It’s hard to argue about it: summer is the best time of year when it comes to food. With fruit that tastes like candy, crisp, nourishing greens, and farm-fresh vegetables at your fingertips, it’s easy to pass as a gourmet chef by throwing something fabulous together.
My favorite summer food is watermelon. I was born in August and my mom always said she inhaled watermelon in the summer heat before she had me. Maybe there’s some connection; I don’t know. And while I love the seedless varieties, there’s something about those big black seeds that takes me back to days when my friends and I would stick them on our foreheads to see which one would last the longest.
Context is everything when it comes to food. So many of my travel memories are linked to great food, like street daal at Ravi in Dubai or spaghetti pomodoro at Hotel Cipriani in Venice. But summer always brings me back to my childhood, and to America.
Here are ten food-place combos that keep me coming back no matter where I am:
1. Lobster Rolls
“What would be your last meal?” Whenever this question comes up, my answer is always the same: A lobster roll from Luke’s Lobster in New York City. Okay, I’d settle for a meal where it all began: at the original Lobster Roll in Amagansett. There are many variations, but my favorite rolls always have fresh chunks of lobster with a light coating of mayo, a toasted hot dog bun, lemon juice, and spices. In L.A., a lobster roll worth fighting traffic for is the mini roll with celery and lemon aioli at Son of a Gun.
2. Ice Cream
So many of my best summer memories involve drippy ice cream cones. Today, I love sent-from-heaven Fresco Gelateria in the East Village. Chekmark Eats Founder Alexandra Reichek, one of my go-to sources for food advice, recommends Sweet Rose Creamery in L.A. (try the salted caramel ice cream, she says) and prizes Ample Hill Creamery in Brooklyn for its eclectic flavors and toppings. She recently stumbled upon simple-but-delectable flavors at Picco (“a pizza shop with a sign for homemade ice cream”) in Boston. If you’re in Beantown, the beloved Santa-Barbara-based McConnell’s is getting ready to open shop on State Street.
California, South Carolina, and Georgia may be the top peach-producing states in the U.S., but in the Hill Country of Texas, the juicy delectables are a source of pride. At Swift’s Attic in Austin, look for summer special of grilled Texas peaches topped with crème fraîche and local honey.
Peak-season tomatoes are as close to perfect as it gets and require almost nothing before serving — a sprinkling of sea salt and maybe a splash of balsamic or olive oil. The best I’ve had are at Sang Lee Farms on the North Fork of Long Island, which grows over 40 varieties of heirloom tomatoes. This is what all tomatoes should taste like.
If you ever pass through Dallas, the original Burger House in Highland Park is the place to go for consistently delicious no-frills burgers. While there has been a meteoric rise in fancy hamburgers, you won’t find any brioche buns or clever French cheeses here. The crispy fries, sprinkled with seasoned salt, are also a huge local favorite.
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