An insider's view of the Connecticut dining scene
Mar 17, 2014
12:15 PMThe Connecticut Table
Jane and Michael Stern's 'Roadfood' to Star in New Haven Event
From Rhode Island to Oregon, and North Dakota to Texas, Jane and Michael Stern have been everywhere and they’ve tried everything. On March 26, they're even going to try letting community college students take a crack at some classic roadfood recipes, for a good cause (details below).
Their 36-year journey to find the best “roadfood” in the country has taken them to best tiny diners and local haunts, many of them easily overlooked if not pointed out. And that was the goal from the beginning; to show other travelers where the best food is, no matter how humble the location may be.
Over the last three decades, the former couple—they were married and got divorced but continue to be writing partners—has released 10 books and launched the interactive website Roadfood.com to chronicle the journey. Every cheeseburger, gumbo, bread pudding and milkshake from coast to coast have been documented through intelligent prose and tempting photographs.
“It was almost 40 years ago that we coined the term 'roadfood' to describe local eats around America,” they write in the introduction to the ninth edition of “Roadfood: The Coast-to-Coast Guide to 900 of the Best Barbecue Joints, Lobster Shacks, Ice Cream Parlors, Highway Diners, and Much, Much More,” which was recently released.
“At the time, we felt like crusaders, trying to get people to pay attention to what we considered a neglected national treasure: regional food,” they write. (Their particular region of origin is Connecticut. Michael Stern resides in Bethel, while Jane Grossman Stern lives in Ridgefield.)
Today, they continue the crusade, and now the audience is huge, connected and eager. Michael Stern says society has woken up to the complexity, diversity and general excellence of American regional food, something that hadn’t happened when they first began their quest.
Roadfood has a large following these days. Through the guidebooks, which Stern says he loves because readers can “get gravy stains on it and have chefs sign it,” and the website, more and more 'road scholars' discover the Sterns' franchise and great local eateries every day.
New London's Broken Yolk Café, Collinsville's LaSalle Market & Deli, Danbury's Jim Barbarie's and Cheshire's Blackie's are just a few of the places the Sterns have featured in their home state. In total, they've reviewed 138 Connecticut eateries.
The culinary students at Gateway Community College in New Haven are going to try their hands at some classic “roadfood” recipes at the school’s next “Chefs of Our Kitchen” (C.O.O.K.) event on March 26, and Jane and Michael will be on hand to talk about their adventures and sign books.
The event begins at 6 p.m.in Gateway's Cafe Vincenzo. Tickets cost $95, with the proceeds going toward funding scholarships for Gateway students and providing professional development opportunities for the college’s faculty and staff.
Click here to purchase tickets.
The Sterns provided the students with “roadfood” recipes for a root vegetable hash from Mamie's Restaurant in Roxbury, Conn., a Cincinnati chili, well-known and replicated around Ohio, and a Whoopi pie cake from Portland, Maine.
“It will be interesting to see what [the students] do with them,” Stern says.
Professional chefs have taken recipes and replicated or revamped them before, but this is the first time students will be taking the challenge, and Stern is excited to see the results.
In addition to their “roadfood” work, the Sterns have written numerous books on American popular culture, including the bestselling “Elvis World” and “The Encyclopedia of Bad Taste.” Until it ceased publication, they wrote a monthly column for Gourmet Magazine, and currently write for Saveur. They are also weekly contributors to "The Splendid Table" on Public Radio.
Visit Roadfood.com for restaurants and recipes from around the country.