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A group at C’est Bon Cooking in Ottawa prepares its own Canadian cuisine

7 distinctive regional dishes

Destinations dish out recipes with a taste for their place
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posted April 12, 2019
Sampling a region’s distinctive cuisine can be the highlight of any itinerary, and hungry groups descend on restaurants, breweries, coffee houses, juiceries and food-focused festivals to experience the unique flavor of a destination. It’s those meal memories that will linger long after the plates have been cleared and the glasses cleaned.

Culinary delights can define a destination, whether patrons crunch the creative, uncork the unexpected—or enjoy exactly what they were hoping to find.

And that’s what you’ll discover here—the innovative, the unexpected and the anticipated. Several NTA members shared recipes for notable, local favorites: foods that are important to regional identities … and visitors’ memories.
New Orleans barbequed shrimp
Photo by New Orleans & Company

New Orleans barbequed shrimp

New Orleans & Company  |  New Orleans  |  NTA contact: Thu Tran

Don’t break out your grill for this dish. Here in New Orleans, barbequed shrimp means sautéed shrimp in Worcestershire-spiked butter sauce. We serve these shrimp with heads and tails on, so you need to dig in to enjoy. We highly recommend a bib.

We are famous for our barbequed shrimp, and with reason. The biggest trick to making this taste like ours is to not hold back on the butter. The three sticks called for are enough to scare you into cholesterol shock but are key to the flavor and consistency of the sauce. Another tip to keep in mind: To emulsify the sauce, be sure to add a little butter at a time while stirring rapidly. Don’t overcook the shrimp or they’ll become tough and hard to peel. View the recipe here.

Bacon-wrapped chorizo-stuffed dates Campbell County CVB
Photo by Campbell County CVB

Bacon-wrapped chorizo-stuffed dates

Campbell County CVB  |  Gillette, Wyoming  |  NTA contact: Terry Sjolin

The recipe was created by a Gillette family while on a camping trip. They brought along the ingredients for other purposes, but decided to try combining them. They quickly realized that they might be onto something. After their camping trip, they made a batch and took them to the Prime Rib Restaurant. The owner, Ken Barkey, tried and loved them as well. He tested them while catering events, and they were a huge hit. They became a permanent item on his menu and are one of the most popular appetizers today. View the recipe here.

Arctic char pastrami glazed with maple syrup and beer Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Photo by Ottawa Tourism

Arctic char pastrami glazed with maple syrup and beer

Ottawa Tourism  |  Ottawa, Ontario  |  NTA contact: Kelly Dean

Ottawa’s C’est Bon Cooking specializes in Canadian Boreal cuisine—green alder, spruce tips, Labrador Tea, haskaps, maple and birch products; Ingredients most people are not familiar with, but are typical of our area.

Most ingredients in this recipe are foraged, harvested or cultivated locally. The Arctic char sourced from Iqaluit, or north of James Bay, is definitely a Canadian must-have and is not commonly known or used. View the recipe here.

Hagerstown Maryland Steamer
Photo by Joyce White


Visit Hagerstown  |  Hagerstown, Maryland  |  NTA contact: Audrey Vargason

“Originally the dish was served to the public at Sam’s Busy Corner in Williamsport, Maryland. Sam Eckis returned from World War I and opened the restaurant at a former hotel. Soon after the business opened, he shared food with a hobo passing through town, who gave him a recipe for ‘spoon hamburger,’ which became known as the steamer.” —Joan Knode, Herald Mail, Nov. 12, 2014

If you ask for steamers while visiting Hagerstown and Washington County, Maryland, you’ll be very surprised to learn that what is served is not clams. Everywhere else this dish is called sloppy Joes, and here, our steamers are similar to sloppy Joes but different. What makes them unique to our area is that less is more; they have less stuff in them and a different texture. The secret to a great steamer is to soak the ground beef in water until it is as fine as possible. You can’t have a good steamer if there are clumps in the ground beef. View the recipe here.

Dragon bowl (smoothie bowl) Abingdon Virginia CVB
Photo by Abingdon Virginia CVB

Dragon bowl (smoothie bowl)

Abingdon Virginia CVB  |  Abingdon, Virginia  |  NTA contact: Monica Hall

When you think of Appalachian foods, you might conjure up hearty but humble meals of greens, cornbread and salt pork—not dragon fruit. But over the last decade, chefs in southwest Virginia have been quietly redefining the region’s cuisine, focusing on fresh flavors, locally sourced ingredients and unique preparations.

The mountain town of Abingdon is known for its artsy vibe, quaint charm and its proximity to some of the most spectacular outdoor recreation in the state. The downtown historical district features a thriving culinary scene with more restaurants per capita than New York City. 

This recipe is courtesy of White Birch Food & Juice in Abingdon. In addition to smoothies and juices on the menu, you’ll find pasture-raised eggs and meats, and local fruits and veggies from the Abingdon Farmers Market.

This bowl is packed with antioxidants and omegas for healthy brain function and is a great immune system boost. View the recipe here.

Visit Gilroy Garlic Festival calamari
Photo by Visit Gilroy

Gilroy Garlic Festival calamari

Visit Gilroy  |  Gilroy, California  |  NTA contact: Jane Howard

Though we don’t recommend attempting the Pyro Chef-style “flame-up” in your home kitchen (see photo), you can cook up the original Gilroy Garlic Festival recipe for calamari from Gourmet Alley Head Chef Steve Janisch. View the recipe here. 

If you prefer to leave the cooking to us, come join us for the 41st annual Gilroy Garlic Festival on July 26–28, 2019. Learn more at

Springfield CVB Horseshoe Sandwich
Photo by Springfield CVB

Springfield Horseshoe Sandwich

Springfield CVB  |  Springfield, Illinois  |  NTA contact: Terry Truman

The Springfield Horseshoe Sandwich was created at the Old Leland Hotel in 1928 by Joe Schweska and Steve Tomko. For years, the only recipe that existed was “a pinch of this and a little of that.” It wasn’t until a Christmas edition of the State Journal Register in 1939 that Chef Schweska finally revealed the secret. 

The name “horseshoe” was derived from the shape of the cut of ham used in the original sandwich. The french fries represent the nails of the shoe, and the sizzle platter represents the hot anvil. View the recipe here.

Top photo: A group at C’est Bon Cooking in Ottawa prepares its own Canadian cuisine.
Photo by Vanessa Dewson


Support for Courier articles provided by:
Abingdon Virginia CVB
Campbell County Convention & Visitors Bureau
Harry & David
New Orleans & Company
Ottawa Tourism
Springfield Convention & Visitors Bureau
Virginia Beach Convention & Visitor Bureau
Visit Gilroy
Visit Hagerstown