Forget the calendar: summer is upon us, no matter what it says. Memorial Day’s over and schoolkids are free.
The season brings along 10 must-eat summer foods. Here’s the list – and where to eat them.
1. Lobster rolls. It’s summer and the lobsters are rolling in. Gotta eat them in Maine – they’re called Maine lobster for a reason. Also rans: Anywhere along the water (water must be visible) in the Northeast. Picnic table and paper tray are nearly required. Mayonnaise and celery mixed in is preferable, but melted butter, especially in Connecticut, ranks a high second. The Clam Shack in Kennebunk is the favorite tourist spot, but we think the technique for a split bun that’s grilled to crispiness at The Ramp Bar & Grill at Cape Porpoise Harbor, a suburb of Kennebunkport, Maine, should be taught in Maine schools. In the photo at left: Lobster roll from Atlantic Fish Co., in Boston, Mass. Photo courtesy Taylor Morgan.
2. Clams, preferably steamed at a clambake, and preferably at a beach. (OK, you can throw some lobsters on that fire, too, as long as you’re cooking.) Because restrictions prevent the average beachgoer to build fires, special permits are needed and caterers are the best bet for this. Contact McGrath Clambakes in Rhode Island – the home of clambakes, to set one up on a beach in the Northeast. Otherwise, wait till September, and get in on the Lions’ Club Clambake in Block Island, R.I. If you can’t get them steamed, try them fried. Go to the Clam Box in Ipswich, Mass., for those.
3. Italian ice. Philly is it for the fruit-flavored ices that cool you down and give you a brain freeze. You can try Pop‘s – an 80-year-old favorite, or Aldo’s – where a pastry chef is selling “gourmet” flavors. Also ran: John’s.
4. Frozen custard. We’re headed to Wisconsin for this creamy treat (Michigan will argue). People line up when it’s 10 degrees outside for this stuff – so you can imagine what they think of frozen custard in summer. Kopp’s Frozen Custard is tops with the Badger State folks. In Michigan, it’s Erma’s in Shelby Township.
5. Grilled bratwursts. My friend Tom Sears has written a piece about brats that bring out the passion in every Wisconsonite. He’s from Milwaukee – and that’s where you should eat them. Eat them at a Brewers game, the other summertime passion. Besides, it’s hilarious to watch the Racing Sausages in the middle of the sixth.
6. A Nathan’s hot dog – Staying with sausages – a Nathan’s hot dog is de rigeur on Coney Island. Simply called a Coney Island dog by old timers – it’s more about the scene, though Nathan’s has been forking out the tube steaks at the beach since 1916. And no self-respecting Yank would put ketchup on one; sauerkraut and mustard allowed. Calendar item: Joey Chestnut defends his title of top dog-eater on July 4 at the contest Nathan’s Famous in Coney Island at noon. Also ran: A Chicago dog with the neon green relish, at Wrigley Field.
7. A Margarita. Did you know the drink that Jimmy Buffett sang about more than 30 years ago is now a brand as big and well known around the world as the Star Wars franchise? Key West is the site for his original Margaritaville store/bar/Parrothead shrine where thousands of gallons of the drink are served each week. We personally prefer the on-the-rocks version of the cocktail (or any other cocktail) at Louie’s Backyard Afterdeck on the Atlantic Ocean near the Southernmost Point in Key West – Buffett used to sing on their upper porch, so you still get the star factor.
8. Ollalieberry pie. In the thick of summer, the berries come in on the West Coast of the U.S. like rain. You can find pies made from them in all the local cafes. Duarte’s in Pescadero, Calif., around in some fashion since 1894, sells pies based on the current owner’s grandmother’s recipe – including the cross between a bunch of berries – called ollalieberry. Sensational and not to be missed.
9. Fresh peach pie (or cobbler). Peach pie means summer to a Southerner. Georgia claims to have the best – and we’re not putting our dog in that fight. We give a nod to South Carolina and Alabama for great peaches, as well. Places we recommend: The Pie Hole in Roswell, Ga.; the Heavenly Bake Shop near Hiawassee, Ga. For peach cobbler, it’s Mary Mac’s Tearoom, Atlanta, or the Dillard House in Dillard, Ga. At either of the latter, find fried chicken – the other iconic summer picnic food – done to perfection.