The ultimate foodie indulgence? It's a lobster roll crawl in coastal Maine.
But while everyone in Maine loves lobster rolls, there's little consensus on what makes a great one. Everyone has a strong opinion about the bread, the sauce, and the flavors. I had to learn more for myself and so I set out on the inaugural "Lobster Roll Crawl" organized by the Cliff House Resort.
It's all about the buns
Who knew that bread could be so controversial? In Maine, there's only one acceptable way to eat a lobster roll and that's on a hot dog bun, preferably the kind that opens from the top. No multi-grain bread, no hamburger bun, no croissants allowed! And don't even think about using bagels or brioche. After all that? There are still contentious issues about toasting!
It seems that residents of Maine are in favor of the buttered, toasted buns which aren't standard throughout New England. Those I encountered in Boston were not toasted. Having tried both, I have to say that toasted buns are the winners! The buttery sides add an extra boost of flavor while the toasting creates more stability for holding the overstuffed sandwich.
The Lobster Shack in Perkin's Cove, Maine, makes an absolutely delicious lobster roll and the bun is perfectly toasted and golden brown. The property dates back to 1900 and there was been a restaurant on the site since 1947 -these guys know their stuff!
The secret of the sauce
Having grown up with mayonnaise based lobster sandwiches, I didn't think there could be anything better however the lobster roll made with drawn (melted) butter at Jake's Seafood in Moody, Maine, just about changed that. Subbing out mayonnaise for a light coating of drawn butter is a genius move and goes beautifully with the toasted bun. Jake's makes each lobster roll to order so you can decide on the spot which sauce you prefer best.
The three "C"s - crunch, citrus, celery
In my experience, there are just three acceptable options - the three "C's". You can add a light crunch by adding a leaf of lettuce to the bottom of the bun. You can add a tiny kick of flavor by adding in a small amount of finely chopped celery to the lobster meat, Or you can subtly brighten the flavor by adding just a touch of lemon.
At the Shore Road Market and Restaurant, just outside York Beach, Maine, the lobster rolls come dressed with the smallest amount of mayonnaise possible and are served with a wedge of lemon on the side. Adding just a gentle squeeze - and I mean it, just the lightest touch will do - gave a fantastic burst of flavor. They also include a side of their special drawn butter, a homemade mix of salted and unsalted butter, and adding a drizzle of butter after the lemon was a heavenly combination. And at $10 for a 4oz roll with a side of homemade potato chips, it's the best deal in town.
Don't forget the final finishing touch.
With lobster, it's hard to go wrong.
Time to weigh in! How do you take your lobster roll?
If you enjoyed this article, you'll also like:
The Anti-Adventurist Guide to Lake Placid
Traveling to Vermont on a Budget
The 200 Meter Challenge: Philadelphia
My time in Maine was facilitated in part by a press trip. All research, writing, and opinions remain my own.