Filed under: Food Week 2010
A Culinary Tour of the East Coast
I had a ton of ideas on what to post during “Food Week,” but a story helped me decide. Some friends of ours asked what we liked best about each part of the country as we traveled, and our answer was all about the foods we discovered. They said this was odd because most people talk about the climate. My response was, “since we follow the weather, the climate is similar everywhere we go, so it is the food that stands out.” So, I decided to talk about the foods we discovered as we roamed up and down the East coast our first year as full-timers. These are the foods everyone who visits the area should try.
Our trip started in Charleston, South Carolina where we discovered Gullah cuisine (my wife and I still eat collard greens when we can get them—this is the food the slaves created based on their styles of cooking and what they found locally). Our absolute favorites from this area were She-Crab Soup and Shrimp ‘n grits. Naturally, the she-crab soup is best when served with some sherry to pour on top. The other event we enjoyed in Charleston was the Oyster Fest where we enjoyed steamed oysters (easier to shuck than raw). As we moved to Myrtle Beach, we discovered “calabash” buffets; while I am not sure what that term means, the seafood-focused buffets were incredible.
We then moved into North Carolina and discovered that you can put coleslaw on almost anything—BBQ sandwiches, hamburgers, and even hot dogs. We also learned that rhubarb is good for more than just pie. From there, we discovered Virginia where my wife says she ate the best liver and onions she ever tasted and I had an incredible cherry and white chocolate bread pudding.
Then we arrived in Amish country around Lancaster, Pennsylvania where we ate family style and discovered things like shoo-fly pie (think pecan pie with no nuts and you are close) and spackle (an interesting breakfast food—meat?—served with syrup). We learned that the Amish enjoy sweet-tasting food, and attended an incredible Sunday lunch with a family after attending an Mennonite and Amish church service.
We then roamed to the Albany area of New York where we found the most incredible Italian food and pizza. And, for some reason, the meats there (sausages, salami, etc.) tasted better than other places we have been. In Massachusetts, our big discovery was Kimball Farm ice cream and, according to my wife, the best hash browns ever at a little diner in Littleton. Another food from this area was Johnny cakes cooked on an open fire with apples or peaches.
Then we made it to Maine—and (you guessed it), lobster. My favorite (from when I lived in Connecticut years ago) is a hot lobster roll (which is a simple recipe—take lobster meat, sauté it in butter, and serve it on a toasted roll). While the hot lobster roll was difficult to find in Maine, the cold lobster rolls were incredible and we ate our share of whole lobsters. We found a place about 5 minutes from our campground where we could call in our order early in the day, then pick it up around 5—already cooked for us and packed in a bag—and bring it back to the site for a lobster picnic.
Our other discovery in Maine was a pork pie. That is right, pork pie. Apparently there is a large French-Canadian heritage in parts of Maine and this reminded us of English meat pies (my wife’s family is from Ireland).
On our way back down we stayed in Gettysburg during apple harvest and found some incredible apples (including Honey Crisp, the best ever in my humble opinion). Then when we made it to Florida we learned that there are way more types of shrimp than you could imagine and each type tastes best served different ways from boiled to grilled to steamed to baked. And, conch isn’t too bad, either (something everyone should try).
While there were many, many specific places that served excellent food as we traveled up and down the coast, these were the highlights of foods that stuck with us; and I’m sure I’ve forgotten something.