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Jessica’s Garden – Marlborough, Connecticut

Jessica's Garden Lobster Roll

I got this tip from several readers, so thanks for that!  You might drive right by this garden center and if you stop, it’s probably for the plants and you might think that food at a garden center wouldn’t be the right answer.  You would be wrong.  Food and flowers are two of my favorite things, so to combine both in such an effective way, I was loving.  To call Jessica’s Garden a garden center isn’t really accurate, that indicates to me a kind of garden center, greenhouse type place.  This is really more of an artistic, boutique horticultural center, a destination spot.  I love a good garden center and this is a good one.  They had lots of beautiful, unique plant specimens and they also displayed their landscape skills with many planted areas throughout the garden and surrounding the lovely pond.  The pink house with murals and pretty signs is where you order the food.  First they have a ton of flavors of my favorite brand of ice cream, Gifford’s.  Made me wish I came for that, even some very creative ice cream float concoctions.  Jessica, if that’s who is in charge is clearly a very creative, artistic person.  Even the menu is full of surprising, fun tastyness.  We ordered the pumpkin soup with apples, which was just incredible.  We also got a “cucumber roll”, which is slices of cucumber with American cheese and wasabi dressing on a butter grilled hot dog bun.  Ken and I were fighting over who got to finish this one.  We ordered a hot lobster roll and it was a good one.  Chunks of claw and knuckle meat, not soggy butter, good flavor on a buttery grilled bun.  It was quite nice to enjoy such a lovely meal in such a gorgeous and unusual location.  They should empty their trash more often, it became quite a bee magnet when we were there.  While their lobster roll was good, I really think everything else on the menu was so delish and unique that I just want to go back to try all of that and maybe one of the ice cream floats next time.  Very fun spot, made me feel like a little girl in a magical, secret, fairy garden.

Weighed in at 5.5 oz.

http://jessicasgarden.net/lobster-ice-cream-shack/

Visited August 2012

Jessica's Garden on Urbanspoon

Kimball Farm – Jaffery, New Hampshire

Kimball Farm Lobster Roll

I really can’t figure out what this town is near.  Kimball Farm in Jaffery is a fairly large, destination type food and ice cream spot. The ambiance is kind of New England utilitarian. Wood benches, shiny, nice indoors, gift shop, not much on the walls, a rusty tractor out front as decoration. I can’t say I get that, but different tastes. Indoor and outdoor seating, we opted for in since the outdoor picnic tables were covered in ants, a picnic table hazard, I guess. We stopped here on the way to Lake Winnipesaukee, but it seems pretty remote.

A friend of a friend, who also makes it a mission to eat lots of lobster rolls, said that this spot was her gold standard to which all others are compared. So, high hopes, which were immediately dashed. I asked if the lobster meat is fresh picked, nope, frozen… No self respecting lobster roll connoisseur should ever consider frozen meat a gold standard, or even great. I’m not saying frozen meat lobster rolls can’t be good, I’ve had quite a few tasty ones. But, I find that frozen meat varies widely, but even the best frozen is never as good as the worst fresh (barring spoilage, of course, but then that wouldn’t be fresh).  Frozen meat just, for me, immediately goes in to the second tier of comparison for lobster rolls. When I say frozen was good, I still mean good for frozen. And, when I’m somewhat dissapointed by a fresh roll, it’s still better than all but the best frozen, totally different ranking bracket, not comparing the same thing. For the authenticity and effort alone, let alone the taste difference. I have no beef with places using frozen, but in New England, I kind of feel like they should have a disclaimer or something since so many people swear they’re getting fresh, and they’re not. That was quite a rant, I just get so disappointed getting frozen lobster meat in New England, in the summer. Like getting orange juice concentrate in Florida in the winter.

Kimball Farms really doesn’t deserve this rant and it’s certainly not directed specifically at them. They actually had quite a good frozen meat lobster roll and very generous. It had decent sized chunks and shreds mixed with mayo on a buttery grilled wonder-type bun. It was quite adequate, but nothing to go out of your way for. Their onion rings were fresh, hand breaded and decent, huge portion. The watermelon wedge was a nice touch.  But, the real winner here is the ice cream that they make themselves. Very fresh, creamy, fluffy, all good things to say about the ice cream. The hot fudge was also killer. The double sundae was huge enough for a family of 4, but Ken and I nearly took care of it ourselves. Go for the ice cream, not the lobster roll. Although, it’s not really near the coast at all. So if you find yourself in the Jaffery area, in need of a lobster roll fix, this one will hit the spot nicely.

Weighed in at 9.1 oz.

http://www.kimballfarm.com/jaffrey.shtml

Visited August 2012

Kimball Farm on Urbanspoon

The Beach Plum – North Hampton, New Hampshire

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Lobster Roll The Beach Plum North Hampton, New Hampshire

This is the third time I’ve been to this spot, but I didn’t get around to writing about the last time so I’ll fold that in too.  I kind of love this place.  It doesn’t serve the best lobster roll, it does serve the biggest, and it is really quite good despite the fact that they use a mix if fresh and frozen claw meat.  Found out that factoid thanks to Ken’s cousin, Zach, who lives in Portsmouth and is easily the most valuable lobster gal team member I’ve ever had the pleasure of eating lobster rolls with.  He asks all the questions, ones I didn’t even think of, and even finds out who is the right person to talk to about these things.  He even found out that the get the lobster meat from Ipswich, MA.  We have only ever had lobster rolls with him at Beach Plum, but I really could learn a lot if I could get him to join the lobster roll quest more often.  He even got me a behind the scenes tour of the kitchen where they showed me how they actually weigh out each lobster roll.  10 oz isn’t just a guestimate here.  The Portsmouth location, where Zach and the fam joined us is open year round and really has more of a super crowded McDonalds vibe to it.  You get your food, then be prepared to fight to the death to get a table or work out a deal with a table that looks almost finished as we ended up doing after I got cut off at the pass three times by stroller weilding moms.  I like the vibe at the North Hampton location much better.  It’s a takeout window and I guess the table fighting is roughly the same, but here you can take your food across the street and sit at the lovely beach.  I really do like this lobster roll.  The standard bun is very buttery grilled and filled like a mountain with cool, lightly mayoed fresh and frozen mix of claw and knuckle meat.  I know, as with anything, there must be different levels of quality with frozen lobster meat.  Or, maybe they do something special to it, but it is quite good and full of flavor in a way that most bland, watery frozen meat doesn’t.  Not so with the hot lobster roll they serve at the Portland location in the winter.  I was picturing a hot, buttery version of their cold lobster roll, not so.  The hot version is just whole claws, clearly frozen, spongies and all, plopped on the bun.  It’s just not very good, skip this one until they start taking the exact same meat in the cold version, warm it up, not sautee or cook it, then toss it with melted butter somewhat cooled so that it sticks to the meat and doesn’t just soak into the bun.  Sorry, just had to share that fantasy, it could be so great.  Or a version with their lobster bisque could be fantastic too.  You should order the lobster biquue, very good and seems to have an amount of meat comparable to their lobster rolls.  Ok, enough sharing how people should run their obviously successful business.  The have a great product, the cold lobster roll, don’t miss it.  Worth noting, their ice cream is also worth saving plenty of room for.  They have tons of creative flavors, huge servings, as is their trademark, very tasty stuff.  Ideally, I love their pumpkin ice cream with butterscotch topping but, it is seasonal and the banana and the blueberry are also winners.  Yes, I love me some fruit flavored ice cream to top off my lobster rolls.

P.S. – For some strange reason, Ken decided to order the foot long lobster roll, which is really two regular sized rolls, which he didn’t finish, obviously.  So, we wrapped it up, put it and the cooler to take home.  I must say, the lobster roll was also very delish the next day.  Of course, the bread wasn’t crisp like the day before, but not dried out or anything, still very good.  So, order the foot long and take one home.  Nothing beats having another lobster roll at home the day after a trip.

These photos are from the North Hampton location in May 2012.  Lobster roll weighed in at 10.9 oz.  Photos from the Portsmouth location in separate post.

http://www.thebeachplum.net/

Visited March and May 2012

The Beach Plum on Urbanspoon

Mac’s Downeast Seafood – Auburn, Maine

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Lobster Roll at Mac's Downeast Seafood Auburn, Maine

Visiting Ken’s nephew, Jordan, at Bates college and he said he heard there was a good lobster roll across the bridge in Auburn, but he had no idea what it was called or anything else about it.  No worries, a quick google search turned up what was my best guess for the good lobster roll place.  So, off we went to Mac’s.  Small little building with lots of lobster decor outside and picnic tables outside, I think I’ve found the spot!  Inside it is a fishmarket/lunch counter/take-out joint.  They, interestingly have two options, the lobster salad roll and the “clearmeat” option.  Woah, I’ve been eating a lot of lobster rolls, how have I never heard of this term?  So intriguing.  According to the counter guy, the salad has claw and knuckle, but “clearmeat” is the fresh picked stuff in the fish counter that involves tail, claw, knuckle and you get to pick butter or mayo.  Eureka!  Fire me up a “clearmeat” with butter!  Still not sure what “clearmeat” means, but seems right up my alley.  I also got to choose if I wanted a hot dog or sub bun, I think the sub was just a bit bigger, allegedly.  What the heck, I have no real love for the white bagged hot dog bun, let’s give the sub roll a whirl.  I saw them measure out 4 oz of the fresh meat.  The final sandwich weighed in at 7.5 oz for whatever that’s worth.  The meat was cold, not cut up, and amazingly tender.  I didn’t even have the bite in to a piece of tail and have the whole piece comes off experience, it is that tender and delicious!  The sub bun was butter grilled on the inside.  The roll wasn’t too big but it did throw off the meat:bread ratio.  It needed more meat or a shorter roll for ideal ratio.  Not sure how the butter worked in to the scenerio since the meat was naked, there was a lot of butter brushed on the inside and all three of us got at least a bite or two with some inexplicable mayo.  I don’t know, I guess in the future, I would ask for a side of butter too.  And, there will be a next time, this was a very tasty roll and I thank them for introducing me to the concept of “clearmeat”.  There was also a Giffords ice cream place next door and it you have never had Giffords ice cream, you are missing out, it may well be the best on earth.  I, myself, enjoyed a half maine blueberry, half bananas foster.  Fantastic meal.

http://macsdowneastseafood.com

Visited April 2012