Each state identifies with a specific cuisine. The differences are with their unique flavor profiles, recipes, and preparation methods. These foods have traditional roots tied to area history and ingredient availability. Many families have a treasured collection of carefully guarded instructions, handed down from one generation to the next in tattered old cookbooks. The pages of these cherished heirlooms hold the secrets of family favorites for special occasions and daily staples alike. Their beginnings come from a variety of influences, including ties to immigrant communities who brought with them knowledge of flavorings and spices from their homelands.
Alabamians have a special attachment to this dish. Most culinary experts trace the delectable tomato pie’s roots to a recipe featured in a magazine in the late 1970s. To make it, chefs line a pie crust with a combination of garden-fresh tomatoes, chopped green onions, garlic, and basil, then top it with a mixture of cheese and mayonnaise. Some prefer Vidalia onions added to the cheese mixture. Each cook then bakes, slices, and serves this flavorful concoction as a side dish, on its own, or with a green salad.
Coldwater seafood is a staple in Alaska, and there are five different species of salmon available year-round: chum, sockeye, king, silver, and pink. Around 90% of the wild salmon harvested in the U.S. comes from Alaska. One of the top ways to serve salmon across the state is to smoke it in a smoker. Most cooks keep seasoning simple, using salt and pepper or a homemade seasoning blend. They wrap it in foil and leave an open section to allow the smoke flavor to permeate the fish. Others prefer to use a thin glaze of mayonnaise spread across the salmon, adding a layer of onions before wrapping it and smoking it on a grill.
Legends about the origins of this popular fusion of Mexican and American cuisines differ, but many Arizonans say the chimichanga was first created in Tucson's oldest restaurant, El Charro, in 1922. Its name originally was a nonsense word in Spanish, translated to a “whatchamacallit” or “thingamajig” in English. Tucson recipes describe the chimichanga as a flour tortilla overstuffed with steak or chicken, vegetables, and spices, wrapped and then deep-fried. Most kitchens serve Chimichangas in the traditional way, on a plate, over a bed of mildly spicy red sauce, and covered in cheese.
Few old recipe boxes in Arkansas don’t feature a handwritten version of instructions for creating this traditional dish. Many who grew up in Arkansas fondly remember eating chocolate gravy slathered over hot, freshly prepared biscuits on Saturday mornings. The recipe’s popularity dates back to the Civil War era, throughout the Ozark and Appalachian mountains. Ingredients may vary, but cooks originally created chocolate gravy using margarine or oleo, flour, sugar, milk, and cocoa powder.
As one of the most diverse states in the country, California offers rich gastronomy. Origin stories differ, but most say that the ever-popular Cobb Salad was first created by accident in the 1930s at the famous Hollywood Brown Derby restaurant. The owner, Robert Cobb, looking for something to eat late one night, threw together some lettuce, fresh tomato, onion, hard-boiled egg slices, and avocados, then topped it off with bleu cheese and crisp bacon pieces. He tossed the mixture with some French dressing, and a legendary salad dish was born.
One of the great sources of pride for Coloradans is their magnificent mountain vistas, outdoor recreational activities, and amazing wildlife. Elk sausage, one of the most popular dishes in Colorado, is available in local restaurants and homes alike. Many locals compare its tender quality to high-quality beef but say it is even more flavorful. Some cooks add jalapenos to the ground elk meat before shaping the sausage, then toss it on the grill to bring out its juicy, aromatic flavors.
This historic pizza originated in New Haven in 1925 in a restaurant called Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana, one of the oldest pizzerias in America. The original recipe was a style called apizza and pronounced “a-BEETS.” Like the original, the white clam pizza still features Romano cheese, olive oil, garlic, parsley, and freshly shucked clams laid out across a chewy crust, then baked in a coal-fired brick oven. New Haven was home to thousands of Italian immigrants in the early 1900s, making it the state’s largest Italian colony.
The people of Delaware take their blue crab population seriously. Unlike other ocean-harvested seafood in surrounding states, the stock of blue crabs harvested from the Delaware Bay is doing well. Blue crabs are a social event in Delaware and are deeply embedded in the local culture. Families traditionally gather around a table with a bushel of crabs and crack them open for a shared meal. Locals dip the succulent, juicy crab meat in melted butter or a special sauce. One of these sauces originated in a local Wilmington restaurant and features a mixture of white vinegar, ketchup, sugar, chili powder, and Louisiana hot sauce.
Food historians say the origins of the key lime pie began in the Key West area in the early 20th century. Experts describe the key lime as more tart and aromatic than traditional limes, and its juices are more of a pale yellow than green. Restaurants around the state all serve a version of this dessert. The original recipe calls for sweetened condensed milk, egg yolks, and key lime juice for the filling. Some purists say that traditional key lime pie must have a meringue topping, but others insist that the pie be crowned with whipped cream. And there are those who say there should be no topping at all. Topping or not, it is a classic Florida dessert.
Although other states claim to have the best version, Georgia has a long history with the traditional Brunswick stew, dating back to the 1800s. Cooks threw together just about any type of wild game that was available, including rabbits and squirrels. Today, most people prefer adding chicken and pork either purchased from a local smokehouse or prepared in their smoker at home. Vegetables include butter beans, corn, and tomatoes. Some cooks add secret ingredients such as potatoes or barbecue sauce. Recipes say the stew’s sauce isn’t ready until it's very thick, which generally requires simmering for a few hours.
Decades before Hawaii became a state, American businesses controlled the islands and operated huge fruit and sugar plantations there. Scores of Chinese, Japanese, Filipino, Korean, Portuguese, and African laborers landed on the islands to work on these plantations. Their presence led to an evolution of traditional Hawaiian foods. Saimin is a Chinese egg-noodle soup originating from the plantation era. Later, Japanese cooks added flavors to the dish, including a dashi broth. Other unique flavors and ingredients reflected the ethnic heritage of those who lived and worked on the islands. Today, Hawaiians describe saimin as a traditional local dish. It’s available everywhere, even at McDonald’s.
The huckleberry is a small, delicious fruit that grows in the U.S. It’s also a term Americans use to describe something small or insignificant. Literary scholars believe the berry was the inspiration for Mark Twain when he named his Huckleberry Finn character. Idahoans say the flavors of the huckleberry are anything but insignificant, so they chose it as their official state fruit. Commercial growers don’t grow huckleberries. Pickers head to secret spots to harvest the berries each year during the short picking season. Huckleberry pie is a favorite tradition and the delicious result of a successful harvest. Some bakers add a pinch of cinnamon, others toss in some orange zest or orange juice to the berry mixture.
This iconic, open-faced sandwich originally included slices of ham. Cooks took slices from bone-in hams then served them on sandwiches on a sizzling metal plate. Through the years, they substituted the ham for other meats like chicken or hamburger. But the rest of the requirements for a traditional horseshoe sandwich have stuck to the original recipe. A pile of french fries sits on layers of meat that cover thick slices of toasted bread. Most people drizzle cheese sauce over the sandwich. If that sounds like too much sandwich for you, order a Pony Shoe Sandwich, which is about half the size.
In the 1800s, Quaker and Shaker settlers, German and Dutch immigrants, and Appalachian pioneers moved to Indiana, bringing with them a wide array of recipes and traditions. Food historians say sugar cream pie originated in the Amish and Shaker communities. Some Indianans report finding recipes for the sweet pie in old family cookbooks dating back to 1816. Sugar cream pie began with a simple pie shell. For the filling, people creamed butter with maple or brown sugar and a bit of flour, mixed it with vanilla-flavored cream, poured it into the pie shell, then baked it. State officials named it the official pie of Indiana in 2009.
The state of Iowa is the number one pork-producing state in the U.S., and they raise nearly one-third of the nation’s hogs. The Iowa Chop is a thick center cut of pork, and when it's breaded and stuffed, the Iowa pork chop becomes a favorite dish across the Hawkeye state. Traditionally, people cut a pocket in the pork chops, then brown them, stuff them with a mixture of onion, apple, corn, bread crumbs, and seasonings, brush them with a sauce, and bake them. The finishing touch is a covering of a delectable sauce. Many Iowans consider stuffed pork chops to be the ideal comfort food.
Simple, hearty, and filling, homemade chicken and noodles are a favorite traditional dish in Kansas. Home cooks are quick to point out that this is not chicken and noodle soup, but a classic meal that just about everybody grew up with. It’s a dish that is interwoven throughout the state’s food traditions. So much so, that little cafes and big-city restaurants alike serve it across the state. Many home cooks use recipes handed down from their grandmothers, who claimed inspiration from their immigrant family members who settled in Kansas generations before.
Some of the most traditional home-cooked favorites were born out of necessity. In Kentucky, cooks made burgoo, a stew made from whatever meat they could find. In modern times, this stew includes a delicious and very flavorful combination of vegetables, barbecue sauce, and spices, along with pork, mutton, chicken, or a fusion of two or more meats. Some say a Frenchman may have invented the stew during the Civil War. Vendors at the Kentucky Derby serve the burgoo, a tradition that dates back to the early 1800s.
The culinary traditions in Louisiana are iconic, reaching the far corners of the globe. Jambalaya is a mainstay, and Louisianans are very particular about its preparation. Similar to Spanish paella, Jambalaya is traditionally served in a big black pot. There are two different versions, Creole Jambalaya and Cajun Jambalaya. The Creole version adds tomatoes, while the Cajun version browns the meat before adding it to the pot. Home recipes use just about any locally available meat, including alligator, turtle, crawfish, duck, shrimp, or boar, but most cooks use chicken. Both versions add rice and a combination of bell pepper, celery, and onions.
Native Americans first harvested fiddleheads in Maine. Today, the fiddlehead harvest is a family tradition for many Mainers. A fiddlehead is the coiled tip of young ostrich ferns. The plants grow near the state’s waterways, and harvest occurs in late April through early June. Locals say the taste of these coveted tips are a combination of mushrooms, asparagus, and spinach. Those who try them say fiddleheads are delicious when properly prepared. Most cooks boil them and serve them with butter and salt. Others prefer to pickle them in a variety of ways.
Grabbing a ferry is the only way to get to Smith Island, which is about 10 miles offshore in the Chesapeake Bay. It was here that Smith Island Cake was first prepared. Local historians say women first baked the multi-layered dessert in the 1800s, preparing it for the men who went out on oyster harvests in the fall. The cake consists of eight to fifteen thin layers, and instead of buttercream frosting, people used fudge, which lasted longer than frosting. Baked by generations of families, the cake is a Maryland tradition. Some say they use recipes they’ve traced back to Welsh and English settlers in the late 1600s.
Some food historians trace the Boston bean connection to the city’s role in rum production in America’s early history. Molasses was a byproduct of rum and cooks soon figured out it was useful as a sweetener. They added some salted pork and black pepper to the mix to top off the flavors. A 150-year-old recipe discovered in a free brochure from Durgin-Park, a famous Boston restaurant, calls for two pounds of small white dried pea beans, a medium-sized onion, molasses, dry mustard, sugar, a pound of salt pork or bacon, and salt and pepper. Cooks bake the beans for six hours, and often serve them with Boston Brown bread—a chewy, cornmeal-raisin-and-molasses treat fried in butter.
Most people may not realize it, but Michigan has a large Greek population, especially around Detroit. If you travel to the Motor City, you’ll likely run across one of the many Greek diners and find a delicious Michigan classic: the Greek salad. In Greece, traditional cooks say a true Greek salad is simple: ripe tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers, onions, and feta cheese with a splash of olive oil and red wine vinegar to top it off. But in Detroit, you’ll find some Americanized variations to the recipe. In addition to the traditional ingredients, people layer the ingredients over a plate of chopped lettuce. They add olives, garbanzo beans, and beets to the salad as well as sweet, mild chili peppers called pepperoncinis.
The Scandinavians who settled across Minnesota brought with them a Norwegian dish made primarily with potatoes. Lefse is a soft, paper-thin, potato bread. Some people prefer to slather it with butter and sprinkle it with sugar before rolling it up and chowing down, while others stuff it. Scandinavian bakeries and eateries across the state serve this traditional bread. Cooks first boil potatoes, then use a special tool called a potato ricer to force the cooked potatoes through small holes that create rice-sized pieces to create the dough. Some Minnesota bakeries are famous for their lefse. Bakers put a limit on the number of lefse you can buy due to the high demand.
A tamale is a corn dough mixture that cooks fill with a meat mixture, wrap in a corn husk and then steam. Most foodies may not realize how prominent the tamale is in Mississippi cuisine. But the Delta Tamale’s beginnings date back to the 1920s and the Mexican immigrant workers who first introduced them. Vendors sell this smaller, spicier, tamale version on street corners throughout the Delta. Most recipes call for cornmeal instead of cornflour, with other variations from old family recipes. Locals eat them straight out of the shuck or smothered in chili and cheese. Once you’ve eaten one, you’ll come back for more.
Barbecue is a respected culinary art in Missouri. One of the most popular delicacies is probably one you’ve never heard of, but locals love it. Burnt Ends are cubes of brisket caramelized and smoked to perfection, then drenched in spicy sauce and served over buttered toast or white bread. Experts say the secret behind the tender, juicy flavors is in the cooking method. Burnt Ends come from the fattier end of the brisket, which cooks return to the smoker for a second round of smoke after separating it from the other part of the brisket. It can be a messy meal, but the intense, deeply sweet, savory flavors are worth every bite.
In August, along the riverbanks and the foothills of Montana, locals head out to collect juicy red chokecherries. After harvesting, they use these tart berries to make wine, syrup, jellies, and jams. The chokecherry grows on a shrub or tree. The tree bark, stems, leaves, and seed pits are poisonous to both humans and animals, so cooks only use the chokecherry juices. The darkest berries are the ripest and the sweetest. To extract the juice, simmer the berries in water over low heat. Once soft, they’ll start to release their juices, which takes about 30 minutes. Strain them well in a cheesecloth. A gallon of chokecherries yields about a quart of juice that cooks can either use immediately in recipes or freeze for later use.
Germans arrived in Nebraska following the revolutions in their home country in the mid-1800s. They brought with them a delicious meat pocket that has become a traditional favorite food across Nebraska. The bierock is a soft, light, slightly sweet, bread bun, or pocket filled with ground beef, cabbage, onions, and sometimes, cheese. Some people refer to the delicious pocket as a Runza. The official shape is a triangle but people also shape the dough into half-moons, ovals, triangles, and other geometric shapes. A few eateries use sauerkraut instead of regular cabbage. Other states may claim the bierock as their traditional food, but Nebraskans insist this hearty meat pocket is 100% Cornhusker.
The first wave of Basques arrived in Nevada in the mid-19th century. Then, in the 1950s, the governor of Nevada signed legislation that allowed more Basques to come work in Nevada as sheepherders. Some of the immigrants stayed and established successful ranches and other businesses, including restaurants and boarding houses. Today, only a fraction of these locations remain. Locals covet the Basque-style chateaubriand—a thick, center-cut fillet cooked between two thinner steaks. Chefs create a perfectly rare slab of meat using this method, then serve the steak with a sauce and a side of potatoes. This is an opulent, expensive dish, and something everyone should add to their bucket list.
Woods and lakes in New Hampshire provide a constant supply of fresh fish and game, and locals’ top cuisine picks reflect that abundance. Fried lake bass is one of the state’s favorite dishes. Largemouth bass has become naturalized in most of New Hampshire’s lakes, making them popular among anglers. Bass is a sweet, white meat that is easy to fillet. Experienced anglers advise fishing for the best bass in clean, clear, cold water.
No, this isn’t the messy, ground beef-and-tomato sauce concoction, but a type of triple-decker sandwich born in a New Jersey deli in the 1930s. Sandwich connoisseurs layer two different types of meats with swiss cheese, then pile on the coleslaw and stack it all between three slices of rye bread. Then, the preparer adds Russian dressing between each layer. Similar to a Reuben sandwich, it is especially popular in northern New Jersey. Some prefer the Kosher version, which uses three layers of meat, usually corned beef, turkey, and roast beef, but no ham. Locals make two suggestions before eating: (1) Always have a stack of napkins ready, and (2) Put your phone down. You’ll need to eat this sandwich using both hands.
The cuisine in New Mexico is all about the chiles, both red and green. There are so many iconic foods in New Mexico; it's difficult to choose just one. Posole stew deserves a place here. It is a delicious, traditional holiday dish in the Land of Enchantment. The star of the dish is the posole--or corn--that cooks soak in lime to create hominy. Many New Mexican chefs throw in a few special ingredients, such as onions, but generally, adding pork and green or red chiles to the posole is the standard. It's warm, filling, spicy, and the perfect meal for if you have a cold.
Nothing says New York like pastrami. Those who love a good pastrami sandwich have likely been to Katz's Delicatessen, Sarge's, or the Carnegie Deli in NYC to indulge their cravings. A Jewish immigrant named Sussman Volk from Lithuania created the first pastrami sandwich in America in 1887. He learned the lengthy process from a Romanian friend, who taught him how to brine, season, smoke, and steam beef to create the delicious meat. Locals say you should never walk into a deli and order pastrami with mayo on white bread. Purists insist that the sandwich is at its best with a little brown mustard and juicy layers of pastrami, stacked between slices of authentic rye bread.
Be prepared. North Carolina has not one, but two mouthwatering styles of barbecue. Along the coast, look for Eastern style, a whole-hog affair with a tangy, tart-but-spicy, thin, vinegar, and pepper sauce. As you head across the central and western parts of the state, you'll find the Lexington style, a smokier version. Instead of the entire hog, cooks focus on just the shoulder. Barbecue experts roast the pork over hickory coals and then slather on a thick, red sweet sauce. You may come across red coleslaw as a side dish locals offer with your barbecue. The red color comes from the barbecue sauce local cooks add in to give the slaw some zing.
North Dakota's food history foundations are dough and bread, which cooks used to create stews, casseroles, desserts, noodles, and soups. The state has the largest population in the country of those who describe their heritage as Germans from Russia, and the popular foods reflect that heritage. Knoephla soup is a traditional German soup. It starts with a rich, chicken-broth-and-cream base. Cooks add potatoes and onions, and seasonings. While the potatoes are cooking, they prepare the knoephla, using egg, flour, and baking flour to form a dough. Then, the cook drops the dough pieces into the broth and cooks them until they rise. Some home chefs add some cream just before serving. It's the perfect year-round soup.
Take a dumpling, stuff it with some whipped potatoes, sauerkraut, ground meat, or white cheese, or a combination of those ingredients, and bake, boil, grill, or fry it in butter and onions. Ohioans call this familiar dish a pierogi. Many who grew up in Ohio tell stories of Polish ancestors and their famous pierogi recipes. Some food historians trace the dish to Central and Eastern Europe. Local restaurants across the state serve them as part of their traditional local fare. Most chefs cover pierogies in sauce, while others offer a sauce on the side. And some people add a dollop of sour cream on the side instead. Pierogi is both comfort food and a delicious example of Ohio's immigrant heritage.
Frybread is a Navajo creation. Yet, there are few Native American tribes who do not claim it as part of their cultural menus. Frybread quickly became a food of necessity in the last 1800s, primarily because it required only a few ingredients: lard, flour, salt, and baking powder. Frybread is a popular food that Native American cooks serve at just about any kind of get-together. Order an Indian Taco at a pow-wow or eaterie in Oklahoma, and you'll get a plate-sized piece of frybread, with a heaping pile of beans, meat, and cheese on top. Home cooks and restaurants alike serve versions of this historical fare across the state.
The sweet meat of the Dungeness crab is a culinary delight. In Oregon, both the officials and those who harvest the highly sought-after crab keep a close eye on the health of the local crustacean population. The official season doesn't open until the crabs reach a level of ample meat and weight. Harvesters catch them in circular steel straps called pots using squid or razor clams as bait. Locals say the best crabs are the largest ones that move the fastest. Sluggish crabs aren't healthy. Oregonians say the best way to enjoy the Dungeness crab is to steam it and then dip the meat in melted butter or the sauce of your choice.
Ask most people to name an iconic food from Pennsylvania, and they'll likely tell you it is without a doubt, the Philly cheesesteak. However, the state's culinary achievements go far beyond the famous sandwich. Descendents of early German immigrants, the Pennsylvania Dutch, have significantly contributed to the state's culinary history. Pennsylvanians are familiar with the simple, yet delicious fare, with popular dishes such as scrapple and the ham loaf. Shoo-fly pie is not a pie, but a tasty molasses and brown sugar crumb cake. Pennsylvania Dutch cooks make a dry version with a pie crust to allow for easier eating, while other cooks bake a stickier, wet-bottom version.
People from the Ocean State love their quahogs. A quahog is a species of hard-shelled clam. Cooks use them in chowders and po boys. The general rule is, the larger the quahog, the tougher and chewier they get. One of the most popular ways to eat quahogs is the Rhode Island culinary delight, the stuffie. Rhode Islanders make stuffies using chopped clam meat, mixed with bread crumbs, herbs, onions, bell pepper, celery, and seasonings. They stuff the mixture into a clamshell and bake it. Some chefs add in a Portuguese sausage called chourico. Restaurants and home cooks traditionally serve lemon and hot sauce alongside the stuffie.
Take some black-eyed peas, add some onions, bacon, and rice, and you've created one of the signature dishes from South Carolina. Hoppin' John is a staple across the southern states, but food historians say it originated in South Carolina. The dish inspires a great deal of superstition. Some South Carolinians toast the New Year with a glass of champagne and a bowl of Hoppin' John. Many believe eating leftovers on New Year's Day increases your chances of a luck-filled year ahead. Some African American traditions call for burying a shiny dime inside the Hoppin' John before serving. Whether you believe in superstitions or not, this is a tradition worth trying.
The first Czech immigrants arrived in South Dakota in 1869. They brought a delicacy called Czech kolaches with them. Bakers create the round, sweet rolls first, then fill them with fruit, cheese, or poppy seeds and sprinkle a bit of streusel over the top before carefully placing them in the oven. Once the rolls have cooled, they add a thin glaze. These aren't the sausage-filled versions traditional to Texas, and you won't find them in a grocer's freezer section. Creating Czech kolaches is a skill and those who are lucky enough to have learned how to make them keep their recipes top secret.
Some dishes are more regional than they are specific to one state. Dry-cured, country ham is a staple in the South, and for generations, home cooks have created a special gravy from the leftover drippings. While the pan is still hot, they add a cup of coffee to the salty drippings, then simmer it until it thickens. Traditional cooks never add flour to the mixture. The cook adds the coffee to the drippings, where it forms small droplets that resemble red eyes. Food experts say this is probably why locals call it red-eye gravy. Some people drench their grits with the gravy, but natives of Tennessee also love it poured over hot biscuits, fresh out of the oven.
Contrary to popular belief, Tex-Mex isn't just a version of traditional Mexican food. Food historians say that the delicious cheese dip you've been dipping your tortilla chips in is a Texas creation called chili con queso. Fajitas, nachos, and quesadillas also have Lone Star State origins, say, food historians. If the dish has black beans instead of pinto beans, it's Tex-Mex. No one used the term Tex-Mex to describe the cuisine until the early 1970s, but the foods and flavors have been around since the mid-1800s. True Tex-Mex is filling, flavorful, spicy, and delicious. Texans will tell you the best examples are those served within its borders.
Some states grow produce that is so amazing, it deserves recognition. About 180 miles southeast of Salt Lake City lies a quiet paradise known as Green River. Cottonwood trees, vast canyons, and endless night skies characterize the area. The area's 4000-foot elevation makes it an ideal location for growing melons, and farmers have been doing so since 1900. Roadside vendors sell cantaloupes, honeydew, Crenshaw, winter pink watermelon, and many other varieties. Locals say if you ever taste the sweet juices of a Green River melon, any others will pale in comparison.
While they may not be exclusive to Vermont, cider donuts are a part of the state's food legacy. Residents and visitors alike revere the state's apples. Many Vermonters share childhood memories of heading to the apple orchards for freshly made cider and warm donuts in the fall months. Bakers make these cake doughnuts by adding apple cider to the dough, deep-fry them, then roll them in cinnamon and sugar while they're still piping hot. Some restaurants offer them year-round. Home cooks in Vermont prepare batches using family recipes that have been handed down from past generations.
Food historians haven't pinpointed the exact origins of peanut soup, but they believe the recipe may have arrived with the first African slaves in the Virginia region. African recipes add tomatoes or tomato paste to make the soup, then serve it over rice, but the version locals serve in Virginia don't. Traditional recipes instruct cooks to mix onion, celery, chicken stock, light cream, and peanuts for the soup's base. Before adding the nuts to the base, soak the peanuts for about four hours before combining them with the other soup ingredients. Some modern recipes use peanut butter instead of peanuts. A historic inn, the Hotel Roanoke, served the soup in the 1880s. Restaurants across Virginia serve this traditional soup, but Williamsburg is its true home.
Walk into any restaurant in the state of Washington, and you'll likely see some type of salmon dish on the menu. Although the farmed versus wild salmon debate looms in culinary circles and the media, locals prefer the wild version. Farm-raised salmon is fattier, and milder in flavor, and its color is a soft pink-orange. Wild salmon is a vibrant reddish-orange color, and its flavors are much more complex. Chefs prepare a wide range of salmon recipes across the state. Salmon connoisseurs say the best way to eat it is to keep it simple. Cedar-planked salmon and smoked salmon are hands-down favorites.
Buckwheat is a highly nutritious, gluten-free grain similar to wheat or rye. But buckwheat is a fruit related to rhubarb and much heartier than traditional grain crops. In West Virginia, it was first planted in the mid-1800s. Buckwheat cakes look like pancakes but don't make the mistake of calling them that if you order them for breakfast. Locals prefer the name "buckwheat cakes" instead. Cooks make them with buckwheat flour, yeast, and molasses. Traditionalists say the best way to cook them is on a cast iron griddle. Most people cover each cake with butter, then slather them with rich, sweet, maple syrup.
The people of Wisconsin know their cheese. Producers in the Badger State make up about 35% of all the cheese sold in the United States. Cheese producers use pasteurized milk to create cheese, cooking it until the whey separates from the curd. They then mold the cheese and press it into blocks or wheels. Producers call the leftover cheese "cheese curd" and it's a favorite snack of the state's population. Sit-down restaurants serve them as well as fast-food establishments. Some local eateries flavor the curd with herbs and garlic. Others deep-fry them. Cheese curd fans say the best way to enjoy them is at room temperature, but grab them while they're fresh.
No matter where you go in Wyoming, you'll find a bison burger on the menu. Try one with toppings of smoked cheddar, bacon, and all the fixings to truly enjoy the experience. Not only is bison leaner meat, but it is also denser, which locals say allows you to feel fuller while eating less. Most people describe the taste as being similar to beef, but with a slightly sweeter flavor. If bison is a bit too far out of your comfort zone, no worries. Some Wyoming eateries offer a choice between beef or bison patties.