I asked my best friend if he’d like to go to the Lobster Roll Rumble as his birthday gift. I was pretty sure I knew the answer. You see, we’re both big fans of lobster rolls, well, of a particular lobster roll, to be exact.
What’s a Lobster Roll Rumble, you ask? It’s a contest to see who makes the best lobster roll. This year’s rumble was the second, I think. At any rate, the first time I heard about it was last year and by the time I saw it advertised, it was already sold out. This year, the day the tickets went on sale I texted my friend and asked if he wanted to go. We got tickets a month, or so, in advance (yay!) and the event sold out a few days later.
So, what do you do at a lobster roll rumble? Well, you eat lobster rolls. Now, let me be the first to tell you, I LOVE lobster. As far as I’ve been concerned, there can’t be too much lobster. I can easily eat two Main lobsters for dinner—and look for more. So, as you might expect, I was psyched!
There were 18 chefs in contention for the prize, which was to be decided by a celebrity panel of judges: Donatella Arpaia, Harold Dieterle and Katie Lee. But the crowd would award the Fan Favorite award. Last year, our favorite lobster roll maker won: Lukes Lobster, here in New York City. I couldn’t imagine anyone beating Luke for best lobster roll. All you have to do is taste it and you’ll know why I say that… But more about that later. Who were the contenders? A lot of them came from New York but several were from out of town.—places like Boston, Chicago, Maine, San Francisco, Los Angeles (I was really interested to see what an Angelino knew about the ultimate New England treat.).
So we got there, in the pouring rain, and once they let us in, we made our way to one of the chefs’ tables somewhere in the middle, to beat the rush at the beginning. Now, I’ve been to wine tastings before. You take a sip—and if you’re really serious, you spit it out—you don’t drink the whole glass. So, we each get a lobster roll (and let me tell you, they were the size of a half-roll, not a mere bite) and my friend eats the whole thing. Not to be outdone, I do the same. It was okay (Jaded New Yorker, here: how is lobster ever merely okay?) but nothing to write home about. We moved on to the next table and did it again. I have to say, I was quite impressed, as was my friend, by the second roll. It was made by B&G Oysters from Boston. Well, figures, Bostonians should know how to make a lobster roll. It was damn fine, but it wasn’t Lukes. I’m just sayin’…
It was at this point that my sense of self preservation kicked in. I only ate about half of the third roll. And from then on, I took a couple of bites, maybe three at the most, occasionally just one, before deciding whether it would get my vote. I took a break after the fourth table for a Main Root Sarsaparilla, then another break after the sixth table for a glass of wine. You gotta pace yourself.
I’d heard a lot about Red Hook Lobster Pound, from Brooklyn, and gave them a try. I liked them (not as much a Lukes) but I think I was allergic to something in their roll as shortly after I had my three bites I began to itch like crazy. I took a water break and waited for the itching to subside. It did.
By this time I was pretty done in. I think I made it through 11 different lobster rolls before I just couldn’t eat any more. My friend was still able to take a taste and I had him tell me if any that he tasted, after I whimped out, were worth my forcing myself. None were. I’m not sure how many he had, but he didn’t get through all 18 either.
We cast our votes for Lukes, amid a flurry of other voters doing the same and I actually got to meet Luke! Very nice guy. I told him my location of choice was the original Lower East Side place.
I took a sparkling wine break.
My friend actually wanted to taste the desserts. I told him I was happy to drink and watch him taste desserts. Seriously? I had no idea how he was doing that! Yes, I can eat a ridiculous amount of lobster, but even I can’t eat it forever. I found my limit in lobster.
I saw him the next night at another party and asked him how he was. He said he wasn’t really hungry. I told him I woke up wanting a Lukes Lobster roll. I think he said something about waking up, wanting to die... nah! He loved his birthday present.
Did Luke’s win? He did win the Fan Favorite Award. The celebrity judges awarded Mary’s Fish Camp their award. Too much mayo, if you ask me.
Had Luke’s not been competing, I would have given my voting chit to B&G. Next time I’m in Boston, I’ll have to go there…