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The Lobster Shack at Two Lights – Cape Elizabeth, Maine

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two lights lobster roll

This is one of the more famous lobster rolls in the state of Maine.  In fact, when people find out I eat a lot of lobster rolls and write about it, I would say I get asked if I’ve tried Two Lights most often, more so than even Red’s.  When I arrived at this location, it was immediately clear why this place is famous and I suspected it wasn’t for the actual lobster roll.  This is truly THE most stunning view in the state of Maine that is accompanied by a lobster roll.  Sure there are other gorgeous views, Five Islands, Stewman’s and Dolphin immediately come to mind.  Those examples may not be the best, because Five Islands is a rare convergence of a stunning Maine view and the best of the best lobster roll.  Dolphin has a very good lobster roll and Stewman’s is decent.  But, I guess a red flag always goes up for me when a place I’ve heard has a great lobster roll has an amazing view.  People tend to color their opinions with the entire experience, which, I suppose is normal.  I mean when you’re in Maine wanting a lobster roll, ideally it should be the whole ocean/lobster experience.  I get the opposite phenomenon when I pull up to a lobster roll place and it’s a total dump with a view of a highway and I’ve heard it has a great lobster roll.  In those cases, I get super excited because I know this lobster roll is likely to be a real life changing eating experience because the lobster roll is biased in no way by the ambiance.  Fisherman’s Grill, I’m looking at you.

Two Lights lobster roll did indeed live up to my expectations or I should say, lived down to.  I had seen photos of this roll and couldn’t for the life of me imagine how what was in the picture could possibly be good, let alone great.  Every picture I had seen involved what looked like a hot dog bun, half of which was covered with a giant blob of mayo and the other half with a pickle slice.  Yuck, I couldn’t imagine how that could be right, there must be some amazing stuff under that, but it looked like only enough lobster to barely show through.  I can say one thing for them, they are consistent.  What I received looked exactly like every picture I had seen.  I found the mayo blob much more confusing once I actually had it in hand.  The pickle can easily be removed without leaving much pickle residue.  But, what are you really supposed to do with that blob?  If you really like mayo, do you just smear it across the top?  You certainly can’t toss it so every piece is equally coated, as is ideal.  It seems like trying to spread it around would just make for a huge mess and cause the lobster to fall out.  I chose to scrape it off, but this had its challenges too.  These are pieces of lobster, so even scraping it off leaves a rather significant amount still caught in the pieces.  The only way I could think to remedy this would be to remove and wipe off every piece with a napkin of knife, but that seemed unsanitary.  So, I proceeded to eat a half completely dry lobster roll and a half mayo chunky lobster roll, just weird.  Actually, to be truthful, after trying the disappointing combo of dry and mayo, I went to the counter and got a cup of butter to dip the whole thing into.  Everything is much better that way.  The lobster amount in this roll is rather skimpy and on the low-end of average lobster roll weight after I removed the mayo blob and pickle for weighing.  The meat is fresh picked every day here and they include both tail and claw, which is always good, and it is tasty but they sure don’t give you much of it.  I have a system of moving all of the lobster meat down the bread so that I always get an ideal meat:bread ratio in each bite, regardless of the overall ratio.  Using this system, I had a full half of the empty bun left over.  The bread is your standard split top bun, the grilling technique leaves some butter and crunch to be desired.

I wouldn’t say this is a bad lobster roll, just disappointing because it is so far away from matching the beyond stunning view that accompanies it.  They do home-baked desserts here.  I think I would get that when I return.    And yes, I will absolutely return.  This truly is exactly what you picture when you think of the Maine coast.  The cute, cozy, creatively decorated, very comfortable on a cold day, dining room has wrap around windows overlooking the ocean.  The picnic table area is right on the ocean on a flat area with evenly spaced, very clean, bright red picnic tables interspersed with a very comfortable amount of trash cans to keep it clean.  This is in every way, a top-notch quintessentially Maine, seaside seafood shack.  Clean, efficient, well maintained, bright, cheery outside, cozy inside and all this is on one of the best spots of real estate where lobster is served on the Maine coast.  I really can’t say enough good things about the actual location and the restaurant itself.  Except the lobster roll, it’s the only thing that just doesn’t measure up.

Weighed in at 5 oz.

Two Lights website

Visited April 2012

Lobster Shack on Urbanspoon

 

Bite Into Maine – Cape Elizabeth, Maine

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Bite into Maine’s lobster roll is in my book, Lobster Rolls of New England!!lobster coveredited

Bill’s Seafood – Westbrook, Connecticut

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Kind of a fun vibe going on here and by fun, I mean rough around the edges in a way where weekend bikers and prissy college girls can all go mingle, drink and feel tougher than they are.  It has a nice, large deck that’s very crowded with happy patrons on a warm summer day.  It overlooks some type of water, not very pretty though.  My friend Jill, who joined me that day, pointed out that I shouldn’t miss the “singing bridge” view, apparently a big draw here.  Frankly, I don’t get it, it’s not pretty and I didn’t hear any singing, just cars.

After setting up camp at a prime table on the deck, we ordered up some vino (yes, they have a full bar) and I asked about the lobster rolls.  Yes, the meat is fresh picked and cooked there, according to the waitress.  I was actually only going to order the cold version, but since she said it was fresh picked we ordered up a hot and cold lobster roll.  Kind of unusual, and a good thing, to have a choice.  Most places are committed to one version.

Upon arrival, they looked to be good sized rolls, slightly longer bun than usual, but the meat just looked, well, sloppy.  It just didn’t look as appealing as you would like it to.  It was kind of a mess, shreds, chunks, poorly distributed mayo, all just shoved into a bun in an uneven manner.  They just didn’t look that good, probably partly because we had just eaten the beautiful, lobster roll perfection served by High Tide Gourmet maybe two hours before.  The lobster rolls both weighed in at about a hearty 8.5 oz, generous amount.  Trying not to judge a book by it’s cover, I tried out both.  The cold was pretty good.  I could do without the lettuce and tiny bits of celery, but it had good flavor, not too much mayo, buttery split top bun.  Really, pretty good, but not so good I’d come back soon for it.  The hot was worse.  There was a lot of butter and that certainly never hurts a situation.  The problem was the meat.  As Jill put it, it tastes like how lobster ravioli tastes when it’s been sitting around hot for too long.  There was tail and claw in both, and if the waitress was correct about the fresh picked status, which I do feel like I’m questioning, this should have been great.  Booze sold, waterfront, fresh picked, choice of hot and cold.  Bill’s had all the elements, but somehow missed on bringing them together.

Then there’s the check.  I get lobster stands not taking credit cards, I don’t like it, but fine.  By the way, most these days do take credit cards, I mean you can get a credit card swiper on your phone now.  This place is a full service, year round restaurant that serves booze and they don’t take credit card.  With checks that size, to only take cash is a problem.  They point out that they have an ATM in the front, great.  I’ve heard all the arguments why places don’t take credit cards, mainly because the card companies charge a % of the transaction, but I would think that works out in your favor when you figure how much less people spend when they know they can’t outspend the amount of cash in their wallet.  All cash business also depend on a great deal of honesty at all levels of the business.  While at the front for the ATM, I stopped in the restroom and had to hold my breath the whole time because it reeked of urine.  This is the ladies room, on a Monday afternoon.  I can’t imagine how the mens room smells after a Saturday night.  Never a good sign at a food service establishment.

On the up side, the onion rings were quite good.  Also, they do have an ice cream stand outside that serves Gifford’s ice cream and the staff was all very pleasant and fun.  I’ll be back to Bill’s for an ice cream, but doubt I’ll return for the lobster roll.

Weighed in at 8.5 oz. for cold and 8.2 oz. for hot

Bill’s Seafood website

Visited July 2012

Bills Seafood Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Ford’s Lobster (winter) – Noank, Connecticut

lobster grilled cheese

When I heard Ford’s was now open for their first season during the winter, I had to try it out.  Main reason was, I really could not picture where they were putting people inside.  When we were there in the summer, all seating was outside and there were no buildings besides a small kitchen and lobster pound.  Turns out, they have turned a storage building into a lovely restaurant that seats about 50ish with a wall of windows overlooking the ocean.  One of the main reasons I wanted to try out Ford’s in winter is because their lobster for the lobster rolls is fresh picked.  That’s not so easy to find in the high summer season and pretty rare in the winter.  When you factor in eating a fresh picked lobster roll in winter, with a waterfront view, I think I can count the ones I can think of on one hand (Ray’s, Brown’s, Markey’s, Eastwind Lobster and Petey’s).

The staff at Ford’s is a big part of what makes it great.  I know, I profess not to care whether staff are happy or not, as long as I get what I ordered, in a reasonable amount of time.  But, the staff here just makes you feel like you stopped in to a friend’s house for lunch.  They are so friendly, open and chatty, but not too chatty, just right.  And, they all just seem to genuinely love working there and love working for the owner.  I don’t know who he is, but judging from how his staff talks about him, he seems like a great, hands-on owner who engenders a great deal of loyalty from his staff. lobster bomb roll

When we were here in the summer, we had the cold lobster roll and the bisque lobster roll.  Both very good, but for winter, I wanted to try the hot lobster bomb, buttered, hot, fresh picked lobster (nearly twice as much as in the lobster roll according to our server), served in a sourdough bread bowl.  Honestly, I kind of wanted to take home several of these fresh baked bread bowls and eat them with all manner of yum inside.  When the bomb arrived, I wasn’t really sure how I should approach eating this concoction.  Do I pick it up, use a fork and knife, if so, where do I start?  So, I just dove in with my fork and knife chopping into it.  Yum, this is some good stuff, tail and claw meat, tender and tasty and sourdough bread that is crispy outside, soft and chewy, warm inside.  If I had one complaint, I would say it just didn’t taste buttery enough, but it wasn’t soggy, so that was good.  I think they saute the meat in butter, which is a tougher move to pull off since the butter gets too hot to really cling to the meat and cooking already cooked meat makes it taste just a smidge over done.  I prefer the meat to be warmed by tossing it in melted butter, maybe barely heating it a bit more.  That sort of lobster perfection was achieved by what Ken ordered, the special for lunch, lobster grilled cheese.  I know, the first thought with lobster grilled cheese is, isn’t the cheese going to overpower the lobster.  The second question is, are they just going to put some small amount of lobster into an otherwise regular grilled cheese.  Both of those concerns are no concern in this case.  The sandwich contains the same amount of meat as the lobster roll, still in all of its full chunk tail and claw glory.  The American cheese melts perfectly into the lobster, giving it the warm creaminess so elusive in many a hot lobster roll.  This is what you want, when you want warm lobster on bread, perfection.  This may be one of the best lobster concoctions I have ever had the pleasure of putting in my mouth.  Too bad Ken ordered it, so I only got a few bites.  As if all that wasn’t enough, I’m pretty sure, though I didn’t ask, that the bread used was bakery fresh, I think it was wheat or a multi-grain, a flawless complement.  It was a special, so you may want to call ahead so you’re not disappointed.

One more note, the chowders here are fantastic, particularly on a blustery winter day.  I ordered the New England chowder (creamy) and Ken ordered the Noank chowder (clear clam broth).  Then we switched since we both preferred the other chowder.  I was a huge fan of the Noank and it was chock full of clams.  More tasty goodness, even if it did mean I didn’t have room to order the peanut butter pie from a nearby bakery for dessert.  Oh well, next time!

Ford’s Facebook Page

Visited February 2013

Ford's Lobster on Urbanspoon

 

 

Ford’s Lobster – Noank, Connecticut

Ford's lobster roll

I felt like I had really reached some inner circle of lobster roll status when some folks who saw my Lobster Gal interview on NBC 30 passed on this tip to me.  I had literally never, ever heard of Ford’s Lobster in Noank, not on any boards, searches, articles, nothing.  As you may know, I’m not really a fan of the popular Connecticut lobster roll spots, also in Noank, Abbott’s and Costello’s, so to hear that there was another lobster roll establishment in Noank for those in the know came as quite a surprise.  Even writing about it now feels a bit like letting the cat out of the bag and sharing some sort of lobster roll state secret.  Much as I would love to keep this spot all to myself and those few in the inner circle, this venue deserves to be known, much more widely.

It’s not easy to find.  Frankly, it wasn’t even easy to find the address on a google search, all lending more to the exciting, clandestine nature of Ford’s.  Once my GPS finally figured things out and led us down a tiny, windy road to the water, there it was.  Nothing more than a quiet lobster sign with the word Ford’s marked that you had arrived.  There is was, down by the water, just two little shacks covered in lobster buoys and a deck overlooking one of the prettiest views with lobster in Connecticut.

The menu is fairly basic, at this BYOB establishment, but they were clearly getting quite creative and much more high-end than a shack with their specials list.  Then I saw it on the menu, the lobster roll I dream about and often put together myself, the lobster bisque option in addition to a hot with butter and a cold with mayo.  We decided to go with one cold and one bisque, it was a warm day, and frankly, Abbots had recently turned me off from the hot version.  I asked and the meat here is indeed fresh picked, not at Ford’s, but at another local facility every morning.  She did say that the lobster was Canadian, not Connecticut lobster.  I respected and thanked her for her thorough honesty on the lobster source, that’s very important info to me and not something every place is willing to part with.  Honestly, ideally, I always prefer local lobster, not Maine, but whatever state we are in when eating the lobster roll.  I think it lends to the authenticity, freshness and it always feels good to be a lobster locavore.  But, I will take fresh picked lobster however I can get it as it is not very common anywhere and less often in Connecticut.

I actually forgot to ask about the previously frozen, fresh picked status before ordering, but once I bit into this one, I knew immediately, that this was not previously frozen.  The fresh, briny, tender flavor was there and if you happen to have just eaten a suspected frozen, then you eat a definitely fresh picked, the difference is obvious.  Ford’s uses large chunks of tail and claw, tender, the cold version is tossed in minimal mayo and has celery chunks, which I could do without and mostly picked out, but I didn’t really mind because the meat was so tasty.  They also seem to mix to order, so I’m sure you could request sans celery.  The bisque version is warm and has the very thick bisque poured on top.  I would really prefer it to be tossed in the bisque.  The large blob on top makes it a bit unwieldy and the bisque doesn’t move into the whole sandwich, equally distributing itself in each bite.  The bun is not your standard top split bun, it’s more of a hearty hot dog bun, somewhat larger and more dense.  The flavor is similar to the standard white bun, but it has a bit more flavor, freshness and I suspect possibly bakery fresh.  The bun is not toasted or grilled.  I happen to like it this way, but I know it’s not for everybody.  They are so nice here though, I suspect they would grill it for you if you asked. The Ford’s lobster roll is certainly among the best in Connecticut, fresh hearty meat served on fresh bread on the ocean, doesn’t get much better.  They also had something curious on the menu called a lobster bomb.  I assumed this just a jumbo lobster roll, but our waitress explained that it was kind of a hollowed out bread bowl, filled with lobster.  Wow, this is definitely something I need to try out.

As it happens and I actually had trouble believing at first, Ford’s is open year round, Wednesday – Saturday.  I say hard to believe, because I’m still not sure where they put people inside, but sure enough on their Facebook page, lots of specials and pictures going on through the winter.  I fully intend to make my way down there this winter and report back.  I’m thinking a hot lobster roll in the winter, on the ocean, would be just heaven.

Weighed in at 6.3 oz. for the bisque and 6.1 oz. for the cold lobster roll.

Ford’s Lobster Facebook Page

Visited September 2012

Ford's Lobster on Urbanspoon