For a couple of 30-something parents from Maine, spending an evening all dolled up at a gorgeous event space in Chelsea with beautiful people, elegant cocktails and lobster rolls as far as the eye could see, was, in a word, delicious. We had such a blast tasting, talking, and representing Maine during the 2013 Lobster Roll Rumble. And we could not be prouder of all four Maine teams, two of whom were big winners at this year's competition. Malcolm and I arrived early, along with other members of the press, to meet with the chefs and staff and to preview a few rolls before guests came swanning in.
Imagine your prom, but with significantly better food, drinking in the open, and no cheese ball DJ playing too much Santana. There was a fun photo booth area, ladies in their summer dresses, good music blasting, and cute seating areas. The space was part nightclub, part quaint outdoor tableau, with a Don Julio tequila bar at its center and picnic tables around the perimeter. Some partygoers set up camp at a table and surrounded themselves with as many of the twenty lobster rolls as they could, while others mingled, perched at cocktail tables, and sipped crisp whites and roses from real stemware.
Our first order of business upon arriving was to make contact with our fellow Mainers. We were sure to immediately get a taste from last year's winner, Kennebunkport's The Clam Shack. They went ahead and did it again, beating out chefs from both coast's as well as the other stellar Maine rolls. These guys prove why Maine has the best lobster rolls in all the land, bringing what we do so well. Their winning lobster roll consisted of nothing more and nothing less than a fluffy potato roll, super fresh lobster meat, and a dollop of mayonnaise. We immediately recognized its greatness and are thrilled that it was awarded another prize up against so many terrific chefs and cosmopolitan contenders.
Next, we met with the understandably proud team from The Galley in Naples. They were stoked to be there, having driven all night to deliver their Zest Lemon roll, which was named the best sandwich in New England by ivy-league educated TV host Adam Richman. We loved the way they represented with lobster tattoos, wit, and above all, a super tasty product. It had bite! We are definitely planning on making the pilgrimage to quaint, lakeside Naples as soon as we can to hang out, get fed and drink.
The cool guys and girls from Portland's upscale Eventide won the Editor's Choice award with an elegant little sandwich: a Japanese inspired bun filled with lobster meat mixed with homemade brown butter vinaigrette. I overheard a lot of New Yorker's mentioning how impressed they were with the creativity and sheer deliciousness of this audacious little taste. I love when a slightly irreverent twist on a classic is so magical.
Bite Into Maine brought the slaw. Packed with sweet meat on a bed of snappy coleslaw, all that was missing was the picturesque view of Casco Bay. (For that, we'll have to meet them in Fort Williams Park in Cape Elizabeth). After wishing all of our new friends well, we set out to see what other competitors were presenting. We sampled the novel - a hot dog topped with lobster mac n cheese; the good, and the supremely excellent. I spoke with chefs from Los Angeles, Chicago, Baltimore, San Francisco, Manhattan and Brooklyn, almost all of whom confirmed what I already knew - Maine lobster is consistently the sweetest, freshest, meatiest and best.
As VIP guests began drifting in we were glad we had napped and slicked up a bit after we winged in on a Cessna from Rockland's tiny Owl's Head airport. New Yorkers work hard and play hard and have an opinion about just about everything, which made the rumble a great place to meet people and find out what others think about Maine food and culture. Every single person I spoke with, from guests to chefs to the press, wore a wistful expression when talking about time spent in Maine. Whether it was a childhood vacation or a spontaneous road trip with college friends, everyone, it seems, has a Maine experience they wanted to recall and share. This state has a magic, magnetic quality on visitors. What a great way to spend a spring evening in the city. I think that it has been definitely proven, once and for all, that Maine lobster is perfect, iconic, and completely delicious.