When choosing our family holiday this year, i asked my oldest teen where he wanted to go post GCSE exams. I wasn’t that surprised when he chose New York and presumed it was because of the culture/music scene. But no… it was primarily because he followed a bunch of instagrammers who mainly posted about the NYC food scene! So i used this as the basis of our holiday and we planned an East Coast USA road trip taking in NYC, Philly, Boston and Cape Cod.
NY started with a gospel brunch at Red Rooster in Harlem. The first time I ventured up to Harlem was probably 15 years ago when it was not as hipster as is it now, but was the place to go for soul food and all things southern. Red Rooster didn’t disappoint – fried chicken, waffles, shrimp & grits, collard greens, mac n cheese… all the favourites with a great helping of live music. Busy, buzzy and vibrant – just the thing to start off our trip. NY also means bagels and I have no shame in admitting my obsession for NY bagels – that dense chewy texture filled with lox and cream cheese is just heaven on a plate. It also means Dean & Deluca which normally is a pilgrimage for me, even if only to salivate at those cakes and pick up an iced coffee. No trip to NYC is complete without a visit to the original Shake Shack in Madison Square Park – but instead of queuing with the masses during the day, we had dinner round the corner at Blue Smoke (fabulous barbecue) and then went to the Shake Shack for dessert. Lunch at Eataly, Dim Sum in Chinatown, a gelato in Little Italy, Pizza at Bocce Union Square and an evening in the foodie mecca that is Chelsea Market completed our whirlwind few days in NYC – as well as doing the normal tourist sights.
On to stay with friends just outside of Philadelphia via Princeton NJ where we had lunch at D’angelo Italian market – amazing subs/sandwiches stuffed with hot pastrami, just around the corner from the infamous Princeton Record Exchange. The food scene is Philadelphia is as eclectic as NY with the vibrant Italian market, chinatown and the Vietnamese community and the incredible Reading terminal Market. Our foodie journey took in another barbecue restaurant, dim sum in Chinatown, breakfast at a diner (crab cakes benedict, real corned beef hash and a stack of pancakes) and a Philly cheesesteak with Crab Fries (no crab, just fries tossed in Old Bay seasoning) at the Trenton Thunders baseball game. I was also introduced to Maryland crabs simply boiled with Old Bay seasoning – a bushel of crabs for 10 of us… thats about 40 crabs!
And then a long drive to Boston which I consider almost like home as I spent 3 months around there whilst studying at UMASS in Amherst. Once again we were lucky to be staying in a friends home so raided Wholefoods, Wegmans and my favourite store, Trader Joes for all our American foodie favourites. Why can’t we have a Trader Joe’s in the UK?? My favourite foodie finds from there were fresh Zhoug and the ‘Everything but the bagel seasoning’ as well as Peanut butter filled pretzels which are just divine! Lunch in the North End at Antico Forno, cannolis from from Mike’s Pastry and crab cakes at Legal Seafoods kept us going in the heat of the day.
Our final destination was Wellfleet in Cape Cod – one of my favourite places in the world. Miles of sandy beaches and a traditional New England seaside town feel. Macs Shack is the place to go for Wellfleet oysters, clams, lobsters and fresh sushi. Or do as we did and buy your own lobster and quahogs from Hatches to cook at home. There really is nothing better than simply steamed lobster, melted butter and fresh sweetcorn sitting outside on the deck with a chilled bottle of pale rose. The little bit of leftover lobster became a salad the next day mixed with the leftover sweetcorn, chopped mango, red pepper, onion and a healthy squeeze of lime juice and a teaspoon of Zhoug – the perfect accompaniment to fish taco’s made with striped bass caught locally in Provincetown.
Packing to come home is always a challenge… I am a shopper, my kids are shoppers…. and just how much of a foodie haul can i bring back! Top of my list is bagels – bought fresh en route to JFK from the bagel bakery in Old Greenwich. Other must haves…. fresh corn tortillas (why are they so difficult to get in the UK?), various rubs from Williams Sonoma and Dean & Deluca, Old Bay Seasoning, Crystal hot sauce, deli mustard, peanut butter filled M&Ms, Reeses and of course…the ‘everything but the bagel’ seasoning! The bagels and tortilla went straight into the freezer, but the rest of my haul is currently sitting on my dining table waiting to be put away and savoured at a later date when I am hankering for a little taste of America.