Tag Archives: lobster

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.

Miami Beach: Latin Heat

Sauntering through customs at Ottawa International on a February Sunday, we were excited to be heading south for some much needed vitamin D. And Cuban food. Rob and I know little or nothing of Cuban cuisine. The American official asked our business in Miami. We told him we were looking for some sun and some Cuban food. “I’m Cuban! “ he says. “Make sure you have a midnight sandwich! It’s the best. Addictive.”. His eyes got a far away look and you could tell Ottawa in February was a hardship post. Even if you are from here. Especially if you are Cuban.

Miami Beach at Dusk

South Beach is a cool enclave of Miami, right on the ocean. Unfortunately you can see little of the ocean from the dining areas and cafes. Even rooftop bars offer little view in the historic Art Deco area where we made our home for seven days. Ocean Boulevard is lined with quaint cafes but the view to the water is obscured by dunes. Other areas of the beach have their frontage taken up by resorts and the ocean is only available for viewing by their guests. You could walk to the water easily, but we found you were not able to sit and enjoy a beer and watch the waves unless you drove to the Keys or Fort Lauderdale. South Beach offers good shopping in the historic district and dozens of street side restaurants offering excellent fare from a variety of cuisines.

Puerto Sagua – Iconic Cuban Joint

Cuban food was our first priority. Just down the road a bit from where we were staying, was an iconic Cuban establishment, Puerto Sagua. We headed over for lunch. The buzz on this joint was that the food was authentic and the place was crusty and a bit rough around the edges and proud of it.

We were seated immediately and brought plastic tumblers of ice water. As we perused the menu, Rob noticed a dark object in his water: an expired cucaracha. What to do? We had not ordered yet. Decision time. We are here, and probably a cockroach never killed any one, probably. Blind-eye time. Let’s go for it. Rob asked the waitress for a fresh glass of water, pointing out the cockroach. She was horrified and a very good actress, because I would put money on this not being the first she had seen…that day even.

We had to order a few classics we were curious about including a midnight sandwich (medianoche) named for its role in many a late-night snack, ham croquettes, and tostones with garlic mojo, to round out our first Cuban experience.

The ham croquettes arrived first, hot, crisp and well made. Not greasy. The croquettes, made of minced smoked ham, onion, nutmeg, parsley and rolled in bread crumbs before deep frying, were excellent dipped in hot sauce.

Tostones are green plantains that are twice fried. After the first frying, they are squashed flat and refried. They are served with a thin, tasty, garlic mojo. The sauce has good flavour but the tostones themselves are extremely bland.

Tostones and Mojo
Croquettes and Hot Sauce

The star of this lunch arrived next. The famous Cuban sandwich. Basically a ham and cheese sandwich, the Cuban is served on a long, toasty egg bun. Spread with yellow mustard, layers of ham, roast pork and cheese, and finally pickles complete the ensemble. Don’t get me wrong. This is a good sandwich. The bun is warm, chewy and eggy, ham and cheese is a classic combo, and the mustard and pickle are a simple but excellent accompaniment. Would really hit the spot as a late night snack or light lunch. But I’m not sure it is anything that would make me desperately home sick or be the first thing I would want to tell a visitor to my culture “This is it. This defines us. If you have nothing else, have this.”

Medianoche

It seems we chose poorly. On a trek to the washrooms in the rear, I passed diners who were eating amazing looking food, mostly with large portions of shredded pork. Cuban food deserves more investigation.

If you have followed us on our journeys before, you know we are big fans of Diners, Drive-ins and Dives, (Triple D) with Guy Fieri. On this trip we headed into Little Havana to a place recently featured on Triple D, La Camaronera. It is in a working class neighborhood and was packed with diners belly up to the counter where you ordered and ate standing up. Service is fast and friendly. Again we are headed in for lunch.

La Cameronera – Fried Seafood Goodness!

Both Rob and I were excited to try their feature fish sandwich, a lightly breaded, deep fried yellow tail snapper, dressed and served tail on in a soft bun. As well as being attractively presented, the lightness of the batter allows the freshness of the snapper to shine. The simple, soft white bun is a perfect choice to host the delectable piece of fish.

Fresh fish, chopped onion and ketchup.

To round out our all-fried meal, we had the fried lobster with with spicy remoulade sauce. They take fresh-caught spiny lobster (no claws, all tail meat), cut it in pieces, dip in ketchup (yes, really!) and then in a spiced flour mixture and deep fry. It is tangy and spicy but the sweet luscious lobster flavour shines through.

Lobster and remoulade.

Next: Miami, Part 2

All content and photography copyright (c) 2011 by Robert and Maureen Rose. All rights reserved.