Every state, county, city and town seems to have its own craft beer, wine or spirits trail these days. When you’re more in the mood to step up to the plate rather than the bar, though, these regional food trails provide the path to gastronomic nirvana.
Epic Pickles. Photo courtesy of Epic Pickles
PENNSYLVANIA’S PICKLED TRAIL
The kimchi craze has helped humble fermented cabbage achieve foodie fame, and while Pennsylvania might not be the first place you’d look for this Korean staple, the Keystone State has a rich pickling heritage all its own. Pickled: A Fermented Trail is one of several food trails unveiled by the commonwealth’s tourism department in recent years. (Others include Baked: A Bread Trail, Chopped: A Charcuterie Trail, Scooped: An Ice Cream Trail and Tapped: A Maple Trail.)
“Farm-to-table has been an ongoing trend, and people truly have a genuine interest in knowing where their food comes from and the story behind it,” says Carrie Fischer Lepore of the Pennsylvania Department of Community & Economic Development. “People enjoy sourcing great food and the ah-ha moment of its origin.”
The Pickled trail is a “thrill ride of brine,” adds Lepore. It includes pickled and fermented food stops all over the commonwealth, but it is also broken down into more digestible regional bites.
The Southeastern Pennsylvania trail, for example, includes Philadelphia and Pennsylvania Dutch Country in its three-day itinerary, with suggested stops such as Lancaster’s Lemon Street Market to pick up York County-made Epic Pickle products and jarred raw fermented vegetables such as kimchi, sauerkraut and beet kvass locally produced by Swiss Villa. B’s Pickles at the Quakertown Flea and Farmers Market has barrels of pickles—garlic, sour, half-sour, hot and spicy—as well as other marinated vegetables for sale.
Did you know that root beer was originally a fermented beverage? A kind of 19th-century kombucha, root beer—first unveiled as a commercial product at the Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition of 1876—was originally prepared by mixing root powder, water, yeast and sugar and letting the concoction ferment until it was drinkable. The root beer on the Pickled trail’s Franklin Fountain stop in Philadelphia’s Old City neighborhood lacks the original’s medicinal properties, but it’s sure to cure a summer thirst or sugar craving, especially when made into an ice cream float.
How serious about pickles is the Martha restaurant on Philadelphia’s East York Street in Kensington? The bar and hoagie shop has its own Fermentation Director, serves a Pickle Pot loaded with tart snacks, and brews its own house-fermented ginger beer as well as a fermented pineapple-and-beet soda in collaboration with neighbor Philadelphia Brewing Co.
Frank Pepe Pizzeria in Connecticut coal-fires its New Haven-style pizza. Photo courtesy of The Connecticut Office Of Tourism
CONNECTICUT’S PIZZA TRAIL
Somewhat lost in the perennial argument about what’s the better pizza style, New York or Chicago, is the fact that Connecticut has its own unique take on pizza. Characterized by a thin, charred crust as well as chewy texture and coal-fired baking, New Haven-style “apizza” originated at Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana in 1925.
Pepe and other old-school pizza joints like Sally’s Apizza and Modern Apizza in this coastal city are must-tastes on the 112-stop Connecticut Pizza Trail, with 46 pizza joints featured on the Greater New Haven segment alone. Lactose-intolerant diners rejoice: Cheese isn’t a required ingredient for pizza. In fact, Frank Pepe Pizzeria makes a traditional tomato pie topped solely with sauce. Cheese lovers, though, will want to munch on Pepe’s well-regarded white clam pizza topped with mozzarella, garlic, oregano and olive oil.
New Haven isn’t the only place to get a good pizza in Connecticut, though. The state’s pizza trail also includes 2022 Best of West Hartford winner Harry’s Bishops Corner Pizza in West Hartford, Zuppardi’s roaming Pizza Truck (the pizzeria also has stationary locations in West Haven, Ansonia and Derby), and the Prohibition-era Stamford bar Colony Grill, where pizza is the only food served and best enjoyed topped with zesty “hot oil.”
The Anthony Bourdain Food Trail includes the chef’s New Jersey favorites. Photo courtesy of Visit New Jersey
NEW JERSEY’S ANTHONY BOURDAIN FOOD TRAIL
Anthony Bourdain grew up in Leonia and spent his childhood summers at the Jersey Shore before becoming a food guru, and he counted many Garden State eateries among his most-loved places to dine.
The 10-stop food trail from Fort Lee to Atlantic City named in the late chef’s honor includes Hiram’s Roadstand, a Fort Lee hot-dog stand that Bourdain once called his “happy place,” and Camden cheesesteak establishments Tony & Ruth’s Steaks and Donkey’s Place.
Bourdain was clearly no food snob, but he loved fine dining, too: The signature crab-stuffed lobster at Dock’s Oyster House, an Atlantic City landmark since 1897, was another of his favorites. And while he professed to hate sweets, Bourdain nonetheless made frequent stops for chewy treats at James’ Salt Water Taffy on the Atlantic City boardwalk.
The Warwick Valley Apple Trail comprises u-pick orchards and more. Photo by Nicholas J. Klein/Stock.adobe.com
NEW YORK’S WARWICK VALLEY APPLE TRAIL
Driving upstate to go apple picking has long been a fall tradition for some New York families, and a day trip to the Warwick Valley—about 1½ hours north of New York City—remains a great way to load up on Macintoshes, Empires and Cortlands, among the two dozen or so apple varieties grown in Orange County.
The Warwick Valley Apple Trail includes five pick-your-own orchards as well as farm markets, wineries and distilleries. While kids munch away at apples plucked right from the trees (apple-picking season runs from mid-September to late October), adults can sample hard cider from the Warwick Valley Winery and Distillery or sip applejack cocktails at Apple Dave’s Distillery.
Like the other food trails of the Northeast, the apple trail combines a beautiful drive with taste-bud temptations that will make even the most insistent cries of “are we there yet?” sound less like a lament and more like mouthwatering anticipation.