's.

(On the walk to Lizzy's, I tripped on an unexpected gouge in the pavement and fell to my knees. Once I figured out what had happened, I was less afraid for myself than for the iPad I had been carrying. The iPad was unscathed, but there was some visible scarring in the iPad's case.)

Lori ordered a cup of the "chocolate orgy" ice cream, which was dark chocolate ice cream with almond toffee pieces. In our notes of the trip, she has written, "Soooooooooooooooooooooooooooo good." She considers this one of the best ice creams she had on the trip, in a league with Herrell's, Rancatore's, and Dr. Mike's.

I had the ginger ice cream, which was very ginger-bright and refreshing - but I would only use a few o's in my praises.

Up next: Jigger's Diner.

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Filet Mignon
Re:Ralph and Lori go to New England, July 2010 2010/09/09 15:45:58
It's too bad about the shrimp & crab omelet; it sounds like such a great idea.  Ginger ice cream I could get behind.  You guys are much more patient people than we are--we have a strict two-reenactor limit.
Lori--we feel that way about the Ayersians too!  They should be freed to spend the year roaming the countryside and visiting people.
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