June 20, 2012

Soup to Nuts: How Maine rolls (hint: it involves lobster)

Locals and tourists are lining up for the time-tested presentation of lobster meat on a bun. Meanwhile, some purveyors are riffing on the classic recipe to appeal to more adventurous taste buds. Wasabi anyone?

By Meredith Goad mgoad@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

Today is the first day of summer, a time when our food cravings turn to summer staples like lemonade, ice cream and, here in Maine, lobster.

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The lemon zest roll from The Galley in Naples.

John Patriquin/Staff Photographer

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Chef Matt Sullivan of The Galley in Naples displays his zesty lemon lobster roll, Ceasar lobster roll and BLT lobster roll.

John Patriquin/Staff Photographer

Additional Photos Below


BITE INTO MAINE, Fort Williams Park, Cape Elizabeth. biteintomaine@gmail.com; biteintomaine.com

Bite Into Maine's lobster rolls cost $13.85 plus tax. The food truck is open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. In July, it will stay open until 7 p.m. The business is weather-dependent, so check the website.

THE GALLEY RESTAURANT AND PUB, 327 Roosevelt Trail, Naples. 693-1002; thegalleyseafoodpub.com

The Galley's lobster rolls cost $12.95, plus $2 for one side and an additional $2 for a second side. The restaurant is open 4 to 10 p.m. Monday and Tuesday; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday; 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday; and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday.

And lots of it.

Buy a scoop of vanilla ice cream, and that creamy treat can be kind of like a blank canvas, waiting for all the childlike creativity you can muster with sprinkles, nuts and gooey sauces.

But a plain vanilla lobster roll? In this state, that has long been sacred territory.

There's a reason why the lobster rolls from Red's Eats in Wiscasset have always topped so many lists of the best lobster rolls in the state. Besides the generous serving of meat, the rolls are extraordinarily simple – plain lobster with either a little butter or mayonnaise on the side. Nothing fancy. Just the taste of the ocean and the Maine summer sunshine tucked into a toasted bun.

Suggest adding a little celery, some herbs or minced onion, and lobster roll purists look at you as if you just suggested painting the White House purple.

But after a lobster roll or two or 200, some people start longing for a roll that's a little different.

Karl Sutton, co-owner with Sarah Sutton of Bite Into Maine, the food truck that sells lobster rolls at Fort Williams park in Cape Elizabeth, met a doctor from Florida who was relocating here and had tried 30 lobster rolls in his adopted home.

"He said, 'You can only find one kind! You have to keep doing what you're doing,' " Sutton recalled.

By that, the doctor meant the Suttons should keep coming up with new, nontraditional lobster rolls like the ones they sell on their food truck.

Nontraditional rolls are very hard to find in Maine. Some places just try small tweaks. The Clam Shack in Kennebunkport has won awards with its roll, which is classic in almost every sense of the word but sometimes actually raises eyebrows because it is served on a hamburger-style bakery bun instead of the traditional split roll.

The roll contains the meat of a one-pound lobster, and the customer gets a choice of a small smear of mayo or a drizzle of melted butter on top. The slightly sweet bun, made by a local bakery, gives the roll a salty-sweet flavor that people love. Just two weeks ago, The Clam Shack's roll won "fan favorite" in Tasting Table's Lobster Roll Rumble in New York City.

The largest number of nontraditional lobster rolls can be found in just two places, Naples and Cape Elizabeth.



Matt Sullivan, the chef at The Galley in Naples, has developed a mix-and-match menu of gussied-up meats and different bun styles that has captured the attention of Adam Richman, host of the Travel Channel's new show "Best Sandwich in America."

Sullivan's lemon zest lobster roll is up for the title.

"We use the whole lobster – knuckle, tail and claw," Sullivan said. "We throw a little lettuce in there, just as a garnish, not as a filler like other rolls. And then we use a lemon pepper seasoning. The pepper cuts through the richness of the lobster, and lemon goes awesome with seafood."

The Suttons in Cape Elizabeth searched far and wide for more, shall we say, "adventurous" lobster rolls before starting their business. "We've found there's a lot of other people kind of like us, who are looking for something a little bit different," Karl Sutton said.

How different?

Bite Into Maine serves six kinds of lobster rolls, each made with 4.5 to 5 ounces of knuckle and claw meat. Sure, you can get a classic roll. The next step up, though, is the "Picnic Style," which includes a layer of homemade cole slaw at the base, then lobster meat, drawn butter and a pinch of celery salt on top.

(Continued on page 2)

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Additional Photos

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The Bite Into Maine food truck at Fort Williams.

John Ewing/Staff Photographer

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Bite Into Maine’s wasabi lobster roll.

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With scenic Fort Williams Park in Cape Elizabeth – and Portland Head Light – as a backdrop, the Bite Into Maine food truck serves a variety of nontraditional lobster rolls, including the curry roll.

John Ewing/Staff Photographer

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