01 Nov

RV Family Travel Atlas: Our Love Affair With Roadfood!

We love food, but with three young kids in tow, eating while traveling can be a challenge. We have learned that roadfood is the secret to successfully enjoying a local food culture. Join us for this week’s episode where we discuss our philosophy of roadfood and the great culinary classic of the same name, by Jane and Michael Stern.

Our campground review this week is actually of two different campgrounds in Swananoa, North Carolina. Mama Gertie’s Hideaway and Asheville East KOA are only a few miles away from each other, and both are great for very different reasons.

All this and more, on Episode 7 of RV Family Travel Atlas!

Play
06 Aug

Casual Eats and Yummy Treats: Road Food in the White Mountains, NH

If you have been following our adventures for awhile now, you know that we love a good road food joint. When you have young children, there is one rule of dining: In and out, and nobody gets hurt.

Since we don’t eat out a ton when we are RVing, it is important to us that the places we do try are truly worth the hassle of braving a restaurant with three young kids. For this reason we always consult Jane and Michael Stern’s Roadfood and look for some great, casual eats in the area we will be visiting. We also grill the locals and other fellow travelers. There were definitely fewer food options in the region of New Hampshire that we traveled this summer, so we were very excited to find a couple of treasures worth sharing.

Sunny Day Diner, Lincoln

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We visited the Sunny Day Diner for breakfast and it delivered on all of the diner basics: good coffee, great pancakes, crispy hash browns, and a very solid, no frills eggs benedict.

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The service was fast and friendly. This restaurant is located right down the street from Clark’s Trading Post, making it the perfect alternative to theme park fare.

Woodstock Inn Station & Brewery, North Woodstock

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We ate at The Woodstock Inn Station & Brewery after a long, rainy drive down the Kancamagus Highway. The warm, inviting restaurant was perfect place to dry off and fill up.

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The brewery offers a great and tasty variety of beers, if that is up your alley. In the food department we recommend sticking to the basic cheeseburger and french onion soup pub fare. If you pick some of the more creative menu offerings, you might be disappointed.

Littleton Diner, Littleton

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Turns out the Littleton Diner is one of those places in New Hampshire where the politicians eat pancakes during the presidential primaries. We can see why. Everything about this restaurant is small town eating, from the friendly and efficient service to the potato chips and pickle slices.

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We all cleared our plates quickly and then had a lovely conversation with the family sitting at a nearby table. That is just the kind of place it is.

Chutters, Littleton

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In case you ever wondered where the longest candy counter in the world was…we have the answer for you. Chutters has 112 feet of glass candy jars that offer a greater variety of gummy animals than we ever thought could exist.

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The boys had a marvelous time filling up their brown candy bags and the price was not prohibitive given the fun experience for the kids. This is the type of thing you can use to get your children through a tough hike…promise them Chutters.

By the end of our trip, it seemed to us that this is what you should expect when you visit New Hampshire: hearty, traditional fare from small town eateries. If you focus on what a place does best, you will never be disappointed…

03 Jul

A Tale of Three Lobster Rolls in Three Towns: Cape Cod, Massachusetts

Every summer when we head into New England, we systematically work our way through the local seafood shacks. This tradition started four summers ago in Maine, where we happened to eat the best lobster roll of our lives at Marriner’s Restaurant in Camden.

Then the quest began. We couldn’t help ourselves. Every lobster roll thereafter has been compared to that exemplar. Many have been delicious, but none have measured up to the memory. At this point we don’t even know if we are being fair. Perhaps our nostalgia has gotten the best of us. Nevertheless, there are worse things than feeling compelled to sample lots of lobster rolls in New England, so I have a feeling the search will continue.

We tried the lobster rolls at three different seafood shacks in Cape Cod last week and all three were delicious. You can’t go wrong at any of these road food joints, but your own favorite will probably depend on personal preference in the age-old ‘perfect lobster roll debate’.

Arnold’s Lobster & Clam Bar, Eastham

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This is the place that comes up again and again when you ask people for recommendations or read about this particular area of Cape Cod. It has a reputation for being the ‘go-to’ place for seafood and for good reason. You can get all of your staples here–clams, scallops, oysters, and lobster. You can also get the standard burger and fries fare for those in your party not keen on the bounty of the sea.

We ordered the hot lobster roll here and it was ridiculously good. There was so much lobster on the bun that I actually questioned (only for a moment) if I would be able to finish it. I liked the mix of claw and body meat, which gave it perfect texture for my taste. Overall, it was a rich and satisfying lobster roll.

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There is an attached ice cream parlor and miniature golf course which can be a good or a bad thing depending on your perspective. All food and activities are cash only. Oh, and it was a convenient 500 feet or so from where we were staying at the Atlantic Oaks campground.

The Friendly Fisherman, North Eastham

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While the tourists flock to Arnold’s, it seems that the locals head to The Friendly Fisherman. This seafood shack was recommended to us by local relatives, and then we met a few year-round residents of the Cape while we were eating there. The lobster roll here is overflowing with claw meat and done in the traditional northern New England style, with mayo but none of the other add-ons (celery, etc.). It was another delicious experience that left us simultaneously stuffed…yet considering ordering more.

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The restaurant is BYOB, and there is a liquor shop right next door. We loved the outdoor picnic tables, and the staff was very friendly. The best part? If you have children, you will love the small playground right next to the eating area. Let them play while you finally give in and decide to try the stuffed quahogs with that beer.

Mojo’s, Provincetown

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While we were hanging out in the Provincetown library, a kindly librarian told us where she would eat lunch in town. This happened to be Mojo’s, a seafood shack with picnic tables and seats that look straight out on a beach where it seems a lot of kite flying takes place. Here you will also find a wonderfully surly and simultaneously chatty couple swinging barbs behind the counter for added entertainment.

The lobster roll was excellent, but definitely had less meat on it than the other two we sampled. In all fairness, though, it was notably cheaper. The fish and chips and the fish sandwich were absolutely the scene stealers for all of the boys here, and Max and Theo shared with their father remarkably well.

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I’m going to be honest and admit my favorite item on the menu. The homemade onion chips were perfect and abundant…I was able to pack up leftovers and heat them up later over the campfire. Yum. Yum. Yum.

We know we will be returning to Cape Cod soon, so tell us if there are any other lobster rolls we absolutely must sample. We are always up for a challenge!

Happy eating…

26 Apr

The Fiestas before the Siestas: 3 Great Lunch Joints in Myrtle Beach

After a couple of days in Myrtle Beach, we noticed our natural traveling schedule had shifted a bit. This happens every year because, of course, Max and Theo are one year older…and because sometimes we like to throw a new baby into the mix just to keep things interesting.

Something that has stayed the same over the last four years is our love of picnic lunches on day trips. Packing a lunch in the morning before we leave the campground means we will be able to enjoy whatever hike, activity, refuge, beach, or lake we are visiting without having to abandon everything when the nasty hunger monster strikes. It also means we won’t be stuck buying overpriced, underwhelming food at some soulless snack bar.

We do also like to experience the local food culture wherever we go, so that usually means a dinner or two out. This year with Wesley’s earlier bedtime thrown into the mix, we found it worked better to do dinners picnic style, with easy sandwiches and salads. It was too much to get back after a long day of activity, cook, eat, clean up dinner, and still get Wes to bed at a reasonable time. Tuna fish, watermelon slices, chips and salsa were the perfect solution to this problem. Another solution? Eating out at lunch instead of dinner.

We were lucky enough to eat at three different restaurants in the Myrtle Beach area and enjoy all of them…a minor traveling miracle. If you are in the area, each one of these places will satisfy the kids, the adults, and the budget.

1. The Grilled Cheese & Crab Cake Co., Garden City: This lunch spot is actually a bit south of Myrtle Beach, on the way to (or back from) Huntington Beach State Park in Murrels Inlet. It is in one of those unassuming strip centers along a stretch of highway, but you can find it easily enough with Yelp.

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You might wonder why anyone would try to mess with grilled cheese, but then you taste one with a crab cake on it and you think, oh–that’s why. You can get lobster, shrimp, or fried green tomatoes on your grilled cheese here and all the options pair just swell with the old bay french fries. The seafood chowder was perfect and eagerly devoured by our three boys. We must note that the service, while being some of the friendliest we have ever had, was also very slow. If you go, make sure you have time to relax and wait patiently for food. Order some soup to keep the troops in line. Request some crackers. No one should be stressed while eating grilled cheese.

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2. Green Grubbin’, Myrtle Beach: This wraps and salads joint is right on the main drag (Kings Hwy) and just around the corner from the Myrtle Beach KOA. Everything is made to order, and all of the food was fresh and delicious. The boys loved their bean and cheese wraps, Jeremy had the Chef Classic, and I put together a southwestern type of thing, probably because it was warm out and that felt right. Wesley sampled from everything and seemed pleased. Max and Theo asked to return to this place later in the week. Of course the fact that Green Grubbin’ also serves ice cream may have had something to do with that request.

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3. Duffy Street Seafood Shack, Myrtle Beach (north end). I’m sure this place hops at night, but it was uncrowded and laid back at lunchtime. This is the sort of seafood place where you can throw your peanuts on the floor and boy oh boy did Max and Theo get a kick out of that (Wesley didn’t see what the big deal was, since he does that at every meal). The fish and chips was delicious–meaty and crisp without being greasy. The hush puppies (of which I have never been a big fan) were a hit with everyone else.

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Jeremy and I split the Shrimp Po’ Boy and the Shrimp and Grits. Jeremy loved the sandwich, but I hardly tried it because I was on a date with the Shrimp and Grits dish. They say this recipe won an award, and I am not surprised.

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Yup…that’s shrimp, bacon, sausage, cheese, peppers, onions, you name it. The meal was so rich that we packed the leftovers to go, and I got four late night snacks out of that tin. Talk about a happy camper.

All three of these restaurants offered extremely friendly service, comfortable seating for our family of five, kid-friendly options (besides the ubiquitous chicken fingers), and reasonable prices for a touristed area. Most importantly they gave us great, belly-filling food that led, all three times, to long afternoons naps. That is enough for a 5-star review from this parent.

As always, let us know if you go!

 

 

22 Apr

7 Rules for Feeding Your Kids on the Road and at the Campground

Let me start by saying that there has been a whole lot of trial and error in the road food department over the last 5 years. We took our first 12-hour road trip when the twins were 3 months old. Since then we have spent well over 100 nights in our RV.

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So although we have had some epic food prep fails, I do feel like we have a working set of rules in place. If we follow the system, everyone tends to stay happy and healthy. Veer off the path too far, and we tend to have sugar highs and crashing melt down lows. Or worse yet, our vacation can become a series of power-struggle eating standoffs with the tiny totalitarians.

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In order to avoid such a state of affairs, here are my current food commandments:

1. Do eat on the road similar to how you eat at home. Familiar foods will make traveling easier for your kids. I meal plan for the entire trip no matter how long it is, and then my grocery shopping trip looks a lot like an average weekly haul. Our breakfasts include yogurt, oatmeal, and cereal with fruit. Lunches are hummus with veggies, good ole’ PBJ, and tuna sandwiches. For dinners I think in terms of quick working night meals, easy grilling kabobs, or my favorite crock pot recipes. I don’t want to be worried about getting back to make dinner while I am on vacation. Rolling into the campground after a long, fun day of activity calls for low-key and easy meals.

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2. Do feed your kids lots of fruits and veggies. If you are not careful while traveling, you can get to the end of the day and realize you didn’t put anything green into your body. A change of routine can be hard enough on some kids. When you change their diet dramatically as well, you can get those highs and lows that parents dread. One of the best ways to make sure that kids are eating well on the road is to pick whatever local produce is in season, or just visit the local farm stands. Our boys adore visiting a farm and stuffing as many blueberries/strawberries/raspberries/apples as they possibly can into their mouths. And there you have it folks– activity and nutrition in one fell swoop!

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3. Do make compromises for convenience. I am one of those shoppers that HATES paying more for individually wrapped items. I think, why buy a cooked rotisserie when I make it myself for half the cost? I have learned that loosening up on this can actually help my family eat better while traveling. If I buy those salad kits with everything already chopped and diced, then I am more likely to get that salad on the table at night (this was a recent aha moment). If I get small cups of applesauce or packages of baby carrots, then our picnic lunches are easy and healthy. I earn my carbon credits at home using lunch boxes and tupperware. Then I spend them all on small baggies of Pirate Booty for the road.

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4. Do reward your kids for being troopers in the world of family travel. Kids are creatures of habit and it can be a challenge to experience new and different things every day of a vacation. I promise you that you will never find a cheaper way to reward your kids than with camp store ice cream. When Max and Theo climb to that summit with us, they know what is waiting for them back at the campground. It keeps them motivated and excited, so that is worth it to us. They know that this is something special that only happens when we travel, and boy do they look forward to it.

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5. Do experience the local food culture. We generally plan on eating out for dinner one night during our stay at any given place. Oftentimes, though, we end up eating out a few lunches instead. We try to make these meals really count, hoping that they highlight the best that the region has to offer. Another trick is to shop at local farm markets and festivals and bring the treats back to the campground. I have enjoyed artisan cheeses and homemade fudge around the camp fire at night. To be honest, they probably tasted a whole lot better since the kids were in bed.

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6. Do eat outside whenever possible. This should be a no brainer, but I feel compelled to list it. If a place has picnic tables, it is for you, oh parent. If you want to really enjoy your food, then your kids need a little room to breathe [i.e. act like wild animals].

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7. Do NOT make breakfast into a Thanksgiving dinner event. I had to include one negative, and this is worth it. I’m not sure why camping is associated with large breakfasts that take tons of time to prepare and even more time to clean up. We fell into the eggs, bacon, and pancake trap back in the early years, too. Then we realized half our day was gone, our bellies felt like lead balloons, and we were supposed to go for a hike. We will usually do the big breakfast deal one morning on each trip, but for all the other times, oatmeal, fruit, and nuts gets us out of the RV and exploring our surroundings without all the hoopla. And that’s why we do what we do in the first place.

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Happy camping. Happy chowing.

14 Apr

Own the Road: 5 Reasons We Arrive with Happy Campers

Vacationing with kids is awesome. Getting to that vacation with everyone’s sanity and goodwill intact can be the really tricky part. The planning and packing and loading is enough to stop most people from venturing onto the open road with their children. And then there is the horror of hours upon hours of are we there yet variations in whine minor.

Getting from point A to point B as a family is never an easy endeavor, but we do believe it is worth the effort. That’s why we have been doing it for the last four years. We kicked off the 5th season of adventures with our Lively Little Campers this week, and I’ve been thinking about what it takes to get out of the house and onto the road with as little drama as possible.

Don’t get too hung up on the whole packing thing. Look, I’m a pretty type-A person. My boys’ napping schedule is typed out and hung up on a family bulletin board. I meal plan and I pay my bills using a spreadsheet. But when it comes to prepping for a trip, I keep it low key. Basically I pack a lot of stuff. I mentally walk through an average day and account for all the things we really use. Then I add in the fun stuff like scooters and bikes. A friend once told me that she packed outfits by the day in ziplock bags. If I tried to do this each time we traveled, you might find me rocking in a corner.  I do laundry, fold it, and put it in a duffel. Done.  I know I should make checklists, but I love my Moleskins and my scribbles. It has worked so far and lets face it—if you forget something, there is probably a store.

 

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Make every trip as exciting as Disney World. No matter where we are going, our boys are out of their minds excited when we leave for a camping trip. We talk it up for weeks in advance, showing them pictures on the internet. By the time we leave, they feel like the luckiest ducks in the world. Today, when we pulled into our campground sweaty and tired, Max kissed me and thanked me for bringing them to the best place on earth. Yes, that is a quote.

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Train your kids for long car rides. I know that they drive you nuts when you drive to Auntie’s house 2 hours away. But if you do long car rides often enough, they really will pull through for you. Our boys have gotten carsick one too many times, so we have stopped using the DVD player. That means we travel up to eight hours a day with nothing but our goodwill and creativity to guide us.  Here it is, people: food, music, game, nap. Repeat. God love my older boys for finally learning the alphabet. A whole new world of car games is at our fingertips.

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Understand the value of the picnic lunch. Do not, under any circumstances, force your children to sit in a restaurant and eat after sitting in a car for hours. We have worked on this for years, sometimes packing sandwiches for lunch and then stopping for dinner. I am proud to report that we just completed a two-day road trip from Jersey to South Carolina without purchasing a single item of food along the way. We could very literally feel the difference.

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Avoid the rest stops. Embrace the visitor centers. Do a bit of research ahead of time to find the visitor centers on your route. Get your gas somewhere else, then stop and let the kids run or kick a ball while you take a bathroom break (in the RV, thank you very much!) and eat your homemade sandwiches. I will say that Virginia, North Carolina, and Tennessee have centers that pretty much kick butt. I’m talking rocking chairs and sprawling lawns. But it’s not just a southern thing…you can find them all over.

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Make sure there is a payoff. At the end of the day, magic. That’s our rule. We try hard not to break it.

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24 Mar

A Pearl at the Jersey Shore: Crab Shack, Mantoloking Road

About 10 years ago, when my husband and I moved back to New Jersey from Philadelphia, we spent some time living in Mantoloking. This is one of those tiny Jersey Shore towns that is full of visiting families in the summer and completely empty in the winter. You can stand on the beach in the middle of January and truly feel you are the only person for miles.

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Except you aren’t. Even though almost every business shuts down somewhere around mid October, the Crab Shack keeps selling what I consider to be the best local, fresh seafood available in the area. It is truly a shack, just a fish market with some picnic tables outside. But the same guy who went out and caught the fish that morning is selling it to you in the afternoon.  I used to grab a bag of clams on my way home from work, throw them on the grill, and voila, dinner.

These days the Crab Shack is out of my way and I get my fish elsewhere most of the time. On a sunny fall or spring Saturday, though, it is still our favorite place to get a great flounder or tuna burger sandwich. This is no frills, styrofoam container stuff, but if you want the real Jersey Shore experience, this is where you can get it.

After Superstorm Sandy decimated the area, the county built an amazing playground right next store at the base of the Mantoloking Bridge. This means we now have the perfect spot for a play and picnicking sort of Saturday morning.

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And I don’t have to pack the picnic. Win/win.

10 Mar

White House Sub Shop Makes Roadfood’s Top 100 in USA!

To celebrate Roadfood’s recent selection of White House Subs to their top 100 “must-visit stops” the campers decided to go directly to the source for a classic Jersey Shore munchdown.  Last fall we headed to their Taj Mahal location to get our primordial eat on–but this time it was back to the less glittery but more glorious Arctic Avenue original.

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The pictures on the walls tell a thousand stories and are dripping with Atlantic City history.  Take a close look at the top of the last picture.  Yes, that is a framed towel that was used by Frank Sinatra for his last A.C. concert.  I know, I know–not very appetizing, but incredibly cool.

When the campers arrived we were lucky to get a table and get our submarines quickly, because we were all ravenous.

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Stephanie attacked her turkey with zest and uninhibited joy:

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Theo tackled his tuna without fear, while Max marveled at the size and heft of his hoagie.

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 Meanwhile, Wes and I crunched and cuddled. Don’t look too closely. I think there’s food in my beard.

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During our meal we chatted with a nice lady behind the counter, who may have been the owner.  When I went up to the register to pay her at the end of our epic feast she asked, “what can I get your boys to take home? They have such beautiful faces!”

And the boys scored some free Tastykakes…

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 which pretty much made it a perfect day for them.  Stephanie and I held the Tastykakes hostage and demanded “best behavior” for the rest of the day.  And it worked.  So it was a perfect day for us too.

Onward to Spring.

 

 

04 Mar

Giveaway!!! Roadfood by Jane and Michael Stern

Thanks to Clarkson Potter, publisher of the 9th edition of Roadfood, for providing us with 2 copies of this fantastic book to give away to our readers.

Enter to win by liking one of the Roadfood posts on Facebook, or you can comment on this post.

You get an additional 2 entries if you tell us about your favorite road food experience! We need ideas for our future trips.

We have never had a miss using this book, and we are happy to share the love…

02 Mar

Feed Your Belly and Soul with Jane and Michael Stern’s Roadfood

It’s going to snow again tonight at the Jersey Shore. Enough I say!  ENOUGH!!!  When I spot that first seemingly innocent, seemingly cute snowflake I am going to go out into my backyard, shake my fists at the heavens, curse the Polar Vortex, and demand the immediate and unambiguous arrival of Spring.

After I do that I’m going to relax and spend the rest of the evening mapping out some of our spring and summer road trips.  We have reservations for campgrounds in Myrtle Beach, The Brandywine Valley, Cape Cod, and the White Mountains, and we have started to put together lists of hikes, swims, and other family-centric activities that should make for a great fifth season of Lively Little Campers.  Tonight I am also going to dip into Jane and Michael Stern’s Roadfood, An American gastronomic classic that has more in common with an epic quest novel like Moby-Dick than it does with a Michelin or Zagat’s food guide.

As Stephanie mentioned in her last post, she usually cooks in the RV when road tripping, but we do like to eat out once at each destination.  Because these meals are special we make sure they really count.  No tourist traps and no combo meals please!  This is where Roadfood saves the day every time.  Jane and Michael Stern’s tome is broken up into geographic regions (with maps) such as “Mid-Atlantic,” “Deep South,” “Midwest,” and “West Coast” that span from coast to coast.  These regional sections then have chapters for each state which contain sharply written and entertaining entries for the recommended locations.  Their writing is so good that you can almost taste those juicy burgers and wicked pies, almost… We used the Vermont chapter last summer and the results were delicious, affordable, and somewhat sinful each time.

There are two Roadfood picks very close to the Brattleboro KOA where we camped: The Putney Diner and Curtis’ All American Bar-B-Q. Both in Putney.

We had super-scrumptious sandwiches and pies at the diner….

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And mouth-watering ribs and sides at Curtis.

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There are also two Roadfood picks close to the Quechee/Pine Valley KOA where we camped: The Mill at Quechee and the White Cottage Snack Bar in Woodstock.

We had delicate, yet hardy soups and sandwiches at The Mill…

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 And all-American burgers, fries, and lobster rolls with a river view at White Cottage.

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I keep a copy of this book in my glove compartment whenever we travel, and you should too.  The first edition of the Stern’s masterpiece was published way back in 1978–and the ninth edition comes out this week–36 years later.  Roadfood has been around this long for a reason.  Because it rocks.

Next stop, Polly’s Pancake Parlor, Sugar Hill, New Hampshire! 

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Links to all of the campgrounds and restaurants mentioned in this post can be found on our “Trip Planner” page.

30 Aug

Earning Your Eats the Old-Fashioned Way: The White Cottage Snack Bar

White Cottage Snack Bar

After our adventurous descent down Mount Tom’s Precipice Trail we were hungry.  Very hungry.  Not handmade local croissant or organic frittata hungry.  But cheeseburger hungry.  Milkshake hungry. Lobster roll hungry.  Fried clam strips hungry.  You know what I mean.  And after hiking up and down a beautiful Vermont mountain with two four-year olds and a five-month old we had earned our eats the old-fashioned way.

The White Cottage Snack Bar in Woodstock may be America’s most beautiful roadside burger and shake joint.  The signage, the store front, and the menu looked like something you could find in Cape May or Long Beach Island along the coast of our beloved Jersey Shore.  But the outdoor eating area in the back did not.  In Vermont they even like to eat their burgers and shakes with a view.

We found a picnic table right next to the river and settled into a yummy post-hike meal.  All of the boys enjoyed their cheeseburgers and fries and Mommy thought the clam strips were solid, but not spectacular.  The portions, as you can see, were substantial.  But the highlight of the meal was my mother-in-law’s juicy and generous lobster roll, which she kindly shared with the crew.  It was much better than one I had enjoyed back home at the Jersey Shore the week before–but not as buttery and delicious as the ones we had tasted two years back in Camden, Maine.  But that comparison just isn’t fair– a Maine lobster roll is one of God’s gifts to humanity.

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As we devoured our meals a couple of youngsters at the table next to us finished their food, kicked off their shoes, and waded into the river.  I considered doing the same.  But my tummy was full, my legs were tired, and the summer air had turned cool.  As we cleaned up our table and threw away our trash the sky turned suddenly dark and it started to drizzle.  We ran back to the truck and loaded the boys up as quickly as we could.

As we drove back to the campground I felt grateful for the hike, grateful for the food, grateful for my family, grateful for Vermont, and for some strange, inexplicable reason–even grateful for the summer rain.

14 Jul

Buxton Munch: Don’t Judge a Book by Its Cover

It is a requirement for every employee in a New Jersey surf shop to at all times possess a surly and unimpressed attitude toward their clientele. Not so at the Natural Art Surf Shop in Buxton, North Carolina where the friendly young lads, upon being asked where the best lunch is to be had, will enthusiastically direct you to a sketchy-looking strip mall out back.

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These hospitable locals will inform you that Buxton Munch has the best fish tacos around, and they will be right. In fact, the fish tacos are so good that when you order your children a cheeseburger, it will sit untouched as you assemble the rice and beans and fish in a tortilla for them.

Oh, and the smoothies. Enough said.

12 Aug

We looked at the swim and we jumped right in…(part two)

Lincolnville, Maine

While we were camping at Camden Hills State Park I read an article in the Bangor Daily News about a blog called swimmaine.com.  This useful new blog is dedicated to recommending and documenting great swims in the great state of Maine.  It motivated me to get some more swim in during our New England expedition.  Luckily, towards the end of our trip one of our co-campers discovered a great little beach for swimming about 5 miles north of the park on U.S. Route 1.

Our group decided to head to Lincolnville Beach for our last afternoon/evening in Camden before heading up to the full summer glory of Acadia National Park.  It was magical.  A perfect afternoon of swimming and relaxation and great food.  Everyone swam and splashed and soaked up the late afternoon sun.  The boys, as they so often do, had a complete blast and spent an impressive amount of time in the cool water.

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After some good swimming and splashing we walked down the sandy beach and discovered a restaurant on the water called The Lobster Pound.  They had a large, uncrowded, grassy picnic area that looked perfect for the kids.  We went back to base camp and dried off and changed bathing suits and diapers and headed off to dinner.  I don’t know about you, but eating a good meal after an afternoon of swimming at the beach is about as good as life gets.  The food at the Lobster Pound did not disappoint.  Stephanie had an “excellent” bucket of steamers and one of our friends had the chunkiest bowl of lobster chowder I have ever seen.  Prices were fair and nothing about it seemed touristy.  Eveyone was very happy with their food.  Everyone was very happy.

You know that you love a place when you start planning a return trip before you have even left.  This was the case with Camden.  We stayed at a lovely campground.  We ate delicious food.  And we spent quality time with our kids and with our friends.  There were also great bookstores.  What more can a camper ask for?

Onward to Acadia….

28 Jul

Know When to Hold ‘Em. Know When to Fold ‘Em.

Brattleboro, Vermont
It is true that one must plan things well when one is traveling with young ones. There is nothing that turns me into a Debbie Downer faster than hungry toddlers and no food options in sight. Their blood sugar can plummet faster than dotcom stocks at the turn of the century. When the boys start whining for food, my jaw starts to tighten and my sentences get shorter and shorter while my husband makes ill-advised comments about the sort of experiences that will turn our boys into men.
In order to avoid this sort of scenario, I have become a big fan of the packed lunch. Early in our camping adventures, we learned that a well-stocked cooler saved us from awful experiences with overpriced snack bars and mild attacks of marital discord.
We are now champs at pulling together lunch before we leave the campground in the morning. We follow a simple formula: PB&J or tuna/chicken salad, veggie, fruit, and chips or pretzels. Boom. Done. Honestly, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich tastes awesome after a three-mile hike with a thirty pound kid strapped to your back. Try it sometime. You’ll see.
But then, despite all of your best planning and packing, you pass by Curtis’s All-American Bar-B-Q.  And you look at each other and know deep down that no packed sandwich can possibly keep you from pulling into a BBQ joint run out of a school bus.
If you are driving through Brattleboro, pay a visit to Curtis. The Bar-B-Q is great, the sides are just okay. But nothing beats hanging out with the dogs outside the bus while you wait for them to make your lunch. Or watching the pork and chicken get cooked over an open fire while a four year old invites your kids to come on back and hang out. Or gnawing the meat off the bones while your boys play with a yard full of toys next to the picnic area.
The bottom line is that there are very few places like this around. So when you pass by them in your travels, make sure you ditch your well-laid plans and embrace any food that is served out of a bus. Know that we are all a little bit better after roadside BBQ. Or maybe just a little bit bigger. Six of one..