The Sweet Shoppe, Ridgefield, Connecticut

One of Chez Lénard’s trio of gourmet hot dog carts operates in Ridgefield, Connecticut. The cleverly named dogs are popular hereabouts, and endorsed by both the late, great Gourmet magazine and local foodie star Martha Stewart. I like places with history, and Chez Lénard comes with an interesting backstory.

Last weekend, I sat on a bench beside a Lénard cart with friends. We had a hot dog fix, then headed down the block to Deborah Ann’s Sweet Shoppe for ice cream. It was an all-American Saturday.

The top seller at Chez Lénard is Le hot dog Choucroute Alsacienne, an aluminum-foil-wrapped delight of kosher beef frankfurter from Hebrew National, topped with sauerkraut, caraway seed and Dijon mustard. My pick, though, was Le hot dog Excelsior Veneziano Logano Suisse, a dog dressed with Italian peppers, olives and a dousing of fondue laced with Kirsch, all on a potato roll. Both were messy, rollicking affairs.

At the Sweet Shoppe, my choice of Snickers ice cream was all-American, too. Owners Mike and Deborah Grissmer are accomplished chocolatiers who recently got into the ice cream business. Next time I’m in Connecticut, a return visit to sample their claim to fame is definitely in order!

To round out the experience, we stopped in at Tazza Café’s Ridgefield outlet for an espresso, the perfect finish to our all-American progressive picnic. OK, at Tazza, we took our coffee in a go-cup, but it was so good, I could imagine a tiny cup and saucer, a twist of lemon peel alongside.

It was a full-on dose of Americana, just the way I like it…with a bit of Europe thrown in.

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