Friday, July 13, 2012

Let's talk lobster.


When in Maine - unless one is a vegetarian or allergic to shellfish - one must eat lobster. The crustaceans are everywhere. Their caricatures - invariably painted a bright red-orange - stare at you from practically every wall. Retired lobster traps litter the landscape, and buoys marking the ones in use clutter every view of the water. Maine is awash in an embarrassment of lobster riches, and you must partake.

I ate no fewer than five lobsters rolls during our week in Maine. I started off with a whimper (a crappy, overpriced specimen at a restaurant in downtown Rockland), likely because I failed to consume my lobster roll within spitting distance of the Atlantic. This mistake was rectified the following day with a visit to Waterman's Beach Lobster, a famous seafood shack about 15 minutes from our (pretty isolated) rental on Rackliff Island. See that, up there? That's their James Beard award.

Waterman's serves their lobster chopped in large - but not giant - chunks, dressed lightly in mayonnaise and what one imagines is tightly guarded combination of spices (I'm guessing small amounts of pepper and salt). The lobster - pulled out of the ocean just beyond those picnic tables up top - is succulent and tender, fresh as can be. The bun - a non-traditional hamburger roll - is toasty and warm, lightly brushed butter. It's a higher bun to lobster ratio than I typically prefer, but the salad itself is pretty marvelous.

The coleslaw, by the way, is also delicious. Sweet and crisp. And the dill-er-iffic potato salad is a way better side than the complimentary bag of Lay's.

The next day, a few of us took a little ride down to Wiscasset, home to the famous Red's Eats, a lobster roll truck so popular it causes traffic jams up and down Route 1 - as well as to Sprague's, the competing shack across the street, which sits on an adorable little dock and is, according to pretty much everything I've read, actually better than Red's. And short lines, to boot!

I did enjoy the Sprague's roll - more on that in a moment - but they're also pretty good at the stuff that comes alongside. The homemade raspberry lemonade, for example? Sweet, tart, refreshing. Summer in a plastic cup.

And they also have fried green beans. I know, I know. They sound weird. But they are not. They are awesome. Verdant and peppery on the inside, crispy and summery fried goodness on the outside. And they come with ranch dressing, which is how you know you're in America.

Speaking of fried America, these are clam fritters. Basically, what we have here are chopped clams, savory dough, and what happens when you cross those two with a deep fryer. The outcome? Chewy, pillowy puffs, lightly scented with clam, perfect for dipping in tartar sauce.

Now we come to the point: Sprague's lobster roll. Of all the rolls I tried last week, Sprague's (which we visited twice) had the best lobster meat. Perfectly cooked, plentiful (they're famous for including the meat of an entire lobster in their rolls), and absolutely delicious. They skew traditional when it comes to the bun, going for a buttered and griddled version of what Louisa has termed a Yankee hot dog bun. Otherwise, nothing touches the roll but lobster. This is an exceptionally pristine version of the classic, with no butter or mayonnaise gracing the meat. Though I usually go in for adornment (at least a little), this roll was still my favorite of the week, mostly because the lobster was just so freaking perfect.

On our way out of the state, we made one last stop for a final meal. Two Lights Lobster Shack is in Cape Elizabeth, and sits perched beneath - you guessed it - two lighthouses. There was much to love at Two Lights - the view, the truly awesome, crinkle-cut fries, the perfectly sour pickle chips. I wanted to love the lobster roll, too - and I did love the sprinkle of paprika and the daub of mayonnaise. But, overall, it just couldn't compare to Sprague's. (Or, frankly, to my ideal mayonnaise-y roll, available here in the city at Pearl Oyster Bar.)

Of course, findings will need to be re-confirmed next summer. Sit tight.

1 comment:

Louisa Edwards said...

I know this is a lobster post, but I just have to say that probably my favorite meal (that we didn't cook) in Maine was the fried clams at Slipway. SO satisfying and perfectly done. And such a cute place with a great view!

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