By Sheryl Kayne
I grew up in Fredericksburg and Richmond, Virginia without really knowing the virtues of the lobster. Occasionally when our family traveled north and ate in fish restaurants, my father would hand me a tiny pinkish/whitish morsel and say, “Here, eat this.” I willingly obliged and loved the clean, clear, bold taste of salt watery, chewy excellence in my mouth that I later learned was called lobster. It wasn’t until I moved to West Haven, Connecticut that my life changed forever.
Jimmies of Savin Rock has been in business since 1925. Today they have a beautiful waterfront restaurant, but when I first found them, they were located in a shack on the beach. I ate inside my car because the hordes of diving sea gulls expected me to share my meal. I refuse to share my lobster with anyone.
I can still taste that very first hot lobster roll bite, succulent fresh lobster sautéed in butter and piled high into what some people might mistakenly think is a hot dog roll. Only the New England, or Frankfurter, roll is worthy of being called the roll in an authentic lobster roll. It is split at the top so that it stands up straight as a soldier with the lobster cascading out, and the sides are flat to be easily buttered and lightly grilled or toasted. Heaven on earth.
When meeting friends in Mystic, CT we agreed to lunch at the Sea View Snack Bar with outdoor picnic table seating along the water. All I noticed were the dancing lobster claw decorations, and without looking at the menu, ordered a lobster roll. When my lunch arrived, I teared up, “This is lobster salad in a hot dog bun. I ordered a real lobster roll.”
The man laughed, “You’re in New England, honey,” as if I didn’t know where I was. I only lived one hour and twelve minutes away. “This is the way we eat our lobster rolls, cold. Taste it, you’ll love it.”
I was so upset I couldn’t even eat lunch but learned to always ask, “Hot or cold?” Heed this warning: Throughout Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Maine there are many places serving lobster salad under the name of a lobster roll. Believe me, I have tasted cold lobster salad and appreciate that it could be passable served on a bed of greens; however, it does not belong in a toasted New England bun disguised as a lobster roll.
Certain conditions beyond my control have forced me to become a bit more flexible. Recently I switched to a gluten free diet, but still could not resist succumbing to a hot lobster roll at Stowe’s Seafood in West Haven. It was my one major gluten cheat. Finally I matured and asked for a “lobster roll without the roll.” It was a delicious compromise: I can still have my lobster roll and eat it too.
Check out this video on how to make Maine and Connecticut Rolls.
Sheryl Kayne is Tomatoes’ Immersion and Volunteer Travel columnist. She’s also the author of The Weigh It Is, a syndicated column on food, fitness and diet humor. Check out more of her Weigh It Is columns on www.sherylkayne.com