Sunday, July 12, 2009

on the Rhode again

Massachusetts and Rhode Island were part of our itinerary two years ago during my son's college search. We made a three thousand mile road trip that circled from Knoxville to the Midwest, the Northeast and back to Tennessee. This year we did a 2,500 mile circuit to New England as part of my quest.

In 2007, Massachusetts was a "do over" for me. Technically, I had been in the state as a kid when my parents took us to a Boston Pops concert at Tanglewood. Two years ago we made a campus visit and drove through Boston although we really didn't have time to do anything touristy. This past Tuesday we ate dinner in Lowell at a popular local chain called The Ninety Nine, which is owned by O'Charley's. The next morning we had time to do a quick "drive by" at Lexington and Concord.

The Lexington Battle Green is in the middle of a suburban setting. It almost looks like a nondescript city park. The visitor center has a helpful diorama of the battle and a gift shop, where my wife bought a Christmas ornament. If we weren't rushing off to a lunch appointment with a college friend of mine, we would have done more than just drive through Minute Man National Historical Park in Concord.

After lunch, we headed to Rhode Island for another "do over." In 2007, we took I-295 around Providence, stopping only at a Panera Bread. This time, we took Route 24 into Newport to see the mansions on the Ten Mile Drive.

Right before we got to the Claiborne Pell Bridge, my son spotted a big red lobster above the door of Long Wharf Seafood. We had heard that lobsters might be cheap in Newport and we had promised my sister we would get some if the price was right. A chalkboard out front advertised "New Shell Lobsters $4.99 a pound."

Once we got inside, a very friendly clerk named Eddie informed us that new shell lobsters are a little deceiving. The claw may look big but the meat inside has not yet grown to fill it. Just for fun, he showed us the biggest lobster in the tank.

As we did the calculations to see how many lobsters we needed for four people, Eddie sensed that we were looking for a bargain. While I played with the behemoth, Eddie suggested we buy five culls for $33, which he would pack in ice for us to eat the next day. A cull is a lobster that is missing a claw and can't be sent to a restaurant or supermarket. He even threw in a bullet, which is what he called a lobster with no claws. Other places call it a pistol. You could always just ask for a nice piece of tail.

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Friday, July 10, 2009

lobster leftovers

Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine bring my total number of states visited to 43. It's time to make a new map.

We went into a gift shop in Maine looking for a souvenir Christmas ornament. I don't usually succumb to the temptation to buy other stuff but I couldn't resist a refrigerator magnet from Entertain Ya Mania. It shows some cartoon lobsters investigating a crime scene. Click here to see it for yourself. My son also liked the one titled "Lobster Horror Movies."

Road trips always produce a few stray photos that don't find their way into an earlier blog post. Here are three from Maine. While waiting in line at Red's Eats, I saw some old lobster traps for sale. I remember that my father once got one as a gift from my mother. Pandora, our Siberian Husky, chewed up the buoy with Dad's name on it. I told my wife that if I had a lobster trap, it would be funny to keep it at the bottom of our swimming pool.

We drove up to Rockland, site of the upcoming Maine Lobster Festival. They had a sculpture of the "World's Largest Lobster" across from the Maine Lighthouse Museum. I think it looks more like the lobster's alleged relative, the cockroach.

The flagship L.L. Bean store in Freeport is open 24 hours. We went there after checking in to our motel on Monday night. There were more employees than customers at that late hour. There may have been more trout in their giant fish tank than customers too.

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Thursday, July 09, 2009

roll with it

The most anticipated destination on our current road trip was a lobster shack in my 43rd state, Maine.

Waiting at Red's Eats in Wiscasset was not a pleasant experience. It wouldn't have been so bad if the weather was nicer on Tuesday. A cold wind off the bay made 35 minutes seem like 70. The long lines at the tiny stand are due to its exposure on PBS, in dozens of magazines and in the book "1000 Places to See Before You Die."

There is no indication that Red's is a cash only business until you pull out your credit card and they tell you to go to the ATM across the street. There is also no indication of how much you will pay for a lobster roll. The signs only say "market price." Ours cost $16 each. The lady behind the counter poured melted butter out of a teakettle. Her hands were a blur as she wrapped our lobster rolls in foil.

I was surprised to see any other items on the menu. Why would anyone go to all that trouble just to order chicken tenders? Although I did see one lady order a lobster roll for herself and a grilled cheese for her young daughter. Another lady ordered the haddock. A handwritten sign announced that they were sold out of scallops, which means they must have been good. Our lobster rolls looked great. The meat was cold but the bun was toasted.

Red's also sells Whoopie Pies from Cranberry Island Kitchen, with a notice that they only carry Whoopies with chocolate cake and the traditional white filling. None of that crazy chocolate or peanut butter filling for Red's.

We saw a wide variety of Whoopie Pies at Wicked Whoopies in Freeport. I remember when they were featured on Oprah several years ago. I contacted them and asked for a sample. They sent a whole bunch of traditional Whoopies to the radio station where I worked at the time. On Tuesday we bought an assortment of flavors to share with family members in New York and Virginia this week. I had a banana Whoopie on Thursday and loved it. The gingerbread and oatmeal cookie Whoopies look pretty good too.

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Sunday, June 28, 2009

busy as Bourke Street

With all that happened lately, I didn't have an opportunity to share a photo of my birthday lunch. We'll get to that after a quick update on some of the things from last week. Deacon Patrick-Murphy Racey has posted a slide show of images from the funeral for Nancy and Peter Feist. It's impressive for me to see four bishops at my home parish.

Both Jack Lail and Michael Silence linked to my blog post about Michael Jackson and Elvis. Silence also linked to the picture of my birthday cupcakes. The photo turned out fairly well, if I say so myself.

Now that we're back on the topic, it's a family tradition to have lobster on my birthday. On Monday, I had a "cold water lobster tail" (probably Australian) and some sugar snap peas at Connor's.

While it was still very good, it wasn't from a true Maine lobster. Fortunately, I'll be able to get one of those when I go to Maine.

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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

fish tale

South Florida may be a long way from New England but my son and I found a place for Maine lobster without even trying. The sign for The Lobster House caught our eye as we drove along Federal Highway in Tequesta. Once inside, we saw a flyer for a Two for Tuesday special that was exactly what we wanted: two lobsters for the price of one. I was surprised when they told me that the two lobster meal was intended for only one person. Despite their intentions, we ordered it and each had our own crustacean.

If not for the special, we could have tried to win our dinners by each putting $2 in the Love Maine Lobster Claw machine. I had read about these machines over the years but didn't realize that any were still in operation. The price card next to the joystick shows that a determined player can get 14 chances for $20. The lobster at the front of the tank was enormous. I wonder if the machine's claw is even strong enough to lift him.

The talk of the gigantic lobster led the restaurant host to tell us about a huge great white shark that his boss once caught off Montauk. Lobster House owner Tony Gambino was fishing with his uncle and some others when they saw a dead whale being eaten by sharks. They stood on the whale's floating carcass and hooked a behemoth using rod and reel.

Before long Tony himself had come out to meet us and to tell us that his uncle was famed shark hunter Frank Mundus. His autographed photo hangs in the kitchen near a model of the big shark. Next thing we knew, Tony was leading us through the kitchen to see his live lobster tanks and other mounted fish heads.

I told Tony that I had been to Montauk and that my grandmother used to have a place in Noyac. He said we should try to visit his family's other restaurant, Southside Fish and Clam, next time we're up that way.

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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

hold the pickle, hold the lettuce

A restaurant that I plan to visit in Florida later this week has brought back some old memories and I haven't even been there yet. The restaurant is Cheeburger Cheeburger and the memories are from high school.

"Saturday Night Live" was a favorite of mine while I was in high school. I still watch it today, thanks to the invention of the TiVo. There were many years in the middle that I missed. Back then, it seemed that everyone knew the latest catchphrase by the time school started on Monday morning.

One such phrase was "cheeburger, cheeburger" from a skit set in the Olympia Restaurant. John Belushi would tell his customers that they had "no Coke, Pepsi" and "no fries, chips" before shouting out their cheeseburger order to Dan Aykroyd on the grill. The burgers and the grill were real. I know because I smelled them.

My father used to play tennis with NBC announcer Bill Wendell. Mr. Wendell arranged for my wife and me to attend a taping of "Late Night with David Letterman" during our honeymoon. Years earlier, I had asked Mr. Wendell for tickets to "Saturday Night Live."

A couple of factors came into play. I was only in high school and there may have been an age limit for attending the show. Plus, at the time, SNL was a hot ticket. Mr. Wendell said he couldn't get me any tickets to the show but he could get me into the next best thing, the dress rehearsal. The dress rehearsal was held about three hours or so before the live show. It would be recorded and could be used all or in part if something went terribly awry later that night. Also, skits that didn't get a good enough reaction could be cut or rewritten before 11:30 p.m.

I just barely got up the nerve to ask a cute girl from a neighboring all-girls high school to go with me to the dress rehearsal. I figured that the hot ticket and the earlier showtime would guarantee a "yes" from her. They didn't. Instead of just saying no, Margaret Finneran turned me down because she planned to go to a father-daughter communion breakfast the next day. I ended up calling Ed Gough, my friend from seventh and eighth grades, who met me at 30 Rockefeller Plaza. By the way Margaret, I was home in time to watch the 11:30 telecast. And I made it to church in time the next morning.

That week's
host was comedian Robert Klein. The musical guest was a newcomer named Bonnie Raitt. In that episode, they introduced some new skits and characters that would turn up again in later shows. Bill Murray and Gilda Radner played nerds Todd and Lisa for the first time that night and the Olympia Restaurant opened for business with its real "cheeburgers" on the grill.

During "Weekend Update," there was a joke about giant lobsters headed toward Manhattan. The show concluded with the lobsters attacking 30 Rock. Comedy writer Al Franken came up into the audience during a break and sat next to Ed and me. He informed our section that we would need to react in terror to the news of the lobster attack. The director was going to superimpose an image of a giant lobster coming toward us. Franken said that if we got it right, they would repeat the process with the live audience. If we messed it up, the bit would get dropped from the show. We must have done well enough because the shot stayed in the actual broadcast.

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Saturday, June 30, 2007

everybody had matching towels

Once a year my family likes to celebrate with a lobster dinner. For the past few years we've ordered our crustaceans from The Shrimp Dock in Bearden. A recent posting on a News Sentinel business blog (found via Michael Silence) mentioned that the store now has a 24 hour webcam. If you happened to be on the Shrimp Dock site around 3:30 this afternoon, you saw me, happily examining my live lobsters.

In years past, I ate a large lobster all by myself. Nowadays, my mantra is portion control. Last year and this year, my wife and I shared a two pound lobster, which yields about three ounces of meat for each of us. I don't know if the old me qualified as a true "foodie" but I did often take pictures of my favorite meals. Here's my lobster from three years ago:

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