Maine’s Lobster Roll, Authenticity, plus A Shack With A View

The overstuffed fresh lobster roll at Five Islands Lobster Co., Georgetown, Maine, on July 5, 2018.

I had first attempted to eat lobster in May of 1991 at a popular seafood restaurant on the east coast. I won’t say which restaurant, as it’s still open at the time of this writing and they’re still serving lobster as they always have to happy customers. But to say that I was sorely disappointed is an understatement. I had no idea how to open the thing as it didn’t come with instructions, and the meat was not only a bit tough but rather rubbery as well. The flavor seemed “off”, not being anything like any crab I had ever eaten of any variety, including Chesapeake Bay blue crab, Opelia, or King. I decided lobster is nothing more than an expensive way to eat melted butter.

I wasn’t about to give up though, and as time went on I attempted to enjoy lobster every chance I got. I rarely got back to the Atlantic shores very much so most of the lobster I tried was in the midwest. The classic preparation in the Michigan or Ohio is that of grilled lobster tails. They’re rarely fresh there, being processed and frozen raw on the coast before being shipped to frozen food distributors. At larger gatherings and restaurant buffets where they offer a “lobster bake” the lobsters arrive already boiled, packaged in individual nylon nets. They’re then thawed, the nets are removed, and the whole lobsters are boiled quickly for about another four minutes before serving.

Lobster cooking techniques and presentation in the midwest can also end up being rather far off the mark. In 2018 this was one area restaurant’s Lobster Roll:

The New England Roll Special with Tarragon on Brioche at a restaurant in the midwest, as seen on Facebook on July 6, 2018.

This isn’t a New England Lobster Roll, regardless of what the Chef says. What this does is disrepect the lobster as the main ingredient, elevates the roll itself to a bread New Englanders wouldn’t use, confuses people who know what a real New England Lobster Roll is, and presents an inaccurate version of the dish to patron who have yet to experience the authenticity of the New England Lobster Roll.

This kind of situation is why I hadn’t yet been able to enjoy the real article.

It wasn’t until we ended up in Maine for six months beginning in April of 2018 that I finally had the opportunity to try fresh local lobster that had been cooked in a kitchen specializing in northern Atlantic seafood. The first full day we were there we ended up at the Taste Of Maine restaurant in Woolwich, where our daughter proceeded to order two whole lobsters.

Our daughter’s two whole lobsters at the Taste Of Maine restaurant in Woolwich, Maine, on April 21, 2018.

With a lot of their patrons being from out-of-town or out-of-state the restaurant’s placemats give detailed instructions on how to break down a whole lobster. Once we followed the instructions, along with some good hints from our server, we all tried it.

The difference between any other lobster I’ve tried and the meat from those two animals from Maine waters that had also been cooked nearby in a Maine restaurant was rather eye-opening. The meat was sweet and moist, very tender, and had a rich flavor that I felt had been missing in all the other dishes I’d attempted to enjoy for almost thirty years.

The cuisinologist in me hadn’t given up on multiple preparations of this same or similar dishes, and my determination was firm in continuing the quiet mission of trying to find out what was wrong, why I hadn’t been able to enjoy such a popular meal. And it paid off, right here in Maine.

Five Islands Lobster Co., Georgetown, Maine.

  1. Try your best to avoid using frozen raw lobster.
  2. Get the freshest live lobster possible, less than about 72 hours after it was landed on the lobster boat. If you’re not near any lobstermen, your best bet is to have live lobster overnighted from the coast. If it’s been in a tank for a while, especially a tank that doesn’t contain real seawater, it’s not worth it. Check the color of the shell and make sure when you squeeze the sides there’s a little bit of “give”.
  3. If the live lobster has to sit at all before cooking, ensure that it’s in well-salted clean room-temperature water for as short a time as possible.
  4. Cook the live lobster quickly using the time-honored methods of lobstermen or people in those fishing areas. Here are the two simplest methods as published in a 1964 local cookbook:

    Do You Boil It Or Steam It?

    As far as I am concerned, “you takes [sic] your choice.” Either method is satisfactory, although I feel that steaming is preferable: there’s not as much water to drain out of the lobster when it comes out of the pot, and the meat texture seems firmer yet more tender … For boiling you need enough water (sea water if possible, otherwise well-salted water) for complete immersion. The water should be boiling briskly when you dunk the lobsters headfirst. When the water comes back to a boil let them cook for about 15 minutes. Take them out and put them on their backs to drain. Then serve them hot, with lots of melted butter … For steaming you need only an inch of water in the pot, and when you have a good head of steam drop them in and give them about 18 minutes of cooking. (A nice touch: put in ½ cup of sherry. The flavor and sweetness of the meat will be enhanced considerably.) Simple, isn’t it? And in my opinion, about as fine a way as there is to enjoy the full, true flavor and succulent meat of a Maine lobster. [Roux, William C. What’s Cooking Down In Maine. The Bond Wheelwright Co., 1964. p. 3 – 4.]

  5. Either enjoy it immediately, or pick the meat immediately and chill it for making lobster rolls.

  6. If making lobster rolls, make sure to use the correct bun. In New England it’s called a Frankfurter Bun (above, right, compared to hot dog buns at a Hannaford grocery in Maine), but in the rest of the country it’s generally known as a New England Roll (below, in a Piggly Wiggly in southeastern Ohio).

As the summer progressed I enjoyed lobster rolls in a number of restaurants and, more importantly, at roadside lobster shacks where things have generally been done a certain way for a very long time. The first lobster roll I had was at Red’s Eats in Wiscassett on May 2nd during the stand’s 80th anniversary year. Red’s has been popular in the area the entire time they’ve been open but have seen even more business since showing up on a food and travel show called “The Zimmern List”, on the Travel Channel in 2017. Many lobster rolls I had seen weren’t half as stuffed as the one I was served at Red’s. But the one at Red’s was considerably better than I had imagined such a thing could be. It came with sides of mayonnaise and melted butter, and I decided the butter was the way I wanted to go with it. That was definitely a good decision as the butter enhanced the flavor the way it should have on my first lobster thirty years before.

One of the interesting aspects of the lobster roll at Red’s Eats is that each one includes the meat from one whole tail and two whole claws, along with a literal handful of other picked meat. Detailed in the restaurant’s own book, Debbie Gagnon Cronk, Red’s daughter, the current owner and the face customers see at the shack’s window, was quoted as saying “If you want to cook and pick your own lobster meat, plan on 1 – 1-1/2 pound hard shell lobster or two to three 1 – 1-1/4 pound softshell lobsters per roll. (Do not use frozen lobster meat; that is a sin.)” [Cronk, Debbie Gagnon; Wright, Virginia. Red’s Eats: World Famous Lobster Shack. Camden, Maine: Down East Books, 2010, page 25].

Topping such a great lobster roll is no mean feat, but a couple months (and a number of lobster rolls) later I found the one I believe to be the best. Five Islands Lobster Co. near Georgetown, Maine, isn’t too far from Red’s Eats and was also represented on the same episode of Zimmern’s show on the Travel Channel.

The setting of the Five Islands Lobster Co., showing one of the three outdoor dining areas. The open ocean is just beyond the islands.

Five Islands is probably the freshest lobster shack in the area while also likely being the most fun. Located on a picturesque man-made peninsula in the Sheepscot River, there’s parking for dozens of cars and picnic table seating for at least a hundred diners. Five Lobsters is made up of three buildings. The farthest is the lobster building, where lobsters from the surrounding waters, along with other shellfish such as steamers and mussels, are prepped from live to either direct sale to customers in to go containers or as baskets to eat on-site. The “Love Shack” grill building offers the sweet and overstuffed lobster roll shown in the fist photo above, as well as other seafood preparations, burgers and sandwiches, and many other items. And the ice cream building offers desserts made of local products. Wandering the rocky shoreline nearby is also allowed, it’s only the active boating docks that are private and off-limits. The overall view, past Malden Island, Hen Island and Mink Island to the open ocean, is simply breathtaking.

A look into the kitchen at the lobster building at Five Islands Lobster Co. Note the bright unmuted color of the lobster’s shell, indicating the live animal’s freshness.

The difference between the lobster on the lobster roll at Red’s and at Five Islands is only a matter of what’s probably only a few hours in preparation, but there are enough differences in the characteristics of the lobster meat on the roll that the latter is the one I chose, even though I’ll also enjoy a lobster roll at Red’s Eats any chance I can get.

Authenticity matters. Recreating a dish like this with a personal flair to make it seem “high-end” so it fits a restaurant that’s not a lobster shack is disrespectful of the main ingredient, in this case the lobster, and does nothing to create an accurate representation of the named dish. Presenting such a dish the right way is the right thing to do. It’s what people who know the original dish expect, and it teaches accuracy to patrons who are unknowing of the original dish.

Authentic Maine/New England Lobster Roll

Franfurter Buns in Maine in my electric skillet with traditional Maine red hot dogs. This is how the buns should be prepared for lobster rolls.

The classic recipe is quite simple: It’s two cups lobster meat, cooked, chunked and chilled, folded with two tablespoons mayonnaise, and if desired ¼ cup finely-chopped celery. Butter and grill four frankfurter rolls (what the rest of the country calls a New England roll, a split hot dog bun having flat sides), maybe add one leaf of lettuce, then stuff the roll with the lobster meat mixture and serve.

Exploring Maine

Yours truly photographing our daughter as she climbed along Giants Stairs, a dark basalt formation of 30-foot cliffs over a thousand feet in length along the Atlantic coastline on Bailey’s Island in Harpswell, Maine, April 28, 2018.

With Mary having become a Traveling Nurse this past April, we’ve gone pretty far out of our comfort zone. Since late April we’ve been living in Maine while she works her first assignment and, as people have been telling us, we’ve seen a lot more in the short time we’ve been here than some have seen in 40 years of living here.

It always does seem that way regardless of where you go.

In taking notes and documenting our trip in pictures and videos, one project I’ve taken on is building a Guest Directory for the long-term apartment we’re staying in. You know, one of those binder thingies you find stuffed into the drawer of the desk in a hotel or motel, one that never has the info up-to-date and is covered with pizza sauce and other … ummm … well, anyway …

This is the current atate of the Directory for this apartment. There are a few placeholders yet for places we want to go to but haven’t gotten to. And honestly, even though this says it was assembled by “a guest”, some of these places were suggested by our hosts, especially after I told them of this project.

So if you’re ever coming to Maine, these are some of the places we liked best. And if you’re already here, you’re welcome.

Note: There’s a little symbol at the top-right of the PDF viewer below which will open it in the Google viewer full-screen. There’s also a download link below it so you can save it for later.

Download (PDF, 161KB)

Dishing On Pork Belly, With Recipes

Oven-Roasted Pork Belly at our house. The recipe is below.

Back when I was a kid, when all the good radio stations were still on the AM band, dad would listen to the Farm Report. Well, he had it on in the mornings, and he may not have been listening to it while he was only waiting for the Polka Hour from Frankenmuth to start for the morning. But there it was nonetheless. Dad came from a family of German-Russian farmers, and had partly grown up on farms in the area surrounding Alpena, Michigan. The family farm, with its outhouse and old red barn, had been located in Hubbard Lake, a place I have fond memories of.

I understood the majority of the Farm Report when dad would have it on. We played an old card game called “Pit”, which had been originally released by Parker Brothers’ in 1904. The game basically duplicates what occurs at agricultural auctions, and you end up getting the “corners on” barley, oats, wheat, corn and the like. The game is now available again, and we do have a newer edition of it.

But the game doesn’t cover other types of markets. So the concept of “pork belly futures” didn’t make any sense to me for quite some time. I couldn’t fathom why anyone would be interested in such a thing.

It wasn’t until I entered the restaurant industry in the spring of 1979 that I learned what many people who eat pork don’t understand themselves:

Pork belly is the cut of pork that streaky, side or slab bacon is made from, which is what most Americans who eat bacon enjoy. It’s also used to make salt pork, which is popular for many uses.

And yet, the inevitable occurs … Squeamish Americans will hear the term “pork belly” and immediately ask “How can you eat something that’s gross? Eating a fat pig’s belly?? Ew!!!” When asked if they eat bacon and they say yes, I give the explanation. “But eating just the belly … That’s nasty. I’d never do that.”

I end up shaking my head almost every time.

Throughout history, in many cultures, eating pork belly in its many preparations has been quite a normal occurrence. Nose-to-tail eating has been prevalent since the dawn of time, and it’s only been in about the past century or so that people in western cultures, particularly the U.S., have seen fit to be so elitist as to find it unappealing. So-called “adventurous eating” is now a “trend”, and people now search out “nose-to-tail”, “farm-to-table”, and other such establishments in an effort to follow that trend, to be part of that clique, to eat “organically” as part of that clique.

The truth is, that’s how people have always eaten. It’s not just a current “trend” to be part of. Pork Belly is a staple in many cultures outside the U.S, particularly eastern and Mediterranean cultures.

Pork Belly served as a respected ingredient in an unpretentious Starter in a restaurant setting, from Chef Aaron Lawson at Brim House, Toledo, Ohio, September 25, 2017.

Fortunately though, pork belly on its own is making a comeback as part of these “trends”. Pork belly as part of a ramen dish is astonishingly simple, while cured and slow-roasted variations are popping up on many menus. I first ran into this in about 2009 when I’d notice a half-pound pork belly sandwich on a local burger joint menu. The pork belly was given a rub, slow-roasted under extremely low heat, and then seared to order. To say it was a joy to eat this buttery gem is an understatement.

I saw it a few times afterward on other menus as well, but it wasn’t until the summer of 2015 that I felt the time was right to experiment with it. I’d spotted it on my supplier’s ordering site at a cost of $2.49/lb for a case of three sections of approximately 8.5lb each, and as the Father’s Day buffet was approaching I felt we could have some fun without too much expense.

The Pork Belly & Beans at the Father’s Day Buffet it the Skyroom at the Indiana Beach Amusement Park in 2015. The recipe and other photos are below.

Chef James and I decided we’d go for a pseudo-artisanal Pork & Beans for one of the buffet dishes. The baked beans themselves would be Bush’s Original straight from the can, which most dad’s really enjoy. But the pork was where we’d get a little more creative.

I thawed down one of the belly sections and cut cross-hatched slits in the fatty side. I then made a simple brown sugar rub with salt, peppercorns, granulated garlic and a few other spices. Once rubbed, we let it sit in the cooler overnight. After searing all six sides on the flattop, we then got some cheap beer from the barkeep, mixed it 50/50 with chicken stock, and let it sit in a 350-degree oven for three-and-a-half hours. At one point someone checked the temp and told us it was done, but we’d understood leaving it the whole time was best. We only needed to replace any evaporated liquid with either chicken stock or beer, it didn’t matter which. We just made sure to keep it covered with liquid. We then pulled it from the oven and let it rest before cutting it into half-inch cubes to toss with the baked beans.

The result blew everyone away. We just stood there eating the stuff, tossing back the buttery, pillowy cubes of fatty goodness like they were pieces of popcorn at a movie. I had to make the staff stop eating them so we’d have enough for the Pork & Beans.

Chef Janelle in the Skyroom kitchen grilling up her Jamaican Jerk Pork Belly for sandwiches on the buffet in 2015.

We did another batch of Pork & Beans at a later date, the same way, and it was again a popular offering. A few weeks later Chef Jenelle, from Jamaica, asked me in her beautiful Jamaican accent if there was any pork belly left. There was one more chunk, and I gladly let her have it. She mixed up her grandmother’s Jamaican Jerk seasoning, rubbed the belly with it and let it marinate in the cooler overnight. The next day, she cut it in half lengthwise, then each half into ¼” chunks. She then grilled the pieces and put them on the buffet alongside hoagie rolls, tomato slices and shredded lettuce for sandwiches.

Jamaican Jerk Pork Belly sandwiches. An amazing concept that works really well.

One of my many hunks of raw pork belly from Stanley’s Market in Toledo, Ohio.

I’ve been able to play around with pork belly since. The most I’ve paid for it so far is $3.29/lb, the same day another butcher in Toledo was asking $5.29/lb for the same cut. It would seem that particular butcher was falling for the “trend” surrounding pork belly and nose-to-tail in general, and possibly escalated their price accordingly. The $3.19 price was at Stanley’s Market, a venerable Polish butcher shop and bakery that Mary’s parents shopped at while she was growing up. Stanley’s is the kind of place to seek out when looking for real food at reasonable prices.

(I do have to mention though that the same large cuts of pork belly we used at the Skyroom are generally available at Costco for reasonable prices as well. Just cut them down into portions and freeze the portions in batches to prep and cook later.)

Because of the size of the pork belly cut and variations between animals butchered for it, cuts can be rather inconsistent. But you can still cut portion sizes based on weight, not thickness. Most good pork belly preparations won’t be affected by thickness variations as they’re mostly low-and-slow processes. Still, the butchers at Stanley’s generally allow me to choose between three or four different slabs. I’m then able to get the one with the most consistent thickness from edge-to-edge even though it doesn’t much matter.

Using the Rubs

Score crosshatches into the fatty side of the pork belly. Using your hand (gloved if desired), fully combine the ingredients of the selected rub. Apply a generous amount of rub to all surfaces of the belly. Cover the belly in plastic wrap and store in a refrigerator for at least 24 hours.

Brown Sugar Rub

1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup Diamond Kosher salt
3 Tbsp whole peppercorns
3 Tbsp granulated garlic

Savory Rub

1/2 cup Diamond Kosher salt
1/4 cup whole peppercorns
1/4 cup granulated garlic
1 Tbsp Rosemary
1 Tbsp Marjoram

Braised Pork Belly

A general-purpose preparation, this is what we cut into cubes to add to baked beans for the Pork Belly & Beans dish for the Father’s Day buffet. But you can also cut this as chunks to serve on sandwiches, burgers, to top ramen with, or other dishes, searing the cut pieces if you’d like. Variations are endless.

Using one of the rubs described above (or using your own), generously rub all sides and edges of the pork belly. Refrigerate it overnight, but no longer than 24 hours.

Heat a skillet, griddle or cast iron pan to 425F. Remove the plastic wrap from the pork belly and sear all sides, using tongs to hold it while searing the edges. Set aside to cool.

Heat an oven to 250F. Combine 32 oz each of beer and chicken stock (not broth). Place a rack or oven trivet in the bottom of a 6-quart oven-safe pot or roaster. Place the pork belly on the rack and add the braising liquid. Ensure the braising liquid is above the pork belly by at least an inch … If it isn’t, add more liquid in the 50/50 ratio to achieve that extra inch. Cover the pan with plastic wrap, then aluminum foil, ensuring a tight seal around the edges of the pan. Cook in the 250F oven for 3-1/2 hours.*

Remove from the braising liquid. Finish and serve as desired.

* We’re not looking for a specific temperature for the pork belly here, it will reach safe temperature about halfway through this amount of time. We’re looking instead for a pillowy texture, so just let it go.

Oven-Roasted Pork Belly

Adapted from Momofuku, by David Chang and Peter Meehan, 2009

Using one of the rubs described above (or using your own), generously rub all sides and edges of the pork belly. Refrigerate it overnight, but no longer than 24 hours.

Heat an oven to 450F. Place the pork belly on a rack, then place the rack on a foil-lined sheet pan. Roast at 450F for 30 minutes. Reduce the heat to 250F, than roast another 60 minutes.*

Remove from the oven and serve as desired.

* Prop the oven door open slightly for the first ten minutes here so the heat inside will drop more quickly.

Recipe: Bacon-Wrapped Meatloaf

An end piece of Bacon-Wrapped Meatloaf, with the requisite greens.

Meatloaf is fun to make. Take some ground meat, throw in some bread or cracker crumbs, some chopped onions, and some other spices. You can then bake it as a loaf, grill it as burgers, or bake off individually-formed servings for buffets or catering. It’s simple, filling, and satisfying, and different versions go well with a large number of sides.

At Mary’s request I’ve recently been focused on variations on Bacon-Wrapped Meatloaf. Her boss was going to have surgery and I, turning into my mother and doing what she would have done, offered to cook a few meals to get the boss and her family through about the first week. My selections were my Chicken Noodle Soup, a simple BBQ pulled pork from a slow-cooked shoulder (along with the necessary buns), and a good meatloaf. While I was putting the meatloaf together, that’s when Mary suggested wrapping it in bacon.

Because of the size of the family, that first meatloaf weighed just over six pounds. There were two lbs each of ground beef, sausage, and bacon, along with half a box of saltines, eight eggs, and the seasonings.

I’ve since settled on one lb each for the basic recipe, while ensuring the recipe itself is truly scalable for larger needs. But there are a huge number of possible variations.

Choice of meats can vary, but pork and veal seem to be one of the standard combinations. Groceries sometimes sell that combination on a foam tray, while others add beef as a third meat in the same package. Combining beef with lamb would give a good flavor, with the beef needing a higher fat content to give a good juiciness. Combining goat or other meats with beef would be interesting as well. Ground turkey or chicken? Sure, if you’re into that kind of thing.

The basic recipe presented here, outside of the bacon wrapping, is rather generalized. Change the meats, change the spices, use applewood or hardwood smoked bacon, wrap it in prosciutto if you’d like … Whatever. Be creative.

The trick, though, is to slow-cook the loaf, particularly if it gets rather large through scaling the recipe. At some point though, making multiple smaller loaves makes more sense.

Just have fun with it. I certainly do.

Bacon-Wrapped Meatloaf
1 lb sliced bacon
1 lb ground beef, 80/20
1 lb sausage
4 eggs
1/4 lb (1 sleeve) saltine crackers
1 medium onion
3 Tbsp Worchestershire sauce
2 Tbsp salt
2 Tbsp ground black pepper
2 Tbsp granulated garlic
2 Tbsp smoked paprika
1 Tbsp ground mustard

Add all but the bacon, onion, and crackers to a medium mixing bowl. Peel and coarse-chop the onion and add it to the bowl. Put the crackers into a gallon plastic food bag, and roll with a rolling pin till the crackers are fine crumbs. Add the cracker crumbs to the mixing bowl. Don’t mix what’s in the bowl yet, just set it aside.

Preheat an oven to 250F. Grease a small cooking rack and set it in a roasting pan, deep casserole, or enamel pot. Lay two slces of bacon next to each other in the middle of the rack.Lay the other slices perpendicular to the first two, five on each side, side-by-side, with the inside end at the far side of the first two slices. If you have more than these twelve slices of bacon, add four more slices, two on each end, to extend the length of original two slices.

Use your hands (with food-handling gloves if desired) to fully mix the meat mixture. Form it into a loaf, which will be about 7 inches long and just over 3 inches in diameter. Lay the loaf in the middle of the bacon over the first two slices. Then, pick up the rest of the bacon piece-by-piece and fully wrap the loaf.

Cover the meatloaf, and bake in the 250F oven for three hours or until a meat thermometer inserted into the center of the loaf reads 160F. Then go ahead and bake it for one more hour to crisp the bacon.

Remove the loaf from the oven and allow it to rest before slicing with a serrated knife and serving.

Recipe: Authentic Florida Rum Runners

Our bartenders for this development: Bree, Kim, and Mary.

A habit we’ve started getting into the past couple years is vacationing on the east coast of Florida. As I write this, I’m sitting in a beautiful little duplex on the Indian River in Ft. Pierce. We had come here just over a year ago and fell in love with St. Lucie County and the surrounding area, along with really appreciating the people here, both the locals and those who are also habitual visitors. Arriving here from Michigan again last week, the duplex made us feel as though we had come home. Because of this feeling, we’re already making plans to come back next year as well.

The duplex is owned by our friends Kim and Bill. Kim and my wife Mary had gone to high school together, and Kim and Bill rent the duplex out to various people throughout the year while living in their own home up the river. Built in the 1950s or early 60s, this quaint little duplex is simple, with hurricane-resistant concrete block walls covered with stucco, and poured terrazo floors. But the couple has really warmed up the interior with just the right furnishings that give it that strong feeling of home.

On The Edge Bar & Grill, as seen from the Ft. Pierce Inlet, April 12, 2016.

On our first full day here last April Kim had driven us up the road a piece to the On The Edge Bar & Grill for lunch. Located on the north end of South Hutchinson Island along the Ft. Pierce Inlet that allows for boating and small ship access (Coast Guard cutters, heavy barges, small cruise liners, deep-sea fishing vessels, etc.) to the two-mile-wide Indian River, the restaurant is open-air with two levels.

My Hoisen-Glazed Yellowfin Tuna at On The Edge Bar & Grill on May 9, 2017: Sushi-grade Ahi Tuna seared rare, with hoisin glaze and wasabi mayo, topped with a seaweed salad and served with sides of wasabi mashed potatoes and grean beans.

The food at the restaurant is seriously good, especially the seafood. From their Facebook page:

“All of the fish served at On the Edge Bar & Grill is fresh, locally caught & never frozen. Our Mahi-Mahi, Swordfish, and Tuna, in particular, are caught in deep water, approximately 150 miles offshore to the northeast of Fort Pierce. These fishing boats consume about $6,000 in fuel for a round trip that can last up to 3 days.

If you don’t understand why fresh seafood can be expensive, read that again. But also understand the prices on the menu at On The Edge are extremely reasonable, and are actually comparable to those at better seafood restaurants in places like Toledo and Ann Arbor. The seafood at On The Edge is better though, and worth the trip.

It was at On The Edge during that lunch with Kim that Mary had her first-ever Rum Runner. Legend has it that the Rum Runner was first developed at a place called the Holiday Tiki Bar in Islamorada (“ah-lah-mor-ah-dah”) sometime in the 1950s when there was “an excess of rum and certain liqueurs that needed to be moved before the arrival of more inventory.” This makies sense, as a lot of dishes, from casseroles, to “Chef’s specials”, to Polish paczki for Fat Tuesday, were created this way and always will be.

Some of the Rum Runners from our trip here in April 2016.

Throughout our travels here over the past couple years, from here at the duplex through the 220 miles to Mile 0 at the southern end of US 1 in Key West 90 miles north of Cuba, Mary, Bree and I have tried quite a few Rum Runners at various establishments. There are apparently countless variations: One bar here in Ft. Pierce also has a package liquor store, and they specifically told me they use the Ron Corina 151 dark rum in their version, and sold me a bottle. This made for a Rum Runner that was far too strong, and not at all like Mary is used to.

In trying all those other Rum Runners though, the flavor profile we appreciate most goes right back to On The Edge. We ate there again yesterday evening with a friend of Bree’s from high school who lives down here now and came to visit. The Rum Runners were, to our taste buds of course, absolutely perfect.

Shish Kebab party! May 7, 2017, Ft. Pierce, Florida

A couple evenings ago we hosted a shish kebab party for Kim, Bill and their two sons. Bree and I prepped chicken thigh meat, 51/60 p&d shrimp, as well as fresh veggies from the renowned Ft. Pierce Farmer’s Market. People made up their own kebabs on bamboo skewers, which I then grilled for them, serving with chips and hummus. One of the neighbor families also showed up, which was a good thing as Bree and I had prepped a lot of food!

Between us we had also put together the rather expensive list of ingredients needed for Rum Runners, as laid out on the Florida Keys Guide web site. Restaurants and bars with larger liqueur inventories will certainly be able to have most of this on-hand for various beverages. It does get a bit unwieldly for two or three people, but if you regularly enjoy Rum Runners this shouldn’t be too much of a problem.

Bree, Kim and Mary put together the Rum Runners, and the flavor was extremely close to what On The Edge serves. Yup, it made for a fun evening!

The ingredient list below is fairly specific. This combination comes quite close to what On The Edge is doing, but we make no claim to it being exactly the same. Make substitutions as is necessary or as you see fit. Your own recipe may be completely different. Amd that’s alright.

Authentic Florida Rum Runners
Add one ounce of each of the following to a glass, or add multiples of one ounce each to a pitcher, and stir well:

Add one cup ice to each glass, and serve.
If the frozen slush version is desired, pour the completed drink with ice into a blender and run until the desired consistency is reached.