The regional cuisine of New England is as varied as the landscape, influenced by the rocky coasts, weathered mountains, and wild forests. States in the Northeast host miles of apple orchards, self-pick berry farms, and fleets of fishing boats. They’re home to innovators of sweets and ice creams, and rich and hearty pastries.
Whether you’ve never been to New England, plan on traveling to the region sometime in the future, or have been a life-time visitor, try these seven beloved, and Northeast-approved, food items to get to know New England from the inside out.
New England Clam Chowder
As a staple of New England life, clam chowder is as typical as trips to the beach, followed by cups or bowls of the soup. New England clam chowder is commonly made with clams, potatoes, celery, onion, and salt pork mixed with a thick, hearty broth. Native to the area since the early 1700s, clam chowder became popularized throughout Boston in the 1830s when it was served at the famous Union Oyster House. Comforting and addictive, this seafood stew is perfect on any day and for any occasion.
In the early days of America lobsters were so common they piled on beaches, making the “cockroaches of the sea” a poor man’s meal (or even fertilizer). By the second world war things had drastically changed, and the shellfish were undeniably a delicacy. New England is now synonymous with lobster rolls. This coastal luxury is served on a grilled bun and is available at practically every seafood restaurant in the area. Lobster rolls arrive warm, dripping with butter, lemon juice, and salt and pepper. You can even top it with mayonnaise and chopped celery.
In Boston (or Beantown), baked bean recipes are sweetened with molasses rather than the brown sugar sweetener used in traditional English baked beans. The difference is a rich, honeyed flavor that has existed in the area for centuries. It was originally prepared throughout New England and was a staple in the Pilgrim diet from the 1620s on. Baked beans are available as a side dish, sometimes served beside brown bread (another New England specialty) in restaurants around coastal Massachusetts and beyond.
In the 1920s, two Massachusetts residents created a remarkable new marshmallow creme spread that’s now a common jar in most grocery stores: Fluff. While the taste is familiar for anyone who’s ever roasted marshmallows over a campfire and snuck a few of the pure white cylinders, the consistency is quite a different story. This is a spreadable confection that can be eaten on its own, but for a true New England experience a Fluffernutter sandwich (allergy permitting) consists of a layer of Fluff on one slice of bread and a thick spread of peanut butter on the other.
Try it: Buy Fluff by the jar at Amazon
Saying the words “whoopie pie” outside of New England draws some intriguing glances. This cake-like dessert is best described as a type of sweet sandwich, two mound-shaped pieces of cake on the outside and a hearty layer of cream between the two. Whoopie pies are available in a variety of flavors, the most traditional is a chocolate cake whoopie pie with a white cream filling. Seasonal flavors are offered during the year, such as pumpkin whoopie pies in the fall and peppermint cream whoopie pies during the holidays.
Unless you’re in or around Rhode Island, asking for a glass of coffee milk may get you a mug of regular coffee with a little extra milk. But as the official state beverage of Rhode Island, coffee milk is a common accompaniment to breakfasts and brunches. Bottles of sweetened coffee syrup are mixed with milk (not unlike making hot chocolate), and served beside heaping platters of eggs, bacon, and toast. Take it a step further and get a coffee cabinet, a vanilla ice cream, coffee syrup frappe.
Hoodsie cups were created by the Hood milk company in Massachusetts in 1947. These adored desserts are made with vanilla ice cream on one side and chocolate ice cream on the other, and are served in small wax paper cups with even smaller wooden spoons. For many New Englanders, childhood memories consist of Hoodsie cups alongside slices of cake at birthday parties, and even a few late-night snacks when no one else is around.
New Englanders cram into Fenway Park, pulling their Red Sox caps down against the sun to watch the game. Since the park’s 1912 opening, Fenway Franks have been a staple of this regional and cultural gathering space. Other stadium hot dogs are grilled or steamed, but not the Fenway Frank. First boiled, and then grilled, the meat of these nostalgic ballpark treats is spiced with garlic, onion, and mustard, and cooled specially to make them the juiciest possible. Visitors top them with their preferred garnishes and bite between cheering for their team, or buy a pack for their own home-game cookout.