Summertime near Boston brings back some pretty fond memories, one of which is the weekend trips with friends to Hampton Beach, New Hampshire. This is one of those places, similar to the Jersey Shore, where one really does not have to watch one’s behavior and etiquette. There is no dress code on this boardwalk. Hampton Beach food favorites are equally casual. Lobster rolls are served up as if they were hot dogs and unabashedly fatty deep-fried candy bars are handed to you in napkins or in paper boats with a toothpick sticking out, and at very low prices. My personal favorite? The blooming onion.
What is a blooming onion, you ask? In my opinion, it is a masterpiece, and whoever invented it deserves a congratulatory handshake. One gigantic onion is cut and opened up, with its layers separated to resemble the petals of a blooming flower. The thing is dipped into a thick, floury batter and deep fried until crispy and golden brown. It is served with a tub of tangy ranch dressing, placed in the center of the onion. Like a million onion rings stuck together, except with heartier, beefier chunks of very well cooked through onion, almost melting in the mouth between the layers of crispy fried coating. The process of eating a blooming onion is also quite addicting, pulling on an individual fried “petal” until she rips off of the rest of the blossom, with the tender, buttery soft onion becoming visible at the base, and then dunking it into the cool, snow white, tangy, citric and creamy ranch dressing, which creeps up the warm, oily, salty batter and creates a tantalizing, sinful combination of textures, temperatures and flavors on the palate. The blooming onion is, without a doubt, one of the worst things in terms of calorie and fat content that I have ever eaten, but once in a while it is definitely worth it. And Hampton Beach is one of the only places where one can get away with tearing this thing apart while sporting a bikini and feeling sexy under the sun. A perfect summertime treat.