Tag Archives: lobster roll

Key West!

Left Ottawa before sun up. -18 in mid-March. Brutal. Said goodbye to some very suspicious furbabies and we are off for a nice sunny respite after a whirlwind week of buying a house, selling a house and all that entails. Clear skies mean flights are on time. Too on time. We get into Charlotte, NC a half hour early, adding to our long layover, but not enough time though to find decent grub. We choose the airport burger joint from a myriad of bad fast food options figuring it is our best bet. Not so it turns out. Bad Daddy’s Burger Bar uses salt like it is a cure for cancer and anything else that might ail you. I don’t like to drink too many fluids before getting on an aircraft as to avoid needing to squeeze into the closet sized restroom but a Bad Daddy’s  meal necessitated a giant sized Diet Coke.  My tongue is still burning and probably swollen from the salt.

Arrived in Key West on schedule. 26 degrees, humid, sunny. Love.  Key West airport being the perfect airport, has no jet ways. You disembark and enter The Conch Rebublic Terminal. Fancy shmancy word for room. No visible security, a small luggage carrousel to the right and left of the door, First Call Bar serving up frosty cocktails while you wait, with car rental steps away. We had our car keys before our luggage, ten minutes.

We are staying at the Orchid Key Inn on Duval. This may turn out to be a mistake as we didn’t factor in American March Break, but being a tad pricey it seems to have scared the young’uns away leaving the pool to old farts like us. So far so good. The Inn, quaint in a mid 20th century way,  has all suites on ground level clustered around a courtyard pool. The layout and vibe remind me very much of the San Jose in Austin, Texas. Rooms are elegantly appointed and have everything the road techie needs. The Orchid Key bar, pool side, mixes up it’s own specialty cocktails and we think we will start there after a long day getting here. Gin and Juice to start off our vaycay! It’s the Inn’s signature cocktail — Cucumber-infused Hendrick’s gin, fresh grapefruit juice and cucumber slices.

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After cocktails we head out to snap some pics and wander Duval street in search of grub. Roosters crow at us and local colour pops. Tourists and students tour the street and shops. We spy DJ’s Clam Shack, recently featured on Food Network’s “triple D”.  An early dinner allows us to get street side seating where we can nosh and people watch.

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Orders come up fast. Icy cold Landsharks to start followed by a very excellent and classic New England, over-stuffed lobster roll — sweet meat, lightly dressed in a perfect toasty, buttery roll.

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Next up, little neck clams in garlic and jalapeno broth with garlic toasts, — sweet, garlicky clams with a nice background heat coming off the peppers.

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And finally an order of very tasty, perfectly fried conch fritters, sweet, doughy, loaded with conch and served with a mild sweet mustard sauce. The fritters came with well-made but superfluous shoestring fries.

Blog Key West 009Back to the Inn for an early night. This day began at 4:30 am.

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RT6 – To Boston

Woke up to, sigh, yet another sunny, warm day. We walk to breakfast at The Porthole on the wharf, taking in the sea air, which truth be told, is a little fishy scented. The wharf of which I speak is the same one where we ate last night. There are nice stores and tourist boutiques in the area but the wharf itself is beautiful in it’s fight to survive nature and all she throws at the structures that dare. Thankfully the wharf has not been Disneyfied.  It is dilapidated and could use a coat of paint but that would raise prices and take away the charm. This morning there are a few puddles in the uneven cobbles and merchants going about early business.

The Porthole is distressed to say the least on the outside, but inside it is warm and inviting though not busy this Tuesday morning. A long copper topped bar runs the length of a large kitchen, fronted with empty stools. A few patrons are enjoying breakfast on the large patio. We decide to sit inside by the open window and enjoy the ambiance inside. Featured on the walls are folk art paintings and some antique signage, a piano and very old jukebox fill corners.

OJ is not fresh squeezed but it is amazing what a lot of ice does to improve it. No coffee today. Trying to forget yesterday’s coffee. Menus arrive and the choice is easy. I often get bored with the classic breakfast offerings, but when I see an egg and braised pork belly sandwich with kimchi, I am having it. Read no further. Rob orders the same and we split a side of cheese grits.

Our sandwiches come with potatoes that at first look disappointing, as we use potatoes as a measure by which to judge a breakfast joint. Don’t be deceived by looks though. The potatoes looked like those distressing deep fried cubes of ruined spuds but they are just fresh and hard pan fried in a lot of fat. They are excellent. Our Porthole Special Breakfast, a well made omlette of egg with scallions folded onto buttered toasty bread with American cheese all melty and gooey, with braised porkbelly, the fat cut with spicy kimchi, topped with more buttered toast is divine.

The grits are well made and peppery and have enough cheese to make them creamy but not taste of cheese, but they don’t rate belly space when faced with a sandwich of that magnificence.

Back on the road again we have to backtrack a bit and find ourselves back in New Hampshire. What a difference between Maine and the Live Free or Die State. When you have low taxes and no sales tax there is not a lot of civic pride in evidence. Sorry, New Hampshire but your charms are lost on me to date.

Today we are traveling to Boston via Essex and Salem. We sail into Essex, MA along Route 1. We are stopping at the renown Woodman’s for lunch. It is unassuming, well… for a large seafood shack in Massachusetts bedecked in flags.

You line up and order from a chalkboard menu, go to a separate line and get drinks, in this case, a Sam Adams Cherry Wheat Beer, and find a seat to wait for your number to come up.

Our meal arrives in a box top and take out containers. Absolutely decadent, over stuffed lobster rolls on eggy, griddled buns served with potato chips, and the most perfect, sweet, lightly battered and fried sea scallops and clam cake. One look at the picture of the lobster roll and you will die just a bit because you are not here. I have never had scallops that fresh and perfectly made.

The clam cake well…it is what it is. A savory “donut” with chopped clam in the batter with barely discernible clam flavour. This is a regional specialty that I would pass on when you could have THIS lobster roll. Just sayin’.

Oh yeah…the Sam Adams was a great wheat beer with only a nice hint of cherry. Rob and I came up with some weird flavour profiles to describe it but while accurate, they didn’t sound that appetizing and we both enjoyed the beer, so we gave up. And so, after an epic seafood orgy of Caligulan proportions, we decide to visit a little 17th-century graveyard which features the graves of several Revolutionary War veterans.

Onward to Salem, Ma where we visited the water front which is in preparations for a large Maritime Festival beginning tomorrow. We explore the tourist traps a bit. Salem is very halloweeny this time of year and has extended its brand to include magic, wizards, faeries and pirates. Tsk, tsk.

We continue on to Boston where we will spend three days. The entire drive today has been a pretty saunter through quaint New England, past clapboard and shingled homes, saltboxes and Victorians, past deep blue hydrangeas, flamingo- pink summer phlox, black-eyed Susans, cleome, Rose of Sharon and gaily-coloured window boxes, past neat pickets, rustic rail and solid stone fences. And flags.


RT6 – To Portland ME

Woke up early this morning to the sun and sparkling waters of Lake Champlain. We headed down to the harbour to check it out before heading to The Spot for breakfast. This little local dive, open to the outside from within, serves a tasty breakfast in a surf shack that is someplace between California and Polynesia. Surf company stickers, thatched awnings, palm trees, surf boards, leis, tiki carvings and a tropical fish tank, lend a bright, light-hearted, casual vibe. Chairs are comfy and there is a large patio.

I order the Ole burrito with chorizo, eggs, cheddar, red onion, black beans. A small bottle of no-name, mild hot sauce, fresh guacamole and sour cream come on the side. Rob ordered a “make-your-own” omelette, given the array of great looking ingredients. He asked for chorizo, banana peppers, avocado and cheddar, with a side of cafe potatoes and rye toast.

Coffee and orange juice arrives first. The coffee is, well, horrible. Undrinkable really.  OJ is from a carton. The Spot really could upgrade their drinks. Our breakfasts arrive next. The Ole is a beauty to behold. Eggy filling is divided between two nicely charred flour tortillas. The chorizo is abundant and flavourful, and the eggs are well scrambled and delicious. A very good breakfast “taco”. I found the serving size is really a bit too large. One taco was sufficient.

Rob’s omelette was tangy with spice and the avocado and cheese tempered the heat with creamier coolness. A perfect combo. Accompanying small red potatoes  were cooked on the flat top and seasoned with a spice mix, and the rye toast was cut thick. A great breakfast all in all.

Happily sated, we hit I-89, Portland, Maine bound.

The green mountain state of Vermont is picturesque, dotted with small farms and homesteads in the valleys. The mountain roads are cut through walls of shiny black shale, veined with copper coloured rock. I-89 is not cluttered with box stores and billboards.

At some point we cross unknowingly into New Hampshire. There is no sign to welcome us and we are denied a photo of a huge  “Live Free Or Die”. We will have to be satisfied with the mega liquor store that is planted at all access points to the state. We get off the highway in Manchester…major miscalculation. We thought we could grab a quick bite, but the entire town was under construction. After fooling Stella, our GPS into taking a detour to avoid the mess she was trying to lead us back into – we are back on the road. Soon we have the option of getting off the interstate and on to Route 1, a pleasant meandering drive through coastal Maine.

We hit gold right away. Rob spies a seafood shack roadside. 3 Buoys Seafood Shanty and Grille. So glad we waited out New Hampshire. We exit the car and stretch. 3 Buoys, a perfect dive shack, done up in nouveau fishing boat chic delivers exactly what we are looking for.

A homemade seaside business serving up fresh seafood. With the Olympics on the flatie, or should I say, the all-American games and some other teams of little or no interest, we order Blue Moons, clam strips and lobster rolls.

The clam strips are lightly seasoned and well fried. Not greasy. I pass on the tartar sauce. I was raised to eat them with ketchup like a good maritime Canadian.

The lobster rolls come with home made fries. The fries are hand cut but the oil wasn’t hot enough. They are just ok. The lobster rolls. The lobster rolls. Wow. Hot dog bun, split, buttered and made toasty good on the flat top, stuffed, really stuffed –  with lobster lightly dressed with mayo. Washed down with Blue Moon beer, it was exactly what the moment called for. The perfect storm. I cannot get it out of my mind. I will have another somewhere on our journey tomorrow. There is no shortage of shacks along the way.

Route 1 to Portland takes us past classic New England towns, bustling with tourists and residents this Monday. We passed small resorts, old school motels with turquoise cement pools, cafes, patios, clapboard houses with colourful shutters and antique stores. Nice to see the occasional Canadian and pride flags amongst the American. Past the little towns of Ogunquit, Wells, Kennebunkport and Arundel, on to campgrounds and cottage country and finally into Portland, Maine. We settle in for a bit and decide on J’s Oyster for a late dinner. Portland has so many places of interest for dining but we have only one night here. J’s comes to us from Roadfood.com.

The oysterhouse is a three minute walk from our hotel so we set out on foot and explore a bit. J’s is right on the commercial wharf, which means seedy – but fresh. They do not take reservations and even though it is late on a Monday evening, we face a 30 to 40 minute wait. We take a seat on the windy dockside. There is patio seating but the night is quite cool, so we wait it out.

Eventually we are called and seated. J’s is dimly lit. The entire center of the room is occupied by the bar. There is seating around much of it. This is authentic wharf dive bar classic. Paper placemats with important lobster facts printed on them appear in front of us along with cheap cutlery. There is no water on the table and if you want rolls, you ask for them. Our waitress drops by with menus and we order Rolling Rocks to start. For apps we decide to share the garlic bread and crab and bacon stuffed mushroom caps. The caps are garlicky and have both a lot of crab and bacon.

I however seem to have developed an aversion to any meat paired with bacon. I love bacon. I love crab. I did not like the flavour combination. I believe though that the fault lies with me. The garlic bread was however, amazing. BEST EVER. A white hot dog bun split, spread with garlic butter and chives, then toasted on the flat top. Chewy, steamy, garlicky. Cheese on garlic bread only complicates things.

For our mains, I get the lobster pernod and Rob opts for the lobster scampi. My dinner arrives. Large chunks of lobster meat are lightly sauteed with mushrooms and cream with a dash of pernod, and served over linguine pasta. The lobster is wonderful and there is lots of it. I appreciate the light hand with the pernod but if I were to make this dish at home I would bump it up a bit because I love anise.


Rob’s lobster scampi was rich with butter, garlic, bell peppers and lobster. The luxurious and garlicky butter sauce was used as bread dip for both of us.

Both of our meals came with well made but completely unnecessary coleslaw. All in all, dinner at J’s was excellent, a great end to a long day of travel. We walked back along the harbourfront to our hotel, ready to make plans for tomorrow.