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New England's six states share many a tradition, and alongside sailing and farming, traditional cooking is one of the most memorable. Native American crops like corn blend with British recipes to create unique New England food that we think tastes better here than anywhere else. While farm-to-table dining is taking restaurants elsewhere by storm, we in New England just call that dining. The same goes for coastal areas, where lobster, clams, and a full range of seafood come in fresh daily. With so much common ancestry, it's tough to pick out which New England food truly belongs to each state, but here's our best shot — the absolute essential dish (or dessert) from each one.
Vermonters are fiercely loyal to their local ice cream. Practically every town has a creemee stand, the Green Mountain State’s preferred jargon for soft-serve. Flavor varieties abound, but if you can only try one, make it the maple creemee — the state combines its legendary syrup with its dairy prowess to make an unforgettable cold, sweet treat.
For the ultimate Vermont ice cream experience, head to Waterbury for a Ben & Jerry’s factory tour. Not only will you discover the source of legendary flavors like Cherry Garcia, but the feel-good factor is high too: Ben & Jerry’s stays focused on sustainability and community involvement.
Spoiler alert: maple syrup and ice cream aren’t Vermont’s only significant contributions to the culinary scene. It’s also been a pioneer in the farm-to-table movement, with co-ops and farmers’ markets at every turn. If you’re planning a visit to Vermont, be sure to take advantage of the state’s agricultural bounty.
Boston didn’t earn its Beantown nickname by accident. The Pilgrims and Puritans might not be baking beans on Saturdays for their Sabbath Day meal anymore, but Durgin-Park is. Voted “Best Baked Beans in Boston,” this classic eatery has been slow-cooking beans in traditional stone crocks for over a century. Try this recipe for Boston baked beans at home.
For dessert, dig into the most famous of Massachusetts desserts, Boston cream pie. Created in October of 1856 for the opening of Parker's Restaurant and fashioned into a Betty Crocker boxed mix in 1958, this dessert has captured the hearts of New Englanders.
When it comes to the unique foods of Rhode Island, it is without a doubt that coffee milk tops the list. If you’re not from New England, you may be a bit confused. We’re not talking about coffee with milk, not even a latte. We’re talking about sugary coffee syrup poured into creamy milk, creating a decadent morning treat. While coffee milk can be found in most Rhode Island grocery stores, a couple of places have mastered the art. While visiting Rhode Island, look out for a Olneyville New York System restaurant. They serve two things, hot dogs and coffee milk, and customers swear by the combination and keep on coming back.
Another classic Rhode Island drink is Del’s Frozen Lemonade. Founded in 1948 in Cranston, RI, this roadside stand became a local summertime favorite. It’s the perfect treat after a day at the beach: icy, refreshing, and served in a variety of flavors.
One of the most quintessential New England foods, our Maine dish of choice is, you guessed it, lobster. For over 400 years, lobster fishing had been one of the most prominent industries of this New England state. Now a culinary delicacy, these crustaceans were once dirt cheap due to their abundance along the Maine coast.You could easily travel to Maine just for the lobster (and some of us do).
While you can find seafood shack almost every mile, we know that not all lobsters rolls are created equal. One favorite of locals and visitors alike is Five Islands Lobster Shack, in Georgetown, ME. Adjacent Sheepscot Bay is surrounded by some of the coldest and deepest waters around, and that means top-quality lobster.
You might expect New Hampshire, with its similar size and geography, to be a culinary carbon copy of Vermont — an idea we’ll entertain for now. If we’re giving Vermont maple syrup and roadside ice cream (both of which are plentiful in New Hampshire, too), then we’re going to have to give pumpkins to New Hampshire. This universally loved New England food goes well with everything in the fall. No matter where your kitchen’s located, try your hand at these 12 favorite pumpkin recipes from Yankee Magazine.
While it’s true that many of the same recipes could lay claim to both Vermont and New Hampshire, remember that the southeast corner of New Hampshire touches the ocean, so you can find great fresh seafood on the NH Seacoast.
With its location on the water right between New York and Boston, Connecticut offers a convenient blend of the northeast’s best cooking traditions. Depending on where you go, you’ll find everything from New England seafood to New-York-style pizza. One unique Connecticut spin on the classic New York crust is to skip mozzarella cheese in favor of thinly sprinkled Romano over a red sauce. Its New Haven inventor was also reportedly the first to top a pizza with little neck clams.
Whether you're visiting the region for the first time or New England food has been part of your family for generations, we hope you have the chance to try a taste of each state. Let us know your own favorite local dish here in the comments or on Facebook or Twitter.