Left at the Fork

the road | the food | a new direction

Maine Whoopie Pie Festival, Dover-Foxcroft ME, June 25th 2016

Is the whoopie pie an Amish original or did New England bakers first devise the sweet snack? That debate will never end but, either way, it seems to have made its first appearance in the 1920s. What is a whoopie pie? Classically, it’s two chocolate cake discs about the size and shape of the top half of a hamburger bun sandwiching a sweet, creamy white filling. These days you can find whoopie pies in dozens of cake and filling flavor permutations — gingerbread? blueberry? candy cane? — and sometimes they’re even gussied up with real, dairy-based fillings. Call us Luddites but we cling to the original chocolate version the way our fingers cling to the whoopie’s sticky chocolate cake. Continue reading

Gary Bimonte of Pepe’s Pizza in The VIP Lounge

The VIP Lounge is a weekly Boston Globe interview of a usually D-list celebrity with some passing connection to Boston. The same eight travel-themed questions are asked of each interviewee — Aisle or window? Guilty pleasure when traveling? This week the VIP is Gary Bimonte, one of seven grandchildren of Frank Pepe, founder of the greatest pizzeria in the country, Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana in New Haven, CT. There are now eight Pepe’s pizzeria’s in the northeast, the most recent of which opened, very successfully, in Chestnut Hill mall in Boston. Mr. Bimonte is manager of quality control, popping around to the eight restaurants to ensure the pies are up to New Haven standards. Check out his VIP Lounge interview here.

The Big 3 (or 4) of Lockhart: A Day of Texas BBQ

American barbecue is highly regional. True, barbecue has exploded across the country over the past decade and, when you venture beyond the traditional barbecue regions of America, the cuisine becomes a gallimaufry of styles. And that’s fine, especially since the regions identified by a particular style continue to hew to their traditions. Sure, it’s possible to find smoked brisket in North Carolina and pulled pork in Texas, but you’re far more likely to enjoy yourself if you sample the chopped whole hog pig in The Tar Heel State and get all greasy with smoked brisket and muscular beef sausage in The Lone Star State. Continue reading

PurpleHull Pea Festival & World Championship Rotary Tiller Race, Emerson AR, June 25th 2016

Purple hull peas, black-eyed peas, crowder peas — they’re all types of cow peas, also known as southern peas. The pea pod of purple hull peas is, guess what, purple. All of these peas are thought to have arrived in America with African slaves. Although Africans liked to eat the peas, white Americans used them as a forage crop, hence the name cow peas. Eventually, the entire American south was won over by the taste of these cow peas. Emerson (population 368), Arkansas’ PurpleHull Pea Festival & World Championship Rotary Tiller Race is an homage to this signature food of the South. Continue reading

Graeter’s Coming to Pittsburgh, Cleveland This Summer

The first Pittsburgh-area and Cleveland-area Graeter’s scoop shops will be open sometime this summer. The Pittsburgh store will be located at 10610 Perry Highway, in the north suburban community of Wexford, about a 20-minute drive from downtown Pittsburgh. The address of the Cleveland store is 261 Main Street, in the city of Westlake, about 25 minutes west of downtown Cleveland. Word is they’re also opening a second Chicago scoop shop this summer. Tomorrow, June 17th, an 11th Columbus, OH area Graeter’s will open, debuting a new store design and updated Graeter’s branding. Yep, Graeter’s is on the move!

5 Dishes to Try at DC’s Whaley’s

The cousins Wiseman, men behind the hot, artisan Jewish deli (hot artisan Jewish deli?!) DGS Delicatessen of Washington, D.C., have turned their attentions to seafood with their month-old Whaley’s, a raw bar in the Washington Navy Yard, facing the Anacostia River, near Nationals Park. Tom Sietsema of The Washington Post has given the restaurant his imprimatur, particularly praising the small plates and raw bar offerings (as well as the soft-shell crab entree). Rina Rapuano, writing for Zagat, identifies five must-try dishes at Whaley’s, highlighting some of the very same dishes as Mr. Sietsema, including those tempura-battered soft-shell crabs, a plate of clams casino where chorizo replaces the bacon, and some shrimp-stuffed fried squash blossoms. Continue reading

Cheese Curd Festival, Ellsworth WI, June 24th and 25th 2016

Ellsworth is the Cheese Curd Capital of Wisconsin, so it’s only natural that they would be the home of the annual Cheese Curd Festival. It happens this year on Friday and Saturday, June 24th and 25th, at Ellsworth’s East End Park. What are cheese curds? When rennet is added to milk to make cheese, the milk separates into curds and whey. The whey is drained off, leaving curds, which are pressed into blocks or wheels to start the cheddar cheese process. If you don’t press them into cheddar, you’ve got bite-size nuggets of fresh cheese without any of the bite of aged cheese, boasting fresh dairy flavors and salt, mostly. Their most famous characteristic? They squeak between the teeth when you eat ’em! Continue reading

Boomshakalaka!

Cayenne, Habanero, ghost peppers, and Reaper peppers — they all work together to give Carla Hall’s Southern Kitchen‘s Boomshakalaka Nashville chicken its top-of-the-line jolt. Not a masochist? She’s got six levels of heat to choose from, all the way down to no heat at all (Southern-style). They’ve been operating in soft-open mode for the last couple of weeks but the big day is tomorrow, Friday, June 17th: the grand opening of Carla Hall’s culinary ode to Nashville hot chicken. Continue reading

Best Places to Eat in the Midwest

This comes from Dan Kaercher, the founding editor of Midwest Living magazine — his favorite places to eat in the Midwest. He once took an 8,000-mile, 44-day, six-meal-a-day eating tour of the Midwest for Iowa Public Television, so he’s probably better qualified than most to speak authoritatively on the matter. Among his favorites: the Jaarsma Bakery in Pella, IA, home of Dutch letters, Hamburg Inn No. 2 in Iowa City, where he enjoyed a chocolate shake with a slice of chocolate praline pecan bourbon pie blended in (!), The Bohemian Cafe of Omaha, soon to close permanently, and the spectacular fish boils at The White Gull Inn in Door County, WI. See the complete story here.

Henderson Sauerkraut Days, Henderson MN, June 24th through 26th 2016

Fermented cabbage. Fragrant. Sour. Buckets and buckets of sauerkraut. All you want, all weekend, free. What more inducement do you need to visit the small town of Henderson, Minnesota during the weekend of June 24th through 26, when they hold their annual Henderson Sauerkraut Days? Be sure not to overdo it on the kraut if you’re planning on competing in the sauerkraut eating contest. You want plenty of appetite available for the competition. You’ll be consuming two pounds of the stuff as fast as possible. Winners typically complete the challenge in a matter of four minutes or less, often after squeezing as much brine as possible from the shredded cabbage (they’ll give you 30 seconds to “prepare” your two pounds of kraut). Continue reading

Loveless Cafe’s 65th Birthday Biscuit Bash

To celebrate their 65th anniversary, Nashville’s Loveless Cafe is delivering free food to local businesses in Nashville. Local companies register online and the Loveless will, each month until November, randomly select one of the businesses to be the lucky recipients of their famously delectable biscuits and preserves. They started in April with 1075 The River. This month, ASCAP won the drawing. Businesses can register for the Biscuit Bash here.

Professor X Has a Sweet Tooth

Some down time while shooting “Wolverine 3” in New Orleans — Professor X, i.e. Patrick Stewart (he’ll always be Picard to us, however), stops in at Cafe du Monde for a plate of beignets piled with a snowstorm of powdered sugar, along with a cafe au lait, and a selfie.

Tony Luke’s Adds Cheesesteaks to Rowan Curriculum

Glassboro, NJ, home of Rowan University, is the latest town to receive a brand-new, shiny Tony Luke’s restaurant, and the students are thrilled. The sandwich shop is open until 3 a.m. on weekends, which sounds like a smart decision — we can’t think of a more appropriate 2 a.m. campus snack than a Pork Rabe Italian. Glassboro is something of a homecoming for Tony Luke himself, who raised his kids in this South Jersey college town.

Norma’s Cafe of Dallas 60th Anniversary Specials

Big breakfasts all day, hearty home-cooking entrees like chicken and dumplings and meatloaf, a lengthy roster of country-style vegetable sides, mile-high pies… and fantastically popular chicken fried steak, all served in a casual and welcoming town cafe atmosphere —  that’s been Norma’s Cafe of Dallas, TX for the last 60 years. It was 30 years ago that longtime customer Ed Murph bought the place from the original owners. Over the years he’s opened two additional area Norma’s, with a fourth, near NorthPark Center, in the works — but he’s pretty much kept Norma’s as he found it. Continue reading

100 Plates Georgians Love

Chili dogs at Nu-Way Weiners in Macon; crispy flounder in Darien at Skipper’s Fish Camp; peach ice cream from Dickey’s Peach Farm in Musella — these are three of the 100 Plates Locals Love, a new feature on Georgia’s tourism department website. It’s not all regional specific food, by any means — you’ll find listings for things like great poutine, tacos, and cannoli — but so what? Those are plenty interesting and useful too. Continue reading

Walla Walla Sweet Onion Festival, Walla Walla WA, June 18th and 19th 2016

It was the late 1800s when a French soldier named Peter Pieri fell in love with a sweet onion on the French Mediterranean island of Corsica. He brought seeds of the onion to Walla Walla, WA where local farmers developed it into the sweet and juicy crop the region is now famous for. Late spring each year, Walla Walla celebrates the unusually mild Allium with the Walla Walla Sweet Onion Festival, the 32nd edition of which will take place next weekend, June 18th and 19th, 2016. Continue reading

DC’s DGS Deli Adds Local Bagels, Bagel Sandwiches

The “next generation” Jewish deli DGS, of Washington, D.C., does their own brining, curing, smoking, pickling… as much as possible is done in-house, but the bagels, which really have to be made in a bakery, are brought in. When they opened in 2012 they were unable to find a local bagel of high enough quality to be served with their meats and fish, so they bought par-baked Montreal bagels from St-Viateur and finished them off in-house. This worked just fine except for one thing: they couldn’t make bagel sandwiches because Montreal bagels are too small and the hole is too big. Continue reading

White River Fish Market Opening 2nd Outlet in Tulsa Burbs

Oklahoma would seem to be an unpromising spot for great seafood, but the White River Fish Market and Restaurant of Tulsa has it figured out. It helps that they are close by the Tulsa airport, from which all sorts of the freshest sea creatures can be brought in. Their reputation for quality goes well beyond the borders of the Sooner State but it’s their burgeoning local clientele that’s allowing them to open their first branch. The residents of Broken Arrow, a city in Tulsa’s southeast suburbs, will be the lucky recipients. Look for the seafood spot in the County Line Shopping Center at the corner of 71st and Lynn. White River’s talking about a late fall opening for the market and restaurant.

RC & Moon Pie Festival, Bell Buckle TN, June 18th 2016

New York has its Dr. Brown’s and pastrami, Philadelphia enjoys a hoagie with a wishniak, and the south? Well, you haven’t really experienced southern living until you’ve savored an RC and a Moon Pie, that sugary pick-me-up of cola, marshmallow, and graham crackers. RC Cola was born in Georgia, and Moon Pies come from Tennessee, so it’s only natural that this southern duo would be honored with an annual celebration in Bell Buckle, TN. The 22nd edition of the RC & Moon Pie Festival will be Saturday, June 18th. Continue reading

Top 10 American Steakhouses

Forget those hoary stereotypes about women’s eating preferences. The ladies love a good steak! Here are America’s ten best steakhouses courtesy of the online women’s lifestyle magazine PureWow. It’s a solid and not entirely predictable list that hits a pair of Old New York classics, Peter Luger and Keen’s, a celebrity chef spot in L.A., Cut, from Wolfgang Puck, and a trio of Midwest old-time favorites in Archie’s Waeside of Iowa, St. Elmo of Indy, and Oklahoma City’s Cattlemen’s. Have a look and argue to your heart’s content.

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