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It's pretty hard to believe, but it's true; until this century, New Englanders considered lobsters to be garbage. Lobsters were thought of as scavengers and, therefore, unclean so their main use was as fertilizer. To feed anyone lobster was considered a lack of respect. It was demeaning, an insult! Seasonal workers, hiring on at the docks, insisted on a contractual agreement that they would only be fed a minimum amount of lobster meat, preferring beef and pork. Luckily, it was eventually discovered that lobsters are actually picky eaters. They eat only clams, mussels, other lobster and shellfish. This diet, of fresh food only, contributes to that incredible sweet taste of lobster meat.

It takes a lobster 5 to 7 years to reach maturity. During that time, its skin is shed continually. Lobstermen only keep male lobsters as a rule, and it is against government fishing regulations to take in "berried" females (females carrying eggs which are visibly cupped just inside the tail). The lobsterman will put a notch in any caught female's tail, to show other fishermen that this one needs to be thrown back, and to return her to the water. This practice ensures a continual growth in lobster population. Lobsters, male or female, which measure under the size limit of 3-1/4" to 5" from the eyes to the base of the body, are also returned to the ocean to grow. These regulations have had a positive effect. In 1994, the 4,000-strong lobster fleet realized a record harvest and this year a plentiful supply of mature and juvenile lobsters is again being reaped.

With over 3,000 miles of coastline, you will have a hard time not finding a fresh lobster in Maine. Surroundings to fit every mood and pocketbook are easily found and the problem is in whittling the choices down! To assist you in this difficult task we’ve selected a few places to tickle your lobster fancy.

If you're in the Brunswick area, take State Route 123 south to South Harpswell. Situated on an inlet off Casco Bay is a bare-bones kind of place called Este's Lobster House. Here in addition to whole lobsters, (at market price), you can get an especially tasty Lobster Newberg. Long wooden plank tables, wood floors and windows with a view of the water are perfect surroundings for enjoying your lobster while watching the evening fog roll in. They will light a huge fire in the massive stone fireplace to ward off the encroaching chill, Even in July. You can phone for reservations at (207) 883-6340 and credit cards are accepted.

Just across the water at Bailey Island, is Cook's Lobster House, (take State Route 2$ from Brunswick south). Again, great lobsters!! Phone (207) 833-2818.

Either of these restaurants is a good place to practice the art of locating lobster meat. Finding all the hidden delicious chunks of lobster requires discernment and skill. Start with the obvious tail and claws. To remove the tail, simply twist it until it separates from the body, pull the end flanges off and push the meat gently out. If the intestinal tract is black, make a cut at the tail to remove it. The claws are easiest. Just twist them off and crack them gently. A real expert never crushes the meat but draws it all out, including the knuckle meat on the first try.

The thinner legs contain some very sweet meat - not to be missed. Knuckle joints should not be missed here, either. The tomalley is the pale green stuff inside, (actually the liver), which turns rich and buttery when cooked. It is a matter of personal taste whether you love or hate it. The white stuff inside the Iobster shell is actually cooked blood, so that too is a matter of personal preference. A fresh lobster, boiled and dipped in melted butter, morsel by tasty morsel, is one of life's sweetest pleasures.

The basic recipe for boiled lobster is simple. Boil enough salted water to cover the lobster. Add about 2-3 tablespoons of sea salt to about 3 quarts, of water. Throw in a bay leaf, an onion, and a carrot to enhance the sweet taste of the meat. Let the water come to a full boil, plunge the live lobster in and cook about 12 minutes per pound, no longer. (Before cooking, wash it thoroughly under cold running water). If you decide to put rubber bands on the claws, don't worry, the rubber bands do not affect the flavor.

In Camden, up the Maine coast, you will discover a truly hospitable New England Inn. The Blue Harbor House is a classic vi!!age inn, (a restored 1810 Cape) with guest rooms showcasing country antiques and hand-fashioned quilts. The food is remarkable. The Lobster Quiche complements the cheese soufflé and the blueberry pancakes are enhanced with blueberry butter at breakfast. A special lobster feast is available at dinner and you must not miss their Lobster Stew. Be prepared to be truly pampered here and if you can, stay a few days. There are queen guest rooms and suites. Some rooms have canopy beds; some have a whirlpool bath. Major credit cards are accepted; reservations are recommended. (800) 248-3196; (207) 236-3196.

Heading back down to Portland, try DiMillo's Floating Restaurant. Located in the Old Port section of Portland, this boat-turned-restaurant provides a harbor view from every seat. Parking is free and, in addition to fresh boiled whole lobsters, house specialties include baked, steamed, fried, Cajun and Alfredo lobster dishes! It's a “special celebration” place, rather elegant, but if you have on blue jeans you won't be turned away. Prices start at $10 with a full bar and extensive wine list. The restaurant's popularity is easily understood once you've experienced the New England warmth and hospitality of the staff. (207) 772-2216.

Can't get to Maine for fresh-from-the-trap lobster? Call “Maine Lobster Direct.” Their motto is "from our traps to your table," They take calls 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and ship Tuesday thru Saturday, anywhere in the USA, usually overnight by FedEx. Call (800) 556-2783 ext. 3.

Want to give a friend a very special lobster? Cross Jewelers has 14K gold lobster pins and pendants. An 18" chain comes with the pendant. The lobster pin is about 2" in length, 1&1/4" wide and costs $475. The pendant, with chain, is $210. Either is shipped within 24 hours, postage paid. 800-433-2988 (9am-5pm).

For almost 50 years, Maine has held a Festival honoring the lobster. The Annual Maine Lobster Festival is held in Rockland at Harbor Park in August. Maritime exhibits, Maine crafts, boat rides, helicopter rides are available as well as an open house by the U.S. Coast Guard and Navy ship. Of course there are lobsters everywhere, in every conceivable form. Admission is $3 and free for kids under 19. Phone (800) 562-2529 for maps and complete information.

"It is impossible to live pleasurably without living wisely, well, and justly, and impossible to live wisely, well, and justly without living pleasurably." -- Epicurus; no doubt shortly after he ate a Maine lobster!





Instructions: Thanks to Innkeepers Dennis Hayden & Jody Schmoll of the Blue Harbor House for sharing these recipes.

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Exterior Photo Copyright Richard Roth, Lobster dish Copyright Richard Procopio