Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Quest for the Best Lobster Roll

About two years ago, I went to Maine for the first time. And it completely changed how I eat lobster. Maine lobster is really like no other. It's sweeter, firmer, and juicier than any other lobster I've ever had. And lobster rolls, well, lobster is by far the best thing to ever be put in a hot dog bun. The last time I went to Maine, we were in New Harbor for a wedding of a good friend of Boyfriend's. I had my first lobster roll at a casual dinner the night before the wedding (I still don't know where it came from), and I have been dreaming about it since.

So when Boyfriend told me that another friend of his was having a wedding in New England, I immediately suggested if we could make a vacation of it and drive up to Maine. And so we made the trip to Portland, Maine, so I could enjoy the fall foliage find the best lobster roll. And I was determined to find it, cholesterol and high blood pressure, be damned.

But little did I realize how much variation there was in lobster rolls. Mixed with mayo, mixed with butter, bun toasted, with lettuce, you name it. The perfect lobster roll from my memory had the lobster mixed with just a little mayo, nestled in a bun grilled in butter. Lettuce optional.

Here is the first lobster roll we had on our first night in Maine at the Portland Lobster Company, which boasts that it has the best lobster roll in Portland. Now don't get me wrong, the lobster meat was tasty, sweet, and juicy and the bun was nice and toasty. But this lobster had mixed with drawn butter, which left something to be desired.

After a morning of hiking at Bradbury Mountain State Park, we tried our second lobster roll at the Lobster Cooker in Freeport, Maine. (And yes, we stop at the L.L. Bean flagship store while we were in Freeport). As you can see from the picture, this roll did not contain butter or mayo. Just lobster and lettuce. Once again, while very good lobster, it did not quite recreate the memory I had.

Here is the third lobster roll we had at the Thirsty Pig in Portland. This time we specifically asked the waitress for mayo. Unfortunately, the mayo came slathered on the bun, rather than mixed with lobster meat. Just not the same. (Though they did make a pretty mean sausage at this place).

So after my third lobster roll on this trip, none of them quite bringing the joy that I had of my very first lobster roll, I was beginning to feel disillusioned. Had I built up the memory of the lobster roll so much, that no lobster roll of the present could meet up to it? Would I have to end this trip, with my dream unrealized?

Just when I began to lose all hope, we drove to Gardiner, a small town about one hour away from Portland, in search of fall foliage. (All the rain from this summer meant that peak fall foliage was about two weeks late this year). At a service area, a nice woman at the information booth suggested that we go to Dennis's Pizza. They made lobster rolls with mayo, without mayo, any way you want it, she assured.

Dennis's Pizza turned out to be a hole in the wall pizza place that also served lobster rolls and deli sandwiches. Now, I had gone to college in Philadelphia, where I had some of the best cheesesteaks in hole-in-the-wall pizzarias, so I was not discouraged.

Turns out hole-in-the wall was the way to go. This was the best lobster roll of the trip, exactly how I wanted it - lobster mixed with mayo and the bun perfectly toasted with butter. And it didn't need any sides like french fries or coleslaw to complicate its simplicity.

So now that I am back home, I will be dreaming of this lobster roll. That is, until I make my next trip to Maine.

Note: I was not compensated by any of these establishments. 


OliviaCarr said...

Love it!! I'm so glad you guys had so much fun up there!

BTW, those rolls you speak of were from Captain's right on Rte 1, but a good deal further north than where you guys were this time.

And I have to say, for 25+ yrs we have denied 'Red's Eats' stand in Wiscassett, convinced it was mostly hype. 2011 has changed all that for us - they really are the gold standard.

Those will just have to wait until next time :-)

Cheryl said...

Thanks for the info, Olivia! Every time I mention that I drove past Red's Eats, but never stopped in, I get chastised for not trying it. I'll have to try it next time!