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Sea Swirl – Mystic, Connecticut

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lobster roll sea swirl

Sea Swirl is a popular ice cream stand on the way from Mystic Seaport into the center of the lovely little town center of Mystic.  They serve like 36 flavors of soft serve ice cream by some special mixing process that adds the flavor to the ice cream.  Very interesting, but as ice cream goes, I prefer the hard ice cream, which was quite good here.  Not as good as Drawbridge ice cream in town, but good.  This ice cream stand is clearly an ice cream stand first, however, they also serve, according to their sign, “fresh seafood”.

I was actually glad I went on a rather slow day because when I asked the cashier if the lobster meat had been previously frozen, she wasn’t sure, but the other girl said that it had not been frozen, and they cook the meat there.  Then, I think mainly because they weren’t busy, she was nice enough to offer to double check on that info with the kitchen.  As it turns out, the meat has been previously frozen.  I did hesitate a bit because $14 or $15 is kind of a lot to spend on a frozen lobster roll, but I decided that this was a popular lobster roll and I needed to try it and report back.

It actually was a pretty decent frozen meat lobster roll.  If she hadn’t double checked, I might have been convinced that this could be fresh meat.  The meat was tender and tasty, didn’t have any of the frozen giveaways like watery texture or chewy edges.  It had good flavor and minimal spongies.  They didn’t give you a whole lot, but a reasonable amount.  The cold claw and knuckle meat only, was tossed in a light amount of mayo and served on a barely grilled bun without butter that I could discern.  The grilling seemed to only serve the purpose of warming the bun a bit, could have benefited a lot from a good buttery crisp grill.  My biggest problem with this roll was the celery.  I have learned that celery can be tolerated on occasion, but, despite the fact that it didn’t look like a lot of celery, the flavor really dominated.

I can’t vouch for the freshness or tastiness of anything else on the menu, but I will stick to ice cream here.  The lobster roll was pretty good if you’re in need of a lobster roll, I can see why people like it.  I guess what annoys me about the use of frozen meat in a lobster roll is the non-disclosure.  Frozen meat lobster rolls can hit the spot and even be quite good, but the truth is that the price of frozen meat is 2/3 to half the price of fresh.  So, when I had just gotten a delicious fresh picked lobster roll up the road at Sea Well Seafood for $10 (particularly, probably far too low priced), it felt wrong to pay more for frozen and most people wouldn’t even know that was what they were paying for.  Frozen should either be cheaper or way more generous with the quantity of meat.  I realize that putting “frozen lobster roll” on the menu probably wouldn’t bring in too many customers, but at least have the price be a hint.  No menu says “canned tuna sandwich”, it’s just assumed that when it’s $6, you won’t be getting a grilled tuna steak on your sandwich.  I don’t know the solution, except to always ask, but even then, as evidenced by Sea Swirl, it still depends on who you ask.

Weighed in at 5.5 ounces

Visited July 2013

Sea Swirl website

Sea Swirl 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

High Tide Gourmet – Madison, Connecticut

lobster roll high tide

This food truck was not on my “to visit” list.  I had never even heard of it, and I definitely try to hear anything there is to hear about lobster rolls, particularly in CT.  While doing an impromptu lobster roll trail with my pal Jill on the CT shore, we were driving down the main drag through Madison and saw a large sign saying “lobster rolls” in front of a cute truck with a happy lobster painted on the side, curiously among palm trees.  So, of course, I had to check it out.  Sure am glad I did, this may be one of the best lobster rolls I have had in CT.

I think this is the first year in operation for this truck.  A little research told me that it was opened by a chef and that sure shows on the menu.  They really aren’t kidding about the gourmet part.  I mean, rum guava pulled pork sandwich, tai peanut sea scallops with asian slaw, wow.  But, the prices are far from gourmet, a real deal.  So, I ordered up the lobster roll and waited.  It seemed like I was waiting a while, but when the chef came out to deliver my lobster roll, I realized why.  He is actually cooking the lobster to order back there.  This not only isn’t pre packaged, that lobster is alive before you order.  This method takes longer, but well worth it.  I have only seen this method done one other time at Fisherman’s Grill in Portland, ME.  It is impressive.  The meat is fresh and tender and served warm.  It is actually more key than I had previously thought that a hot lobster roll really should be served fresh because cooking it, chilling it, reheating it to serve a hot lobster roll really ruins the texture on so many lobster rolls that really are fresh and should taste better.  I’m beginning to think this is the only way to do a hot lobster roll, cooked fresh.  Once you’ve had one, you can tell the slightly rubbery texture and slightly off flavor that lobster meat gets from being reheated.

The lobster roll here is filled with lobster meat and the holy grail of lobster rolls for me, whole, uncut tail meat!  And they cooked it perfectly, no coming out of the bun on first bite.  The bun is a  dry grilled (not buttery) standard split hot dog bun and the meat is served with just enough slightly lemony butter to make it fantastically tasty without sogging up the bread.  I really think this may be a gold standard of the CT hot lobster roll version, actually served in CT.  The flavors just all came together in you mouth for a perfect bite, with spot on meat:bread ratio.  It really confirmed for me how good this lobster roll was when I visited Lobster Landing in Clinton next, which had previously been one of my favorites.  They use fresh picked tail and claw meat, with butter.  But compared to High Tide, it just tasted flat, reheated and tasteless.  Don’t get me wrong, Lobster Landing is still quite good by most standards, but very few lobster rolls, particularly in CT can stand up against the High Tide Lobster roll.  This lobster roll could be compared most in Maine and still come out standing proud.  Even more luckily, he doesn’t close up shop after the summer, he just moves the truck to New Haven.  I sure wish he would consider a day here and there in Hartford, a gal can dream!

Scale was being wonky on picnic table surface, so no accurate weight, sorry.

High Tide Gourmet Facebook Page

Visited July 2012

Captain Scott’s Lobster Dock – New London, Connecticut

Captain Scott’s lobster rolls are in my book, Lobster Rolls of New England!!

lobster coveredited