Thursday, June 22, 2017

A Quick Trip to the Garden State

I wasn't sure what to do on a couple of days off and thought about a Triple D trip.  First I looked at flying to Louisville but when I saw the amount I'd have to pay to rent a car there I decided to look elsewhere and saw that I still had 6 places to try in Central and Southern New Jersey so I started to plan my trip and decided to make it a quick day trip.  I decided to stay overnight north of Baltimore to cut down on travel knowing that I would have to an early start.

I left the hotel in the Hunt Valley area north of Baltimore before 530a for the 2 and half hour drive to my first Triple D stop of the day.  I was really lucky as the traffic was not bad at all all the way.  The route took me north on I-95 into Delaware where I crossed over the Delaware Memorial Bridge and then took the famous (or infamous to some) New Jersey Turnpike.  The turnpike isn't too bad but there are a lot of potholes and being a toll road can be a bit pricy, but it's fast!

I arrived at my first stop about 730a in Plainsboro Township.  "Bagel Street Grill" is in a strip mall with a number of restaurants and a large Asian food market.  They have a pretty large menu featuring their house made bagels, but also have a large sandwich menu with a huge selection of meats, cheeses and bagel spreads.  The restaurant has a small seating area, I noticed most of their business is take-out.

Bagel Street Grill in Plainsboro Township, NJ

Inside Bagel Street Grill

I decided to try an Onion Bagel with Lox Cream Cheese spread.  I took a seat next to the Guy Fieri poster.  I was pretty amazed with their large menu, almost two dozen styles of bagels and the brisk business they were doing.  It seemed to go in waves, they would have 5 to 10 in line and then a small lull and then a line, it was pretty incredible.  One of the staff brought me my huge bagel overstuffed with the spread.  The toasted bagel was topped with baked in dried onions and tasted better than any bagel I had eaten before, I knew that these were, as Guy would say, the "real deal bagels" properly prepared and boiled.  The spread had huge chunks of salmon lox and was very tasty.  
Bagel Street's Guy poster

My Bagel Street Grill Onion and Lox Spread Bagel

Loaded with goodness

I headed out ot my next place just a few miles away in the town of Princeton.  I drove through the Ivy League campus of Princeton University on my way, it was a real pretty drive, very green and rural, not what you think when you think of New Jersey!

"Jammin' Crepes" is a small café across Nassau Street from the main campus on a street that has a lot of cafes and shops.  This place has the feel of a college coffee house and does feature coffee drinks but really lives up to it's name featuring both sweet and savory crepes.

Jammin' Crepes in Princeton, NJ

Inside Jammin' Crepes

I looked over the 2 dozen different crepes and decided to try one of the sweet crepes they call the Crepelini, a crepe stuffed with sweet ricotta with lemon zest and topped with strawberry jam, that they make in house.  I took a seat at a small table that had a sign that said to be patient as all crepes are made to the customers orders.  A staff member brought me my order and just as I was about to take my first bite I saw the owner getting ready to leave so I told the server my Triple D story and asked if I could get owner to sign my book before she left and then most of the staff came over to take with me and the owner, Kim was very gracious to not only sign my book but take a picture with me and she also took a picture of my car with the personalized FLVTOWN Triple D license plate.  I then sat down and really enjoyed my meal, the ricotta was not too sweet and the jam with huge chunks of strawberries was very tasty.  

Jammin' Crepes Crepelini

Tasty filling

Me and Kim, one of the owners of Jammin' Crepes

I left and headed back to Bagel Street Grill so I could meet the owner who wasn't there during my visit and I had some time before the next place I was planning to visit wouldn't open for a couple of hours.  I arrived and asked to meet the owner but he had yet to arrive and so I talked with the manager and we chatted for a few minutes and then he gave me a 3 complimentary bagels to take with me, a very nice treat. The owner did come in a was a great guy, we chatted for a few minutes about his place and the special and authentic way they prepare the bagels, they have a taste U had never had before.  He talked about how the show had affected his store and although they had been really busy prior to their appearance on Triple D, their out of town business and mail order business has grown two fold!  He also really complimented Guy Fieri and told me that he had and has been very helpful and gracious to them since he visited.  This is something I have heard from a number of other Triple D restaurants.

My next stop was in the Village of Rocky Hill, a quaint place with a very old and small town feel.  The streets are lined with huge homes built in the late 1800s and early 1900s.  I pulled into the "Historic Rocky Hill Inn and Tavern" and entered when they opened.  The place had a feel of an old Victorian home with several dining rooms on two floors and a bar area on the first floor.  I decided to take a seat at the bar and was greeted by a server and the bar tender.  The server came over and when she saw my book asked if I was on the "tour".  I told her about my travels and she said that when the staff saw my license plate, wondered if I worked on the show.  When I told her I live in Leesburg she told me her parents live in Leesburg and as it turned out I live less than  mile from them!

Historic Rocky Hill Inn and Tavern in Rocky Hill, NJ

Cool Victorian building

Love the sign

As I looked over the menu I was really surprised because buildings like this usually have a very expensive fancy menu but Rocky Hill calls themselves "Central Jersey's Leading Gastropub" and features an extensive sandwich menu and specializes in locally brewed beers on tap.  I chose the Pork Belly BLT with a side salad.  While I waited the serve showed me around the dining area and helped me to take a picture of Guy's paint stencil on the butt of their pig picture.  The sandwich came and it was delicious.  A thick slab of pork belly with slices of thick cut bacon with lettuce and tomatoes.  The surprising part of the sandwich was the slice of avocado.  Usually I am not a huge fan of avocado but the soft creamy green slice gave the sandwich a wonderful taste!  The salad had a vinaigrette dressing and was really good!

Rocky Hill's Tavern Bar

Guy's stencil on the Pig Butt!

My Pork Belly BLT

A lot of people say "Everything is better with bacon!", but this sandwich makes me thin that it should be changed to "Everything is better with Pork Belly", the pork belly on the sandwich was great!  As I left I walked around the different dining area and just took in the whole atmosphere of this classic place.

One of the any dining areas at Rocky Hill Tavern

Guy's poster is just inside the front door

I headed out to my next stop which was about a 20 minute drive away in Hamilton Township, "Jersey Girl Café" is located in a small strip mall.  It's a pretty small place but has a pretty big menu and was doing a very good lunch business.  I decided to try the Fruit Salad with Raspberry Vinaigrette.  As I looked over at the other diners Jersey Girl has generous portions of their meals and the other diners seemed to really be enjoying their meals.  My salad came lettuce topped with dried cranberries, walnuts and diced apples and was pretty good, the vinaigrette was tart and tasty but I would have liked  more of the fruit and bit less of the lettuce.  I was able to get one of the servers to sign my book, albeit reluctantly since as she said "The Jersey Girl is not here today"

Jersey Girl Café in Hamilton Township, NJ

Guy's stencil on the Jersey Girl Café wall

My Jersey Girl fruit salad

I headed out for a 20 minute drive to Robbinsville, New Jersey.  "Dolce and Clemente's Italian Market" is in a newly built town center area.  This is not a restaurant, although they sell hot food, this is an authentic Italian Marketplace.  They sell all types of Italian products, many that are imported to the shop.  They also have a bakery area, bake their own breads for sandwiches and make their own pastas.  

Dolce and Clemente's Italian Market in Robbinsville, NJ

I love the outdoor signs and awnings

As I was walking around the lady on the cash register asked me if I needed help (kind of a loaded question) and I said I was looking around and when she saw I my Triple D book she asked me if I was one of those Triple D groupies and I told her I was "THE" Triple D groupie having been to 588 places!  She got real excited and called one of the owners over, Mr. Clemente.  They told me the other owner was on his way back and was Mr. Clemente's son-in-law on the Dolce side of the family, and his father was the original owner, who also was in the shop, so I got meet both generations of the shop!  I decided that since it was a hot day, I was only going to get some non-perishable items and chose some of their freshly baked Biscotti's and a jar of Sweet Red Peppers.  I was able to try several items as they have samples of bread and Stromboli's at several places in the shop, they were all excellent!  As I was getting ready check out the cashier told me that the owner called and told me to select one of their tee shirts as a gift, I thanked them and told them to give me their web address so I can take a picture wearing their shirt when I am in the Caribbean.

Authentic Italian Market

Fresh Baked Good, I chose the Biscotti's

Before I left the second owner, came in and I was able to get them to sign my book.  I really loved this place and will definitely go back to try their hot meals and sandwiches.  I enjoyed all of the places that I had been to earlier in the day but the family feel and wonderful staff at Dolce and Clemente's made this one of my favorite places that I had visited on this Triple D journey!

My last stop on this trip was about a 20 minute drive and the most southern place of the day.  "Vincetown Diner" is in the very small town of Vincetown and one I was looking forward to as I love the Jersey Diner.  I would be a bit disappointed!  Most Jersey Diners have a huge menu and a large display case of house made desserts.  I was seated in a booth and nothing really appealed to me, the menu was small and seemed to focus on the wine or beer that paired with the items.  I decided to try a dessert and chose the cheesecake and was told that it was not available, so I chose the Key Lime Pie.  Now Key Lime Pie is probably my favorite pie, but this would not have been one of them.  It tasted kind of stale and there was very little tart lime flavor.  I have a feeling that it had been sitting in the display case for a few hours as I noticed they placed a new fresh pie just before I left.  Not the best way to end the trip, but I guess sometimes there are hits and sometimes there are misses!

Vincetown Diner in Vincetown, NJ

A Classic Jersey style diner

Key Lime Pie at Vincetown Diner

I headed out for the drive back to the Baltimore area after a long day of great fun and wonderful people in the Garden State of New Jersey.  My Triple D count stands at 589, just a few more before getting to the milestone 600th!

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Triple D in Michigan and the 2nd Triple D "Meet and Eat"

I signed up for a training class at out Training Center near Chicago's O'Hare International Airport and started to explore the possibility of making it a Triple D trip.  As the training approached I decided to try and combining the training with the 2nd Triple D Meet and Eat (the first was in Des Moines).  I decided to also try to get to several places in the Detroit area.  The plan was to fly to Chicago for the training and then instead of flying home, fly to Cleveland and then drive to Michigan for two days and then drive  back to Cleveland for the Meet and Eat.  I decided to do it this way due to very high drop charges that the rental car companies charge and the drive is under three hours. I would then fly back to Dulles from Cleveland.

I flew to Chicago with my coworker Montia, and met up with my former manager Jim who asked if we'd like to join him for a Cubs game at Wrigley Field.  How fast can I say yes!  The game was a lot of fun and Wrigley is a great classic place to watch a game.  They have really revitalized the area around the stadium, and it has become a destination in itself. We ate dinner across from Wrigley at the famous Cubby Bear Pub.  The seats Jim got were excellent, n the first base side. The Cubs beat the Miami Marlins 10-2 on a night that Chicago's nickname of "The Windy City" lived up to it's name!

Inside the famous Cubby Bear Pub

Front façade of Wrigley Field

The famous sign

Montia, me and Jim in front of Wrigley

The three of us in better light

Left Field scoreboard which has blocked a number of roof top seats

New right field scoreboard with the starting lineups

Classic Wrigley Field

The 100 year old classic Wrigley hand operated scoreboard

Game Action

After finishing the training I caught a flight form O'Hare to Cleveland.  The flight was totally full and thankfully lasted only about 50 minutes.  It was a nice scenic flight as we flew over Wrigley Field and then over both Lake Michigan and Lake Erie as we made our way to Cleveland.  After a night's rest I got the car and headed up to Michigan.  The drive took just under 3 hours and my first stop was in the downtown area of Detroit.  I really got lucky because I found a parking spot right in front of the place!  Traffic wasn't too bad considering that the Detroit Tigers had an afternoon game at nearby Comerica Field!  "Supino Pizzeria" is a small pizzeria that does a huge take-out business but also has a small dining area.  I was seated a small table, most of the other patrons were headed to the ballgame.  I decided to get the meatball appetizer that was featured on Triple D and slice of pizza.
Supino Pizzeria in downtown Detroit

Homage to their homeland

The pizza was ok, pretty much like any slice that you can find in your local pizzeria. The appetizer was really good.  A large meatball made with a mix of beef, port and lamb meat, on a bed of polenta and covered with Tomato Sauce and topped with shaved parmesan cheese.  I was really surprised with the polenta, which was great for sopping up the sauce.

Supino's Cheese Pizza

Meatball appetizer, very tasty!

I asked my server if I could get y book signed and she brought it back to the owner who cooked with Guy and he signed it and brought it back and thanked me for stopping in, but he couldn't talk as the place was getting really busy, but I really appreciated that he came by.

I headed out to my next stop which was also in the downtown area, I would learn later that it was a good thing I went in the afternoon because someone told me that it isn't the best area of downtown, but when I was there it was perfectly fine!  "Traffic Jam and Snug" is a very unusual place, it looks and feels like a German or English manor house and inside it has a very cool country feel or maybe a place you might go to in the Alps.  

Traffic Jam and Snug in downtown Detroit

Neat feel inside the restaurant


I chose to try the Irish Egg Rolls for my meal.  As I waited for them to come I read a little bit about the place.  They claim to be Michigan's first brew pub brewing for over 50 years.  They also have a farm and make their own cheeses and grow some of their own vegetables and herbs.  The Egg Rolls came and they looked jus like the egg rolls you'd get at a Chinese restaurant but were stuffed like a Reuben sandwich, they were served with a side of tasty Thousand Island dressing.  I really lied the crispy shell and the Swiss cheese was not too overpowering which I really liked.

Traffic Jam and Snug's Irish Egg Rolls

Inside the rolls

I enjoyed my meal and would like to go back and try some of their other meals.  Peeking at other diners I noticed that they serve large delicious looking meals.  From there I headed out to the hotel where I would be staying for my time in Michigan.

My high school friend Kate, messaged me to find out where I would be.  I will admit that I had forgotten that she was living in Michigan.  She wasn't able to go with me to any of the Triple D places but she asked if I'd like to meet up and explore this cool small town near where I was staying.  Kate and her son Grayson took me to Plymouth, Michigan on a beautiful afternoon.  Plymouth is a great place with a lot of shops ad restaurants to explore.  Meeting up with friends and meeting new friends is one of the real joys of this Triple D journey, don't get me wrong I love the food but more and more meeting up with friends is great!

Me and my high school friend Kate

Plymouth, Michigan Town Center Fountain

I headed out for the last two places for my first day in Michigan.  Both places were on the same street about 20 miles from where I was staying.  The drive was the only frustrating part of my trip.  Road Closures, heavy traffic and dozens of lights turned this normally 30 minute trip into a 90 minute trip!  I arrived in the Village of Clarkston and was really lucky to find a parking spot at one of the places I would be trying.  I walked about 2 blocks to the "Union Woodshop" and took a seat at the back bar, the place was packed.  They feature barbecue and sandwiches and was featured on the episode of Triple D that was co-hosted by Village of Clarkston Kid Rock.  The place is decorated with music, beer and other eclectic decorations.

Union Woodshop in the Village of Clarkston, Michigan

Back bar with the local beer logo on the wall

I deiced to try Clarkston's main meal, Macaroni and Cheese.  The main dish is huge so my server/bartender Erin suggested that I get two side orders and that's what I did.  While waiting I was able to meet the manager and chef who came out and not only signed my book but told me about the restaurant and some of the other popular meals that they served. Erin served me my meal and told me that is was molten hot and hat I should cut into it and let the steam out to help the cheese to firm up. As I cut into it I could feel the heat.  The topping was made up of cheese and cracker crust.  They use a very sharp cheddar which gives the dish a great taste.  I was not a big fan of the crust but I have never really liked cooked crisp cooked cheese.  I really enjoyed both the meal and the staff.

Decoration paying homage to native son Kid Rock

Union Woodshop's signature Macaroni and Cheese

Inside the goodness

I left and walked a few blocks to my next and last stop on my first day in Michigan.  "Clarkston Union Bar and Kitchen" is a very unique place, built in an old church the main dining room is huge and at and they use old pews as the seats at many tables.  The open kitchen is where the front altar area of the church was and the bar runs the entire right side of the restaurant.  They also specialize in Macaroni and cheese, in fact they have a scoreboard on the wall that documents how many Mac and Cheeses they have served!  The place is decorated in rock and roll memorabilia.  Having just eaten mac and cheese I chose the daily flatbread pizza special.  The flatbread was pretty good with chunks of sliced meatballs and ricotta cheese but also had real spicy marinated peppers and onions that gave it a big spice kick!

The Village of Clarkston, Michigan

Clarkston Union Bar and Kitchen

Built in an old church

Eating at Clarkston Union can be a religious experience

Bar area of Clarkston Union Bar and Kitchen

The former altar area is now the kitchen

Over a million served!

My Clarkston Union Kitchen Flatbread meal

I headed back to the hotel after a full and fun first day in Michigan.  My second day started under overcast skies, but later in the day the sun would shine for a beautiful early June day.  I headed out to the town of Ferndale, a small town north of Detroit.  "The Fly Trap" touts themselves as a "Finer Diner".  It is not a huge place and although they are open from 8a until 9p they really specialize in breakfast items, even though they made the Asian dish Pho on their Triple D episode.  I sat at the bar where I was served by the owner.  The place has some very cool decorations.  On one wall there was a set of jacks and balls.  The bar had hundreds of marbles under a glass cover.  I decided to try the Gingerbread Waffles which were topped with dried fruits (which included apples, raisins and cherries) and served with hot cinnamon syrup.  The waffle was delicious with a wonderful gingerbread taste, the fruit really added to the meal.  The cinnamon syrup was great and added to the taste but it would have been just as good without it!

The Fly Trap in Ferndale, Michigan

A Finer Diner

A game of Jack on the wall

Very cool décor at The Fly Trap

Gingerbread Waffles with Dried Fruit and Cinnamon Syrup

I finished my meal and got the owner to sign my book and chatted with some of the others at the bar about my travels and the other Michigan locations and then headed to my next stop.  My next stop was in an area of Detroit called Hamtramck.  It is the international area of Detroit. The streets are lines with flags from all over the world.  I arrived at "Polish Village Café" a few minutes before their 11a opening.  The place is in building that looks like an early 20th Century home with the restaurant in the basement.  I was the first to enter and was followed by a steady steam of patrons many of whom were regulars hat the staff knew on a first name basis.  The place is decorated in Polish decorations.  Each table had a basket of Rye bread and butter already set.  I decided to get one of my favorite meals, pierogis.  They have about a dozen different types to try, so I chose the tasting plate of 6 and I decided to try two potato and cheese, two spinach and cheese and 2 sweet cheese pierogis. They were served with sour cream on the side.  The two types of savory pierogis were awesome, the sweet cheese had good flavor but I didn't care for the texture of the cheese, I would not get those again but try one of the other types they had.

Polish Village Café in Hamtramck, Michigan

Home of great food!

Bar area of Polish Village Café

My Pierogi meal

My server had one of her co-works sign my book, she had over 30 years working there.  When I talked about my travels the server insisted that I try their soup and fixed me a take-out bag filled with a pint of soup and rye bread and butter.  I tried it when I got back to the hotel nd it was really good, thick and tasty.  I headed back to the hotel to take a short break.  After taking a short break I headed out.  My next stop was in the town of Potterville, Michigan which is near Lansing almost a 2 hour drive away.  As I arrived in Potterville (name reminded my of the bad town in "It's a Wonderful Life") I learned that early June seems to be the street festival time in Michigan.  There were a number of street closures in the town, luckily it was early enough on the afternoon that I found a paring spot very close to my destination, "Joe's Gizzard City".  Due to the festival they had a smaller menu, but I knew that I wanted to try the Gizzards and they were on the menu so that's what I got!  The other item they usually have but not during the festival was the burger that Guy developed, a cheeseburger with the roll that is dipped in the batter and deep fried.  Joe's is not just gizzards, but all things fried!

Joe's Gizzard City in Potterville, Michigan

Joe's place

The One and Only

The gizzards came in a small paper boat with cocktail sauce on the side and were AWESOME!  I can't describe the flavor but I could have eaten 3 times the amount I got.  They marinate the gizzards for 13 hours and then batter and fry.  I thought I had eaten gizzards before but if I had then they didn't make them like this, these are the best, like Guy would say, "They are Bananas!  And Bananas is Good!"

Inside Joe's

Delicious Gizzards!

Another Triple D fan came in just before I left and we chatted about the show and I was also able to get the manager to sign my book as Joes was not in at the time.  I was able to talk with a lot of the staff  and they were all very friendly and accommodating.  If you ever find yourself at Michigan State University of in the Lansing area make the short drive to Joe's.  My next stop was about an hour's drive away in Ann Arbor making the trip from Michigan State area to the University of Michigan.  On the way I stopped and visited with my cruise friend Mara, who I met a few years ago while cruising on Princess.  It was great to catch up with her after a few years. 

My last stop in Michigan was at "Krazy Jim's Blimpy Burger".  I followed the GPS to the address and it wasn't there!  I found out that they moved to make way for a school building for the University which was not great because there were a lot of street closures for a street festival.  I got lucky and found one open spot in a nearby free lot.  I had arranged to meet Renee, who I know through one of the Triple D Facebook pages.  She was there waiting for me, it was great to finally meet someone I have been communicating with for several years.  The place was pretty quiet for a Friday night, but with the street festival and school not in session, I figured this was unusual.

Krazy Jim's Blimpy Burger in Ann Arbor Michigan

An Ann Arbor landmark

This place can be confusing to a neophyte like me.  You need to know the try of roll you want, the number of patties you want and then the toppings and condiments.  They were patient with me because it was slow but on a busy day they are a little less so.  It kind of reminded me of Pat's and Geno's in Philadelphia.  The patties are small so they will not make a single so you can get any amount two or over, some have gotten 10 or more patties!  I chose a triple with salami, green and black olives with ketchup and mayo with onion rings on the side.  Renee, who helped me with the ordering got a double with rings.  The meat is fresh and ground on site so it had a great flavor.

My Krazy Jim's Triple

Really tasty Ring

It was a fun dinner with a new friend and great to meet Renee.  I hope t make it back to check out Ann Arbor in the future and who knows, maybe take in a football game at Michigan Stadium!

It was great to meet Renee

I headed back to the hotel having finished my Triple D trip in Michigan and get ready for the drive back to Cleveland for the Triple D Meet and Eat and the flight. home.

I drove back to the Cleveland area to the suburb of Independence to meet other fans of Triple D at "Melt Bar and Grilled", dedicated to all things Grilled Cheese.  Guy went to the location I the town of Lakewood n the western side of Cleveland.  They have been so successful that they have expanded to at least 10 locations all over Ohio, in fact the owner wasn't able to meet us as he was opening a new place in Dayton.  The location in Independence is larger and has the same menu but isn't as rustic as the Lakewood location.  The place has a lot of neon, which I love and plastic winter lawn statues, the menus are on the back side of record album covers.  In all we had 6 gather, all of whom lived in Ohio but a few came a few hours to get there.  It was a great time to finally meet other fan of the show.  The manager met us and brought us some complimentary samples of Melt's most popular appetizers.  We sampled the Pierogis, Fried Green Tomato's, and Fried Mac and Cheese.  All f them were awesome, but I really liked the Mac and Cheese.  

Melt Bar and Grilled in Independence Ohio

Pretty cool décor in Melt

They love their town!

The wall mural is loaded with Cleveland area celebrities

Pierogi appetizer

Fried Green Tomato appetizer

Fried Mac and Cheese Appetizer

Mac and Cheese broken open

I ordered the half Sausage and Cheese sandwich with Cole Slaw on the side.  The sandwich came out grilled with Chorizo sausage topped with potato hash and was really great.  The slaw was really spicy, if you like spice then you'll like the slaw!  The group of us spent about 2 hours talking about the show and all of our Triple D travels.  Thanks to Ryan for organizing this and we are hoping that this tradition will continue in the years to come!

Melt's manager signing my book

Our group

Probably 1000 Triple D visits in the group!

Our Triple D Meet and Eat group

I headed back to Cleveland Hopkins Airport for the flight home and had a great trip from Chicago to Michigan to Cleveland and flew home with my Triple D count at 583, just a shouting distance away from 600!