Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Maine Part IV: Lobster Pounds on Mount Desert Island

As much as we enjoyed cooking fresh fish and vegetables at our campsite, we also enjoyed more than a few meals and drinks out and about. In addition to our lobster dinner at Gilbert's in Portland, we had lobster three more times while on Mount Desert Island (Jesse was a bit obsessed). Maine abounds with lobster pounds, which are casual affairs that have limited menus along the lines of: lobster of varying sizes, lobster rolls served with chips, crab rolls, steamed clams, mussels, chowder or soup, corn on the cob, blueberry pies and cakes for dessert, and depending on the place, a few other options.

Generally, you put in your order, they pull your live lobster out of the water, and then you head to picnic style tables to wait while your lobster is cooked to order. Food is served unpretentiously on trays with paper plates and beer is poured into plastic cups (I felt guilty, but tried to overlook these environmentally un-friendly ways, because when in Maine...) Decor often unintentionally includes lobster traps, which I took as a sign that they are always bringing in fresh-caught lobster.

Our first night, we headed to Thurston's Lobster Pound in Bernard, on an out-of-the-way southwestern tip of the island. It boasts a screened-in porch right on the water with postcard-perfect views.

Jesse ordered a lobster and corn on the cob, while I had a hankering for a lobster roll. I thought the roll, which was served on a plain hotdog bun with a little lettuce, was decent, but nothing special. It also took me about five seconds to eat, compared to Jesse's efforts to dig into his lobster. So it felt like a lesser lobster experience in comparison. I tried a bit of Jesse's lobster, and that too was good, though not as sweet as Gilbert's lobster, probably because hard shell tends to be less sweet than soft shell. And because nothing can top your first experience!
A couple nights later we had a lobster craving again, and this time headed to Captain Beal's Lobster Pier in Southwest Harbor, also on the western side of Mount Desert Island. This place similarly features picnic tables right on the water, which was beautiful at sunset. Their menu has a wider selection than other lobster pounds, as it also includes fried foods and more seafood options. Here we both feasted on lobster, along with delicious steamed clams and corn on the cob. Steamers, or steamed clams, are not to be missed in Maine, where they are incredibly fresh and tasty.Our final lobster (*tear*) of the trip was lunch at Trenton Bridge Lobster Pound on our drive home. It's technically not on Mount Desert Island, since it's just past the bridge once you reach the mainland, in the town of Trenton, but close enough. This place had been recommended to us, and it was indeed packed at lunchtime, but I was still a bit wary that it was nothing more than a tourist trap, after reading Blake's review, in which his lobster was overcooked into rubbery oblivion.They have big wood-fired lobster bake ovens right out in front, and you can watch them haul lobsters in and out of the ovens in mesh bags. Luckily, Jesse's lobster turned out fine - it was just as good as all of the other lobster we'd eaten in Maine. So hopefully Blake's experience was just a fluke. I wasn't as satisfied, however. I wanted to try one more lobster roll, but this one was disappointing, mostly because it was served on plain disgusting slices of white bread that weren't buttered or toasted or anything, and I have never been a fan of white bread. I asked if they could toast it, but they said they didn't have the capability for that (this is a very no-frills place that doesn't even serve beer). And by this point, I was sick of eating unhealthy Lay's potato chips alongside my food. Blegh.

Interestingly, I have yet to experience the perfect lobster meat to bread ratio in a lobster roll. I've had the lobster roll at Mary's Fish Camp in New York City, which was similar to Thurston's in that the meat falls out of the hot dog bun because it doesn't all fit. In comparison, the Trenton lobster sandwich didn't have enough meat to fill out all the bread. I would rather be able to get a bit of bun and meat in each bite. I'm still in search of the perfect lobster roll, which I think I will only be able to find by preparing it for myself sometime this summer. I think this is my dream lobster roll: a buttered toasted brioche hamburger-size bun, plenty of just-cooked still-warm lobster meat, and the slightest touch of mayonnaise, lemon juice, celery, and herbs.

To be continued...

Other posts in the Maine vacation saga:
V. Drinking in Bar Harbor
III. Cooking Locally at the Campsite
II. Camping in Acadia National Park
I. A Night on the Town in Portland

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