Postcard from New England

I spent 4th of July weekend on the beautiful rocky coast of southern Maine. I went to York to teach at Stonewall Kitchen, and since I like road trips, I grabbed the first three people I could find, which happened to be my family, and brought them with me.

lobster roll mayo

The chunks of lobster in the rolls at Bob’s Clam Hut, in Kittery, ME, are lightly bound with mayo./AFR photo by Domenica Marchetti

It was my first visit to Maine, and beyond teaching I had one goal, which was to answer this question: Butter or mayo? I’m referring, of course, to the proper way to enjoy a lobster roll, the iconic Maine sandwich comprising not much more than chunks of fresh cold lobster meat and a buttered, toasted split-top roll.

Some places use mayonnaise to lightly bind the cooked lobster meat before filling the bread. Others stuff the rolls with undressed lobster and serve the sandwich with a small container of hot melted butter—real butter—on the side for drizzling (or pouring) over the top.

We sampled both kinds—butter only at Shore Road Market, in York, and mayo at Bob’s Clam Hut, in nearby Kittery. Both were delicious, but in the end it was no contest—butter trumps mayo. It brings out the sweetness of the lobster without the distraction of another added flavor. Sorry folks, no room for debate here.

Before leaving New England, we made a stop in picturesque Portsmouth, N.H., where we happened upon Portsmouth Book & Bar, seller of used books. It was only fitting that I should find a copy of “The L.L. Bean Book of New New England Cookery,” by Judith and Evan Jones.

New in this case means 1987, when the book was published. It’s a big collection–more than 800 recipes reflecting not only New England tradition but also the region’s many ethnic influences, with modern touches sprinkled throughout. Most of the recipes still sounded good to me nearly 30 years later (though, apparently fiddlehead ferns were a thing–a big thing–in the ’80s, as the book contains some 20 recipes featuring them).

The book was published in 1987. My boots date from about the same era./AFR photo by Domenica Marchetti

The book was published in 1987. My boots date from about the same era./AFR photo by Domenica Marchetti

While my husband inched us back toward Virginia in tortuous holiday weekend traffic, I sat happily in the passenger seat and bookmarked dozens of recipes, including (in no particular order) Provincetown fish salad, Gulf House chicken croquettes, maple biscuits and blueberry cream pie.

Our final stop was in New Haven, where my husband and I hoped to inspire our two teen-age children by letting them walk the hallowed grounds of Yale University. Alas, it turns out that they were less interested in the Ivy League institution than they were in the New Haven-style pizza at Bar, where we had dinner.

Against my better judgement we ordered a clam and bacon pizza, which, it turns out, was really good—fat, fresh clams and crispy bacon (no tomato) atop a thin and appropriately charred crust. It was even better washed down with the establishment’s own pale ale, served on tap.




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