What is it about lobster rollthe combination of luxurious lobster with humble mayonnaise and celerythat is so joyous, the embodiment of summer vacation? For some reason they fill me with nostalgia, even though I ate my first one as an adult. Sometimes my husband and I walk to Brooklyn Fish Camp in Park Slope, a bit of a cheat, because even if the lobster rolls there are awesomely tasty, when you leave you're still in Brooklyn, headed home, and with work in the morning.
This afternoon we drive out to East Hampton. My husband drives. As we turn off the highway in Southampton, I notice the sign for the Lobster Inn and remember out loud stopping there as a kid. "It was the kind of place," I say, "where you ordered a lobster and it came with sides: a half piece of corn, a baked potato. There was a salad bar. It had a terrific dock."
"A dock?" my husband says and makes a U-turn.
There's something important about the first meal of a vacation. It sets the tone. We always seem to put off that first meal until we're nearly at our destination, ravenous and in need of a cold drink, a view of the water, affirmation that we've arrived.
The Lobster Inn is all lacquered wood and ropes with shark heads grinning on the walls, and the viewthe viewis of jostling fishing boats named Sea Fever, Gracie, Spirit, etc.
"Is the lobster salad sandwich like a lobster roll?" we ask the waitress. She says it's a little differentserved on a potato hamburger roll instead of the traditional hot dog bun. We both order one.
These sandwiches are not as delicious as the archetypal lobster rolls from Lunch, the legendary fish shack on the way to Montauknot even close. The meat is not as sweet or delicate, and the rolls are neither warm nor buttered. They're not gaining anything from their usage of hamburger buns either. But we are happy. We grin and nod at each other while we eat. It is the beginning of vacation! I hope to eat at Lunch one day this week, but I'm trying to accept the fact that even five days of cooking and dining will not be enough to sample all the treats of August on the Island.
While we wait for the check, we make a list of things to do. "Go to the Wednesday farmers' market behind Nick and Toni's ... see Bourne Ultimatum ... run on the beach every morning." The four weeks since the release of my first book, Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant, have been both exciting and exhausting. This week, I'm going to relax. Problem is there's an overwhelming amount of relaxing activities out here. It stresses me out to think about all the different ways I am going to have to try to relax. I like to think, however, about all the food we are going to eat. Like trying two new-to-me restaurants: Tuto Il Giorno in Sag Harbor and Wei Fun in East Hampton, grilling fish, and making mint ice cream from David Lebovitz's The Perfect Scoop, which I bought my father for Father's Day. A beach picnic is also in the works.
Friday we'll attempt to make our own lobster rolls for the first time, following the recipe from the Lunch cookbook, I think, and maybe creating our own Annie Hall moment. I'll be the Woody Allen character.
On our way out of the Lobster Inn, I ask a waiter how they kill their lobsters. "The steamed lobsters die in the steamers," he says. "They don't have brains, just ganglia. The stuffed lobster we kill with a knife to the head."
The steaming seems more humane, right? Certainly it's easier on us humans. But I know there's a big stab-the-lobster-in-the-head contingent too. Please weigh in on how we should kill the lobsters on Friday.
The Lobster Inn
Address: 162 Inlet Road, Southampton NY 11968
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