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New York vs. Boston, A Culinary Showdown

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When you live in Connecticut, you tend to define yourself as living in either New York’s sphere or Boston’s. And a lot of that has to do with which sports teams you root for (here at the Fine Cooking offices, the battle of Red Sox gear vs. Yankees gear tells that story every fall). And now that the Giants are facing the Patriots in the Super Bowl this year, there’s no shortage of paraphernalia for either team popping up. For us food-obsessed folks, though, the far more interesting matchup is the culinary culture of each city.  Let’s see how they fare against each other when it comes to the really important stuff, like who makes the best chowder or cocktail. (Full disclosure: I’ve lived in both New York and Massachusetts, so I’m a pretty impartial judge. And since I could care less about football, I can assure you that my sports-fandom carries no weight here). 

Round 1: Chowder
New England Clam Chowder recipe Manhattan Clam Chowder recipe
New England Clam Chowder   Manhattan Clam Chowder

When most of us think “chowder” it’s the creamy New England clam chowder that comes to mind. Manhattan clam chowder, with its tomato base, is still a chowder thanks to the potatoes and bacon that give it heft. Truly, they’re both delicious, but in this round, the edge goes to New England—how can you beat that creamy soup that’s the essence of comfort food?

Winner: Boston

Round 2: Iconic Dessert

Boston Cream Pie Recipe New York Cheesecake recipe
Boston Cream Pie   New York Cheesecake

The curious thing about this round is that Boston Cream Pie is not a pie at all—but rather, a buttery sponge cake layered with pastry cream and iced with chocolate glaze. Meanwhile, New York Cheesecake is definitely not a cake, but a light (if it’s done right) cream-cheese custard baked in a graham cracker crust—in other words, a pie.  So who wins in this smackdown? I give the edge to New York, if only because the cheesecake lends itself so well to tweaking and experimentations (just take a look at our Recipe Maker to see what I mean).

Winner: New York

Round 3: Culinarily Significant Hotel

Boston’s Parker House Hotel and New York’s Waldorf Astoria both claim major roles in their towns’ culinary history: The Parker House is the reputed birthplace of both Boston Cream Pie and buttery Parker House rolls (the latter are such a staple that they’ve almost lost their identity: the proper shape is a folded oval, as shown in this version by Peter Reinhart). Meanwhile, the Waldorf has been the reputed home of Red Velvet Cake (though the story has a whiff of urban legend about it; I find this story of the cake’s origins much more likely), and more credibly, the Waldorf Salad, the combo of apples, walnuts, celery and grapes in a mayo-based dressing (our version adds shrimp to turn it into a main course salad). The verdict here? The Parker House seems to have a more legitimate claim to its culinary history.

Winner: Boston

Round 4: Cocktail

Okay, you might think that even mentioning this category shows some bias—I mean, who can compete with the Manhattan? This combo of rye, vermouth and bitters, garnished with a maraschino cherry is the very essence of cocktail-dom. But Boston actually is no slouch in this department: there is such a thing as a Boston cocktail, containing gin, apricot brandy, and grenadine. Sounds a bit on the sweet side, but not bad. Besides, the two-part cocktail shaker used by any bartender worth his salt is called the Boston shaker, so bonus points there. Still, this one goes to Manhattan, by a nose.

Winner: New York

Final Score: New York 2, Boston 2. Hmm, so we have a tie. I guess we might have to tune into the Super Bowl after all, to settle this matchup.



Leave a Comment


  • pogue | 02/01/2012

    May have to wait 'til Super Bowl for the tie breaker, but you can't ignore two other Boston contributions to the culinary world: Fannie Farmer's original Boston Cooking-school Cookbook which, as the Fannie Farmer Cookbook, is still in print and in demand 100 years after its original publication; and although not invented in Boston proper, the Toll House Cookie which was created just outside of Boston.
    Go Pats!

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