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!
If you're like us, you consider travel an opportunity to taste. And we're not just talking metaphorically. We're talking about filling your plate with chicken and waffles, downing a bag of freshly fried pierogies, or asking for seconds of BBQ. We're not saying all eating rules are null and void on the road, but, y'know... That's why we put together this east-to-west guide to America's greatest regional treats. From Jersey Shore taffy to Hawaiian chocolate-covered macadamia nuts—with plenty of sweet spots in between—we've mapped out an all-American, binge-worthy tour you can take from the comfort of home.
Idaho: Idaho Spud
Of the 13 billion pounds of Idaho potatoes grown annually, none are as sweet as these spuds: coconut-flecked dark chocolate surrounding a springy cocoa-flavored marshmallow center. No actual potato here! But like the venerable veg, they're nothing if not versatile. Melt 'em down for fondue or ice cream topping, whip them Bavarian style into a pie, or pop 'em in the freezer for a ice-cream-like treat—or, you know, straight out of the package just like folks in the Gem State have been doing since 1918.
Get it: The confection was invented by Boise's Idaho Candy Company, which offers tours of the factory and has a shop onsite. idahospud.com; $4.99 for a pack of six.
Hawaii: Chocolate-Covered Macadamia Nuts
Honolulu's Ellen Dye Candies was the first to market the chocolate-dipped nuts back in 1927. The “Godiva of the Pacific” sold the company to Mamoru Takitani 33 years later. Under the new tiki banner Hawaiian Host, Takitani perfected the recipe and created a brand as iconic today as the crunchy milk chocolatey spheres are addictive. Descendents of the Dye family got back in the game in 2010 with varieties that include a touch of chili pepper, ginger, and sea salt all hand-dipped in haute chocolate made from locally grown and roasted cacao.
Get it: Order online from Waimea Chocolate Company (waimeachocolatecompany.com; from $8 for a six-piece box). Or find more mass-market brands—Hawaiian Host, Mauna Loa—anywhere and everywhere on the islands (around $6 for 14 pieces).
It's a story too sweet to be true. Legend has it that back in 1932 Los Angeles, See's Candies chef Louis “Gordy” Hooper wooed Bobbi in the packing department with a surprise gift of soft vanilla caramel and chocolate poured over toasted pecans, inspired by her pet turtles. It took off, and so did the lovebirds, forming their own company up in Oakland and delivering orders on a beat-up Harley Davidson (allegedly a gift/blessing from Mary See herself). The candies have survived, but alas, the meet-cute doesn't have legs.
Get it: Turtles went mass market and are sold in drug stores nationwide. For a more local version, See's sells the treats under the name pecan buds at the company's numerous old-timey, black-and-white stores on the West Coast. sees.com; $20.40 for a one-pound box.
New Mexico: Bizcochito
Biscochitos in the north, biscochos in the south—or simply “that cookie grandma makes”—bizcochitos (with a “z”) were christened as America's first official state cookie in 1989. Anise and cinnamon combine with a touch of wine or brandy in these Latin-inflected shortbread crumblies, first introduced by Spaniards to then-Mexico in the 16th century and now a staple at Christmas celebrations as well as quinceañeras and weddings (the traditional diamond shape represents purity). The secret to the flaky melt-in-your-mouthness? Love. And lard.
Get it: Golden Crown Panaderia sells classic bizcochitos in their Albuquerque shop and online (goldencrown.biz; $4 a dozen in store; $16.95 a pound online) Osito's Biscochitos spices things up with a raspberry/habanero version (biscochitos.net; $39.99 for a 92-count tin).
Wisconsin: Candy Raisins
When Necco closed shop in Milwaukee back in 2008, along with local factory jobs went Candy Raisins. The odd little gumdrops had been a local rite of passage since 1930: Yellow-tan with a wrinkly top, the taste was floral, honey-ginger perhaps, a mystery. Also a mystery: the name (there are no raisins in the mix). But, in a lesson for Occupy Sweet Street, devotees rallied, started a website, and inspired 7,000-plus to sign a petition—and it worked. Sort of. Using what is thought to be the last bags in existence, the people behind Osmanium Candy Company reverse-engineered a new version called Candy Sunshine. The fruits of their labor debut in March 2012.