|The sandwiches at Kelly's Roast Beef help give New England the edge over New York in food as well as sports. (Wendy Maeda/Globe Staff/file 2005)|
Our roast beef and clams rule
Ed Levine started it. He probably hadn't even heard the final whistle in the game between the Patriots and the Chargers before he decided to blog about what would happen if there was a Food Super Bowl between Boston and New York. His prediction: "No contest." New York wins any match where food is involved.
On his blogs (seriouseats.com and edlevineeats.com), Levine, an author and foodie know-it-all, asked, "What has Boston bestowed on us foodwise?" He wondered how far out of their way people would go for baked beans and brown bread. New York, he wrote, is the "seminal food home of pastrami, pizza, bagels, cheesecake, the prime dry-aged New York strip steak . . ."
Wait a minute! I shot off a return blog (boston.com/food/dishing). During a game people dine on aged strip steaks?
Levine e-mailed to say we should make a wager. If the Patriots win the Super Bowl, he'll send Russ & Daughters smoked fish and bagels (see related story). If his team wins, I'm sending lobsters from Harbor Fish Market in Portland, Maine, where the crustaceans are kept in sea water on the wharf out back.
What's great in this region, which celebrates its sea coast and farmland, has been grown here or fished off our coast. We have the best lobsters in the world; the same goes for oysters. I'd put a plump, briny Duxbury up against a Fishers Island, N.Y., oyster any day. You can't get lobster rolls like the ones we make, unless you go to a New York knock-off like Mary's Fish Camp or Pearl Oyster Bar. Our awards for outstanding lobster rolls go to Jasper White's Summer Shack and Neptune Oyster (neither one a slouch in the oyster department), and dozens of seasonal coastline spots.
Fried clams deserve a moment of glory. These are uniquely ours - round clam bellies that are crisp and golden, sprinkled with salt, heaped in a box, and consumed leaning against the car in a hot, crummy parking lot filled with gas fumes. Drive to Woodman's in Essex or the Clam Box in Ipswich and torture yourself with the lines; or go to Essex Seafood or J.T. Farnham's, both in Essex; or discover your own dive.
Levine has said that the best ice cream is made in New York. We practically invented ice cream. This is the home of Bailey's (1878), Brigham's (1924), Howard Johnson's (1925), and Friendly's (1935). Local entrepreneur Steve Herrell popularized add-ins like Oreo cookie crumbs, which everyone does now. Centerville's Four Seas offers outstanding icy treats (legendary owner Dick Warren died after a ski accident earlier this month). The famous Toscanini's ice cream shop in Cambridge is having tax woes (it was closed recently, then reopened), but you can count on Gus Rancatore to come up with all sorts of appealing flavors, including a dark chocolate called Black Bottom and his famous burnt caramel.
No one sticks his icy neck out further than Ray Ford of Christina's Homemade Ice Cream in Cambridge, which produces vanilla from the best beans in the world, and zany flavors such as azuki bean. If you love the bowl of ice cream at your favorite restaurant, chances are it's from Christina's.
Finally, roast beef inside a bulkie, the meat rare and warm, the roll grilled. Go to Kelly's Roast Beef and for the price of a sandwich you get a view of the ocean from Revere and lunch with seagulls, or head to an off-shoot: Nick's Famous Roast Beef in Beverly or King's Famous Roast Beef in Salem.
Other indigenous items, all without peer: Concord grapes, cranberries, blueberries, maple syrup, swordfish, bluefish, mackerel, cod, haddock, smelts - and anything consumed at Fenway.
Speaking of which, we won that championship, too.