As locavores preach, food tastes better when eaten as close as possible to its place of origin. Fried clams are guaranteed to be fresh in Ipswich. Blue crabs taste sweetest on the Chesapeake Bay. Plan a summer weekend trip to one of the following destinations to enjoy the local culinary specialty along with the scenery.
Blue crabs in Annapolis, Maryland
A visit to Annapolis will put you right on the Chesapeake Bay, the source of deliciously sweet Maryland blue crabs. Check into the Annapolis Waterfront Hotel (annapoliswaterfront.com). The concierge can arrange for you to see the historic waterfront on a 74-foot classic wooden yacht, departing from the hotel’s own dock. Or watch over 100 boats race across the harbor every Wednesday evening during July and August, sponsored by the Annapolis Yacht Club (annapolisyc.com). Tour the U.S. Naval Academy (usnabsd.com).
The Point Crab House and Grill (thepointcrabhouse.com) in Arnold, Maryland, sources all of its blue crabs from the nearby Wye and Chester rivers. Crabs are always cooked live to order, never pre-steamed. Supplement your meal with Maryland crab soup, crab beignets and pasta with jumbo lump crab. It’s a short drive away, and also accessible by private boat.
Maple Creemees in Burlington, Vermont
The Maple Creemee, a maple-flavored frozen custard, is a Vermont summer classic. Palmer Lane Maple (palmerlanemaple.mybigcommerce.com) in Jericho, a few minutes outside of Burlington, makes an exemplary version and also sells syrup, maple candy and other maple products. There’s more to Burlington than maple custard. There are also breweries (foambrewers.com), chocolate factories (lakechamplainchocolates.com) and cheesemakers (shelburnefarms.org), all welcoming visitors. Stroll the Church Street Marketplace, an outdoor mall with street entertainers. Cool off at sandy North Beach on Lake Champlain. Canoes, kayaks, and stand-up paddleboards are available for rental. The Flynn Center for the Performing Arts in a restored Art Deco theater books nationally known musical acts. Rest your weary head and body at the surprisingly stylish Made Inn (madeinnvermont.com), a modern bed-and-breakfast with luxury mattresses, in-room vinyl record players, and Champagne breakfasts.
Staff member Elizabeth Mitchell, at Palmer Lane Maple in Burlington, Vermont, serves up its famous maple creemees. (palmerlanemaple.mybigcommerce.com)
Lobster rolls in Freeport, Maine
Sure, you can get a lobster roll at Panera Bread. But it’s never going to taste as fresh as it will at a classic lobster pound like Harraseeket Lunch and Lobster (harraseeketlunchandlobster.com) in Freeport, where the Coffin family has operated a fishing and restaurant business for over 40 years. Enjoy fresh seafood and whoopee pies (another Maine specialty) under a covered awning with views of Casco Bay. There’s plenty to do in nearby Freeport in addition to shopping at the L.L. Bean flagship store (llbean.com), which is open 24 hours a day. Bikes and kayaks can be rented at Wolfe’s Neck Woods State Park (wolfesneck.org), where miles of roads, trails and estuaries offer scenic vistas, like this one. Visit the “Desert of Maine,” a sand dune outside town created when a glacier slid through the area 11,000 years ago. Pitch a tent at Winslow Park and Campground (freeportmaine.com 207-865-4198; 30 Main St.). Or check into the White Cedar Inn (whitecedarinn.com) a white clapboard, green-shuttered bed-and-breakfast right in town.
The Harraseeket Lunch and Lobster in Freeport, Maine, serves a lobster roll with a bit of mayo, some salt and pepper. The 3.5 ounces of barely dressed meat is stuffed into a buttered-and-griddled bun.
Fried clams in Rockport, Massachusetts
Ipswich clams, the soft-shell variety that live in Massachusetts’ muddy Great Marsh, are famous for their briny flavor and plump juiciness. Numerous local establishments serve the freshly shucked, lightly breaded summer specialty, including the Clam Box (clamboxipswich.com), J.T. Farnham’s (jtfarnhams.com) and Woodman’s (woodmans.com), which claims to have fried the first clam in 1916. For an especially picturesque place to eat a well-cooked batch, try Nate’s at Front Beach (natesatfrontbeach.com), in historic Rockport. Rockport also happens to be a perfect summer destination, with sandy beaches, a charming downtown and an iconic fishing shack on Bearskin Neck, in the background, that Rockport residents declare to be the most painted building in the United States. For more great views, stay at the Quarterdeck Inn by the Sea (thequarterdeckinnbythesea.com), a Colonial-era building so close to the water that its motto is, “Any closer to the water, and you’d be in a boat.”
Visitors to Rockport, Massachusetts, can find fried clams like these at Woodman's in nearby Essex. Woodman's claims to have fried the first clam in 1916. (woodmans.com)
Stuffies in Newport, Rhode Island
Massachusetts has fried clams, Maine has the lobster roll, and Rhode Island has an item called the stuffie, which may be unfamiliar if you’ve never spent a summer in the Ocean State. The stuffie consists of a mixture of chopped quahog clam and bread crumbs, baked on a half shell. Flo’s Clam Shack (flosclamshacks.com), near Newport, serves highly rated stuffies as does Anthony’s Seafood Restaurant (anthonysseafood.net), where the stuffing includes some spicy chorizo. There’s plenty to do in Newport besides indulge in the local specialty. Stroll the Cliff Walk, show here, Newport’s 3.5-mile oceanside trail that runs between what are known as Gilded Age cottages and the churning Atlantic. Visit Belcourt Mansion (belcourt.com), recently restored by Rhode Island native and jewelry designer Carolyn Rafaelian. The International Tennis Hall of Fame has an interactive museum devoted to the history of the sport, as well as frequent pro tennis tournaments. Stay at the playfully named Gilded Hotel (gildedhotel.com), where the décor is modern and yet inspired by rococo, Beaux Arts, and other popular styles of the Gilded Age.
These stuffies were made at Flo's Clam Shack in Middletown, Rhode Island. They are a mixture of chopped quahog clam and bread crumbs, baked on a half shell. (flosclamshacks.com)
Hot dogs in Fairfield, Connecticut
For unknown reasons, classy Connecticut is home to more than a dozen world-class hot dog stands, including a couple in nearby Fairfield. At Rawley’s (rawleysdrivein.com), Hummel Brothers natural casing franks have been cooked in a deep-fryer and then finished on a griddle since 1947. To get the full Rawley’s experience, order the Hot Chihuahua, with mustard, onions and homemade hot relish. Super Duper Weenie (superduperweenie.com), open since 2000, serves split and grilled hot dogs, including an intriguing Cincinnati-style dog with Cheddar cheese and chopped onions. Hand-cut fries and milkshakes are also sterling. You can hit both stands on a day trip from Long Island, but for an overnight hot dog excursion, check into the family-friendly Circle Hotel (circlehotelfairfield.com), which offers bikes and beach passes to guests in addition to its own backyard swimming pool. Thirty fine dining restaurants — man cannot live on hot dogs alone — are within walking distance of the downtown hotel. A short drive away is the Westport Country Playhouse, shown here, (westportplayhouse.org) which premieres new plays by renowned playwrights as well as staging classic musicals such as “Man of La Mancha.”
Among more than a dozen world-class hot dog stands in Connecticut is Super Duper weenie in Fairfield. Super Duper Weenie, open since 2000, serves split and grilled hot dogs, including an intriguing Cincinnati-style dog with cheddar cheese and chopped onions. Hand-cut fries and milkshakes are also sterling. Find these treats, clockwise from top right, hand-cut fries, a Dixie dog, two Cincinatti Dogs, and a Chicago Dog. (superduperweenie.com)