The Best Lobster Roll In Maine


Best Lobster Roll in Maine


“Saturday Traffic Alert,” read the subject line of an email from our vacation property manager.

We were packing up after a blissful week in midcoast Maine, where my family and I had spent the days either on a boat; on the shore, finding leftover shells in the mudflats; or driving the rural roads of the St. George peninsula. In the evenings, we returned to the house where we cooked our own meals and usually collapsed into bed before 10. Seven days and six nights of pure idyll justified Maine’s self-proclaimed title as “Vacationland.”

But then reality struck: a traffic alert. The property manager explained:

“It happens every year from about the 3rd Saturday in July – through the 3rd Saturday in August – it’s become a regular Maine tradition. The ‘great Wiscasset bottleneck.’ The small village of Wiscasset has a well known food wagon called “Red’s Eats” right in the center of the village the [sic] develops long lines early in the day. As a result, traffic slows to figure out why people wait for hours to get a lobster roll (that we think is no different than lobster rolls elsewhere) and all those ‘rubberneckers’ build up the traffic lines quickly.”

We hadn’t heard a traffic report in over a week, and now, if we didn’t leave town early enough, we would have to endure a traffic jam – for a lobster roll.
I came to know of Red’s earlier in the week soon after a friend caught wind that I was in Maine: “Seriously, you must go to Red’s! Best lobster roll on the planet. DO NOT MISS THIS. MUST GET THERE NO LATER THAN 11:45. Crazy lines.”

Unswayed by caps lock and frankly too far from Wiscasset, I had my first-ever lobster roll in the state of Maine from Miller’s Lobster Company, a Spruce Head shack with its own fans. Located on Wheeler Bay, with invigorating views of placid water and blue spruces, Miller’s had no lines but there was a wait of about 30 tummy-grumbling minutes for our chosen crustaceans to go from tank to pot to bun. Served on a split-top potato roll – kind of a like a hot dog bun moonlighting as a slice of white bread – and with a plastic ramekin of melted butter and bag of Lay’s potato chips, Miller’s lobster roll seemed like the perfect lunch. As I bit into the fresh chunks of bun-swaddled lobster meat, I thought, “How can any seafood place anywhere improve upon this?”

While I was confident in my endorsement of Miller’s, I was even more impressed with the trap-to-table ethos of seafood dining in Maine. The lobster capital of the United States – if not the world – Maine harvested more than 100 million pounds of lobster in 2011 and is on track to shatter that record this year. Lobster isn’t just rich man’s food in Maine, it is everywhere, a fact that doesn’t compute until you’re driving on coastal Route 1, passing signs claiming “the best lobster roll in Maine” about every 3.7 seconds. I saw lobster rolls advertised for $9.99 at roadside stands to $18 at The Pearl, the kitchen of “Food Network Star” contestant Michele Ragussis. Most places charged about $14 for their rolls, to me a princely sum considering the lobster content of a roll added up to about two claws’ worth of meat dressed with a bit of mayonnaise and/or butter. Besides, lobsters were selling for about $6.50 per pound at the dock.


Lobster in Maine


Convinced that the lobster roll price fluctuation was based solely on the labor costs of extracting the meat from the shell rather than some magic mayonnaise recipe, my husband and I visited Owls Head’s Ship to Shore lobster pound on our second night and purchased two medium-sized lobsters for our meal. As they sat in a paper bag on my lap on the drive home, then as they quietly chirped in the fridge while we brought a large pot of water to a boil, I realized the market price of a lobster roll was a tariff on convenience. Once cooked, these lobsters that had been skittering only hours earlier on the rocky bottom of the Atlantic Ocean (the very waters from which all the area’s seafood dinners had originated), produced the sweetest, most luscious meat I had ever tasted. That we had cooked the lobsters ourselves, creating a 20-napkin mess as we cracked the claws, split open the tails and gingerly removed the flesh with lobster picks, was more satisfying than waiting while someone else made dinner. Renting a house, rather than staying in a resort or bed and breakfast, afforded us the chance to live as Mainers, to cook in our own kitchen. We bought and cooked our own lobsters four out of seven nights.

Early morning on the sixth day, as we were mentally preparing to leave the midcoast, I checked my email and found the traffic alert from the landlord. We hadn’t made it to Red’s Eats or to the dozens of other diners, restaurants and shacks beckoning with “best lobster roll” signs. But I was relieved to read the statement that Red’s rolls were no different than lobster rolls elsewhere.

Why would vacationers line up for hours for a lobster roll when they have likely spent the last week or two gorging on the same fare without having had to take a number and wait? While I bet Red’s rolls were delicious – I’ve never had a lobster roll that wasn’t – I have a hunch that Red’s reels in the tourists who just can’t say goodbye to that midcoast Maine state of mind.


Lobster in Maine

Reconnecting In Maine

She was my childhood best friend and, at my persuasion, she moved in with me in New York from Pittsburgh. For nearly a year, we conquered even the most harrowing parts of city life together. She was a painter. We shared a studio space. We collaborated to create events that combined both music and art. When my band went on tour for the entire summer, she came with us and helped with driving and selling merchandise. But all of that concentrated time together backfired and by the end of that year, we had a falling out. She moved out of my apartment; she moved out of New York. She started a new life in Boston. She got a puppy. I sent her emails every now and then, hoping to maintain a thread of contact despite our mutual need for general distance. She always wrote back, even if it took a week or two. She came back to New York once for a night to visit her friends, including mutual friends. I saw her for a second, but the climate between the two of us was still tense and unforgiving. Twenty months of embarrassingly little communication passed and then I asked her to go to Maine with me.

%Gallery-163486%

Maine was the only continental U.S. state I hadn’t seen at the time. I read about an oceanside, dog-friendly resort just north of the Maine border and brainstormed a plan and presented it to her. After making sure she could get the time off from work, she agreed.

The cheap Chinatown buses that run nearly every hour from NYC to Boston and other major East Coast cities were means of regular travel for me. I arrived to the dumpy sidewalk corner where everyone waits for the bus thirty minutes early, luckily lugging only a backpack. I boarded a subtly bad-smelling bus and did what I always do on buses: alternated between staring out the window while listening to music and focusing intently on my laptop screen writing. She picked me up in downtown Boston. I was happy to see her – relieved even.

We went back to her house in Newton where I met her nearly 2-year-old Boxer and walked bemusedly into and through her strange home. She’d been living in a house that belonged to her godfather and she didn’t have to pay rent, but there was a catch: her godfather’s family stored anything they wanted in the house and on the property. A few rusted cars, all of which were out of commission, lined the driveway. I twisted through the maze between a handful of couches in the dark living room, passing an adjacent room that was so thick with the brush of dusty excess that it served no purpose other than storage. There were a few bedrooms upstairs and old mattresses were scattered throughout them. My eyes scanned each scene with rapidity, immediately finding items to remark on as if I were perusing the merchandise in a house-sized garage sale. The only section of the house she’d organized was the basement, which she had turned into an art studio. I asked her if she’d thought of ways to create more functional living spaces in the rest of the house, but she seemed to think that if she worked hard and made it look nice, that someone in her godfather’s family would suddenly notice the improvement and decide rent was owed. So she left it all the way it was.

We used her car to get to the resort in Maine, a place called The Cliff House Resort & Spa. Barring just a few wrong turns, it didn’t take us long to reach our destination. We pulled in late afternoon and were shown to our room. Our room belonged to the comparatively dingier side of the resort that contained the older building wherein dogs were permitted. No one else was staying in that wing of the hotel at the time and our balcony overlooked steep rock cliffs that dropped off into the Atlantic. It was perfect. We woke up at sunrise to walk the dog and stared out at the orange and pink beams of light over the ocean with gratitude. We stuffed ourselves with delicious seafood, blueberry pie and wine for three days. I had mussels, foie gras and raw oysters for the first time. When we weren’t eating, we were in the hot tub or the pool. When we weren’t soaking, we were getting massages or body wraps. We even had a masseuse come to our room and give the dog a massage, as if to prove to ourselves that such a service really did exist. He didn’t seem to like the massage at the time, but he fell asleep drooling as soon as the masseuse left – comatose. And when we weren’t doing any of those things, we talked. I had a crush on my now-husband at the time, but I wasn’t quick to admit it.

“I don’t know, E. Sounds to me like you like this guy,” she told me.

“Maybe,” I confessed.

Instead of taking the highway back to Boston, we decided to drive down the coast (I wrote about the drive for the Iconic Road Trips series earlier this summer). It took us roughly five extra hours to take this route, but it was worth it. We stopped for coffee (Seacoast Coffee Company) and photo-taking and got back to Boston with enough time left over to join her colleagues for a dinner at the restaurant where she worked before I boarded the 10 p.m. bus back to NYC. I hobbled onto the bus drunk, having taken too many generously poured, gratis glasses of wine from her manager. The bus smelled strongly of urine, as most Chinatown buses by nightfall do in my experience. I smiled, despite my gagging, at the small vacation I now had under my belt. I’d seen a new state, tried a handful of new things and made good with one of my oldest and closest friends. I woke up in Manhattan and took a taxi back home to Astoria.

Sam's Top 5 Things to Do in Maine

Sick Of The Heat? 40 Places Where You Can Cool Off

glacier national park Most people look for warm places to visit. I look for cold ones. I live near Washington, D.C., and by mid-July, I’ve had it with the suffocating heat and humidity. I’ve taken escape-the-heat trips almost every summer over the last five years to places like Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, Quebec, Maine and the Pacific Northwest.

The lower the temperature the better as far as I’m concerned, especially this summer, which has been one of the hottest in American history. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, more than 40,000 daily heat records had been obliterated by the Fourth of July. Take a look at the USA Today weather map and you’ll see a sea of depressing deep red all over the country.

If you’re looking to escape the heat, check out these possibilities (with high and low temperatures for July 25 listed) for some immediate relief. And if you know someone like me who sweats like a pig and is always carping about the heat, forward them this list!North America

Cape Breton, Nova Scotia- 71/64- Cape Breton is one of my favorite summer escapes. It has stunning natural beauty, great beaches, whale watching and traditional Celtic music and dances every night of the week in the summer.

Rangeley, Maine- 76/54- The tourist hordes flock to the Maine coast each summer, but if sitting in huge traffic jams and paying $300 a night for a motel room doesn’t appeal to you, try this classic lakefront resort town, which is just 2.5 hours north of Portland, Maine.

Lunenburg, Nova Scotia- 70/59- This enchanting waterfront town has a terrific old town that is a UNESCO World Heritage Sight. With its treasure trove of historic homes and B & B’s, you’d think it would be mobbed with tourists in the summer, but I was there a few years ago in August and it was blissfully quiet.

Twillingate, Newfoundland-71/58- You can actually buy a rustic little vacation home for less than it would cost you to rent a similar place in the Hamptons for a week. This is a delightful, end-of-the-world fishing village where you can watch icebergs float by from May-July. Don’t go to the only Chinese restaurant in town though, it might be the worst food I’ve ever had in my life.

zocalo mexico cityMexico City, Mexico- 73/58-(see photo above) Mexico’s capital gets a bad rap, but I love the place. It’s full of interesting neighborhoods, terrific museums, amazing archaeological treasures and the best public square in North America. Best of all, with an altitude of 7411 feet, the climate is moderate all year round.

Alaskan cruise- (Juneau- 66/50)- According to www.priceline.com, you can book a seven-night Alaskan cruise, passing through Anchorage, Hubbard Glacier, Juneau, Skagway, Icy Strait Point, Ketchikan, The Inside Passage, and Vancouver for as little as $499 per person. Summers’s like this one were made for Alaskan cruises.

Glacier National Park, Montana- 71/43-(see top photo) I visited Glacier in late August two summers ago, and they had snow on the famous Going to the Sun road the week before our visit. Be sure to make a trip out to the Polebridge Mercantile, just outside the park to see one of the most off-the-grid settlements in America.

Vancouver, British Columbia- 76/60- Vancouver is one of the greenest, prettiest cities in North America with terrific natural beauty, great food and a Pacific Rim flare. You might encounter rain, but it won’t be scorching hot.

Seattle, Washington- 79/60- Seattle is one of my favorite American cities, and not just because of its temperate climate. Pike Place Market is one of the best of its kind in the country and the city’s stunning geography, islands, and nearby natural splendor make this a can’t miss mid-summer vacation spot. Google Kurt Cobain’s house and you can make a pilgrimage to the house where the punk icon died.

San Francisco, California- 63/52- The Bay Area can be downright cold in the summer, but I don’t mind. SF is easily the country’s most atmospheric city. A mecca for creative types, this is a great city for walkable neighborhoods, great bookstores and every type of ethnic food imaginable.

San Diego- 71/64- For my taste, San Diego has the best climate in the country. It’s relentlessly sunny but so temperate you don’t even need air conditioning. Great beach towns like La Jolla and Del Mar make this region one of my favorite parts of the country.

Grand Canyon National Park- 78/49- You’ll be sharing the awesome vistas at this majestic site with millions of others, but at least you won’t be baking in 100 degree heat.

Banff National Park, Alberta- 72/47- Banff is spectacular. If you’re looking for a mountain retreat with cool weather, fishing, hiking and mountain biking, look no further.

And here are some other ideas outside North America:

Galway, Ireland- 67/53
York, United Kingdom- 73/58
Isle of Skye, Scotland- 60/53
Brugge, Belgium- 77/61
Copenhagen, Denmark- 74/62
Stockholm, Sweden- 76/61
Yaroslavl, Russia- 78/60
Tallinn, Estonia- 76/59
Reykjavik, Iceland- 58/49
Khövsgöl Nuur, Mongolia- 70/39
Thimphu, Bhutan- 77/65
Kathmandu, Nepal- 77/68
Auckland, New Zealand- 62/51
Sydney, Australia- 69/52
Santiago, Chile- 64/35
Easter Island, Chile- 66/62
Bogota, Colombia- 68/49
Machu Picchu, Peru- 70/33
Buenos Aires, Argentina- 60/39
Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay- 56/40
Potosi, Bolivia- 59/30
Quito, Ecuador- 73/51
Mendoza, Argentina- 63/35
Cape Town, South Africa- 70/51
Kruger National Park, South Africa- 68/38
Swakopmund, Namibia- 76/59
South Georgia Island, Antarctica- 34/32

[Photos by Dave Seminara]

Exploring The Beauty Of Acadia National Park

acadia national park The United States is home to many beautiful national parks worth exploring. One of these is Maine‘s Acadia National Park, the first national park to have been established east of the Mississippi River. Rugged coastline, granite peaks, historic hiking trails, myriad plant and animal species and Cadillac Mountain, the tallest mountain on the United States’ North Atlantic Coast at 1,532 feet, all help to bring two million visitors to the park each year.

Along with Cadillac Mountain, there are many worthwhile sights to check out at Acadia. First there is the scenic 45-mile carriage road system, which can be explored via a bike or horse-drawn carriage tour. Additionally, the historic Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse, built in 1858 out of brick, stands tall and proud 56 feet above the water. Jordan Pond, Hunter’s Beach, Sand beach, Otter Cliff and Mill Cove are just some of the other must-see features of the park.

To see the allure of Acadia National Park for yourself, check out the gallery below.

%Gallery-160881%

[Images via Big Stock]

Iconic Road Trips: New England’s Coastal Drive

I met up with a childhood best friend of mine a few years ago in Boston. From there we drove to an ocean-side, dog-friendly resort in Maine that we’d decided to vacation at for a few days. Before we began our drive back to Boston, we realized we had all day to kill, so we chose our route back accordingly. Highway 1 isn’t just a West Coast thing – it’s pretty great on the East Coast, too. We took US 1A alongside the Atlantic Ocean down from Maine and through New Hampshire and Massachusetts. At different points in time, 1A connects with US Route 1. The names change along the way – in New Hampshire, it’s technically called NH Route 1A – but the direction is clear: follow the road that runs alongside the ocean at every given opportunity. What would have been an under 3-hour trip for us on the highway from Maine to Boston wound up taking nearly 7 hours on these small roads, but it was all for a good cause: gorgeous scenery.Cliché as it is to say, the journey is what matters, not the destination. Quintessential New England beaches and architecture make this drive worth it. Stop in any number of towns for New England staples like salt water taffy or chowder.

You’ll drive straight through Rye Harbor State Park, Wallis Sands State Park, Odiorne Point State Park, Hampton Salt Marsh Conservation Area, Seabrook Back Dunes, Salisbury Beach State Reservation and Salem, Massachusetts.