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Esquire Magazine Names Virginia ‘Best Food Region in America’ for 2014

Esquire Magazine Names Virginia ‘Best Food Region in America’ for 2014


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From his sprawling estate at Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s journal entries about life on the farm were love letters to the seasons, the miracle of growing fruits and vegetables, the art of the table, and the necessity for good drink.

He was our nation’s most articulate and esteemed gourmand at the time, and our entertainer-in-chief. Jefferson was highly coveted and brought with it the promise of stimulating conversation, fascinating men and women, a well-composed guest list, and fine cuisine prepared with foodstuffs gathered from around Virginia. The wine and drink were always superior — and free-flowing.

The bounty of the land and sea that Thomas Jefferson cherished exists today, and modern chefs are creating exciting cuisines that deliciously blend traditional recipes with modern techniques, but always with a respect for the land and its edible gifts. This synergy has put Virginia, and especially Richmond, on the culinary heat map, and had Mr. Jefferson attended last Monday’s “Celebrate Virginia” reception and dinner in Richmond, he would have beamed with pride at the quality of the local fare served that night.

Celebrate Virginia Reception
The evening’s hosts were cousins Ryan and Travis Croxton, owners and founders of famed Rappahannock restaurant, and the event came on the heels of Esquire food editor Josh Ozersky’s recent article naming Virginia “the food region of the year” in his list of Best New Restaurants 2014. The chefs and artisans that prepared the food and drink for the evening was a “who’s who” of Virginia cider makers, brewers, winemakers, bakers, chefs, restaurateurs, and purveyors — and all, like Rappahannock, were included in Ozersky’s list for 2014.

The reception kicked off with passed hors d’oeuvres and several stations offering a range local food and drink. There were James River oysters on the half-shell; thinly shaved, melt-in-your-mouth Surryano ham from S. Wallace Edwards & Sons’; spicy Border Spring’s lamb ham prepared by Edwards & Sons; succulent, cider-glazed lamb ribs with peanuts; and little neck clams with fresh tomato coulis. A standout was the tiny leg of crispy fried quail with Concord grape sauce, prepared by Ian Boden, owner of The Shack, one of the runners-up in the Best New Restaurants list. Local gentleman gadabout and Esquire contributor Jason Tesauro was on hand to pour red and white wines from Barboursville Vineyards, and the sparkling cider cuvée, Handmade, was poured by Foggy Ridge Cider owner and maker Diane Flynt.

The restaurant quickly filled with the din of happy conversation, clink of glasses, and flash of camera bulbs. About half an hour into the reception, there was a scuffle at the front entrance as a convoy of big, black SUVs pulled in front of the restaurant, and then within a few minutes Governor Terry McAuliffe, escorted by his security detail, entered the restaurant. The governor was accompanied by First Lady of Virginia, Dorothy McAuliffe, and Todd Haymore, Virginia Secretary of Agriculture, and after he greeted guests and took pictures, he thanked the host and spoke about the incredible culinary scene and legacy of Virginia.

The Governor of Virginia Toasts Virginia’s Beverage Trade
After his speech, Governor McAuliffe raised his glass of Barboursville wine, toasted the hosts, the local Virginia producers, and applauded the creation of the state’s largest hops yard and the region’s first commercial-scale hops production and processing plant at Black Hops Farm. He closed by acknowledging the impact of the Stone Brewing Co. deal, and stating how its forthcoming location in Richmond will bring much needed jobs, tourism, and revenue to the city.

The Dinner
Once the governor addressed the guests, the feasting began. For the first course, Rappahannock chef Dylan Fultineer prepared a crisp, delicately flaky sea bass served with fregola and thin slices of Castelvetrano olives, all paired with Barboursville Vineyards’ exquisite citrus-laced Vermentino Reserve 2013. Border Spring’s lamb’s neck and oyster stew was deeply flavored with rich, meaty lamb essence. Just when we thought it couldn’t get better, Musickland Farm’s owner, Adam Musick served a roasted tender Berkshire pork loin with sautéed spinach, billowy rye knoephla dumplings, and honey crisp apple butter; paired with Foggy Ridge Cider, it was, a Germanic fugue of porcine heaven. Throughout the meal, Sub Rosa Bakery’s miller’s wheat bread was served and the owners, genius brother and sister team, Evrim and Evin Dogu, also prepared dessert of lightly sweet maple ice cream and rye muesli garnished with aromatic Black Creek Farm honey, and it was paired with Champion Brewing Company’s Black Me Stout.

Summer Whitford is the D.C. City Guide Editor at The Daily Meal and the DC Wine Examiner. You can follow her on Twitter @FoodandWineDiva.


The 100 Best Bakeries in America

While life for many has been put on pause, bakers have baked on&mdashmost of the places on this list are open for business and need your support.

There are so many strange things about our new normal, but on a recent Sunday in Los Gatos, California, a pleasant town hugging the sunny side of the Santa Cruz Mountains, little appeared out of the ordinary, with one notable exception. Manresa Bread, the best bakery in Los Gatos and also for some miles, seemed to be closed, but it was actually open. Anybody with their heart set on some of the Bay Area’s finest bread could easily have it—so long as they learned the new rules.

And they are: You order online, days ahead, because everybody else is going to have the same idea, and they will sell out. Then, on your appointed pickup day, which will be Friday, Saturday, or Sunday, you head down, not to the cute little café across from David Kinch’s Michelin three-star restaurant of the same name, but to the utilitarian commissary, a few blocks over. You park your car wherever, you put on your mask, and you line up behind everybody else on the west side of Industrial Way, a line that will often stretch out one, two, maybe even three auto body shops back.

And then you wait, shuffling six feet at a time, finally turning left at the dumpsters, and picking up what you came for. Hopefully, you’ll have had the good sense to book yourself in for the $30 bag of bread, filled with four of the most beautiful sourdough loaves you can buy with American money. By now, after weeks of eating too much supermarket bread, perhaps occasionally interrupted by your own admirable investments toward becoming the world’s next top bread baker, you𠆝 take almost anything, and be happy with it. Anything that will make you feel like everything is going to be alright, even if perhaps not today.

Across the country, similar versions of the scene in Los Gatos have been unfolding on a daily basis. There are the New Yorkers waiting in their own long lines, for bâtards and baguettes from cult-favorite She Wolf Bakery, diligently delivering their little works of art to greenmarkets throughout the grieving city. On any given morning in the Los Angeles suburbs, hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people will wait in their cars for curbside pastelitos from Porto’s, Southern California’s treasured Cuban bakery, which is also now shipping nationwide.

For the most part, the Kringle bakeries of Racine, Wisconsin, have yet to dim their lights there has been no grave shortage of po’ boy bread in New Orleans, of pan dulce in San Antonio. These simple, attainable things𠅊 crackling baguette, a square of rosemary-scented focaccia, a loaf of soft milk bread, a scone slathered in fresh jam, that cascade of sugar crust as you bite into the perfect concha, the spider’s web hidden inside a perfectly-laminated croissant—they have have seen entire civilizations through their share of dark times, and they lend great comfort to us now. Life may have been put on pause, but in so many of our towns and cities, the bakers have baked on.

Before everything became strange, baking was already enjoying a big, fat, butter-drenched moment, and simply because so many of us now have the time we always thought we wanted, America is now decidedly off of the competition show-binging sidelines and into the flour, providing we can find any. We are nursing starters, we are clearing the shells of baking chocolate, we are sometimes sitting down to eat too much cake, because there are no rules in quarantine, apart from making it through.

Out beyond our front doors, too, baking is bigger, and often better than ever. We are learning about grain, and the way it is grown, stored, and supplied. We are discovering just how much work goes into better bread, into the best breads, and how much things like labor, good butter, and new commercial ovens cost. Many of us are tasting truly great, naturally leavened breads for the first time in our lives. It’s a beautiful thing, all of it�r from perfect, but that’s progress, ever a mess.

This idea of trying to capture America’s baking culture in list form was set in motion some time ago it is a project that has pulled me back and forth across the country, from the forward-thinking flour mills of the Pacific Northwest to Florida’s oldest Cuban bakery, from nearly every Little Italy back East to the seat of modern American bread, San Francisco, where I was fortunate enough to spend a good chunk of time last year.

I&aposve learned that our country has a bread problem. We buy a lot of it, but for most of us, the product is compromised. Too often, the very best has become something akin to a luxury item, nearly the sole province of the privileged. This relatively new pursuit of perfection, of grain purity is certainly admirable, but have we asked ourselves, who really benefits? Does it matter that the bread is the best we’ve ever had, if nobody else can afford a loaf? Is there some middle ground to work toward𠅊 better bread for everyone, rather than the best for a fortunate few? And how do we get there? What must give? History reminds us that wars have been fought over flour perhaps we are about due for another one.

Consider us in a state of flux. The foremost question on our minds right now is what small, independent bakeries will be like, and how many will be sustained in future, but while we fret, there are also hopeful signs. While America stayed indoors, the bakers have been hard at work, often partnering with their generous customers to put bread in the hands of those who cannot afford to buy their own. Countless amateur home bakers are discovering the simple pleasures of their own breads, from simple no-knead to the long-fermented wouldn’t it be the craziest thing, if a wave of fresh talent emerges from the lockdown?

Before all of this, and hopefully after, there was and will be the project based out of the important Bread Lab at Washington State University, challenging the industry to offer at least one simple, affordable, high-quality loaf to their customers, every single day. There’s more good stuff, too𠅊 demand for in-house milling capabilities is putting even more makers to work, while a renewed focus on regional and heritage grains is helping smaller farms thrive, keeping more money local. Of course, there are the bakeries themselves, so often more than a place to buy bread, or cakes, or pies𠅊t their best, they are focal points, touchstones, gathering places, improving the quality of life in their respective communities. These last few years, more and more towns, cities, and neighborhoods have been fortunate enough to discover this for themselves. Hopefully, every one of them will be back, and soon. And we&aposll get better at everything in time. For now, there is much to get out there and celebrate, even if we do so with masks on.


Contents

Chief Justice Coke (1552–1634) defined "gentlemen" as those who bear coat armour. From the 16th century such families were defined by the inclusion of their pedigrees within their county's heraldic visitations, which necessitated their submitting a return of their pedigree to the visiting herald at the specified location, generally one of the chief towns of the county. The 1623 Heraldic Visitation for Gloucestershire, for example, includes a section at the back headed: [10] "A note of such as were disclaymed to be no gentilmen within the county and city of Gloucester", the list being headed by "Edward Hill, Customer, of Gloucester, neither gentilman of bloud, ancestry nor armes". The list thus identifies those persons whose returns were not accepted, perhaps because they were fabricated or insufficiently evidenced in some way.

Defined in 1586 by Fearn Edit

Sir John Fearn in "Glory of Generositie" spoke of esquires by creation, birth, dignity and office, specifying several circumstances that customarily conferred the title. [11]

  • Offices of justice or government in the King's palace and procurators of the sovereign
  • Offices of sheriff, escheator or serjeant at arms
  • Eldest born of a baron peer of the realm or that of a knight

Defined by Camden (d. 1623) Edit

Coke followed Sir William Camden, Clarenceux King of Arms (1551–1623), who defined esquires as:

  • the eldest sons of knights and their eldest sons in perpetuity,
  • the eldest sons of younger sons of peers and their eldest sons in perpetuity,
  • esquires so created by the king,
  • esquires by office, such as justices of the peace and those holding an office of trust under the crown. [12]

Defined by Weever (d. 1632) Edit

John Weever (d. 1632) identified five categories of esquires: [13]

  • "Those who are elect for the prince's body", which he classed as the principal esquires. These were royal courtiers known as Esquires of the Body
  • Knights' eldest sons
  • Younger sons of the eldest sons of barons and other nobles of higher estate , a form mainly restricted to West country usage
  • Those who are so by office and by serving the prince in any worshipful calling

Defined in 1830 by Burn, Chitty & Black Edit

According to one typical definition, [14] [15] esquires in English law included:

  • The eldest sons of knights, and their eldest sons in perpetual succession
  • The eldest sons of younger sons of peers, and their eldest sons in perpetual succession (children of peers already had higher precedence)
  • Esquires created by letters patent or other investiture, and their eldest sons
  • Esquires by virtue of their offices, as justices of the peace and others who bear any office of trust under the Crown
  • Esquires of knights constituted at their investiture
  • Foreign noblemen
  • Persons who are so styled under the Royal sign manual (officers of the Armed Forces of or above the rank of Captain in the Army or its equivalent) and sons thereof. (but not solicitors)

Defined by Boutell (d. 1877) Edit

Charles Boutell (1812–1877) [16] defined the term as

Esquire – A rank next below that of Knight. Besides those Esquires who are personal attendants of Knights of Orders of Knighthood, this title is held by all attendants on the person of the Sovereign, and all persons holding the Sovereign's commission being of military rank not below Captain also, by general concession, by Barristers at Law, Masters of Arts and Bachelors of Law and Physic.

Defined in 1894 by James Parker Edit

James Parker [17] supplied the following definition:

Esquire, (lat. armiger, fr. escuyer): a title of a gentleman of the rank immediately below a knight. It was originally a military office, an esquire being (as the name escuyer, from escu, a shield, implies) a knight's attendant and shield bearer. Esquires may be theoretically divided into five classes:

  • The younger sons of peers and their eldest sons.
  • The eldest sons of knights and their eldest sons.
  • The chiefs of ancient families are esquires by prescription.
  • Esquires by creation or office. Such the heralds and serjeants at arms and some others, who are constituted esquires by receiving a collar of SS. Judges and other officers of state, justices of the peace, and the higher naval and military officers are designated esquires in their patents or commissions. Doctors in the several faculties, and barristers at law, are considered as esquires, or equal to esquires. None, however, of these offices or degrees convey gentility to the posterity of their holders.
  • the last kind of esquires are those of knights of the Bath each knight appoints two to attend upon him at his installation and at coronations. [citation needed]

Modern definition Edit

Oxford Dictionaries provided for the following definition of Esquire in 2016: [18]

  • British: A polite title appended to a man's name when no other title is used, typically in the address of a letter or other documents: J. C. Pearson Esq..
  • North American (chiefly US): A title appended to the surname of a lawyer (of any gender).
  • Historical:
    • A young nobleman who, in training for knighthood, acted as an attendant to a knight.
    • an officer in the service of a king or nobleman.
    • a landed proprietor or country squire: the lord of the manor, Richard Bethell Esquire.

    Misuse Edit

    By the end of the 16th century, the pretentious use of the title, especially in its Latin form, Armiger, was being mocked by Shakespeare in his character Robert Shallow, esquire, a Justice of the Peace:

    . a gentleman born, master parson who writes himself "Armigero," in any bill, warrant, quittance, or obligation, "Armigero."

    To which Shallow directly replies:

    Ay, that I do and have done any time these three hundred years.

    Other criteria Edit

    Nineteenth century tables of precedence further distinguished between "esquires by birth" and "esquires by office" (and likewise for "gentleman"). [ citation needed ] Today the term "gentleman" is still found in official tables of precedence, and it invariably means a person who is an armiger with no higher rank or a descendant of someone who has borne arms. An English use of the term is to distinguish between men of the upper and lower gentry, who are "esquires" and "gentlemen" respectively, which still applies in terms of the official Order of Precedence. [19] Examples of this may be found in the Parish Tithe Map Schedules made under the Tithe Commutation Act 1836. [20] Later examples appear in the list of subscribers to The History of Elton, by the Rev. Rose Fuller Whistler, published in 1892, which distinguishes between subscribers designated Mr (another way of indicating gentlemen) and those allowed Esquire.

    But formal definitions like these were proposed because there was, in reality, no fixed criterion distinguishing those designated esquire: it was essentially a matter of impression as to whether a person qualified for this status. William Segar, Garter King of Arms (the senior officer of arms at the College of Arms), wrote in 1602: "And who so can make proofe, that his Ancestors or himselfe, have had Armes, or can procure them by purchase, may be called Armiger or Esquier." Honor military, and civill (1602 lib. 4, cap. 15, p. 228). (By Armes he referred to a coat of arms it is not clear from this quotation whether Segar made a distinction between esquires and gentlemen.) For example, lords of the manor hold the rank of esquire by prescription. [21] [22]

    The 1660 poll tax used to pay off the New Model Army levied an amount of 10 pounds on esquires, which was half the amount due from knights. Samuel Pepys should have paid this amount due to his office, but was delighted to find he had been misrecorded as just a gentleman having to pay 10 shillings, a twentieth of the correct amount. [23]

    Although esquire is the English translation of the French écuyer, the latter indicated legal membership in the nobilities of ancien régime France and contemporaneous Belgium, whereas an esquire belongs to the British gentry rather than to its nobility, albeit that "gentry" in England means untitled nobility. [24] Écuyer in French (11th to 14th century) means "shield-bearer", a knight in training, age 14 to 21. In the later stages of the Middle Ages, the cost of the adoubement or accolade became too high for many noblemen to bear. They stayed écuyers all their lives, making that title synonymous with "nobleman" or "gentleman".

    The most common occurrence of the term "esquire" today is in the addition of the suffix "Esq." in order to pay an informal compliment to a male recipient by way of implying gentle birth. There remain respected protocols for identifying those to whom it is thought most proper that the suffix should be given, especially in very formal or in official circumstances.

    The breadth of Esquire (as Esq.) had become universal in the United Kingdom by the mid 20th century, with no distinction in status being perceived between Mr and Esquire. Esquire was used generally as the default title for all men who did not have a grander title when addressing correspondence, with letters addressed using the name in initial format (e.g., K.S. Smith, Esq.) but Mr being used as the form of address (e.g. Dear Mr Smith). In the 1970s, the use of Esq. started to decline, and by the end of the 20th century most people had stopped using it and changed to using Mr instead. Esq. was generally considered to be old-fashioned but was still used by some traditional individuals. However, from around 2010 it has started to return once more as a formal address to a male in business and also in a social setting, particularly where the status of an individual is unknown so is used more as a general courtesy title. Its usage has always remained constant with organisations such as Christie's and Berry Bros. & Rudd. British men invited to Buckingham Palace also receive their invitations in an envelope with the suffix Esq. after their names, while men of foreign nationalities instead have the prefix Mr (women are addressed as Miss, Ms, or Mrs). [25] The same practice applies for other post from the palace (e.g., to employees).

    In Scotland Edit

    Esquire is historically a feudal designation in Scotland. Today, the title of esquire is defined as a social dignity that refers to people of the Scottish gentry, who hold the next position in the Order of Precedence above Gentlemen. It is also used as a common courtesy in correspondence. Traditionally, this was one who was classified as a 'cadet for knighthood'. Today, the title of esquire is not bestowed on gentlemen, although certain positions carry with them the degree of esquire, such as that of advocate or Justice of the Peace. Whether an armiger is a gentleman, an esquire, or of a higher rank can be told by the type of helm depicted on the Letters Patent granting or matriculating the arms. In Scots Heraldry, Sir Thomas Innes of Learney makes clear that a gentleman's helm is a closed pot helm, in plain steel, with no gold, whereas an esquire's helm can be a steel pot helm garnished in gold or a helmet with a closed visor garnished in gold. [26] [27] The Court of the Lord Lyon will display the helm appropriate to their "degree", or social rank, in the illustration on the Letters Patent.

    The definition of esquire today includes:

    1. The male primogeniture descendant of a knight (with or without Scottish arms), [28]
    2. Scottish armigers recognised with a territorial designation within their letters patent, [29] frequently described as a Laird, [30] which is taken to imply the rank of Esquire. [31] Lairds with a territorial designation recognised by the Court of the Lord Lyon would not use the post nominal letters of "Esq." after their name, as the use of the territorial designation implies the rank of esquire.
    3. Male Scottish clan chiefs recognized by the Court of the Lord Lyon (with Scottish arms) who are not feudal barons, or peers. [32]
    4. Those other armigers recognised in the degree of esquire via the helm indicated in their letters patent as per the guidance mentioned above.

    There is some confusion over the fact that the Lord Lyon King of Arms addresses correspondents by their name followed by "Esq." in correspondence, namely on letters. Some people erroneously believe that this makes them an esquire, however this is a common courtesy in Scotland, as in the rest of Britain, and does not constitute official recognition in the degree of an esquire. The Scottish courts have confirmed that the base degree in which an armiger is recognised is the dignity of gentleman, not esquire. [33]

    In feudal times an esquire was an armour-bearer, attendant upon a knight, but bearing his own unique armorial device. [34] Similarly, an armiger in contemporary terms is well-defined within the jurisdiction of Scotland as someone who is an armour-bearer. These two senses of "armour-bearer" are different: An esquire in feudal times was an "armour-bearer" in the sense of being the person who carried their knight's armour for them whereas in the contemporary sense the term "armour-bearer" is being used to mean the bearer of a coat of arms, an armiger. The two are not the same thing, although the feudal esquire would also most likely have been an armiger. For centuries the title of esquire has not been bestowed on a knight's attendee (since knights no longer need to train for battle). Attendants on knights, however, were not the only bearers of arms, and similarly not all armigers were esquires. Today, being an armiger is synonymous with the title of gentleman within the Order of Precedence in Scotland, [35] and is a social dignity. The letters patent of Scottish armigers will never include the title of gentleman, because the letters patent themselves evidence the individual is an armour-bearer, or gentleman by the strictest sense of the definition. A Scottish armiger is a gentleman or gentlewoman unless they hold a higher rank.

    Scottish armigers are those individuals with a hereditary right, grant or matriculation of Arms so entitling them to use personal arms by the Court of the Lord Lyon. The bearing of duly registered arms is an indication of nobility (either peerage or non-peerage in rank). [36] All Scottish armigers are recognised as members of the nobility in the broader sense through their grant or matriculation of arms awarded by the Crown or Sovereign through the Court of the Lord Lyon, and by issuance of a warrant from the Lord Lyon King of Arms is so entered in the Public Register of All Arms and Bearings in Scotland and through later official "Ensigns of Nobility". [37] [38] Without such legal arms it is practically impossible to prove one's nobiliary status. [39] [40] "Technically, a grant of arms from the Lord Lyon is a patent of nobility (also referred to a 'Diploma of Nobility') the Grantee is thereby 'enrolled with all nobles in the noblesse of Scotland.'", [41] however the term "nobility" today is little used in this context, as in common parlance in Britain the term is widely associated with the peerage. Instead the French term of noblesse [42] has been used by the Court of the Lord Lyon as this term not only includes peers but also the non-peerage minor-nobility, which includes baronets, knights, feudal barons, armigers with territorial designations, esquires and gentlemen.

    In the United States, the term is almost exclusively reserved for lawyers much as one with a Ph.D. or M.D. is called “Dr.” or a knight becomes “Sir.” [43]

    In the legal profession Edit

    In the U.S., the title esquire is commonly encountered among members of the legal profession. [9] The title is not allocated by the law of any state to any profession, class, or station in society. [9] However, some state bar associations, such as the New York bar association, protect the use of the term esquire, and have held that use of the term connotes licensure in the jurisdiction, so that its use by non-lawyers amounts to unauthorized practice of law. [9]

    Diplomatic use Edit

    Similarly, when addressing social correspondence to a commissioned officer of the United States Foreign Service, esquire may be used as a complimentary title. While the abbreviated Esq. is correct, Esquire is typically written in full when addressing a diplomat. [44] [45] If any other titles are used on the same line, Esquire is omitted.

    In fraternal groups Edit

    Some fraternal groups use the Esquire title. One appendant body in Freemasonry also uses Esquire as a degree title. [46]

    In colonial Virginia Edit

    In the Colony of Virginia, during the 17 th and 18 th centuries, esquire was the title given to members of the Council of Virginia, the upper house of the Virginia Assembly. [47]

    Use of honorifics and post-nominals Edit

    Honorifics are not used with courtesy titles, so John Smith, Esq. or Mr. John Smith would be correct, but Mr. John Smith, Esq. would be incorrect. [48]

    When addressing a person who has an academic degree or other post-nominal professional designation, such as a Certified Public Accountant, a writer should use either the post-nominal designation (usually abbreviated) or the Esq., but not both when esquire is used as a courtesy title, it should not be used with post-nominals. [49]

    Before 1947, the term esquire was used by senior officers of the Indian Civil Service and other members of the government. In keeping with the criteria established centuries earlier, the title was mostly used by government officials who studied or trained in England, especially in the universities of Oxford, Cambridge, or London or other professional organisations managed by the government. Barristers were especially included in the order of the esquires. Members of the armed forces as well as those who were inducted in to it from other services, temporarily or permanently, were also called esquires. [5]

    In the French Nobility, Écuyer ("Squire" and literally: "shield bearer") was the lowest specific rank, to which the vast majority of untitled nobles were entitled also called valet or noble homme in certain regions.

    In Belgium, Écuyer (French or its Dutch equivalent Jonkheer) this is the lowest title within the nobility system, recognised by the Court of Cassation. [50]


    The Best Chocolate in America

    50 of the finest chocolate makers and chocolate shops across the country.

    For over a year now, there hasn&apost been a whole lot happening on West 42nd Street, in New York City. Back in March 2020, one of the busiest, most notorious places in the country very abruptly closed downhistoric theaters, modern day honky-tonks, hotels, gleaming office buildings, all suddenly mothballed. From Fifth Avenue through Times Square and on past the Port Authority, the casual observer could count the number of open businesses on one or two hands, if they even bothered to come to Midtown at all.

    Looks can be deceiving. Who knows, really, what all was going on behind closed doors, but one thing was for certain—if you knew where to look, even during those earliest, darkest pandemic days and weeks and months, you could land yourself some of the finest chocolate in America.

    The shimmering, Bryant Park-facing showcase that had been home to Kreuther Handcrafted Chocolate had closed, never to reopen, and it would be a very long time before the adjoining two-star Michelin restaurant, Gabriel Kreuther, would be able to welcome guests again, but behind the scenes, a talented team helmed by chef Kreuther, his longtime pastry chef Marc Aumont, and head chocolatier Angela Kim Borah were still filling orders not only for delivery in New York, but for shipping to far away places, as well. Intricate bonbons in thrilling flavors like miso, almond and olive, mango con chile were exciting, modern, the perfect distraction. Most of the world may have come grinding to a halt, but the chocolate gods hadn&apost missed a beat.  

    Time and again across the country, the story repeated itself, during the last year and counting. From mostly-shuttered market halls to back street workshops, more than a few of America&aposs chocolatiers found themselves busier than ever. Should we be surprised to learn that so many of us found chocolate a comfort, during such a challenging time? Then again, history does repeat itself�ter all, it was the Great Depression that gave us so much of the candy we grew up with. An astonishing number of the names we know best today, from Snickers to Three Musketeers to Sugar Babies, came on the market during that time, and stayed put. 

    With the pandemic dragging on, hard numbers started to come out. According to the National Confectioners Association, which keeps track of these things, consumption of high-end chocolate in America shot up by double digits since March 2020. Chaos today, uncertainty tomorrow? This was chocolate&aposs time to shine. 

    For those just tuning in, perhaps after years of relatively joyless adulthood and one too many dental bills, the landscape of American chocolate might have򠯮n all but unrecognizable. During the last couple of decades, the industry has been very nearly transformed, through an extended period of revolt dating back at least to the turn of the century, with the winds of change blowing even earlier than that, when chocolate makers, those out West in particular, began to ask the question: What is wrong with the chocolate in this country (how much time do you have), and how do we fix it? 

    Almost overnight, it seems like, we were talking about chocolate the way we talk about wine and coffee�out terroir and tasting notes, about sourcing and sustainability, about direct trade and bean-to-bar manufacturing, about widespread exploitation in the world of cacao-growing, driven by an insatiable demand for commercial cocoa in the wealthiest countries𠅎verything was now on the table. Fast-forward to now, and the scene has grown immensely, with so many new names to remember. So many flashes of brilliance, so many flashes in the pan, so many new classics, so much to mull over. 

    All these fits and starts later, there are certain things we now understand. We know to ask more—so much more𠅏rom American chocolate. We&aposve changed the way we look at the humble bar, represented in many of our minds as a sugary, milky creature often tasting only faintly of actual cocoa, rarely enjoyed on its own, or at all. In a relatively short period of time, the country has managed to make room in its chocolate-loving heart for an astonishing number of exceptional, and exceptionally minimal, bars of dark chocolate, designed to showcase the unique terroir of its point of origin, often with exceptionally high percentages of pure cacao. (To be considered chocolate in America, all you need is a measly 10 percent—many of the bars on this list clock in at over 70.) 

    The educated consumer will look for a great deal of things from their chocolate bar these days—transparency in sourcing, fair wages for growers, good ingredients. Are there any fillers? (Organic cane sugar and cocoa butter, yes, but most everything else, no, unless it&aposs high quality milk chocolate, which does exist). Above all, is it smooth, rich, and does it taste as great as the price tag might dictate? These are not bars to be scarfed down on the run, but something you savor, broken off in small pieces, allowing it to melt on the tongue, perhaps paired with wine. Strike it right, and chances are you&aposll never go back to old habits again.

    Why so serious, so many chocolate lovers will ask, and they do have a point—we are respecting chocolate more than ever, to be sure, but that doesn&apost mean we had to give up having fun.

    While this list focuses rather narrowly on the finest American chocolate bars, because they are something so richly deserving of celebration, there are more high-quality bonbon and truffle makers out there right now than most of us will be able to sample in one lifetime. The supremacy of the classic drugstore assortment (which still has a place in our hearts, if not necessarily on this list) has been challenged, and very effectively, by a new generation of American chocolatiers. This is something to celebrate, as well.

    Acalli Chocolate (New Orleans, Louisiana)

    Carol Morse&aposs interest in chocolate was sparked during a summer of getting to know cacao growers in Central America, while her anthropologist husband worked toward his PhD. In a modest West Bank workshop, Morse combines cocoa from her favorite farmers with Louisiana cane sugar, giving her two-ingredient bars a distinctive taste and a unique sense of place.

    Amano Chocolate (Orem, Utah)

    Before very nearly everybody was out there peddling their own single-origin bars, a pioneering Art Pollard was already running away with the idea (and an outsized share of acclaim) out in the chocolate happy Beehive State. For much of the company&aposs fifteen-year lifespan, if you have been eating chocolate at the legendary Chez Panisse in Berkeley, chances are it came from Amano.  

    Askinosie Chocolate (Springfield, Missouri)

    Whether or not they&aposve earned the right, most makers tout their sourcing credentials these days, but direct trade trendsetter Shawn Askinosie has been an absolute leader since the mid-aughts, establishing close ties (and setting up a profit-sharing model) with his farmers. Dark milk chocolate from the Philippines (a favorite Askinosie source) blended with salted Swedish black licorice makes a truly memorable bar.

    Cacao & Cardamom (Houston, Texas)

    Don&apost knock procrastination—it might just change your life. For Annie Rupani, it was the study breaks from LSAT prep, during which she began teaching herself all about chocolate. The one-time Miss Pakistan World would later begin experimenting, combining modern technique with the bold flavors of her upbringing. Wildly colorful bonbons and patterned bars, in flavors like coffee and cardamom, are a visual feast.

    Castronovo Chocolate (Stuart, Florida)

    One taste is all you need to understand the difference between pure dark chocolate and your typical American chocolate bar the first is practically a health food, the other a milky-sweet indulgence. Denise Castronovo, who moved into chocolate-making when the last recession left her with plenty of downtime from her consulting business, is one in a growing group of top-level makers successfully fusing the two ideas, creating a high-cocoa content milk chocolate, known in the industry as dark milk. Castronovo&aposs is made with the finest, sometimes very rare, Latin American cacao.

    Chequesset Chocolate (North Truro, Massachusetts)

    Does Cape Cod have it all, or what? After just a few years in business, Katie Reed and Josiah Mayo&aposs ambitious startup already feels like a summertime (or anytime) essential, covering all the bases, from candies to single-origin bars, and doing so at a remarkable level. Their white chocolate, infused with lemon and thyme, does a great deal of heavy lifting for the much-misunderstood style.

    Christopher Elbow Chocolates (Kansas City, Missouri)

    A pastry chef by trade, Christopher Elbow always had a serious knack for petit fours, popular enough with guests at his last restaurant job to give him ideas about striking out on his own. Over a decade later, Elbow&aposs highly creative bonbons are some of the most sought-after in the country. Single-origin chocolate bars are as serious as they come.

    Chokola (Taos, New Mexico)

    For Debi Vincent and Javier Abad, the journey began in Venezuela, both in chocolate-making and in married life. These days, the couple runs an appealing shop just off the Taos plaza, turning out exemplary single-origin, two-ingredient bars, each wrapped in packaging decorated with the work of local artists. The awards have been stacking up of late, but a 75% Bolivia, made with wild harvest cacao, is of special note.  

    Compartes (Los Angeles, California)

    Dating back to 1950, and for generations a favorite of everybody from Marilyn Monroe to Elvis Presley, Jonathan Grahm has taken the family business (where he began work at the age of 15) to new heights, on the strength of some of the most visually appealing, mosaic-style chocolate bars on the market today, wrapped in some of the most appealing packaging. The aesthetic is highbrow, the taste is all fun𠅊 breakfast-worthy bar packed with donut pieces and freshly-ground coffee is a top seller.

    Creo Chocolate (Portland, Oregon)

    The berry-farming Straub family stumbled into chocolate roughly a decade ago, and never found their way out. A close relationship with a grower of heirloom cacao in Ecuador is the foundation of most, if not all of their very fine, frequently award-winning work, from the purest of bars to melt-on-the-tongue caramels topped with black lava salt.

    Cultura Craft Chocolate (Denver, Colorado)

    Damaris Ronkanen sources sustainably-harvested white cacao from Tabasco state𠅊t the heart of a region with roughly 4,000 uninterrupted years of growing experience𠅏or her intriguing 70% Mexico bars. Ronkanen&aposs Mexican drinking chocolate and cacao-infused Cafe de Olla blend were inspired by childhood visits with family in Puebla.

    Dick Taylor Chocolates (Eureka, California)

    Inspired by a new generation of makers changing the face of chocolate, woodworkers Adam Dick and Dustin Taylor brought the revolution home to remote Humboldt County back in 2010, quickly making a name for themselves with top-quality single origin, two-ingredient bars. Their black fig bar is something of an industry legend by now, and the drinking chocolate is top notch.

    Eclat Chocolate (West Chester, Pennsylvania)

    Some of the country&aposs most intricate bonbons�ramels infused with calvados, truffles made with rare, Peruvian Nacional cacao�n be found at the masterful Christopher Curtin&aposs workshop west of Philadelphia, but don&apost miss the crowd-pleasing bars, milk or dark, filled with crunchy Pennsylvania Dutch-style pretzels made in nearby Lancaster County.

    EH Chocolatier (Cambridge, Massachusetts)

    Pure, dark chocolate is already vegan, and these days you can find the bar of your dreams at most every maker on this list. Near-perfect vegan truffles? That&aposs another matter. This woman-owned operation finds a sweet balance with delicate vegan meltaways that will seduce very nearly any skeptic.

    Eldora Chocolate (Albuquerque, New Mexico)

    Money man turned chocolate guy Steve Prickett came up like so many makers on this list, tinkering at home in his spare time fast forward a few years and he&aposs picking up serious awards for his well-sourced, single-origin bars. A flair for distinctive local flavors—mole spice, piñon, chiles—makes Eldora&aposs inclusion bars (industry speak for bars with stuff added to them) uniquely New Mexico.

    Fran's Chocolates (Seattle, Washington)

    Maybe you&aposre looking to trace the origins of new wave American chocolate, or perhaps you&aposre merely hunting for some of the best chocolate in America either search may well lead you to Fran Bigelow, who set up shop in the early 1980s, pioneering notions of fair trade and sustainability. President Obama&aposs love of the smoked sea salt caramels is by now well-documented. 

    French Broad Chocolate (Asheville, North Carolina)

    Dan and Jael Rattigan learned at least two things from their years living on an abandoned cacao farm in coastal Costa Rica—one, they weren&apost beach people. The other was that they really wanted to make chocolate. After more than a decade in business, their single-origin bars are some of the nicest—pure, but lush—in the South.

    Fruition Chocolates (Shokan, New York)

    Some of the most elegant chocolate bars in the country right now come from Bryan and Dahlia Graham&aposs relatively modest operation in the rustic Catskill Mountains. From beautifully minimal single-origins (a citrus-tart Madagascar Sambirano) to a series of exceptional dark milks (Peru Marańon, in particular), each bar is as rich and smooth as the last.

    Kreuther Handcrafted Chocolate (New York, New York)

    Gabriel Kreuther&aposs eponymously named restaurant is very likely the only two-star Michelin establishment ever to grace West 42nd Street in collaboration with restaurant pastry chef (and long-time pal) Marc Aumont, Kreuther is turning out some of the city&aposs most exquisite chocolates.

    Buy it: Kreuther Handcrafted Chocolate, Chef&aposs Selection, $99 at goldbelly.com

    Ginger Elizabeth Chocolates (Sacramento, California)

    fter honing her skills in faraway places like Chicago and New York, Ginger Elizabeth Hahn returned west to open her dream atelier, fusing European style with a seasonal, cheerful California aesthetic. The result is one of the sunniest𠅊nd still, quite serious𠅌hocolate shops on this list. Everything feels fresh and fun.

    Goodnow Farms Chocolate (Sudbury, Massachusetts)

    Subtle notes of apple cider, maple syrup, and rye whiskey give the obsessively sourced, delicately flavored bars at this family outfit on a historic New England farm a distinct sense of place. Tom and Monica Rogan started out in the trade just a little over five years ago, but have already managed to comfortably secure a place for themselves right near the head of the pack.

    Guittard Chocolate (San Bruno, California)

    Lyon-born Etienne Guittard came to California dreaming of gold, striking it rich not in the Sierras, but in San Francisco, where he founded what would grow to become one of the longest-running makers in the country. Four generations later, the family-owned company remains a trusted friend to bakers and chocolatiers (large and small), as well as lovers of a fine dark bar, and one of the finest drinking chocolates available at your local supermarket.

    Harper Macaw (Washington, D.C.)

    With a strong focus on cacao grown in Brazil𠅌o-founder Sarah Hartman is Brazilian by birth—this bean-to-bar maker has become a standout in the nation&aposs capital, emphasizing direct trade with their growers and partnering with organizations that work tirelessly to protect and restore the rainforest.

    Indi Chocolate (Seattle, Washington)

    Last spring, with the historic Pike Place Market all but silent, this relatively recent arrival was still humming, producing some of the city&aposs best chocolate, something you don&apost say lightly in a town like Seattle. Erin Andrews started out just over a decade ago, moving into the market&aposs long-awaited extension in 2017 Indi&aposs direct trade, single-origin bars ought to have your attention.

    Jacques Torres Chocolate (New York, New York)

    From orange slices to macadamia nuts, there&aposs very little one of the most famous makers on this list (he&aposs the head judge on Netflix&aposs Nailed It) won&apost cover in chocolate. After a high-profile career as a pastry chef, the France-born Torres launched New York City&aposs first artisanal bean-to-bar operation back in 2000, well ahead of trend.

    Buy it: Jacques&apos World Famous Chocolate Chip Cookies, 12-pack, $70 at goldbelly.com

    Kahkow (Brooklyn, New York)

    Think of this Williamsburg shop and cafe like an Apple Store, except the product line being showcased, ever so proudly, is cacao grown in the Dominican Republic. Operated by one of the country&aposs largest cacao growers and exporters, the chocolate made here is about as direct trade as you will find.

    K+M Chocolate (Napa Valley, California)

    A partnership between Thomas Keller and one of Italy&aposs most revered olive oil producers (Armando Manni) has yielded, with chocolatier Chi Bui at the helm, some seriously beautiful bars, each finding the perfect balance between obsessively-sourced single-origin chocolate and an olive oil prized by chefs around the world.

    Buy it: K+M Chocolate Bar Signature Set, $119 at goldbelly.com

    LetterPress Chocolate (Los Angeles, Chocolate)

    With nearly twenty single-origin bars available as of this writing, Corey and David Menkes (who started making chocolate in their apartment less than a decade ago) continue to clearly demonstrate a serious passion for sourcing, equalled only by their talent for the finished product, often created with nothing more than a bit of organic unrefined cane sugar. The distinctive Ghana Ashanti—in 100%, 70%, and dark milk—is far from your average single-origin.

    Lonohana Estate Chocolate (Honolulu, Hawaii)

    The one state where following the bean-to-bar ethic doesn&apost require so much as a crosstown commute also happens to be one of those rare places in the world where cacao growers produce their own chocolate for sale𠅊 14-acre farm on Oahu&aposs North Shore is the source and inspiration for some of the finest all-Hawaiian chocolate on the market, made in very small batches.

    Madhu Chocolate (Austin, Texas)

    Harshit Gupta and Elliott Curelop source quality cacao from the Tumaco region of Colombia𠅊 favorite among some of the most accomplished makers on this list𠅊nd then go wild with the flavors, drawing on Gupta&aposs Indian childhood for inspiration. Saffron, black pepper from Kerala, cloves, and coriander all make welcome appearances.

    Markham & Fitz Chocolate (Bentonville, Arkansas)

    Lauren Blanco and Preston Stewart came to chocolate from two very different backgrounds, cultural anthropology, and chemistry, but however they got here, it&aposs safe to say they have arrived, in all senses of the word. Imaginative, beautifully-packaged bars like the Brain Food, an 85% Dominican Republic packed with berries, nuts, acai, and maca root, have managed to make quite the impression, in a relatively short period of time.

    Maverick Chocolate (Cincinnati, Ohio)

    In 2014, after a career as a mechanical engineer in the aviation industry, Paul Picton launched headlong into an entirely new phase of life—realizing his dream of becoming a chocolate maker. Ably assisted by his family, Picton is turning out some exceptional single-origin bars, recently a relatively rare (at least on the mainland) 100% Hawaiian, sourced from the Big Island&aposs Mauna Kea Estate. (Catch it if you can.)

    Milla Chocolates (Los Angeles, California)

    American chocolate has improved by leaps and bounds, but most domestic makers have yet to attempt the level of aesthetic taken for granted in cities like Paris and Barcelona, where the shop experience is typically fussed-over as much as the product. Chocolatier Christine Sull Sarioz comes from a background in the fine and decorative arts with designer husband Goktug, she has created one of the country&aposs most astonishing boutiques, filled with equally beautiful (and exquisitely packaged) chocolate. Seasonal citrus bars in flavors like Meyer lemon and blood orange are almost too pretty to tear apart.

    Monsoon Chocolate (Tucson, Arizona)

    Adam Krantz&aposs chile mango, hibiscus caramel, and mesquite-smoked whiskey infused bonbons practically leap out at you with their sense of place. As Southern Arizona&aposs most accomplished chocolatier, Krantz has proven himself wonderfully versatile, garnering impressive notices for nicely-packaged bars as well, including one from Madagascar&aposs Sambirano Valley, a particularly sought-after source.

    Patric Chocolate (Columbia, Missouri)

    The type of success this small company has enjoyed since launching fifteen years ago typically leads to serious growth, but founder Alan "Patric" McClure, who spent one very influential year in France before starting his business, has been perfectly happy to keep things small. As a result, some of the country&aposs most award-winning chocolate is also some of the most difficult to find, released in small batches (and available through the web site) whenever McClure finds the time.

    Potomac Chocolate (Occoquan, Virginia)

    Back in 2010, Ben Rasmussen turned his Northern Virginia basement into a chocolate laboratory, transitioning relatively quickly from enthusiast to one of the best bean-to-bar makers in the DMV. Impeccably-sourced two-ingredient bars are the main offering from this diminutive operation, but Rasmussen has lately been tinkering with the notion of a better kind of milk chocolate, with considerable success.

    Raaka Chocolate (Brooklyn, New York)

    From advocacy for increased transparency in the supply chain to a unique specialty in unroasted dark chocolate, everything about New York City&aposs best bean-to-bar manufacturer speaks to a passion for grabbing the consumer by the lapels and bringing them as close to the source as possible without actually forcing them onto a plane. A three-bar springtime collaboration with the New York Botanical Garden is well worth seeking out.

    Recchiuti Chocolates (San Francisco, California)

    Over nearly a quarter century, Michael and Jacky Recchiuti have grown one of the country&aposs finest chocolate shops from farmers&apos market pop-up to renowned producer of some of the most elegant truffles being made this side of the Atlantic. Their Black Box collection� pieces, in delicate flavors like bergamot tea and tarragon grapefruit—is the perfect gift for somebody (very, very) special.

    Ritual Chocolate (Park City, Utah)

    Rescued from a barn in Germany where it had been mothballed for decades, an antique conche (the modern chocolate maker&aposs must-have tool, invented by one Mr. Lindt in Zurich, back in the 1800s) appears to have been something of a good luck charm for this high-elevation, highly-decorated chocolate maker. A lavender and juniper berry bar tastes like a warm summer day in the Wasatch Range.

    Seahorse Chocolate (Bend, Oregon)

    Every now and then, in the age of the two-ingredient bar, one will come along and fool you into thinking that you&aposre being put on—the award-winning Honduras at this spunky, single-origin maker east of the Cascades hints so urgently at the likes of toffee and brown sugar, some tasters have been all but convinced these are actual ingredients. Terroir—it&aposs a beautiful thing.

    Sees Candies (South San Francisco, California)

    Founded a century ago in Los Angeles by a family of Canadian expats, this West Coast institution (proudly owned by Warren Buffett, since 1972) produces, hands down, the finest classic assortments widely available in the fifty states, made with quality Guittard chocolate and California-grown nuts. Fun fact: When Lucille Ball and Vivian Vance were rehearsing for the famous I Love Lucy chocolate factory episode, they worked at See&aposs to learn the tricks of the trade.

    Solstice Chocolate (Murray, Utah)

    On the relatively crowded playing field of Utah chocolate making, DeAnn Wallin is well-known not only for her strong commitment to seeking out the finest single-origin cacao, and going everywhere from India to Ghana to Madagascar to get it, but also for the end result—some of the smoothest, most deliciously accessible bars of their kind on the market.  

    Taza Chocolate (Somerville, Massachusetts)

    After falling for the traditional style, stone-ground chocolate he tasted in Mexico, Alex Whitmore apprenticed with a miller in Oaxaca in order to learn how to hand-carve his own granite mill stones. A decade and a half later, this fair trade-pioneering company&aposs Mexican-style chocolate discs�% organic𠅊re some of the finest around, making for a memorable drinking chocolate experience.

    Theo Chocolate (Seattle, Washington)

    First in the country to be certified both organic and fair trade, this powerhouse brand—you&aposll find their bars on shelves across the country—is not only serious about sustainability, but committed to accessibility as well, offering some of the best-priced bars on this list, along side a whole line of amusing (and delicious) creations like peanut butter and jelly cups.

    Valerie Confections (Los Angeles, California)

    From serious-times single-origin bars to big-fun bittersweet champagne truffles, pastry chef and chocolatier Valerie Gordon has this uncanny knack for doing it all, and very well at that. Whether you&aposre in the market for a handful of almond fleur de sel toffee, or an elegant grand assortment, you are in exceptionally capable hands here.

    Vosges Haut-Chocolat (Chicago, Illinois)

    Well before the current reinvention trend began, Katrina Markoff was pushing at the boundaries of American chocolate, packing bars full of bacon, sea salt, or chili peppers. Decades later, the offerings from Vosges are imaginative as ever, and equally sustainable—the company operates from a Platinum LEED-certified facility in Chicago, and recently planted its first crop of cacao in Belize.

    Buy it: Dark Chocolate Truffle Collection, 16 pieces, $49 at goldbelly.com

    Wildwood Chocolate (Portland, Oregon)

    Producing some of the most visually-appealing chocolate bars in the country right now—there&aposs a reason they&aposre packaged in clear wrappers—this bite-sized outfit that you don&apost need to be all things to all people, in order to be successful at chocolate, or to win a slew of awards. Just a handful of flavors are offered, from delicate caramel and fennel pollen to the kids-of-all-ages friendly Texas pecan brittle.

    Wm. Chocolate (Madison, Wisconsin)

    Starting with a series of kitchen experiments in 2015, William Marx has proven himself as one of the most skilled practitioners of the bean-to-bar method in the Upper Midwest right now. From sourcing to packaging, everything is as close to 100% sustainableਊs possible.

    Xocolatl Small Batch Chocolate (Atlanta, Georgia)

    After being spoiled by the truly bean-to-bar chocolate culture they discovered during an extended stay in Costa Rica, Elaine Read and Matt Weyandt filled their suitcases with cacao and came home to learn how to make chocolate over the better part of a decade, their micro-sized Krog Street Market operation has grown to become one of the region&aposs most important chocolate makers.

    Zak's Chocolate (Scottsdale, Arizona)

    Rare is the chocolatier that attempts to do absolutely everything completely from scratch hobbyists gone pro Maureen and Jim Elitzak take pride in doing all of the work themselves, from sorting ethically-sourced single-origin beans to wrapping the often award-winning bars for sale. Their not-to-be-missed (even if you&aposre a major skeptic) white chocolate is made with just three ingredients—house-pressed cocoa butter, whole milk, and organic cane sugar.


    Esquire Magazine Names Virginia ‘Best Food Region in America’ for 2014 - Recipes

    Meals, Music, and Muses

    Recipes from My African American Kitchen

    Description

    Iconic chef and world-renowned opera singer Alexander Smalls marries two of his greatest passions—food and music—in Meals, Music, and Muses. More than just a cookbook, Smalls takes readers on a delicious journey through the South to examine the food that has shaped the region. Each chapter is named for a type of music to help readers understand the spirit that animates these recipes.

    Filled with classic Southern recipes and twists on old favorites, this cookbook includes starters such as Hoppin’ John Cakes with Sweet Pepper Remoulade and Carolina Bourbon Barbecue Shrimp and Okra Skewers, and main dishes like Roast Quail in Bourbon Cream Sauce and Prime Rib Roast with Crawfish Onion Gravy.

    Complete with anecdotes of Smalls’s childhood in the Low Country and examinations of Southern musical tradition, Meals, Music, and Muses is a heritage cookbook in the tradition of Edna Lewis’s A Taste of Country Cooking.

    Praise For Meals, Music, and Muses: Recipes from My African American Kitchen&hellip

    Named one of the Best Books of 2020 by Esquire

    Named one of the 11 New Cookbooks Worth Buying, Even in Quarantine by the New York Times

    Named one of Publishers Weekly's Best Lifestyle Books of 2020

    “This eclectic cookbook provides classic Southern recipes with extra flair thanks to Smalls’s affinity for music. An internationally recognized opera singer, he elevates the work by naming each chapter after a type of music and diving into the details of his South Carolina childhood and how it influenced his cooking style.” - Publishers Weekly

    "Chef Alexander Smalls began his life in the South Carolina low country, but has traveled the world as a world class opera singer, opened some of Americas finest restaurants, and has the awards to prove it. His new cookbook, Meals, Music, and Muses: Recipes from My African American Kitchen bridges his two passions and presents them as binding forces of culture and history." - Deep South Dining

    "Alexander Smalls might be the only person who’s won a Grammy, a Tony, and a James Beard Award. His most recent book, Meals, Music, and Muses: Recipes from My African American Kitchen, bridges his celebrated careers as both an opera singer and a restaurateur while telling the story of Southern food through music. It’s a rich and layered read, with each chapter paying tribute to a genre of music and a genre of food that, as Smalls writes in the book’s introduction, ‘are rooted in a knotty lineage that connects West Africa and Western Europe.’" - Taste

    “Alexander Smalls has owned, conceptualized, and helmed some of New York’s most iconic African American restaurants. Now, he follows up the James Beard award-winning Between Harlem and Heaven with Meals, Music, and Muses, a look at his world glimpsed through the lenses of music, food, culture, and history. It is a must-read journey through a life well lived and in recipe and reminiscence details the musical forms learned, the friends and family who instructed, and the foods shared along the way.” - Jessica B. Harris

    “If wine is bottled poetry, and jazz is brown sugar sprinkled in your ear, then Meals, Music, and Muses is a smorgasbord of fine words and sounds, a delicious symphony of haute cuisine that’ll make you wanna kiss your momma, then thank the ancestors for making a way out of no way—for Hoppin’ John Cakes and Grits and Sage Sausage Gravy and Frogmore Stew and all the recipes Alexander Smalls has reimagined so elegantly.” - Kwame Alexander

    “I had the great honor of being a guest at one of Alexander’s famous Sunday brunches in his beautiful brownstone in Harlem. The food was unbelievably delicious! It was a magical afternoon that I will never forget.” - Tina Knowles-Lawson

    “In Meals, Music, and Muses, Alexander creates a lyrical culinary anthology of our lives. A symphonic composition full of stories, contemporary southern recipes that celebrates the food and musical genres that influenced the history of America… He sets the table in a unique way from jazz to blues to divas on a plate…This is not your mother’s cookbook…" - Dee Dee Bridgewater

    Flatiron Books, 9781250098092, 240pp.

    Publication Date: February 25, 2020

    About the Author

    Alexander Smalls is a restaurateur and co-owner of the celebrated Harlem jazz club Minton’s. As the former chef/owner of Café Beulah, Sweet Ophelia's, Shoebox Cafe, and The Cecil, Smalls has received great acclaim in the restaurant scene—including cooking at the James Beard House and being named one of Zagat’s 19 NYC Restaurant Power Players. His memoir and cookbook, Grace the Table, features recipes from his upbringing of Southern Revival cuisine. Smalls is also a world-renowned opera singer and the winner of both a Grammy and a Tony Award. He lives in Harlem, New York.

    VERONICA CHAMBERS is the editor of the New York Times archival storytelling team, a new initiative devoted to publishing articles based on photographs recently rediscovered as the paper digitizes millions of images. She is the editor of The Meaning of Michelle, celebrating the former first lady, which was a Los Angeles Times bestseller and a Time Magazine Top Nonfiction of the year. Veronica has written several books as well, including Mama’s Girl, a critically acclaimed memoir, and she co-wrote Yes, Chef with Marcus Samuelsson and 32 Yolks with Eric Ripert.


    Best Oyster Bars in America

    At Portland&rsquos Eventide Oyster Co., stakes in the ice declare whether the half shells are &ldquofrom Maine&rdquo or &ldquoaway.&rdquo It&rsquos a sign of local pride&mdashand the importance of place when tasting oysters.

    Like a fine wine exhibits its terroir, an oyster&rsquos merroir imparts a distinct flavor, from the briny Blue Points of Long Island to snappy Kumamotos of the Pacific Northwest to the bright Malpeques of Prince Edward Island.

    &ldquoEveryone has their preference, as oysters take on the characteristics of the area in which they grow,&rdquo says Candace Beattie of Baltimore&rsquos Thames Street Oyster House. Its specialty? Mellow Chesapeake oysters, from medium-bodied to plump.

    While it&rsquos possible to ship the bivalves across the country, there&rsquos nothing better than tasting them freshly plucked from the water. Seafood lovers can safely get their oyster fix during months that don&rsquot end in &ldquor&rdquo thanks to modern refrigeration. But storied family-run joints like Casamento&rsquos in New Orleans still close during the warmest months. (Spawning summer oysters are usually less flavorful than their winter counterparts.)

    Oyster bars and street carts were popularized in the 19th century, when the mollusks grew in abundance and were considered an everyday food. You&rsquoll find that kind of casual vibe at southern spots like the Original Oyster House in Mobile, AL, and at a growing number of waterfront bars connected to oyster farms.

    But our cross-country survey also turned up restaurants that take a more stylish approach. You could spend a romantic evening slurping bivalves at Seattle&rsquos bistro-like Walrus and the Carpenter. Oysters are a natural aphrodisiac, and these bars are sure to tickle your fancy.


    40 Under 40: America's Tastemakers 2014

    Our second annual 40 Under 40 list salutes the leaders of a new generation of drinkers. These dynamic young men and women are the innovators, gatekeepers and trendsetters who are changing what and how Americans imbibe.

    The Editors of Wine Enthusiast Magazine
    Research by Katie Riley
    Photos by Alex Farnum and Chris Sanders

    Director of Education, Anchor Distilling, San Francisco

    Beverage trends Michelangelo

    A jack of all trades, Alan Kropf is certified through the Court of Master Sommeliers, the Wine & Spirits Education Trust, Cicerone Program and National Bartenders School. He is also president of Mutineer Magazine, and, last year, he joined Anchor Distilling Company.

    Co-founder, Little Peacock Imports, New York City

    Single-focus importer with an eye on quality

    After moving from Melbourne, Australia, to the U.S. in 2008, Little was dismayed at the dearth of wine selections from his homeland. He founded Little Peacock to not only import and distribute Australian wine in the U.S., but also to provide wine that Aussies actually drink, helping to ­reshape American perceptions of wine from Down Under.

    Founder, COO, Williams Corner Wine, Charlottesville, VA

    Introducing Americans to small French domaines

    Born and raised in France and a veteran of the restaurant business, Mestre seems to have been destined for his current role. Virginia-based Mestre founded Williams Corner Wine, a wine importer and wholesaler, at the age of 23. Since then, he has been integral in introducing little-known, well-made natural French wines to the U.S.

    Wine Director, Smith & Wollensky, New York City

    Helms one of the world’s most storied steakhouse wine lists

    At only 29 years old, Kiefhaber, wine director at legendary New York City steakhouse Smith & Wollensky, is bringing a fresh approach to one of Manhattan’s most storied wine cellars. Kiefhaber, a Yale graduate, worked previously in a variety of restaurant roles—bartender, server, manager and writer—before taking on his current challenge.

    Brand Ambassador, Treasury Wine Estates, Napa, CA

    Actively mentoring a new wave of sommeliers

    One of the men featured in the documentary SOMM, Proctor works as brand ambassador for Penfolds wines, helping to spread the gospel of high-quality Australian wine. He’s also actively involved in training and mentoring new generations of aspiring sommeliers.

    Winemaker, Cinder Wines, Boise, ID

    Emerging American wine region champion

    In 2001, Krause began work as a vineyard technician at Stimson Lane in Woodinville, Washington, where she also started making some of her own “homemade” wine. After working at Chateau Ste. Michelle, she moved back to Boise and started her own winery consultant business, Krause Consulting, LLC, which is bringing much-needed expertise to this emerging wine region. Together with husband, Joe Schnerr, she now owns Cinder Wines, named after the layers of volcanic remnants found under the vineyards in Idaho.

    Co-founder, Golden Road Brewing, Los Angeles

    Fast-growth beer business leader

    While attending Yale, Gill spent her time studying Latin, which she says, “is about putting pieces of the puzzle together, and the same thing is true of getting beer on the shelf.” Gill’s Los Angeles-based Golden Road Brewing—which produced 15,000 barrels last year—is one of the fastest-growing breweries in the U.S. Ever the go-getter, Gill expects to double that output in 2014, and expand distribution beyond Southern California.

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    Beverage Director, Aviary, Chicago

    Cocktail innovator

    Joly started out as a bar back, but never dreamed he would make his career in the bar industry. Leading a crew of dedicated ice chefs, Joly runs Aviary’s bar more like a kitchen, snagging the James Beard Award for Outstanding Bar Program in 2013 and being named Diageo Reserve World Class Bartender of the Year 2014.

    Wine Director Bar Boulud, Boulud Sud, Épicerie Boulud, New York City

    Manages prestigious, high-profile cellars with an accessible approach

    Madrigale’s wine education began while waiting tables shortly after he moved to New York City. Now, as wine director for Bar Boulud, Boulud Sud and Épicerie Boulud, he manages a cellar of over 500 selections. He also launched New York City’s first “Big Bottles” program, which offers guests the opportunity to taste rare and large-format bottles by the glass. In 2012, Wine Enthusiast named him its Sommelier of the Year.

    Co-proprietor, Pouring Ribbons, New York City

    Decoding mixology for everyday drinkers

    Simó got his first job as a bartender while studying English and religion in Boston. While working at the storied Death & Co. in New York City, Simó met Toby Maloney, Troy Sidle and Jason Cott, with whom he opened Pouring Ribbons. The East Village cocktail den has become famous for its “matrix menu,” which helps guests navigate obscure brands and ingredients by breaking down offerings into quadrants like “refreshing” or “spirituous,” rather than just listing ingredients.

    Beverage Director, Treadsack Group, Houston, TX

    Growing wine trends in the Texas market

    Hinkle fell in love with wine while he worked his way through college at restaurants in Baltimore. In 2011, he moved to Houston and passed the Advanced Sommelier exam. Until a few months ago, Hinkle worked as the beverage director and wine buyer for Houston’s buzz-worthy Pass and Provisions, but he’s now wine director at growing restaurant group Treadsack.

    Sommelier, Juni, New York City

    Champion of offbeat​ pours

    Prior to taking the reins at Juni, Beedle worked at buzzy and wine-focused NYC establishments like The NoMad and Betony, where he was the wine director. Perceptive and talented, he’s the master of obscure but delicious pours, and known for his astute guiding of guests. Beedle plans to take the Master Sommelier exam this year.

    National Saké Sales Manager, Vine Connections, New York City

    Actively engaging consumers in the saké trend

    A saké expert and the national saké sales manager for Vine Connections, Samuels also has an incredible talent for pairing the spirit with food, particularly outside traditional Japanese settings. Samuels specializes in introducing saké to those unfamiliar with it, including developing saké programs for non-Japanese restaurants.

    Winemaker, Red Newt Cellars, Hector, NY

    Helping put New York wines on the map

    After graduating from Harvard, Russell interned at Fox Run Vineyards, where he supplemented his education with trips to wineries in New Zealand, Tasmania and Australia. Now at Red Newt Cellars in New York’s Finger Lakes, he’s one of the most talented winemakers in the region. Russell is a prominent member of the local wine community and a collaborator in the new Boundary Breaks label, as well as his own project, Kelby James Russell.


    Ocean State Eats: Rhode Island's Most-Iconic Dishes

    From creamy coffee milk to the freshest calamari, here are a few of Little Rhody's most-iconic dishes — and the best spots to score them.

    Related To:

    Photo By: Michael Cevoli ©2017

    Photo By: Blount Market ©2016

    Photo By: Allie's Donuts ©2017

    Photo By: Castle Hill Inn ©2016

    Photo By: Hemenway's Restaurant ©2016

    Photo By: Hudson Street Deli ©2017

    Photo By: Spirito's Restaurant ©2017

    Clam Cakes, Coffee Milk and More

    Who knew that a little state of about 1,500 square miles could have so many darn iconic foods? Rhode Island is brimming with dishes that induce heated arguments — where to get the best grinders, the best dynamites and hot weiners, for starters. Confused? Settle in over some coffee milk or a cabinet, and allow us to explain a few Ocean State greats — and share the best spots to snag 'em.

    Illustration by Hello Neighbor Designs

    Coffee Milk

    Nearly 100 years old, coffee milk is so iconic here that it became the official state drink in 1993. Coffee-and-sugar syrup is spun with frosty milk for an ice cream-free riff on a milkshake that’s as addictive as it is simple. You'll find it at coffee shops across Rhode Island, but skip the versions made with artificial ingredients and try those prepared with good coffee and sugar. Dave Lanning, CEO of Dave’s Coffee in Providence and Charlestown, roasts and cold-brews Brazilian beans and simmers the result with pure cane sugar to make the beloved syrup that forms the drink’s base. (People even buy the syrup online!)

    Irish Brown Bread

    The only bread you'll find at Bywater, a cozy seafood restaurant in Warren that specializes in super-fresh fish and local oysters, is Irish brown bread. The recipe hails straight from chef and co-owner Brian O’Donnell’s Irish grandmother. You know it's authentic because “the first step in the [written] recipe is ‘take your rings off,’” says O’Donnell with a laugh. At Bywater, he makes his own take on his mother’s adaptation, using sweet buttermilk, wheat bran, flour, baking soda and baking powder for a dense, hearty bread with a delicate crumb, and serves it alongside butter whipped with Greek yogurt and Maldon sea salt.

    Frozen Lemonade

    Del’s iconic frozen lemonade traces its origins back to 1840 in Naples, Italy. Great-grandfather DeLucia, the story goes, kept fresh snow insulated in caves with straw, mixing local lemons with the snow and some sugar when summer arrived. His son Franco brought the frozen lemonade recipe to America around 1900, and by 1948 Franco’s son Angelo was selling a version of it that was made using a machine. With a texture smartly described as “somewhere between an Italian ice and a Slurpee,” the sweet-tart treat has found fans all over the state. Try it at the Cranston store or one of the dozens of outposts across the state.

    Doughboys

    They look like doughnuts on steroids, sure, but David Gravino of Iggy’s would have you know there’s a difference: “They’re more like a bread dough, but a little sweeter. There’s no hole in it, and they’re fluffy and very airy and light.” Not only that, but some people dip ’em in marinara sauce! When’s the last time you did that to a doughnut? Typically, however, they come dusted with sugar and cinnamon. The family-owned restaurant has been in business since 1989, making doughboy dough every hour. As Gravino says, “That’s the magic.”

    Cabinets

    Located just steps from the Palmer River waterfront in Warren, Delekta Pharmacy pays homage to a bygone era, right down to the vanilla and cherry Cokes made on-site from soda syrup and seltzer. Among the most-popular beverages here is the Coffee Cabinet, for which soda jerks (staffers!) boil coffee into a syrup, combine it with ice cream and milk, and serve it in a tall glass. Cabinets, which also come in vanilla or chocolate, are similar to milkshakes, and to the frappes so common across the Massachusetts border (“bohdah,” if you have the local accent). “They’re the same thing,” says third-generation co-owner Eric Delekta … diplomatically.

    Hermit Cookies

    Although this Providence bakery is known for its coconut custard pies, Italian Christmas cookies and cupcakes, those in the know ask for DeLuise's hermit cookies. When asked about the cookie’s origins, owner Sal DeLuise says that “old-timers came up with it” and that frugal times inspired a cookie that reused other doughs in the kitchen. “It’s a very, very good-tasting cookie if you incorporate everything and add fresh ingredients,” he notes. “It’s a conglomerate of many different pastries, blended together with eggs, sugar, flour and molasses.” The cookies are aromatic and sweet, and are cut into large rectangles that are iconic of the Ocean State.

    Hot Weiners

    Ask Little Rhody natives which foods make them homesick and “hot weiners!” will be some of the first (bizarre) words out of their mouths. Messy and fun, hot weiners are the sloppy joes of the frankfurter world and have been a favorite here since they hit local menus in the 1940s. Gregory Stevens is the fourth-generation co-owner of Olneyville New York System, two shops slinging snappy beef-pork-veal dogs strewn with spiced ground hamburger, onions, mustard and celery salt, served on plush rolls from a nearby Greek bakery. “The secret is our mix of spices,” says Stevens of the family’s closely guarded sauce recipe.

    Clams Casino

    “Farm to table and pond to plate” is the slogan at Matunuck Oyster Bar in South Kingstown, where fresh oysters and clams are harvested right off the waterfront patio daily. Clams casino is a dish that was “a staple in Rhode Island clam shacks and finer-dining restaurants,” says owner Perry Raso, who traveled all over the state with his chef in order to perfect their version. Littlenecks stuffed with bell peppers, bacon and breadcrumbs, usually laced with sherry, have been beloved in this state for years. Matunuck’s Clams Casino is distinctive because of the freshness of the clams — and because the restaurant uses local peppers from its own vegetable farm.

    Pizza Strips

    Caserta in Providence offers saucy, cheeseless pizza strips that are as hot with hung-over college kids as they are with workaday men and women seeking a lunch fix. According to manager John Campagnone Jr., “It’s all consistency — that’s what makes us great. We use all the best ingredients, but that’s all I can tell you.” He’s served the pizza strips (sometimes referred to as “bakery-style pizza”) the same way for decades, using California tomatoes and the same type of dough used for regular slices.

    Kale Soup (Caldo Verde)

    Nearby Fall River and New Bedford, Massachusetts — in addition to parts of Rhode Island — have huge Portuguese populations, so you’ll see classic variations of the beloved caldo verde, sometimes called “kale soup,” dotting menus throughout the region. The chunky soup features a chicken broth base amped up with potatoes, onions, plenty of kale and often chorizo. At Blount Market in Warren, the top-selling kale soup is available fresh or frozen and uses local chorizo from Amaral’s, a bit of paprika, and kidney beans “to make it more of an all-round hearty soup,” says Chef Jeff Wirtz.

    Clam Cakes

    Aunt Carrie's in Narragansett is a New Englander’s paradise, with its generous platters of steamed clams, lobsters, clam bellies and the like. But it’s the deep-fried clam cakes that really elicit rave reviews. The batter is prepared in a huge cement mixer (that’s never used for cement, of course), and the cakes feature fresh chopped clams, flour, water and seasoning. They’re dropped into super-hot beef shortening and emerge crisp, redolent of the sea and ready to be dipped into Carrie’s wholesome chowder. Order up, then grab a seat with a romantic view of Point Judith Lighthouse.

    Johnnycakes

    Those who love johnnycakes — a cornbread-pancake hybrid — really love them, says Kathryn Madden, co-owner of the restaurant that’s located in a gorgeous restored barn in Adamsville and aptly named The Barn. Made from cornmeal ground just across the street at Gray’s grist mill — “continuously grinding for over 360 years” — they are toothsome, and especially tasty with maple syrup. Johnnycakes date back hundreds of years in America, and this is just the place to try them for the first time.

    Doughnut Cake

    A doughnut cake in the shape of a princess? A plane? A coffee mug? A pig? Anything seems to be possible at Allie's Donuts in North Kingstown, where brightly decorated, soft, airy doughnuts — and oversized doughnut cakes — lure crowds that sometimes stretch around the block. Managers here deal with tons of birthday and even wedding requests for oddball doughnut cakes, so don’t think your order will strike them as unusual.

    Stuffies

    At restaurants all over New England, giant quahog clams, which are known for their sweet meat, are stuffed with bread, spices, onions and sometimes chorizo. The dish, fittingly dubbed “stuffies,” is a favorite among locals. At Amaral’s in Warren, the stuffies are served super fresh, straight out of the oven, with a lemon wedge. Tony Amaral, who co-owns the restaurant with brother Donald, shucks the quahogs daily and chops them up to combine them with onions, crushed pepper flakes, toasted Italian bread and a little bit of their own briny juice. It’s a fair bet that your first stuffie won’t be your last.

    Rhode Island Clam Chowder

    Another hit from the Amaral brothers, this Rhode Island-style clam chowder is made from the clear, natural quahog clam juice they use as its base. Expect potatoes, celery, onion and tons of freshly chopped quahogs. “Some people make it with a lot of veggies,” says Chef Tony Amaral, but he prefers to go lighter on the veg, allowing the oceanic quahog brine to shine through. This is the chowder to order if you’re a true clam lover the red (Manhattan) version masks the taste with tomatoes, and the New England version — though delicious — cloaks it with cream.

    Clambakes

    Just as you wouldn’t turn down an invitation to an authentic New Orleans crawfish boil, no one should ever shy away from a chance to experience a real New England clambake. Clams nestle in a beachside pit with corn, potatoes, lobsters, sausage and other goodies until the smoky, fire-roasted gems are ready to be served and washed down with a cold beer. If you want someone else to do the work, Newport's Castle Hill Inn has a summer clambake for $95 a pop (not including drinks). You get clam chowder, lobster, chorizo, littlenecks, jalapeno-cheddar cornbread, apple pie with ice cream, peach sweet tea and croquet, with a view of the Newport harbor. Not too shabby.

    Calamari

    Rhode Island’s Point Judith is renowned as the source of some of the best squid in New England. Calamari — sometimes called calama’ if the restaurant is really Italian — is enormously popular statewide. At Hemenway's, another one of Providence's upscale seafood hubs, it is lightly fried and tossed in a garlic-butter sauce with a mix of sweet and hot peppers, emerging golden, piping hot and ready to devour.

    Grinders

    Hudson Street Deli in Providence is famous for its Italian grinder, which is loaded up with ham, Genoa salami, pepperoni, provolone, tomato, lettuce, onion, banana peppers, olive oil, vinegar, Italian salsa verde and mayo. (Locals pronounce it “GRIN-dah,” so start practicing!) To the best of co-owner Chrissy Teck’s knowledge, the major difference between a regular sub and a grinder is the bread, which is “heartier than you would think” and “fresher than a sub.” Considering the sheer number of ingredients that get piled on top, it’s no wonder the bread has to be so sturdy. A half-sandwich order should do you “the large is like the size of a newborn,” Teck says.

    Snail Salad

    Tender, locally sourced sea snails are the base of the snail salad at Spirito's, a white-tablecloth Italian eatery located in one of Providence's stately Victorian homes. “We clean the snails, boil them till tender, chunk it up, then add celery, onions, lemon, seasonings, salt, pepper, garlic, red pepper and olive oil,” says chef and co-owner David Spirito. Straight up, just like that, snails with dressing, we ask? “Straight up, but nobody can make it the same!” he says with a laugh. Spirito co-owns the restaurant with brother Gregory, and has for 16 years, so you’re supporting a family affair when dining here.


    The Best Pancakes in Every State

    From upscale urban cafes to country-style mom-and-pop diners, restaurants across the U.S. are using pancake batter as a vessel to showcase regional ingredients and culinary traditions. Here are our picks in each state, plus Washington, D.C.

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    Photo By: Ironside Photography

    Photo By: Eric Wagner/Illumination Studios

    Photo By: Brock Hildebrandt

    Photo By: Bill Gray ©© 2016, Television Food Network, G. P. All Rights Reserved.

    Photo By: Benny van der Wal, Light Keeper

    Photo By: Tatiana Mooradian

    Snow City Cafe – Anchorage, Alaska

    An award-winning breakfast and lunch spot, Snow City Cafe has dominated the Anchorage breakfast scene since 1998 with its fresh and hearty morning plates showcasing local, seasonal ingredients. Brace yourself for the blustery climate by fueling up with the Polar Bear Breakfast &mdash one fluffy, plate-sized buttermilk pancake (you can add blueberries for an extra 50 cents) served with two eggs, any style, and a side of protein. (For an authentically Alaskan experience, go for the juicy reindeer sausage spiced with white pepper and coriander.) Vegan and gluten-free visitors will find plenty of items to choose from, too. The news gets even better for picky eaters: Substitutions, for once, are welcome.

    Drip Cafe – Hockessin, Delaware

    Serving pancakes with bacon is a time-honored American tradition, but Drip Cafe in Hockessin, Delaware has taken the breakfast classic a step further by serving its hot buttermilk pancakes studded with crispy bacon bits throughout, a technique that ensures the perfect balance of sweet and salty in every bite. The innovation doesn't stop there: Once plated, the pancakes are topped with roasted apples, more smoky bacon and housemade salted caramel sauce for a sweet-and-salty breakfast bomb that leaves customers feeling sated for hours.

    Big Bad Breakfast – Oxford, Mississippi

    Chef John Currence put genteel Oxford on the culinary map with his small empire of restaurants, including City Grocery and Snackbar. Big Bad Breakfast is the homiest of the bunch, a destination for sweet potato hash, chili-stuffed omelets and a Creole-inspired egg scramble packed with spicy andouille sausage and tender crawfish. But it's the nutty oatmeal short stack dressed up with whipped cream that really takes the (pan)cake. Other toppings, like chocolate chips, strawberries, blueberries, pecans or bananas, are also available. We highly recommend that you temper the impending sugar rush with a side of the restaurant's signature andouille.

    The Bunnery – Jackson Hole, Wyoming

    One of Jackson Hole's favorite spots for breakfast and lunch (and dinner, but only during the summer months), The Bunnery offers the best breakfast in town, complete with fresh-squeezed orange and grapefruit juice and bottomless cups of Starbucks coffee. The straightforward, simply prepared menu items include a variety of eggs, including made-to-order omelettes and classic quiches. For a true indulgence, treat yourself to the tangy buttermilk pancakes topped simply with maple syrup and fresh, in-season fruit. The house specialty, however, is the O.S.M. Pancakes, which manage to retain a light and fluffy texture &mdash the mark of all excellent &rsquocakes &mdash despite their hearty, whole-grain flour blend containing whole wheat, oats, sunflower seeds and millet. Used to make bread for toast and French toast as well, the O.S.M. blend is a proprietary recipe developed in the '70s by the first owner of The Bunnery, which was originally a bakery, not a restaurant. Can't count on a trip to Jackson Hole anytime soon? You're in luck: The O.S.M. pancake mix can be purchased from the restaurant's online shop.

    The Farmer's Table Cafe – Fayetteville, Arkansas

    Fayetteville has long attracted adventuresome hikers keen on exploring the vast wilderness of the Ozarks &mdash but that's not all the town is known for. Visitors would be remiss to neglect the wholesome, country-style pancakes served hot off the grill at The Farmer's Table, just a stone's throw from the University of Arkansas. Here, you can choose from organic buttermilk pancakes grilled in coconut oil or the vegan coconut pancakes topped with Firefly Farm figs and fresh Windberry Farm raspberries. But cafe's real claim to fame is the sweet potato pancakes, a Southern specialty, made with all-local ingredients: New South Cooperative sweet potatoes, War Eagle Mill flour and Farmers' Pride eggs. Toppings like cinnamon butter, candied pecans and organic maple syrup push these tender 'cakes into dessert territory. In our opinion, that's the opposite of a problem.

    Delta Diner – Delta, Wisconsin

    Established in 2003, this self-proclaimed "little diner in the middle of nowhere" has gained serious traction with audiences near and far thanks to its straightforward, comforting breakfasts and the made-from-scratch Blue Plate Specials. And although the inspiration for the overall appearance and decor of this classic American roadside diner came from the East Coast, there's no doubt that the belly-warming Norwegian Cakes will sustain you through the harsh Wisconsin winters. Thin yet tender and ever so slightly spongy (all the better for absorbing that lemon and powdered sugar), these comforting pancakes are something of a Wisconsin tradition, thanks to the large wave of Norwegian immigration to the Midwest during the mid-19th century. Pair the 'cakes with a side of bacon and some hearty fried eggs for the full backwoods breakfast experience.

    Tupelo Honey – Asheville, North Carolina

    The menu at the Tupelo Honey cafe in Asheville is full of modern twists on classic Southern fare -- for example, Goat Cheese Grits with Shrimp and Fried Chicken Saltimbocca. But you won't truly understand the meaning of "Southern hospitality" until you've experienced the pomp and circumstance that is the restaurant's Shoo Mercy Sweet Potato Pancakes, a long-standing staple of the weekend brunch menu. Stacked three high, these moist 'cakes are topped precariously with apple cider bacon, buttermilk fried chicken and spiced pecans &mdash with two sunny-side-up eggs, pickled blueberries and grilled seasonal fruit on the side. Erring on the side of dessert? Try the Banana Pudding Layered Pancakes &mdash a play on another Southern classic, in which the signature sweet potato pancakes are layered with banana pudding and topped with warm, malty rum sauce.

    Polly's Pancake Parlor – Sugar Hill, New Hampshire

    Antique tools, Civil War relics and portraits of the previous generation of owners decorate the walls of this cozy Sugar Hill breakfast nook. Tucked inside a carriage shed that was built circa 1830, Polly's Pancake Parlor has passed through three generations of Granite Staters. During the Great Depression, Polly and her husband, Wilfred "Sugar Bill" Dexter, converted the shed into a small, quaint tearoom with seating to accommodate just 24 people. When they first began serving in 1938, they offered pancakes, waffles and French toast &mdash "All you can eat for 50 cents" &mdash in an effort to stimulate sales of their maple products. Eighteen years later, the original scheme is still working, with warm, made-to-order pancakes flying off the griddle from the time the place opens at 7 in the morning until it closes at 3 in the afternoon. Diners can customize their plates with their choice of six different batters &mdash plain, oatmeal buttermilk, buckwheat, gingerbread and whole &mdash plus classic add-ins like chocolate chips, blueberries and walnuts. Having too much trouble deciding? Go for the sampler plate, which offers two pancakes each of any three styles, opening you up to ingenious combos such as Oatmeal Buttermilk-Blueberry, Whole Wheat-Walnut and Cornmeal Coconut.

    John O'Groats – Los Angeles, California

    This family-owned restaurant specializes in exceptional breakfasts that transcend trends. Looking around the dining room, you'll see Angelenos of all ages tucking into the signature Irish oatmeal, huevos rancheros and other morning favorites, including a lengthy list of buttermilk pancakes studded with chocolate chips, bananas, strawberries, blueberries, pecans and other enticements. For a stack of Los Angeles flavor, get the seven-grain granola pancakes, which have slightly nutty flavor and a bit of crunch.

    Cinnamon's Restaurant – Kailua, Hawaii

    Hearty, homemade creations await inside this award-winning coastal joint, from savory, meat-heavy dishes to indulgent plates that toe a very thin line between breakfast and dessert. As for the pancakes, classic buttermilk, banana, pumpkin, red velvet and cinnamon-apple batters are all on offer. But for a truly tropical experience, go for the Guava Chiffon Pancakes, which arrive at the table glazed with a delicate, rosy pink sauce. The chefs have taken care to tame the guava, a fairly sweet fruit, to ensure that the dish doesn't send diners into full-blown sugar shock. Ranked continuously at the top of America's best-of lists, it's safe to say these are a can't-miss item.

    The Pancake Wagon – Bend, Oregon

    How many times have you been able to say that you've sampled inventive pancakes served hot out of a converted 1970s camper just a stone's throw from the scenic Deschutes River &mdash oh, while a friendly bunny nibbles wild clover out of your hand? Stop by The Pancake Wagon in Bend, Oregon, between 7 a.m. and 1 p.m. and you'll check off all those goals at once. Before opening their beloved neighborhood food cart, owners Caley and Bashia Brach were accustomed to grueling hours: They had left careers on the East Coast in social work and nursing, respectively. But they took their mutual love of quality, on-the-go breakfast food out West. Since opening in April of 2016, the menu offerings have exploded &mdash from standard (though excellent) pancake stacks to pancake burritos (purritos) and pancake muffins (puffins). Each item was born out of a desire to serve fresh, hot breakfast that can be enjoyed on the move. If you're craving something sweet, try a Lemon Ricotta Puff-Czek, the Brachs' play on the pączek, or Polish jelly-filled doughnut it features a mixed-berry and chia seed compote injected into one of their citrusy Lemon Ricotta Puffins. In the mood for something savory? The Johnny Purrito, which features scrambled eggs, bacon and spicy serrano-pepper cream cheese spread bundled up in a large cornmeal johnnycake, won't disappoint. Don't forget to swing by the bunny hutch and pay a visit to Roux!

    Little Sandy's – Bruceton Mills, West Virginia

    Most breakfast-hocking restaurants in the country pride themselves on buttermilk pancakes, but West Virginia chefs prefer to get their flavor from buckwheat cakes. Monongalia and Preston counties, in particular, are known for their exceptional pancakes, which are made in a style very local to West Virginia. In lieu of an otherwise all-purpose-flour batter, locals add buckwheat flour to make nutty, slightly sour 'cakes. They're fantastic. Some chefs use lard to prevent sticking, though butter works, too. At tiny diner Little Sandy's, in Bruceton Mills, the buckwheat cakes are best served with sausage patties and maple syrup.

    Bubby's – New York, New York

    The pancakes at this hip Tribeca cafe and its newer Meatpacking outpost are as big and bold as the restaurant&rsquos hometown. Customers are given a choice between two different batters: The ultra-tangy housemade sourdough batter uses sourdough starter from 1890, and the other is based on an old James Beard recipe that's been adapted to include sour cream for extra fluffiness. You can also choose from five addictive variations, which include pancakes strewn with crunchy walnuts and golden, caramelized banana slivers pancakes dressed in a sweet-and-sour blueberry sauce or the Nutella pancakes with Concord grame jam. But perhaps the most-valuable lesson to learn from Bubby's is that fried chicken should never be reserved for just waffles. Order a stack of the golden sourdough pancakes with a side of juicy Sullivan County Farms fried chicken. After the first bite, a light will go off in your brain, leaving you stunned that you hadn't thought to try this pairing sooner.

    Toast ‘N Jams – Muskegon, Michigan

    Diners flock to this 1950s-inspired eatery for hearty breakfast fare dished out in nostalgic environs. The interior, which is filled with old-fashioned decor centered around Route 66, includes a wall-to-wall mural inspired by the historic roadway. Each dish represents a different stop on Route 66, like the Amarillo-inspired BBQ burger. And while the lunch menu is certainly worth a look, Toast 'N Jams, as you might guess by the name, is famous for its breakfast plates. Keep it classic with the banana-nut or blueberry pancakes, and be sure to check your guilt at the door before ordering the thickly iced Cinnamon Roll Pancakes. One of Toast 'N Jams&rsquo most-requested creations, the Strawberry Cheesecake Pancakes are cooked until golden brown and topped with a sweet strawberry-cream cheese blend.

    Keke’s – Winter Park, Florida

    This regional Florida chain maintains the feel of a cozy hometown diner at each one of its 30 locations across the peninsula, thanks to its menu of comforting breakfast classics like golden Belgian waffles and fluffy omelets stuffed with ham and cheese. But diners will tell you that the pancakes are where it&rsquos truly at. Choose from eight different options, some featuring crunchy batters, such as the banana-nut, the granola and the pecan pancakes. Keke&rsquos even pays homage to its home state with the Florida Pancakes, a fluffy buttermilk stack topped proudly with fresh fruit galore &mdash strawberries, banana, blueberries &mdash and, of course, powdered sugar.

    St. Francis Restaurant – Phoenix, Arizona

    St. Francis is famous for giving the wood-fired treatment to its seasonal vegetables and signature San Francisco-style sourdough. But the best application of this cooking technique is the Iron Skillet Pancake. Laced with olive oil, buttermilk and dark chocolate, this iconic brunch dish is baked in a cast-iron skillet in the restaurant&rsquos wood-burning oven, which was custom-built in the same style as 19th-century bread-baking ovens. The skillet is fished from the flames only once the pancake has achieved a deep, mahogany char &mdash much darker than you might be used to, but this is not your run-of-the-mill flapjack. It arrives at the table dressed with tender caramel apples, real maple syrup and whipped creme fraiche.

    Ellen’s – Dallas, Texas

    Tradition reigns supreme at Ellen&rsquos, an all-day-brunch hub with a myriad of unpretentious Southern specialties, like shrimp and grits and creamy pimento cheese, dominating the menu. But for a one-of-a-kind, untamed breakfast experience that&rsquos just begging for a close-up on your Instagram profile, ask for the Pancake Pot Pie. Envisioned by owner Joe Groves and brought to life by co-owner and Executive Chef Russell Mertz, this over-the-top spin on the classic Southern supper features layer upon layer of made-from-scratch pancakes, sweet maple cream-sausage gravy, hickory bacon, crumbled sausage, hash browns &mdash phew, almost there &mdash and a top layer of scrambled eggs and cheddar cheese. For once, your friends will actually be jealous of what you ate for breakfast. And sure, you could order the chicken-fried steak or the buttermilk fried chicken for dinner, and you wouldn&rsquot regret it. But why would you do that when this original (and sinfully addictive) creation is available all day long?

    Jigger's Diner – East Greenwich, Rhode Island

    In 1992, when Carol Shriner bought the decrepit Jigger's in East Greenwich, she didn&rsquot expect it to become the destination diner it is today. Nevertheless, the Gingerbread Pancakes, perked up with hot brewed coffee, dark brown sugar, ground ginger, cinnamon and cloves, are something of a local legend. So are the diner&rsquos signature johnnycakes &mdash plump little discs with crunchy brown surfaces sandwiching steamy flint cornmeal &mdash which are typical of South County. Historians believe that johnnycakes date back as far as Colonial times, when they were known as "journey cakes" once cooked, they could be carried on a long trip for sustenance along the way. Thus, to eat them is to experience a piece of the nation's culinary past.

    Toast on Market – Louisville, Kentucky

    When this arty cafe first opened its doors in 2006, locals saw it as another feather in the cap of Louisville&rsquos burgeoning breakfast scene. Over a decade later, Toast on Market has firmly cemented its position in the city&rsquos culinary landscape &mdash even expanding to a second location across the Ohio River. Visitors are repeatedly impressed by Chef George Morris&rsquo sophisticated reinterpretations of classic American diner fare, like the Monte Cristo French toast filled with ham, baby Swiss and orange marmalade. The chef&rsquos French bistro-informed methods can be best appreciated in the form of the Lemon Soufflé Pancakes, which are bursting with citrus flavor and dressed in a rich vanilla custard and juicy blueberry compote. For a real stick-to-your-ribs rendition of American buttermilk pancakes, try the Bread Pudding Pancakes festooned with warm rum-raisin syrup and rich Irish creme sauce.

    Vick’s Vittles – Albuquerque, New Mexico

    On the border of Navajo Nation, a Native American territory covering over 17.5 million acres between Arizona and New Mexico, sits this bustling Albuquerque diner known for its hearty Southwestern specialties. The crown jewel of the breakfast menu is easily the Santa Fe Pancakes, a dish that takes its cues directly from the Native American and Mexican culinary traditions that have largely shaped the region&rsquos modern foodscape. These deep indigo cakes feature a blue-corn buttermilk batter that&rsquos loaded up with roasted pinons, Hatch green chiles and cheddar-Jack cheese. Don&rsquot pass them over based on the novelty of the color: Blue corn, in terms of flavor, has very much in common with the yellow varieties most Americans would readily chow down on. The first bite floods your senses with the essence of uber-fresh corn, and the spice from the chiles follows soon after, leaving a gentle sting on your tongue that&rsquos tempered by the tangy buttermilk.

    BabyStacks Cafe – Las Vegas, Nevada

    If you&rsquore in need of a recklessly indulgent breakfast to numb you through the painful aftermath of a night out in Vegas, then look no further than BabyStacks, a cafe that boasts 21 different pancake varieties on its menu. You&rsquoll find traditional buttermilk stacks bulked up with bananas and blueberries, along with many one-of-a-kind creations: orange-flavored pancakes topped with whipped cream for a play on an orange Creamsicle, a rocky road-inspired stack, a riff on cookies and cream featuring chocolate batter &mdash even a peanut butter-laced stack that comes with a choice of chocolate, banana or jelly spread. But the real MVP at this pancake playland is the red velvet topped with fresh whipped cream and chocolate crumbles, and served with cream cheese syrup. It&rsquos the best-seller for a reason. Word to the wise: There&rsquos nothing babylike about BabyStacks&rsquo breakfast plates. A short stack includes three pancakes, while a full stack includes a whopping six. "Come hungry" is all we&rsquore saying.

    The Nova Cafe – Bozeman, Montana

    Breakfast lovers will have a hard time settling on just one item when poring over the endlessly tempting options at this lively Bozeman diner, where morning fare is served every day from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. But for flapjack diehards, the choice is easy: It&rsquos the Blue Cornmeal Pancakes every time. Compared with classic buttermilk pancakes, those made with cornmeal tend to have a bit more grit &mdash and, when blue cornmeal is used, the resulting &rsquocakes wind up with a striking blue-gray hue that is a welcome change from the typical beige that all too often dominates our breakfast plates. In the summertime, go wild with the color palate by adding fresh, in-season blueberries. You won&rsquot regret it.

    Katalina’s – Columbus, Ohio

    Altering the overall shape and appearance of traditional flapjacks might strike you as reinventing the wheel. But then again, you probably haven&rsquot been to Katalina&rsquos yet. Housed in a 100-year-old gas station &mdash the oldest in Columbus &mdash this eclectic cafe has been slinging local, homemade grub without pretense since 2009. Owner Kathleen Day has garnered a massive following that includes locals and out-of-towners alike with her prized Pancake Balls made with local, stone-ground Fowler&rsquos Mill flour. Diners get to choose from three different fillings: Nutella, dulce de leche or local organic Cooper&rsquos Mill Pumpkin-Apple Butter. Every order comes with Milligan's Bourbon Barrel Aged maple syrup and a side of Katalina&rsquos Original Sweet &rsquoN&rsquo Spicy Bacon, or regular bacon if you desire. (Go for the Sweet &rsquoN&rsquo Spicy.)

    Hatch – Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

    You don&rsquot have to search the nation high and low for inventive pancake add-ins, but pancakes in playful shapes get bonus points for ingenuity. This chic, all-day breakfast hub pays homage to its home state in the form of the Famous PanOKCakes. Made with sweet cream batter and strewn with bacon, local pecans, bourbon-maple glaze and mascarpone butter, these fluffy &rsquocakes are cooked and then sculpted to resemble the Sooner State. The Strawberry Dream, Blueberry Streusel and Pina Caramelo stacks also feature Hatch&rsquos specialty sweet cream batter and luscious fruit compote. Classic buttermilk, gluten-free sweet potato and chocolate chip pancakes are among some of the more mainstream options. Can&rsquot make up your mind? Go for the Pancake Flight &mdash it&rsquos any three pancakes of your choice.

    Green Eggs Cafe — Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

    Don&rsquot let the name of this Seuss-inspired restaurant confuse you. The short-rib Benedict and various egg skillets are all very tempting, yes, but the pancakes are what drives the brunch rush weekend after weekend. Traditional 'cakes come piled high with everything from strawberries and blueberries to chocolate chips and ice cream &mdash but forget all of that. If you really care about pancakes (and you must, otherwise you wouldn't be reading this), there&rsquos no choice but the red velvet stack layered with strawberry mascarpone. Supremely dense with crispy edges, these square-shaped beauties are crowned with airy Chantilly cream and fresh strawberries. One other reason to love this cafe? It's BYOB, so don't forget to bring some prosecco for a tangerine-juice mimosa.

    Page’s Okra Grill – Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina

    Leaving hungry is never a possibility at this legendary Mt. Pleasant hub for authentic Southern comfort food, which comes in consistently in the No. 1 spot on all the local best-of lists. Fueling up on a budget? Go for the $6 buttermilk stack, piled three high, and add fresh fruit, bacon or chocolate chips for an extra $1.50. If you&rsquore in the mood to splurge, upgrade to the $9 Loaded Pancakes: The same wholesome buttermilk batter is loaded up with pieces of apple-smoked bacon and sausage, griddled to golden perfection, then topped off with a generous dollop of whipped honey butter.

    Succotash – Kansas City, Missouri

    Sure, the greater Kansas City metropolitan area is not heavily associated with Swedish-American history. Compared with Minneapolis, for example, Kansas City in 1900 was home to only one-tenth as many Swedish immigrants &mdash around 2,000. Yet Swedes here, as elsewhere, left their imprint on the physical, social, economic and culinary development of the city. Exhibit A: the crowd-pleasing Swedish Pancakes served at Succotash in Crown Center, Kansas City&rsquos bustling shopping district. These buttery, crepelike pancakes are filled generously with tart lingonberries alongside two eggs and fried bacon. If you prefer your fruit to err on the side of sweet rather than sour, go for the Peachy Swedes. They&rsquore Swedish pancakes filled with lightly sweetened ricotta and topped with ginger-infused peaches.

    Milktooth — Indianapolis, Indiana

    The fact that this modest Indianapolis eatery housed in a former garage has achieved national acclaim by serving brunch and brunch only is pretty incredible. Though the restaurant industry is experiencing something of a brunch frenzy (thanks, avocado toast), there&rsquos a vocal minority who are (understandably) unwilling to venture out of their homes, weather hourlong waits for a table and fork out $20 or more just to kick-start their mornings. But Chef Jonathan Brooks&rsquo eye-catching plates have a way of taking even the most-dubious brunch skeptics and turning them into devout brelievers. The restaurant, in part, owes its enormous popularity to its Dutch baby pancakes, the menu&rsquos ever-evolving showpiece. Brooks creates the puffy, pastrylike base using his specialty pancake batter and tops it off with seasonal ingredients. The restaurant&rsquos two most-current iterations are a sweet-and-savory option &mdash the Welsh rarebit Dutch baby, featuring new potatoes, pickled sweet corn and greens &mdash and the tarte tatin Dutch baby, topped with roasted apples, lemony caramel and whipped sour cream.

    Cafe Eclectic – Memphis, Tennessee

    Since opening their first location on North McLean in the heart of the historic Vollintine-Evergreen district, owner Cathy Boulden and Chef Mary O&rsquoBrien have expanded Cafe Eclectic's reputation as so much more than a casual stopover for coffee and pastries. The opening of their "Big" Midtown location in 2008, where the breakfast menu is available all day in addition to lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch, helped to cement the cafe&rsquos reputation for quality morning fare in Memphis&rsquo burgeoning breakfast scene. Be prepared for a wait, especially on weekends, as it seems Eclectic never experiences a slow day. Once seated, begin caffeinating yourself with an Illy French press. Cafe Eclectic is known for its emphasis on locally sourced ingredients, so, when it's time to order, go for Pookie's Buckwheat Pancakes, "made with freshly ground buckwheat from the Mississippi Delta." With a mouth (and belly) feel that&rsquos lighter than the usual all-white-flour varieties, plus a subtle crunch around the edges and a crown of fresh sliced fruit, they'll win over even the most-resolute pancake haters at the table.

    King’s Breakfast and Lunch – Newtown, Connecticut

    Tucked inconspicuously off to the side of Route 25 in Newtown, King&rsquos was dominating Connecticut best-breakfast lists long before the benefits of the web and "viral" food news. But the massive, celebratory plates dished out at this cozy, wood-paneled diner continually impress the regulars, as well as any lucky travelers who happen to wander in from a scenic New England drive. When we say these plates are massive, we're not joking: A full stack of the country buttermilk pancakes includes four thick 'cakes with the option to add blueberries, strawberries, bacon, bananas or chocolate chips to the batter. The pumpkin pancakes, which you'll find only on the special weekend breakfast menu, are remarkably moist and tender but not too sweet &mdash a situation you can remedy with an ample pour of real maple syrup.

    The Breakfast Shoppe — Severna Park, Maryland

    Near the Eastern Shore, in Severna Park, this morning-centric spot specializes in hearty breakfasts, including an array of Benedicts, omelettes and plenty from the griddle. The Cinnamon Roll Pancakes combine the best of a cream cheese-glazed roll with flapjacks, and trailblazer pancakes come studded with granola. The restaurant has gained acclaim for its Fall Harvest Pancakes, which are served seasonally and weigh five pounds each.

    Penny Ann’s Cafe – Salt Lake City, Utah

    Since opening its doors in 2011, this small, family-run diner has achieved enormous popularity thanks to its no-frills, quality breakfasts. And, although restaurants have a tendency to hype their food, the deliciousness of the Heavenly Hot Cakes at Penny Ann&rsquos cannot be overstated. Light and airy, these housemade sour cream flapjacks are served simply with butter and real maple syrup, and frankly, any additional toppings would be an insult the already perfectly sweet-and-tangy formula. The locals seem to agree: For two years in a row, Penny Ann&rsquos was the winner of the Best of State Award for Best Breakfast &mdash a pattern that nearly matches the momentum of the operation&rsquos expansion. (After three years in Salt Lake City, the family decided to open a second, nearby location &mdash and then a third, in Draper, Utah, in December of 2014). The restaurant&rsquos namesake, Penny Ann, and her sister, Cindy, can often be found seating patrons, serving tables and chatting with the regulars.

    Dante’s Kitchen – New Orleans, Louisiana

    The farm-to-table ethos that&rsquos slowly moved to the forefront of the American dining scene over the last decade or two was slow to catch on in New Orleans. But that started to change after Chef Emanuel "Eman" Loubier, a New York native and an early champion of this culinary aesthetic, opened Dante&rsquos Kitchen in 2000 after a long stint at the iconic Commander&rsquos Palace. The main dining area is set in a small but high-ceilinged converted cottage that&rsquos nearly a century old. Served with Smith Creamery butter and cane syrup (a staple in the arsenal of New Orleans chefs), the roasted banana-pecan pancakes are available only during weekend brunch hours, and are just one of the many dishes that reflect Loubier&rsquos Nouvelle-Creole roots. If you&rsquore feeling particularly adventurous, try pairing the nutty brown &rsquocakes with a side of grilled alligator sausage for an authentic NOLA breakfast experience.

    Little Grill Collective – Harrisonburg, Virginia

    The Little Grill Collective has churned out cozy, homestyle fare to Harrisonburg loyals since the 1940s, albeit under many different owners and many different names. The hip breakfast joint first dipped a toe into the local DIY scene in the early 1980s, when a young employee started renting the place out on weekend nights to present rock shows, cheap beer and hellishly spicy chili. Years later, manager Ron Copeland and his employees organized a worker-owned corporation, and in 2003, they purchased the restaurant using "community financing" to secure the down payment, and now proudly trumpeting its Collective, worker-owned status. Famous for its buckwheat pancakes &mdash made with Wade's Mill buckwheat, rice flour, agave, Edgewood Farms molasses, almond milk and flax &mdash LGC demonstrates just how delicious it is to seize the means of production.

    M. Henry – Chicago, Illinois

    Chicago locals will dare you to name a pancake better than the Blackberry Bliss Cakes at M. Henry, a globally inspired cafe that&rsquos stolen the spotlight on the Windy City&rsquos breakfast scene since opening its doors in 2011. Remarkably light, these fluffy hotcakes swaddled in warm fruit and vanilla mascarpone and topped with a brown sugar-oat crust offer a thoughtful blend of flavors and textures that results in an unstoppable breakfast force. The heavy dollop of vanilla mascarpone cream between the pancakes does just enough to cut the sweetness of the dark berry sauce, and the crunchy oat topping makes for a chewing experience that will give you more to ponder than your average butter-soaked stack. To put it simply, this is a breakfast worth planning your weekend around. And besides, where else in Chicago can you queue up for bottomless mugs of organic coffee?

    Kristin’s Breakfast – Braintree, Massachusetts

    Rejoice, sugar fiends, for this is one-stop shop for morning glory. At Kristin's in Braintree, you'll find a dizzying pancake menu that includes 18 specialty options like M&M, birthday sprinkles, German chocolate, caramel pecan and cookie dough. The s'mores pancakes are the diner's true claim to fame, but unlike some of the other intentionally genius combinations, these were the result of a happy accident. After mistakenly receiving a case of graham crackers in a delivery, owner Kristin Son &mdash dubbed "The Pancake Queen" by her regulars &mdash decided to put the ingredient to good use, and a local breakfast legend was born. For a quintessentially Massachusetts order, go for the Boston Cream Pancakes, featuring a river of sweet cream and flowing chocolate.

    All Day Cafe – Sioux Falls, South Dakota

    Everyone knows that the best part of coffee cake is the sweet, melt-in-your-mouth streusel crumbs. At this all-day-breakfast destination, the timeless topping takes center stage in the form of the Blueberry Delight Pancakes, studded with plump blueberries and made complete with a schmear of lemon peel cream cheese and a drizzle of maple syrup. Then again, you may find the Caramel Banana Pancakes equally captivating, with their amalgam of sweet, citrus and molasses notes that come from a topping of sliced bananas and strawberries, citrus-rum caramel and vanilla bean whipped cream. Go on, order the pancakes for dinner. Why? Well, because you can.

    Moody’s Diner – Waldoboro, Maine

    A way station on mid-coastal Maine&rsquos U.S. Highway 1 since the 1930s, this institution (now owned by the third generation of the Moody family) has built its reputation on award-winning pies. The chocolate cream pie has been voted the most popular by customers, but the four-berry and walnut pies loom close behind in the ranking. For a quintessential Maine breakfast, there&rsquos no better option than a stack of Moody&rsquos blueberry pancakes, which will set you back just $5.09. The pancakes are a staple item for regulars and an eye-opening experience for sojourners. In August, Maine&rsquos peak blueberry season, Moody&rsquos hauls in fresh bushels from surrounding Waldoboro farms every morning. Prized for their extra-tart bite, Maine blueberries play particularly well with the tangy, housemade buttermilk batter. You can offset the pucker effect with a liberal glug of maple syrup.

    The Chef – Manhattan, Kansas

    When Charles "Cotton" Limbocker opened The Chef in 1943, Manhattanites poured into the small space to claim one of the eight seats at the diner&rsquos horseshoe-shaped counter. After a rush of early and steady success, the Limbockers decide to expand the business by buying up the space next door. In 1986, The Chef closed down &mdash but in 2008, Kevin and Kurstin Harris, along with their good friend Zach Filbert, reopened the legendary diner in an effort to fill the breakfast void downtown. In the spirit of the revival, the Riley County Historical Society even provided the original neon sign to hang outside. It&rsquos remarkable that, despite over 20 years of inactivity, The Chef has resumed the bustling business it first enjoyed during the postwar era. Diners still have a tendency to wolf down their plates, since there are always hordes waiting to take their place &mdash especially on weekends. You would be remiss not to ask for the Pancakes Bananas Foster slicked with a dark rum-banana-pecan sauce. The diner&rsquos youngest visitors tend to gravitate toward the PB&J pancakes or the rainbow-flecked stack laced with Fruity Pebbles.

    The Maple Counter Cafe – Walla Walla, Washington

    It would be an understatement to say that pancakes are The Maple Counter Cafe&rsquos specialty. With an entire corner of the menu dedicated to "Creative Pancakes," a category that includes staples such as classic buttermilk, blueberry and chocolate chip-laden flapjacks, plus a few more extraordinary renditions under "House Specialties," it&rsquos safe to say that pancakes are the cafe&rsquos earthly mission. Despite the overwhelming number of compelling options to choose from, there&rsquos a clear winner, especially for newcomers. The Apple Pancake, which the restaurant identifies as "the pride of our kitchen," is made in the style of a souffle: It&rsquos filled with fresh apples, baked in the oven until it&rsquos achieved at least 3 inches of height and shellacked with a Saigon cinnamon glaze. "This is a pancake you&rsquoll talk about forever," the proprietors promise &mdash and, believe us, they're not lying.

    Moe Joe’s – Meridian, Idaho

    Since opening its doors in 2013, Moe Joe&rsquos has cemented its status as Meridian locals&rsquo go-to for quality, casual breakfasts. Chef and owner Joe Boyd&rsquos emphasis on made-from-scratch comfort food (featuring locally sourced ingredients where possible) extends to the menu&rsquos pancake selection, which includes three tempting options: the classic buttermilk Moe Joe &rsquoCakes the Jalapeno Berry Pancakes, stuffed with cream cheese and served with housemade jalapeno-berry syrup and, the diner&rsquos piece de resistance, the Doughnut and a Cup of Joe. This tall stack of buttermilk pancakes is glazed with doughnut icing and topped with sliced, candied almonds. But truly, it&rsquos the inventive presentation that makes this dish so special: Hollowed out in the center, the stack is fitted snugly with a petite dispenser containing Moe Joe&rsquos homemade coffee syrup.

    Highland Bakery – Atlanta, Georgia

    With seven locations spread across Atlanta, it&rsquos safe to say this coffee shop-turned-comfort food-hub is in very high demand by locals. Owner Stacey Eames first envisioned Highland as a destination for quality brews, and later, wholesome baked goods packed with good-for-you ingredients like nuts, berries and whole grains. Eventually, Eames expanded her whole-foods concept to include breads, cookies, pastries and cakes. The success of her bakery model prompted the young entrepreneur to expand her horizons yet again by venturing into the realm of Southern comfort food. (Think shrimp and grits and fried chicken Benedict.) Bellying up to a plate of the silky ricotta pancakes drenched in blueberry compote is akin to having dessert for breakfast &mdash which, to be clear, we highly encourage. But the sweet potato pancakes best demonstrate Highland&rsquos mastery of Southern culinary traditions. Lightly sweet with a honeyed hue, these moist flapjacks are served with warm, caramelized brown sugar butter and toasted pecans. Thanks to the sweet potato-laced batter, you can almost convince yourself they&rsquore healthy. Almost.

    Blue Plate Cafe – Huntsville, Alabama

    There was a time in the not-too-distant past when the predominant food sources available in the South were simple grains, dried beans, chicken, pork and summer vegetables. Despite their limited means, whole communities of women learned to season and flavor their meals with the only ingredients they had available &mdash usually salt, pork and a few spices. Blue Plate Cafe, a Southern comfort food destination for Huntsville locals and tourists alike, pays homage to those industrious matriarchs whose recipes &mdash passed down for generations &mdash now grace the pages of the diner&rsquos menu. If you&rsquore visiting at the right time, you just might score a taste of their summer specialty: The Very Berry Pancakes, two fluffy buttermilk &rsquocakes loaded to the max with raspberries, blueberries and blackberries, are available only when the berries are in season. The rest of the year, you can fall back on the golden buttermilk flapjacks served with soft butter and maple syrup. If you&rsquore feeling indulgent, upgrade your plate by adding chocolate chips, sliced bananas and whipped cream.

    The Shack on Broadway – Fargo, North Dakota

    This no-frills diner slinging classic American breakfast fare follows the old adage, "If it ain&rsquot broke, don't fix it," to the fullest. You won&rsquot find artisanal pancakes topped with expensive, fussy ingredients here &mdash just classic buttermilk flapjacks, fluffy on the inside and deep golden brown on the outside, slicked with softened butter and maple syrup. And frankly, they don&rsquot require much more embellishment than that. Add fresh blueberries or chocolate chips if it tickles your fancy, but don&rsquot even dream of asking for the recipe. The Shack's top-secret batter comes from an old family recipe, and it&rsquos the reason why this stack is considered the best in town.

    Pannekoeken Huis – St. Louis Park, Minnesota

    It was President Lincoln&rsquos Homestead Act of 1862 that prompted a massive wave of Scandinavian and Dutch settlers on the East Coast to move westward in pursuit of affordable farmland. Today, there are reminders of Minnesota&rsquos early cultural influencers everywhere, and especially in the state&rsquos cuisine. At this comfy St. Louis Park diner, you&rsquoll find 15 variations on pannenkoeken, or Dutch-style pancakes. Larger and much thinner than their American or Scotch pancake counterparts, but not quite as thin as crepes, pannenkoeken are an excellent instrument for showcasing all kinds of toppings. At Pannekoeken Huis, there&rsquos something for every palate, from an Americanized creation glazed with cinnamon sugar and laced with tart Granny Smith apples to a rendition topped with kiwi, pineapple and banana that flirts with tropical influences. For an authentic Dutch breakfast experience, go for the Traditional Dutch, served simply with powdered sugar and a lemon wedge.

    Florida Avenue Grill – Washington, D.C.

    Locals know this old-school breakfast joint as a destination for the best hotcakes in town &mdash which, according to the menu, have been "flying off the grill since before you were born." Very little on the menu has changed since 1944, when Lacey Wilson and his wife Bertha first opened the humble diner with tips Lacey saved from years of working on Capitol Hill as a shoeshiner. The same cannot be said for the building itself: Following the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., the Grill was firebombed during a riot. But it bounced back, just as it did in the face of natural disasters, recessions, crime waves and gentrification. Even now, the Grill remains one of the few places where you can find "a congressman sitting down and having a meal right next to a garbageman," to borrow the words of entrepreneur and current owner Imar Hutchins. Next time you&rsquore in D.C., grab a seat at the iconic counter, order yourself a plate of hotcakes &mdash they&rsquore topped very generously with cinnamon and sugar &mdash and let 70 years of D.C.&rsquos flavor history wash over you.

    Sweet Basil’s Cafe – Livingston, New Jersey

    You can&rsquot go wrong with any of the fluffy buttermilk pancakes at this casual New Jersey bistro. In fact, your biggest challenge will choosing from eight fluffy options, including strawberry shortcake pancakes, tiramisu pancakes, and the nutty banana pancakes doused in a decadent caramel-pecan sauce. But it&rsquos the Whiskey "R&B" Pancakes &mdash with whiskey-soaked raisins with caramelized bananas in a pomegranate-caramel sauce &mdash that truly stand out from the pack. You may be wondering how the chefs manage to jam so much caramel-y goodness into one stack without pushing the &rsquocakes into overly saccharine territory, but the slight tartness of the pomegranate sauce and the maltiness of the whiskey temper the dish perfectly. "Trust us," the menu urges, adding "no substitutions." Indeed, you should trust them.

    Sugar and Spice – Mendon, Vermont

    A family-run operation, Sugar and Spice is a diner, gift shop and working sugarhouse all rolled into one. The restaurant sits on part of the old Ripley estate where, for many years, American Civil War Brigadier General Edward H. Ripley and his descendants spent their days making maple syrup, candy and cheese. Though the estate is no longer in the Ripley family, some things haven&rsquot changed: Today, the property is still a bustling site for homestyle cooking dependent upon Vermont&rsquos bounty. Maple ice cream and maple sugar candies are produced right on-site and can be purchased in the restaurant&rsquos gift shop. As for the pancakes? You've got a few options, but the Pumpkin Pancakes are the customers&rsquo clear favorite. Each batch is served with real maple syrup &mdash the artificial stuff will cost you extra. Stop by for a visit in the springtime and you'll be able to watch the sugar makers turn tree sap into maple syrup. It doesn't get much more "Vermont" than that.

    Grove Cafe – Ames, Iowa

    "One pancake at the Grove Cafe and a little pig meat on the side is a meal," boasts the menu at this cozy Ames breakfast joint. And it&rsquos true &mdash in fact, it&rsquos arguably more than a meal. The Grove Cafe&rsquos Famous Pancake, which costs just $4, is sweet like cake and roughly the size of a pizza. There&rsquos little you can do to prepare yourself for a pancake of these proportions, other than to eat a light dinner the night before your visit. We wish we could tell you more about what makes this golden, oversize flapjack so darn addictive &mdash you&rsquoll swear you won&rsquot be able to polish it off on your own but will inevitably find yourself staring down at an empty plate &mdash but alas, the recipe is top-secret. And though the sign over the diner&rsquos entrance warns, "Just like home you don't always get what you want," there&rsquos no evidence to suggest that a single customer has ever left Grove Cafe feeling hungry or unsatisfied.

    Syrup – Denver, Colorado

    Owner Tim Doherty&rsquos award-winning corned beef hash, handcrafted syrups and signature green chile stew have earned Syrup a loyal following in a very short time, ensuring the restaurant a coveted place in Denver&rsquos burgeoning breakfast scene. For proof of Syrup&rsquos excellence, look no further than the Baked Apple Pie Pancake: juicy apples cooked into one large, fluffy, cinnamon-and-sugar-spiced &rsquocake that&rsquos generously topped with whipped cream and caramel sauce. Those who prefer pancakes with some oomph will absolutely flip for the Up & At &rsquoEm. These buckwheat pancakes are laced with crunchy granola and plump blueberries, then stacked three high and drenched in real maple syrup. If you can&rsquot decide whether you want to satisfy your sweet or salty craving, go for the Sweet & Savory stack: It&rsquos three buttermilk pancakes with pieces of maple-peppered bacon, sausage and walnuts strewn throughout. The crown jewel is a generous mound of nutty pecan butter.

    Le Bouillon – Omaha, Nebraska

    As you might guess from its name, this Omaha mainstay takes its cues from France, but the Sunday brunch menu includes a nod to the city&rsquos rich German cultural heritage, in the form of the German pancakes, or Kaiserschmarrn. For the uninitiated, this fantastic comfort food is essentially a thick, shredded, caramelized crepe traditionally laced with rum-soaked raisins. Historians indicate that the Austrian emperor Franz Joseph I was quite fond of the dish, which takes its name from the German kaiser, or emperor, and the Austrian-German schmarr, meaning mess or nonsense. Fittingly, Le Bouillon gives its Kaiserschmarrn the royal treatment with the addition of fresh, seasonal berries, berry butter, whipped cream and maple syrup.


    Chipotle/Facebook

    Chipotle suffered a PR nightmare in 2015 after hundreds of customers were affected by an E. coli outbreak spread through its ingredients. But that seems to be a distant memory, with sales climbing back up and customer favorites like the Chipotle Chicken Bowl going strong as ever.


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