How to Eat Your Way Across America!
Ready for the ultimate American food odyssey? From east to west, you'll find unique—and irresistible!—regional treats you have to taste to believe. Oh, and if you're not up for an actual culinary trek across the country, we've got the 411 on how to get each and every one of these divine delicacies delivered directly to your door!
Get it: The treats are found at shops all over the state, but Labadie's Bakery claims to have baked the original back in 1925 (whoopiepies.com; $26.95 per dozen). Oprah approves of Wicked Whoopies (wickedwhoopies.com; $26 per dozen).
Tennessee: Goo Goo Cluster
Said to be the first-ever combination candy bar, this choco-covered sugar bomb of caramel, marshmallow, and peanuts was once promoted as a “nourishing lunch for a nickel.” That was way back in 1912, and for its centennial Goo Goo Clusters got a makeover. Out with milk chocolate shortcuts (i.e. no more additives and partially hydrogenated oils), in with fluffier nougat, slicker packaging, and real pecan chunks in a Supreme version. Many in Nashville think its name is in deference to the Grand Ole Opry (GOO), but company lore nods towards babes: a candy so good they'll “ask for it from birth!”
Get it: The candies are deliciously ubiquitous and can be picked up at Cracker Barrels and Kroger markets throughout Tennessee as well as most tourist shops in Nashville. googoo.com; $3.95 for a three-pack.
Pralines (praw-LEENS) are to the south what maple candy is to the north, a sweet to celebrate the local plenty. In this case, sugar cane and pecans (puh-CAHNS). French settlers in the 17th century brought over the treat (named for diplomat Caesar du Plessis-Praslin) and soon swapped out the traditional almonds for the local nut. The secret to the deconstructed candy is to combine the milk, cream, sugar, butter, and nuts together in one pot and scoop the mixture onto a marble slab. No secret to sweet-toothed New Orleans locals: Samples are easy to come by.
Get it: Swing by Southern Candymakers when you are in New Orleans for handmade pralines and other chocolate treats (southerncandymakers.com; $21.95 for a one-pound box). And yes, they give out samples.
Thanks to the official state tree, Ohio is known as the Buckeye State, and the famed Ohio State athletics teams battle as the Buckeyes. So it should come as no surprise that the favored regional sweet has the same moniker as the tree's shiny nut. Buckeyes (which, like the nut, are named after their resemblance to the eyes of a white-tailed deer) are a peanut butter mixture dipped into chocolate. Just don't mistake it for the real thing; the latter is toxic (and markedly less delicious).
Get it: Visit Schmidt's Fudge Haus in the German Village outside Columbus to see buckeyes being handmade. schmidtsfudgehaus.com; $10.99 for a half-pound box.
Washington: Aplets & Cotlets
An immigrant success story for our taste buds, Aplets & Cotlets were the brainchild of Armenian fruit farmers at Liberty Orchards in Cashmere, Washington. When faced with a surplus in their orchard, they turned to their homeland for inspiration. The result: a new take on Turkish Delight featuring walnuts jellied with apple and apricot (“cot”) juice instead of the traditional rose water. More than 90 years on, the sugar-dusted Confection of the Fairies draws about 80,000 pilgrims a year to the orchard, and once wrangled with the nutty-toffee Almond Roca over official state candy status. The fight ended at an impasse.
Get it: Liberty Orchards is where to go for the original creation, as well as varieties like pineapple, cranberry, guava, and rose-pistachio. libertyorchards.com; $9.50 for 16 pieces.