50 States, 50 Plates
The must-have eats in every state (plus, DC) according to James Beard Award-winning chef Andrew Zimmern.
Alaska: King CrabKeep your caribou, your moose, your seal and your salmon, for my money the best food on earth is king crab -- in season, pulled live from the icy waters of Alaska and eaten immediately. And don’t let any of it go to waste: steam the knuckles in egg white and rice wine and season with soy sauce; make crab rice with the head and body; fry the legs with ginger and chilies. 960 1280
Arizona: Sonoran Hot Dogs and Fry Bread (Tie)Chili meat sandwiches made with local fry bread are as good as eating gets. I have one and then use that as fuel as I drive to Nogales, my favorite Sonoran hotdog stand. 960 1280
Illinois: Chicago-Style Hot DogConsidering that I am a New Yorker, Chicago pizza is off the table. Luckily, my favorite food is the hot dog and no state on earth has more hot dog eateries per capita than Illinois. I love a great Chicago Dog: Wolfy’s or Superdawg or Franks ‘n Dawgs for the win. 960 1280
Kansas: Kansas City BBQKansas City was the home of great stockyards once, and much of the northern migration of Black America passed through here, so the BBQ scene is like the greatest hits of what the south has to offer. Q39, LC’s, Jacks Stack, Joe’s, BB’s Lawnside -- and that’s just one day of eating for me in Kansas City alone! 960 1280
Minnesota: The Jucy LucyThe New York Times finally got something wrong with the grape salad debacle, but the Jucy Lucy (a burger with molten cheese in the middle of the patty as well as on top) is all ours. 960 1280
Nebraska: Rocky Mountain OystersIf you have an adventurous palate and want to give Rocky Mountain oysters, aka bull testicles, a try, Nebraska is the place to go. Round the Bend Steakhouse in Ashland has hosted an annual Testicle Festival since 1993 where they serve up Rocky Mountain oysters and call them "bull fries." 960 1280
Nevada: Las Vegas SushiNothing says Las Vegas like eating sushi before hitting the gaming tables. Famed Japanese chef Masa Takayama creates a $240 appetizer that some consider a work of art at BarMasa, if that tells you anything about what to expect at this restaurant. Toro, also known as the belly of wild bluefin tuna, is a must. 960 1280
New Hampshire: Sunday Turkey DinnerThe seafood in New Hampshire is amazing, but their real food heritage lies inland in the traditional Yankee food category. Puritan settlers from England brought their own cooking traditions, like baked beans, baked turkey, and apple pie, and stole some classics from the Native Americans, who used corn meal in skillet cake, all kinds of fish in chowders and clam bakes and boiled maple sap. So let’s give New Hampshire the “Sunday turkey dinner while watching the football game.” 960 1280
Oregon: Fish-Sauce Wings at Pok PokThe easy answer here would be oysters, or salmon, or any of a hundred foods that Oregon is famous for such as Prince Puckler’s hot fudge sauce or Voodoo Donuts … but I’m making a list for a new generation and I’m going with Andy Ricker’s fish-sauce wings at Pok Pok. 960 1280
Utah: Funeral Potatoes?Utah, you make this so hard, your official State Snack is Jell-O. But you love to gather at potlucks and funeral potatoes -- a traditional Mormon casserole consisting of hash browns, cheese, onions, cream soup, sour cream and butter, topped with crushed potato chips -- seem like a natural pick here. 960 1280
West Virginia: Pepperoni RollsAll the hunting and fishing I do in my FAVORITE state makes me want to offer up a hundred of my campfire favorites, from chicken-fried squirrel to whole-roasted venison, but pepperoni and tomato rolled in store-bought bread or croissant dough is the thing here. If someone makes you them homemade. even better. 960 1280
Coconut Tree Grubs in IquitosIn the heart of the Amazon jungle in Peru, locals harvest coconut tree grubs and sell them in the market skewered and charred over an open flame. These protein-rich grubs taste like crisp rolls of charred chicken skin if they are cooked properly. If not. they taste like pus bags filled with rotted digested wood. 960 1280
Hákarl in IcelandReally, the worst tasting foods are the fermented, spoiled ones like Hákarl. Made from the Greenland shark, the meat is poisonous when fresh, so in order to eat it, Icelanders let it spoil in the ground for months and then out in the elements for a few more to dry. It’s a revolting dish to many first timers; eating it without gagging is what separates the men from the boys. While the smell of the putrefied shark itself could make the faint-hearted ill, the taste is ultimately sweet, nutty and faintly fishy … if you like ammoniated wax. 960 1280
Coral Worms in SamoaPalolo are tiny, little worms that live in the coral reefs deep off the coast of Samoa in the trenches of the Pacific. They come out of the coral every few years when the atmospheric conditions are right and the locals scoop them off the surface and eat them plain, sautéed or as a spread on bread. It tastes like liver fermented in salt water, but that doesn’t do the bright blue color very much justice. 960 1280
Fermented Skate in KoreaBoth adored and despised in South Korea, fermented skate, or hongeo, has the distinct odor of hospital-floor cleaner mixed with glue solvent. Mostly served “raw,” the pungent fish is seeing a resurgence in popularity. Be prepared to smell like an outhouse after leaving a restaurant that serves the delicacy -- it’s the price you pay, but it’s worth it. 960 1280
Giant Sea Squirt in Santiago ChileFound off the coast of Chile, these giant sea squirts called pyura are the size of basketballs. They're sliced open with a serrated sword to reveal the little throbbing corpuscles that live inside the spongy, rock-like carapace. They taste of pure iodine dipped in fish oil, but with a squirt of lemon they are transformed into deliciousness. Culinary alchemy at its finest. 960 1280
Horse-Rib-and-Rectum Sausage in KazakhstanPeople in Kazakhstan eat every conceivable part of the horse, from the fat cap under the mane to the rectum. They don’t waste any part of the animal. One of the best things I tried at Almaty’s Green Bazaar was kazy, a horse sausage made from whole pieces of rib meat seasoned with garlic and salt, torn from the bone and stuffed into natural casings from the horse’s lowermost end, dried to cure and then smoked, resulting in a beautiful mix of meat and melt-in-your-mouth fat. Strange for some I guess, but delicious and very normal in Central Asia. 960 1280
Sea Cucumber in AlaskaThe waters off of Sitka, AK, are ripe with exotic sea creatures such as octopus, sea cucumbers and abalone. Sea cucumber, when cooked correctly, is extraordinary. All it needs is a few minutes in a wok with a little soy sauce seasoning. The squishy creatures taste like lettuce-y sea vegetables with a bit of crunch, but mostly yielding a buttery texture. The trick is splitting them open, scraping the innards out, and then using a spatula to peel the “meat” off the rock-hard exoskeleton. 960 1280
Tarantulas in CambodiaWe are pre-conditioned in this country to think of tarantulas as scary and poisonous, belonging on Halloween decorations not dinner plates. But they taste great, reminding me of sweet and delicate crabs when they’re fresh. After digging them out of the ground, the tarantulas need to be defanged, washed and then scorched to remove the hair. In Cambodia, they’re deep fried, then wok sautéed with sugar, salt, chilies and garlic. They are superb when they're treated like lobster or crab, taken from their lair to the dinner table as quickly as possible. 960 1280
Giraffe Weevils in MadagascarTry these bugs blindfolded and you’d never know you were eating a beetle that looks like a Dr. Seuss creature. Sautéed in a bit of salty water and butter, they are tender morsels that taste like shrimp. This is the kind of bizarre food that would stop you in your tracks if placed in your hand. And they only live in this one place in the world. 960 1280
Ensete in EthiopiaEnsete is 1 of 2 species of vinifera in a special part of the “false banana” family. It’s also the name of the bread made with the pounded root ball of the same plant although it’s properly called kocho. The bread is made with a fermented paste of the root ball that’s buried underground for months to get its groove on. It’s treasured in Ethiopia as a super food, but it’s an acquired taste to say the least. 960 1280
10 Most Bizarre Foods in the World 10 Photos
Surf ‘n California burritoDid You Know? While popular for years in the north-Atlantic states, legend has it that the term "surf and turf" was first used at the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair.
Dish 1: Surf n’ Turf Burrito
Where: Lucha Libre, 1810 W Washington St, San Diego, CA 92103 960 1280
BBQ Shrimp from Deanie'sDid You Know? In Louisiana they’ve been harvesting shrimp for 400 years. In the 17th century local fishermen cast their nets into the Gulf to catch the first batch of prized prawns.
Dish 2: BBQ Shrimp
Where: Deanie’s, 1713 Lake Ave, Metairie, LA 70005 960 1280
Killer Hogfish SandwichDid You Know? In 2009, 283,015 lbs. of hogfish were caught in Florida.
Dish 3: Killer Hogfish Sandwich
Where: Hogfish Bar and Grill, 6810 Front St, Stock Island, FL 960 1280
Alligator RibsDid You Know? Alligator meat is similar to pork in texture, lower in fat than chicken, and tastes amazing!
Dish 5: Alligator Ribs
Where: Skipper’s Smokehouse, 910 Skipper Rd, Tampa, FL 33613 960 1280
Invest in Foreign MarketsResearch ahead of time if there’s going to be a farmers’ market near you. Use the website Local Harvest to find farmers' markets throughout the U.S. When traveling abroad, markets are the perfect way to really get to know an area, be it your own city or one in another country. It’s a great way to practice language skills and learn about local culture, meet people, find out about good restaurants and learn about what else is going on during your stay. There’s plenty available to snack on even if you’re not planning to cook during your visit. If you’d like to bring any produce home from other countries, check the federal customs regulations first. 960 1280
Cart SmartFarmers markets can get crowded, and cumbersome wagons can become more of a burden than a help. Markets are often set up on dirt or gravel lots, which can be difficult with smaller wheels, too. Consider collapsible rolling carts or caddies with larger wheels that have a more manageable profile. Backpacks are also handy when traveling. 960 1280
Paws Before Taking FidoFarmer’s markets can be a great time to spend walking together with your best furry friend. But many markets have asked that dogs stay home, if not out-right banned canines. Check if the market is dog-friendly before going. Some markets may even have a dog park or area set up that has water and shade. If not, make sure to bring water for your dog, and consider the temperature before leaving your dog in a vehicle while you shop. 960 1280
Keep It CoolBring reusable ice packs to keep your purchases cool as you peruse under the summer sun. You can also keep a cooler in your vehicle for storing purchases, if it’s convenient, so you don’t have to carry them around. Insulated lunch boxes can be carried in backpacks, bicycle panniers and other bags for ease. Often, you may want to go out to breakfast or lunch after the market, and a cooler with ice packs will keep your purchases fresh while you enjoy the rest of your day. 960 1280
Shop TalkWhen vendors aren’t busy ask about their farms and if they supply local restaurants, if they are online and if they invite the public to visit their farms and buy direct. Establishing a relationship with local food producers helps you get the best produce and creates closer ties with the local growers’ community. 960 1280
Good Things to ComeIf you're staying in a country for a semester or longer period of time, ask vendors what produce they’ll have later in the season, and start researching recipes. They may also recommend other vendors' produce and share recipes. Ask what they do during the winter months for fresh, local food. 960 1280
Consider volunteering at the local farmers’ market on your next trip. It's a great way to meet people. From setting up booths to engaging with social media, there are plenty of areas in which to help out. Booking live music, answering SNAP and EBT questions, setting up chairs, greeting visitors and answering general questions are all areas where volunteers are needed. Find the market’s information booth (staffed by volunteers) and ask about how to help.