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Kitchen Little – Mystic, Connecticut

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lobster roll kitchen little

This lobster roll has been eluding me for quite some time.  Mainly because they only serve it before 2pm on weekdays, never on weekends, that’s always breakfast only and when I called, I was told that it’s not available at their new venture into dinner either.  It has however, been high on my list because they claim to use local, fresh seafood only and seem to be known for home cooking.  They recently moved from their tiny, “little” shack near Mystic Seaport to a much more off the beaten track, but so worth the effort, location at the Mystic marina, (if you knew that existed).  Their website says turn right and follow that road all the way back, which sounds easy enough, but actually involves quite a few twists, splits and drives through residential streets.  But, finally you arrive at the marina and head to the second floor to one of the most gorgeous views in Connecticut overlooking the water.  The second floor view really is a great place to watch the boats go by and relax watching the sun on the water.  We went on probably the hottest day on record in CT and fully expected to melt, but we took a table outside on the deck and found it to be extremely breezy and pleasant.  So, I can imagine it’s even better on a less sweltering day.

After an extremely slow start (probably 15 minutes before we saw an actual waitress), our waitress proved to be extremely helpful, friendly and entertaining.  They cook and pick the lobster meat right there, every day for both the hot and cold versions of the lobster roll.  We, of course, ordered both and I really couldn’t decide which I liked better.  The cold didn’t look very picture ready when it arrived with two giant pieces of lettuce and the meat kind of falling out.  But, that didn’t keep me from seeing the large chunks of tail and claw meat used with a fairly minimal amount of mayo.  They use a mix of fresh chopped herbs in both the hot and cold versions and the subtle flavor addition really adds a pleasant, fresh twist.  The meat is fantastic and the hot version managed to not be overcooked as is a common pitfall of the hot, buttered lobster roll.  The bun was your standard split top and could benefit from a more aggressive buttering and grilling, it was more toasted than grilled.  But overall, these lobster rolls are among the best in Connecticut and once you factor in the gorgeous view, this really is a must try.

As Lobster Gal doesn’t do very well with getting an early start, we were there the last people there after their 2pm closing time and got to chatting with our waitress.  She was lamenting the fact that they really aren’t very busy and that they may be ending the dinner service if it doesn’t pick up.  It’s on the water, they serve beer and wine at dinner and top notch, fresh seafood.  Since I’ve discovered it, I’m really hoping they stay open more hours.  I asked if I could get the lobster roll on evenings or weekends and she said yes, if they have the ingredients and aren’t too busy.  Well, when I called, I was told in no uncertain terms that I could only get the lobster roll at lunch on weekdays, so I guess it depends on who you ask, which isn’t good.

I didn’t tell her, but if I were going to offer Kitchen Little some advice on how to maximize their significant assets, my first piece of advice would be to serve those lobster rolls whenever they are open.  I would also suggest they get rid of their restrictive menu policy of no lunch on weekends and no sandwiches at dinner.  It’s off-putting when a restaurant appears as if it isn’t accommodating of what diners want to eat.  I noticed on Tripadvisor and Yelp that I wasn’t the only one who thought so, not everybody at a table wants breakfast after noon.  You have a great menu, let people order off of it, all of it, all the time.  I would also say they need to trim down the menu a bit, it takes a week to read through and doesn’t emphasize the fresh seafood nearly enough.  I get that somebody in charge here really wants to lead with breakfast, but I would suggest they lead with seafood and also let people know they serve beer and wine.  I would have enjoyed a glass of wine with lunch, maybe it just got lost in the menu, but I saw no mention of it.  They also could use some work on the service issues.  Some more prominent signage along the road back wouldn’t hurt either, it’s not easy to find.

I’m certainly going to make my way down there for dinner, not just to support them so they keep doing it, but because it honestly is one of the best lobster rolls in Connecticut and it is accompanied by one of the best water views on the Connecticut shoreline.  It doesn’t get much better than that, well, it could get better and I sure hope it does, or at least opens up the lobster roll availability.

Cold weighed in at 5.5 ounces

Hot weighed in at 5.1 ounces

Kitchen Little website

Visited July 2013

Kitchen Little on Urbanspoon

Lobster Shack – Ogunquit, Maine

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lobster shack roll

The Lobster Shack is located in perhaps one of the busiest locations on the Maine coast, Perkins Cove in Ogunquit.  Don’t believe me, try parking there in the summer, or I should say, getting anywhere near it.  It is popular for good reason, it’s packed with fantastic restaurants, shops and galleries.  If that weren’t enough, it overlooks the ocean and there is about a mile walk along the coastline with gorgeous views.  Fortunately, for me, a few places started opening in April before the mobs hit, which is the time for me.  Lobster shack has a curious location because it actually shares a wall with another lobster shack, Footbridge Lobster, right next door.  It would be easy to think, as I did at first that Footbridge is the takeout window for Lobster Shack, but they are completely separate entities.  Both of which serve a great, fresh lobster roll.  It would only be right to eat both if you made it all the way into Perkin’s Cove.  I’m not a fan of the other lobster roll hot spot in Perkins Cove, Barnacle Billy’s, but they do have the best view of the three.

The inside of Lobster Shack has a very cozy, warm feel.  It was cold on the day I visited, so that’s a positive.  It’s all pine wood benches, tables and walls.  I should also mention that they have something that I don’t see often, but all lobster places should have, a sink for washing your hands without waiting to go to the bathroom, genius.

When I asked if they cook the meat fresh themselves for the lobster rolls, the friendly gentleman at the counter said that they sure do, several times throughout the day, and pointed to a tank of live lobsters.  Which of course made me feel guilty because I don’t like meeting my meals while they are alive.  Hypocritical, I know.  The lobster roll here is really fantastic.  The fresh picked meat, lightly coated in mayo just melts in your mouth and the standard split top bun, which I, at first thought was burnt, actually added a nice browned butter flavor that was quite nice.   Overall, this is a great spot to enjoy a top notch lobster roll.

Weighed in at 5.6 ounces

Visited April 2013

Lobster Shack website

Lobster Shack on Urbanspoon

Petey’s – Rye, New Hampshire

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peteys lobster roll

This is a beautiful location right on the New Hampshire ocean, but if you want to see the view, you need to hit this one in summer because that’s when the upstairs deck is open.  There is a nice view of the marsh behind from the inside of the restaurant, but no ocean view.  To be honest, if you’re looking for a view and the comforts of indoor dining with waitress service, I would head up the road to Ray’s where you can have probably the best view possible year round while eating lobster.  But, if it’s lobster rolls that are on your mind, each of these spots offer very different versions.

I’ve been to Petey’s several times and quite liked it.  It is a major hot spot, year round.  Even on a Sunday afternoon in February people were parked far down the road.  My very favorite item here is the “lobster on a stick”.  I absolutely love it, probably more than quite a few lobster rolls.  I like it better than their lobster roll, but that doesn’t mean the lobster roll here isn’t great, it’s just that having an entire fresh lobster tail, on a stick, warm, dipped in butter may be one of the most genius creations ever.  Sadly, when I went this last time they were out of them, I nearly cried.  But, have no fear, I drowned my sorrows in lobster rolls, well, and also beer.

I had the version of the lobster roll that Petey’s offers at the Hampton Beach Seafood Fest and it is quite different than what they offer at the restaurant.  I think I like the Fest version better, it was actually one of my favorites there.  They offer a regular size and a jumbo size lobster roll at the restaurant.  I, of course, ordered both and when she delivered them, I actually had to ask which was which.  They really looked exactly the same, an illusion of the round bun perhaps.  The weights were indeed quite different, and the bread, despite identical appearance was different.  The regular sized bun had more of an airy brioche texture and less flavor and the jumbo was a heartier bread, more potato like dense texture and quite flavorful.  The both tasted bakery fresh or at least innovative, which I strongly admire.  I much preferred the jumbo bun as a complement to the lobster and hey, it comes with more lobster, so it’s an easy decision in the future.  The lobster meat is fresh caught and picked here and it tastes great.  They give a generous amount, but not as generous as the weight, including mayo and a hearty bun, might suggest.  However, I feel like they use a smidge too much mayo.  To look at the pictures, you might say way too much, but no.  It tastes like nearly the right combo, just a tiny bit over on the mayo.  One reason may be that they cut the meat into rather small chunks, which provides more surface area for mayo to stick to.  This is probably because I have found that when using a round bun, large chunks are not the right answer, they fall right out.  Either go uncut, ala Clam Shack, or cut small for a round bun.  There is also shredded lettuce involved.  You can’t pick off shredded lettuce, it just gets into every bite.  Ken quite liked it’s inclusion, but I would request without in the future.  Overall, this is a very good lobster roll with a fabulous view, particularly in the summer.  But, for me, the main attraction remains the “lobster on a stick”, the greatest seafood innovation since the lobster roll.

Regular weighed in at 8.8 oz.

Jumbo weighed in at 12.9 oz.

Visited May 2013

Petey’s website

Petey's Summertime Seafood on Urbanspoon

Port Lobster – Kennebunkport, Maine

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port lobster roll
For as many times as I’ve visited Kennebunkport, I’m really not sure why I didn’t even know that this unassuming little shop sold lobster rolls.  Port Lobster is a little brick building just outside of town by the Colony hotel.  Which, by the way is a great place to stay, particularly if you are looking for a dog friendly venue, and it’s one of the best places to have a beverage overlooking the ocean.  Port Lobster is a great fish shop for getting some fresh lobster that they will steam for you so you can go enjoy them someplace pretty.  I spotted the sign for the $9.99 lobster roll and needed to give it a try.  This may sound terrible, but I always expect a $10 lobster roll to be previously frozen meat.  I mean, lobster meat, fresh picked isn’t cheap so I usually assume that you can either have a fresh picked lobster roll or an inexpensive lobster roll.  Happily, such is not the case at Port Lobster.  They use fresh picked, by them, lobster meat, fresh picked that morning according to the gal at the counter.In addition to selling fresh lobster by the pound, they also sold frozen lobster by the pound, the price difference being $40 for fresh vs. $26 for frozen.  This is the reason that, without exception, I consider it a rip off when a lobster roll made with previously frozen meat is being sold for the same price or higher than fresh.  Even if it tastes not bad, they should still be charging less.  I asked the gal here at Port Lobster if the frozen meat would be acceptable to use when making a lobster roll.  She said absolutely not, the frozen meat is best used in cooked dishes, but when you are eating the meat straight, as in a lobster roll, it just isn’t very good if it’s frozen.  I couldn’t agree more.

So, the lobster roll at Port Lobster was quite a surprising delight.  Surprising because of the price and the fact that I had missed it all this time.  The meat is tasty, briny and most certainly fresh.  It is served in nicely sized chunks of both tail and claw/knuckle cold meat lightly tossed to order in minimal mayo.  But, since they mix to order, I’m sure you could request your desired amount of mayo.  The bun is the standard split top and can be toasted, but I went with un-toasted.  The size of the lobster roll is perfect, not too big, but perfect bread:meat ratio.  I didn’t have to move any meat down the bun to get an ideal bite.  I really quite enjoyed this lobster roll and at that price, I very well may need to order several next time!

Weighed in at 5.6 oz.

Port Lobster website

Visited May 2013

David Venable Lobster Roll Recipe

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qvc lobster roll

Before I became Lobster Gal, I grew up in the land of cheesesteaks and crab cakes that is Northern Delaware.  While I was visiting my family this weekend and chatting with some of my pals from QVC, headquartered in nearby West Chester, PA, I found out that my friend David Venable, of In the Kitchen with David, was making his version of the greatest food known to man -lobster rolls!!  So, I simply had to try out his version.

My first impressions of the recipe were that he solidly had the essentials down on this one -fresh picked lobster meat including all parts of the lobster, not just claw and knuckle.  Each part of the lobster just has such a unique texture and flavor that any lobster roll wouldn’t be complete if it didn’t involve it all.  And fresh-picked; I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it a thousand times more, if lobster meat has been previously-frozen it has no business being in a lobster roll.  Frozen can be fine for cooked dishes, but the lobster roll, where the meat is on full display in all its glory, can be nothing but perfectly briny and fresh.  He also involved a split-top hot dog bun, the standard in lobster rolls.  I liked that he didn’t suggest a specific brand, which if I may suggest -never use any mass-produced supermarket bun.  This is fresh picked lobster meat, and it deserves a bakery-fresh bun.  Fortunately, most bakery-fresh hot dog buns are not split at all, so you can just split them down the top yourself and buttery grill up those sides.

When reading the recipe, the controversial parts for me were first, the inclusion of celery.  I have only ever had one lobster roll where I was on board with the inclusion of celery, Ed’s Lobster Bar, and that was because he minced it into tiny pieces so that it just melted into the lobster meat.  David says “minced” in the recipe, so that’s just what I did.  The other flair in the recipe was a dash of hot sauce and a pinch of cayenne pepper.  Woah, spicy stuff in a lobster roll -crazy!!  I’ve never seen it done, and I must admit I was skeptical.  I’m not usually good at following recipes; I just throw things in a bowl and stir them around until I think it tastes right.  The down side of that, of course is that I can never recreate it.  So, I was going to follow this recipe by the book.

I started at my favorite fish shop nearby, City Fish in Wethersfield, CT, sells fresh picked lobster meat, and it is well worth every penny.  The price per pound may at first seem high, but I’ve done the math on this, and it takes 5, 1.25 pound lobsters to get 1 pound of picked lobster meat.  If you’re lucky enough to have a shop near you that sells fresh picked lobster meat, support it whenever you can so they keep doing the hard work.  I picked up my buns from the bakery at The Fresh Market, a specialty foods chain nearby.  I’ve tried them before and they are the perfect complement to lobster.

After I crafted this lobster roll and took my first bite, I knew that it was an absolutely amazing lobster roll.  It was even far better than what I usually make myself, which is really saying something, since I’ve been at this for quite some time.  Now, I may have been skeptical about a few things in this recipe, but David has fully made me a convert to the idea that a lobster roll can be oh-so-right with unexpected ingredients! 

The celery, which I minced finely, was just the right amount and added a fresh tasting flavor that seamlessly integrated into the lobster without crunch.  The tiny green flecks actually looked kind of pretty too. Also the mayo and lemon were perfect amounts. But for me, the spicy additions were what really put this recipe over the top.  You couldn’t specifically taste them, but the dash of hot sauce and cayenne pepper really woke up the lobster flavor and made it more pronounced.  I’m still reeling from the shock that hot sauce and cayenne pepper can not only have a place in a lobster roll, but genuinely enhance and amplify what is already the perfect food.   The power of a secret ingredient!

I rarely say this, but I wouldn’t change a thing about this recipe.  The combo of the fresh lobster, buttery grilled bun, lemon, mayo, celery and those “secret ingredients” made this, without a doubt, a top tier lobster roll and most certainly one I will make again.  Thanks, David!

Dave Venable Lobster Roll Recipe post

Recipe:

1 lb cooked lobster meat (from two 2-3 lb whole lobsters), cut into 1/2″ pieces
1/4 cup celery, minced
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1-1/2 Tbsp lemon juice
1/8 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp salt
Dash of hot sauce
Pinch of cayenne
2 Tbsp butter
4 split-top hot dog rolls

Directions:

Place the lobster meat, celery, mayonnaise, lemon juice, pepper, salt, hot sauce, and cayenne in a bowl and mix until well combined. Refrigerate until the buns are toasted.

To toast the buns, preheat a large skillet over medium-low heat. Lightly spread the butter over both sides of each bun. Cook until golden brown, about 2–3 minutes. Turn the buns over and toast the other side. When the buns  are ready, stuff each with about 3/4 cup of the lobster mixture.