All photos/art by Rayne Beaudoin
Video: See Yankee food editor Annie B. Copps discuss some of these best food places on NECN’s “TV Diner”.
Since New England is the birthplace of this young nation of ours, it makes sense that it’s also the origin of some of our favorite foods, from turkey dinners to blueberry pancakes.
Some of the dishes that are most strongly associated with the region — Grape-Nut pudding, clam cakes, and whoopie pies, for example — are actually hard to find elsewhere. Still others, such as quahog chowder and stuffed lobsters, are linked to their New England-harvested ingredients.
Coastal communities are of course the best places to seek out seafood meals, while inland regions, including the Berkshire Hills, the Green Mountains, and the White Mountains, offer dependably good apple and pumpkin desserts, fresh-pressed ciders, and homestead cheeses. And even though you’d expect to find the best wild blueberry and red raspberry pies in berry-carpeted Maine, you might prefer the batter that enfolds those fruits, as in muffins and pancakes, in a non-Maine locale.
It’s a given that New Englanders — lured by memories of family gatherings or by the whole seasonal gestalt (an outside deck in summertime, a crackling fireplace in winter) more than the quality of the food itself — are loath to budge from their local preferences. Although we did track down many of the suggestions made by Yankee readers during our search for traditional favorites, we relied less on sentiment and more on the palate-pleasing sensation of true homemade dishes and the bright taste of fresh ingredients. In keeping with the latter, we looked for Maine shrimp in early spring, steamed fiddlehead ferns in early summer, blueberry pie in late summer, apple and pumpkin pies in late fall, and lobsters and clams pretty much all year long.
We sought out down-home diners, family-owned restaurants, long-established orchards, colorful farm stands, summer food festivals, county fairs, farmer’s markets, small-town bakeries, old-fashioned country stores, and historic New England inns, clam shacks, and lobster pounds. We ate in “old faithful” institutions and in newer, but just as faithfully frequented, eateries. In Rhode Island, we ate jonnycakes and baked beans at diner brunches and fruit pies at May breakfasts, and we dosed our French fries with vinegar.
Certainly a list of 25 foods at 25 places doesn’t do justice to the scores of fabulous eateries all over New England that still serve old-timey foods. What follows is intended to jump-start your own expeditions — to give New England’s newcomers an idea of what to look for and to prod longtime residents into appreciating the great dishes right under their noses.
Now tell us where YOU go for the best of these New England treats by leaving us a comment!
BONUS: Most of our “bests” won’t share their recipes, but there are some who did — nos. 7, 10, 17, and 25.