I’m a California girl, born and raised, which might be why I identify myself firmly on Team Crab (Dungeness), not Team Lobster. Lobster is actually one of those “delicacies” that I tend to avoid when I see it on a menu. I find it can be quite rubbery unless expertly prepared. That’s why I was so surprised, on a recent trip to the Hamptons, when I found myself falling hard for the ubiquitous East Coast lobster roll.
In its most basic form, a lobster roll is a salad of roughly chopped lobster and diced celery bound with mayonnaise, seasoned with salt and pepper, served on a soft roll, usually with a lemon wedge. There are slight variations this depending on where you go, and everyone has their favorite spot. For the sake of research (right?), I decided to do some investigating to better understand what makes one shellfish - which better than the next, and hit quite a few of the top lobster roll spots including Bostwicks, Clam Bar, Fish Farm, Harlow East and Surf Lodge.
After many grueling hours of research, I’m here to tell you that while the lobster salad portion of these rolls did have some slight differences in flavor and quality, it’s actually the bread on which it’s served that sets one lobster roll apart from the rest. Most of the ones I tried were served on a standard, probably factory-made soft roll, very much like a top-split hot dog bun. The freshness of these rolls definitely impacted the overall appeal of the lobster roll. Of these, Clam Bar in Montauk was definitely the standout.
Things got far more interesting and delicious, however, when the bread was taken up a notch. One example of this are the lobster sliders at Harlow East in Sag Harbor, which are served three per order on pan-fried Asian steam buns. I loved the clever execution, as it employed the requisite soft bread form factor, but in a surprising and more flavorful way.
In the end, my favorite lobster roll was that at Fish Farm, a quirky, off-the-beaten-path spot in Amagansett that appears to be a working fish farm inhabited by squawking geese in a pen next to a cupboard full of French country dinnerware. Yep, it’s weird, and yet their lobster roll is truly something to behold. Served in a paper basket with a teeny cup of coleslaw, a bag of potato chips and few random blueberries, the Fish Farm lobster came served on a warm, buttery, house made brioche bun. That brioche, not to mention their BYO rosé policy, sealed the deal for this picky California Girl, which brings me to my point…
Even if you’re not on the East Coast this summer, you are bound to be serving something that requires a bun of sorts, so why not try baking your own? Homemade buns are simple to make will quite possibly be the x-factor that takes your hot dog from dud to delicious. There are a lot of good bread and bun recipes out there, just be sure to be smart about the kind of bread you are going to encase your goods in. Most seafood salads and grilled sausages or burgers fare well in a soft bun vs. chewy bread.
Until next time, happy baking!