Sunday, February 19, 2017

comfort food by state

Today's Parade magazine has a list of favorite comfort foods, by state. It looks like a good list to go through and check off: whether I've eaten it, whether I've eaten it in the state it's associated with, whether I'd want to eat it. Your reactions are welcome.

Alabama: Barbecue Chicken With White Sauce. White sauce, made with mayo? On barbecue? Ewww, I'm glad I'd never heard of this before.

Alaska: Smoked Salmon Chowder. Sure, I've had this.

Arizona: Chimichangas. Them too, but they're not a particular favorite.

Arkansas: Biscuits and Chocolate Gravy. Gravy, yes; chocolate gravy, no.

California: Ramen. I should warn you that the ramen you'll be served at a restaurant in California is not the cheap bowl of noodles eaten by impecunious students. It's a big bowl of extremely serious Japanese soup, with weird Japanese things in it. I've had this, but it's not something I'd go looking for. The article also mentions Vietnamese pho, though, and that I have extremely frequently.

Colorado: Chile Verde. Sure. If I'm at a Mexican restaurant that has neither tamales nor mole, I'm likely to order this.

Connecticut: Steamed Cheeseburgers. What? No. I've had a plain hamburger from the tiny place in New Haven that claims to have invented them, but to me the great Connecticut food is their thin-crust pizza.

Delaware: Scrapple. I associate this with Philadelphia, and I guess listing it here is proof that Delaware is really not much more than a suburb of Philadelphia. Strangely, the only time I've had scrapple in the Philly area was in the Jersey suburbs. I've not seen it on restaurants elsewhere: I've bought it from the market, but it's not the same.

Florida: Cuban Sandwich. I've had one of these, though in San Jose, not Florida, and my reaction was, "That was interesting. Not likely to have it again, though."

Georgia: Peach Cobbler. I limit my fruit desserts to ones with apple.

Hawaii: Saimin. I had all kinds of unique-to-Hawaii foods in Hawaii, including poi, which is never to be forgotten (and never to be eaten again), but I never even heard of this.

Idaho: Finger Steaks. Interesting idea; never heard of it before. But I haven't been in Idaho in 35 years.

Illinois: Deep-Dish Pizza. Yes, I usually wind up having some of this when I'm in Chicago, because the natives always take me there. I won't tell them this, but it's not really my idea of pizza, so I've almost never had it anywhere else.

Indiana: Breaded Pork Tenderloin Sandwich. Nothing I recall ever having seen on the menu in Indiana, and I've had more great food in Indiana than any other Northern state.

Iowa: Maid-Rite Sandwich. Don't recall ever seeing this either.

Kansas: Chicken-Fried Steak and Mashed Potatoes. I've had chicken-fried steak, I've even had it in Kansas, though I associate it more with Texas. Leave out the mashed potatoes, though: I won't eat those.

Kentucky: Hot Brown. Never heard of, and doesn't appeal to me.

Louisiana: Gumbo. Of all the classic Louisiana dishes, this is the one I found most disappointing in New Orleans restaurants, rather bitter. Way out in Cajun country they told me, in a shocked tone of voice, that Orleans cooks burn the roux, which would explain it. I liked the Cajun gumbo better. But I'd rather have jambalaya, rice dressing, sauteed catfish, fried shrimp, fried chicken ...

Maine: Lobster Roll. I've had this, but I prefer my lobster in bisque, which I've had in Maine.

Maryland: Crab Cakes. Trader Joe's used to sell a really good frozen version of this. The best I've had in a restaurant outside of Maryland was in San Diego; but I did once have them in an ultra-Maryland place right on the shore of Chesapeake Bay, in a sampler plate along with soft-shell crab (which I did not like), and amazingly delicious corn on the cob.

Massachusetts: Clam Chowder. Yep. I was all over central Boston trying clam chowders. I would not rate the fabled Legal Sea Foods anywhere near the best.

Michigan: Pasties. These usually have potato, so I've avoided them. And I've never been to the U.P., which is the part of Michigan these are popular in.

Minnesota: Hotdish. I had something sort of like this at a restaurant in St. Paul once, but not the complete mishmosh.

Mississippi: Tamales. I've heard of the distinctive Mississippi tamales, but I didn't have any when I were there. I eat Sonoran tamales, which are the default kind in California.

Missouri: Toasted Ravioli. I had this in St. Louis, and liked it so much I made it at home.

Montana: Huckleberry Pie. See previous comment on peach cobbler.

Nebraska: Runzas. Now this actually sounds good, but I don't recall coming across it even in rural Nebraska.

Nevada: Thai Food. Kind of a wimpy response. What dish, exactly? We have Thai restaurants all over the place here, too, for the same reason, and I eat at them frequently. I make a few Thai dishes at home, too: pad thai (when I can find the sauce, which stores are strangely reluctant to carry), broccoli with peanut sauce, and occasional red curry.

New Hampshire: Apple Cider Doughnuts. I'd have eaten this, back when I was still having rich desserts, but I don't recall ever being offered any.

New Jersey: Trenton Tomato Pie. Never had this.

New Mexico: Breakfast Burritos. I've seen them on the menu, but won't order them. The idea makes me a little ill.

New York: Buffalo Wings. I'm even more authentic than with Chicago pizza here, and I like these a whole lot more. I've had these, I've had them in Buffalo (as well as many other places), I've had them in the joint that claims to have invented them, which is where I learned that the other half of the wing, the halves that aren't called "drumettes", are called "flats".

North Carolina: Pulled-Pork Barbecue. I've had what claimed to be North Carolina barbecue, but not in North Carolina (another state I haven't visited for 35 years), and I wasn't much impressed. I trust the real thing is better.

North Dakota: Knoephla. Never heard of it; it has potato, so I don't want it.

Ohio: Cincinnati Chili. I've frequently had it in Cincinnati, and unlike some of the other local dishes I've actually had in their home towns, it's completely unknown anywhere else. Don't tell the locals, but it's completely unlike anything else called "chili". It's actually a cinnamon-flavored spaghetti sauce.

Oklahoma: Onion Burgers. Not something I recall seeing in Oklahoma.

Oregon: Mac and Cheese. I know Tillamook cheese, all right (good quality, but milder than my preference), but I don't associate this standard dish with Oregon.

Pennsylvania: Philly Cheesesteak. I've made a point, on some visits to Philadelphia, of heading down to South Philly to have one of these in its canonical home. Like the Mission Burrito in San Francisco, it's better there than anywhere else. I have it with provolone, not Cheez Whiz.

Rhode Island: Doughboys. Another tasty-sounding dessert I've never heard of.

South Carolina: Shrimp and Grits. Ah, the best edition of this I've ever had was in Savannah, right across the Georgia border.

Tennessee: Hot Chicken. I've never seen this in Tennessee, but I did try the truly vile mockup of it that KFC has been promoting. I promise not to judge the real thing by that.

Texas: Smoked Brisket. I've had brisket barbecue in Texas, but I don't know if it qualified as smoked or not.

Utah: Funeral Potatoes. Won't eat any such thing.

Vermont: Blueberry Pancakes With Maple Syrup. I've had pancakes with maple syrup in Vermont (where it's real maple syrup, and they don't charge extra for it as they do in New Hampshire, at least in the places I've been), but I don't care for blueberries.

Virginia: Brunswick Stew. Vaguely heard of this, but I didn't know exactly what it is, and I've never had any. Possibly lima beans would be tolerable in small quantity in a thick enough stew.

Washington: Cedar-Plank Grilled Salmon. Yep, had that.

West Virginia: Pepperoni Roll. Never heard of this, but I like pepperoni.

Wisconsin: Deep-Fried Cheese Curds. Heard of this, even seen it offered, but never had the nerve to try it.

Wyoming: Bison Meatloaf. I've had bison burgers (usually much drier than beef; otherwise I can't tell the difference), but not meatloaf.


  1. I grew up in Alabama; I suspect by white sauce they mean a white gravy made with the pan drippings, flour, and milk. We did indeed have that with fried chicken meals, but it was put on the side mashed potatoes, not on the chicken.

    Hawaiian saimin, not salmin, surely. It's a noodle soup, distinguished from ramen by having slightly thicker noodles, I think.

  2. Spelling corrected.

    No, the article says, "Forget traditional tomato-based barbecue sauce; this pale version is made of mayo, vinegar, cayenne and horseradish." So it's totally different from the white gravy you're thinking of.

    1. And for some reason thought "fried chicken" instead of bbq. Never heard or saw such a thing when I was there, but a little Googling shows it's a Northern Alabama thing, from Decatur. Buffalo wings come with ranch or bleu cheese dressing, which combined with the hot sauce on the wings is almost there.

  3. South Dakota is not listed. What's their comfort food?

    1. Oops, I must have skipped over that by mistake. It's "chislic", fried cubes of meat. Sort of like Idaho's finger steaks, also in that I've never heard of it but would eat it.