With my visit to the US coinciding with the fourth of July, I hoped to experience at least two of the ‘four Fs’ that form the tip of the cultural iceberg: food and festivals. I’m sure that fashion and flags would feature somewhere too, but the food is most exciting when I travel. Before my trip to the US, my knowledge of American cuisine came from a diet of popular burger chains and strange items referred to in TV shows. I couldn’t wait to finally learn what grits, biscuits and corndogs are.
Before I start, I confess I am no foodie. You are more likely to see me grabbing a bowl of muesli than cooking up a storm in the kitchen. It’s not that I can’t cook (I’m actually pretty good) it’s just that life is too good to spend hours in the kitchen. However, I love eating out and knew that American restaurants would be awesome.
Breakfast Womelette. Safety Harbor.
What is a womelette, you ask. Well, it’s what you get when you cook your eggs in a waffle iron. I don’t know if these are typical breakfast food in the US, but they were delicious. Breakfast at the quirky Daydreamers Bar & Grill was so good, we went back for more.
TripAdvisor reviews led us to the Hyman seafood restaurant in Charleston. Even before we ordered, the waiter bought over a complimentary portion of large fried corn balls. He referred to them as ‘hushpuppies’, which none of us had ever heard of before. They were so delicious, we ordered more. Those guys know what they’re doing.
Americans tell me that US pizza is second to none, so we hit up a late-night pizza bar with a giant purple painting of Leonard Cohen on the wall. The pizza slice was gigantic, and every bit as good as we hoped.
Mac ‘n’ Cheese. Asheville.
Mac’ n’ cheese is the dish that most Americans ask about in the various ex-pat groups that I follow. I’m told that it is classic comfort-food; therefore, I was quite surprised to find it as a side-dish on most menus. Even as a smaller dish, it is super filling, and I couldn’t eat a whole portion.
Fried Green Tomatoes. Asheville.
I knew of these from the movie ‘Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle-Stop Café’. I don’t like tomatoes, so I didn’t order any, but then my friend insisted I try hers. They were magnificent.
Barbecue ribs. Clarksdale.
Allegedly, you can’t visit the American South without trying barbecue ribs, so, naturally, they were on the menu once we reached Mississippi. Like pretty much all of the food I ate in the US, it was delicious.
Gumbo. New Orleans.
Gumbo is an absolute must-try in New Orleans, and where better to go than the Gumbo Shop in the French Quarter. It was a popular choice and natural to see why. I ordered a starter, which was more than enough, and it was probably the healthiest food I ate the whole trip.
Po’boy. New Orleans.
Apparently, a Po’boy is usually served on a French baguette, and therefore what I had isn’t strictly speaking an actual Po’boy. Still, this carb-loaded delight was from a Po’boy bar in New Orleans, so I’m going to count it. This is definitely what you want to eat the morning after a late night.
Southern Fried Chicken and Grits. Memphis.
Southern cuisine is all about fried chicken, so I was desperate to try some when I was in Tennessee. I ordered a chicken appetiser served with grits, a dish I’ve heard much about. The chicken was great, but – sorry, America – I didn’t like grits.
Chilli Con Carne. Washington DC.
Chilli con Carne was considered an appetiser in the restaurant where I ordered this. Still, as starters in the US are the size of the main meal in Europe, it was more than enough. Meaty and spicy, what more could you ask for?
If you know me at all, you’ll know that I rarely pass up the opportunity for dessert, and the US wasn’t any different.
Key Lime Pie. Savannah.
I wanted to try this in Florida, but strangely enough, I didn’t spot it on the menus of the restaurants we visited. However, I couldn’t leave the US without trying it, so I was happy to find it in Savannah. Like a cheesecake, it is both creamy and tangy – absolutely divine.
Coca-Cola Chocolate Cake. Asheville.
I have no idea if this is common in the US, but I was so intrigued by the prospect of a cake made with Coca-Cola, I just had to try it. It was surprisingly good.
Beignets. New Orleans.
Café du Monde is the place to go for these fluffy doughnut delights in New Orleans. It’s a bit of a challenge to find a free table, but well worth the effort. Don’t wear black clothes though, because you’ll be dusting icing sugar off them for the rest of the day!
Red Velvet cupcake. New York.
I ate this at the airport just before I left the US. I mean, you can’t be in NYC without eating a cupcake, right? Not bad for the last ‘meal’ of my trip.
So long, America! I’m sure I will be back.