meta name="p:domain_verify" content="8b08da541f8a920e6 Marie Z Johnston: Lobster on the Coast of Maine

Friday, August 12, 2011

Lobster on the Coast of Maine

Life has a way of being serendipitous when you least expect it.  

View of the harbor at low tide off Langodon Road
While on the East Coast for a 'college tour', my two daughters and I zigged off course (exchanging a college 'rendez-vous' for 4 nights on the coast of Maine). We did, in fact, make a couple of accidental discoveries - acquiring, for starters, a particular obsession that we were not at all in search of. 

Goose Rocks Beach, Maine
What we were in pursuit of was a few relaxing days by the shore. 

Perfectly cooked, straight off the grill.  No bibs needed, thank you.
What we found was lobster.  Lots and lots of delicious lobster. 
At prices like this, who can resist?
We found all of this fabulous lobster on Cape Porpoise, a quaint and quiet coastal fishing community about an hour North of Boston.  While there's nothing fancy going on (despite the tons of 'fancy' product caught and sold here) there are quite a few lobster 'shacks' worth visiting.  Which we did.  All of them.  Multiple times.

Lobster dipped in butter on a 'bun' with Calico corn on the cob
Home of the best Lobster Roll of our entire trip!
The one thing we had heard about (and seen many delicious looking photos of) were Lobster Rolls.  So, naturally that was the first thing we went looking for once we arrived on Cape Porpoise - even before securing a place to sleep for the night. Our favorite (pictured above) came from the Cape Pier Chowder House.  Simplicity itself, with no mayo and no lettuce. Nothing but fresh, warm lobster meat dipped in sweet butter, served on the plainest of rolls - lemon upon request.  Heaven! 

Low tide on Cape Porpoise
Given that this was mid July and we had made zero plans before setting out, we were very happy to find a room at the Cape Porpoise Motel and happily hunkered down for 4 days of relaxing (lobster filled) bliss.  Owners John and Debrah Morin are warm and welcoming and generous with their recommendations, bottle openers and platters (more on that later). John even rustled up 3 bicycles for us, so we could peddle around the Cape.  Turns out they also manage a few houses (with real kitchens!) that rent by the week, a terrific lobster-a-thon option if you are so inclined.

Nunan's Lobster Hut, where the lines are very long most of the time
While quite popular, we didn't go to Nunan's Lobster Hut (which was almost across the street from our hotel) because the lines were very long whenever we wanted to eat, and, because we just didn't want to sit all crowded and stuffy in the smallish hut when there was the option of eating in the sunshine and cool ocean breeze.

O'Reilly Lobster Co-op was right next door... We loved the lobster and the conversation!
Instead we drove, or walked, to a recommended 'shack' and picked up the lobster - cooked to order and piping hot - then headed back to the hotel where we would sit at a table in the center courtyard and eat our meal with a cold, local Shipyard Beer.  If you ask around, everyone has their favorite 'shack'; we checked each of them out since you wouldn't want to miss the 'best' one, now would you?

Wolff Lobster - hands down the 'cutest' shack around
Ruth, of Wolff's.  A Swiss family, lobstering in Maine for more than 12 years.
Did you know (we sure didn't) that lobster meat is very low in calories, fat and cholesterol? An 8oz portion (minus the butter) is about 215 calories and has the same fat and cholesterol as a skinless chicken breast!  Don't believe me?  Check out the nutritional facts here.  Who knew?  Talk about a green light...

Notice the unopened butter pat....

As serendipity would have it, we met Dina and Dick, a lovely couple from the Hudson River Valley who own and operate Olde Hudson, a food specialty store.  They fell in love with Cape Porpoise last year and couldn't wait to get back. When we met, Dick was busy grilling his lobster because, in his opinion, grilling is the only way to go.

Cut in half, a 1.5lb lobster cooks to perfection in about 10 minutes
So, on our last night we decided to do a taste test.  We picked up live lobster from several different 'shacks', a few soft shell (less meat but said to be more flavorful) and a few hard shell (more meat but harder to get at) lobsters along with some vegetable salads and a bottle of Reisling  from The Cape Porpoise Kitchen.

Dick's favorite shack - the famous Langsford Road lobster house

Our hero and lobster mentor, Dick

Dick kindly offered to cut our lobsters in half and prepare them (olive oil, salt & pepper)... since we had neither suitable knife nor cutting board, we took him up on his gracious offer (here's where the borrowed platter comes in).

About 10 minutes later, we sat down to a feast.

Our preference?  The soft shell lobster... no need for crackers or picks and the meat is amazingly sweet.

In addition to not having pots to wash, the BIG plus with grilling is that you don't accidentally get soaked by the lobster pot water shooting out of your neighbors claw as they open it... something we had experienced and witnessed more than once over the last few days. Trust me, " Eau de Lobster" is not a desireable fragrance.

Lobster Madness can set in...
The 1st recorded lobster catch was in 1605, good news for those hungry pilgrims - you'd think - but no.  For a very long time lobster was considered poor people's food.  Housekeepers, indentured servants and teachers were said to put a clause in their contracts limiting the number of times per week they could be served lobster (generally twice).  Much (though not the fishing method) has changed since then.  Lobster is still caught in individual traps and hand hauled onto the boats, the work is grueling and the rules surrounding the proper handling, capturing and harvesting of lobster are strict . 

Adrian of Langsfords picks a lobster

Lobster fishing is an important, sustainable industry in Maine and the livelihood for many families along the coast. Some Maine lobster-fishermen (and women) are part of a multi-generational tradition dating back to the early 1800's when the demand began to grow and commercialization was established (lobster shacks, open holding wells on docks, etc). I was amazed to find out that Maine accounts for 80% of all the lobster consumed in the US... that's a lot of lobster (apparently, the other huge industries in Maine are blueberries and potatoes) Now, with overnight airfreight, fresh Maine lobster can easily be enjoyed most anywhere in the continental US. 

Among the other interesting tidbits of information that came to light during our stay, is that the peak time for lobster is in the fall, and, this has been a record year in terms of catch size for Maine.  If I lived state side, I'd be taking advantage of that...  but since I can't, you should!  Sure beats the heck out of buying frozen shrimp from China or Thailand.

For those of you who want to help support one of America's oldest industries on record, here are some phone numbers

This enormous claw came off of a 1 1/2 lb lobster!

O'Reilly Lobster Co-op - (207) 967-1275

Wolff Lobster -  (207) 283-1729
Langsford Road Lobster - (207) 967-1950

Cape Porpoise Lobster - (207) 967- 0123


And if you are at a loss for what to do with lobster besides grilling, steaming or boiling it?
We had the MOST delicious Macaroni and Cheese (marscapone & provalone) with lobster...  or, how about lobster chowder (with cream, potatoes, carrots, thyme and NO thickener), or tossed on taglitelle with EXOO, garlic and basil  There's plenty to be done with lobster... order some, make it and tell us all about it!

It's a great life!
A bientot,

Other Useful Links:

Visit Maine
Travel & Leisure's 10 best lobster shacks in Maine
Lobster Recipes

1 comment:

Karen Fawcett said...

Zabie: Could you please have some lobster shipped to Paris. Make that MANY. I'll supply the wine. Lots of it.