Monday, November 14, 2016
Luke's Lobster: Grilled Cheese With Lobster Or Crab
It's a divisive culinary combination, one sure to ignite passions in each side of the divide. There are some who believe seafood and cheese should never mix, while others are more open to the potential delights of such a combination. An article in the Smithsonian Magazine discussed some of this controversy, siding with those who enjoy seafood and cheese, though noting it doesn't work with all types of seafood.
On Facebook, I held an unofficial poll, asking what people thought of the idea of a Lobster Grilled Cheese sandwich. The answers were essentially split, with roughly half liking the idea while the other half opposed to it, commonly mentioning that they don't believe in combining seafood and cheese at all. Personally, I think seafood and cheese can work very well, dependent on the specific dish. For example, I've previously enjoyed some delicious Lobster Mac n' Cheese and Crab & Cheese casseroles. And the idea of a Lobster Grilled Cheese appeals to me. What do you think of such a sandwich?
Luke's Lobster at their Back Bay location. They also have a location in Downtown Crossing. I was invited as a media guest to check out a couple of the items on their new winter menu, and this was the first time I had dined at this restaurant. It won't be the last.
Luke's Lobster is a chain of sustainable seafood, fast casual restaurants, centered on lobster rolls, with locations across the country, from Maine to Las Vegas, and even in Japan. Started by Luke Holden, a Maine native and former lobsterman, the first Luke's Lobster opened in 2009 in the East Village of New York City. The Back Bay location is one of their largest, seating about 46 people at a number of tables and a counter. The decor has a nautical theme, and the wood for their tables also comes from Maine. On the evening I dined there, many of the tables were occupied, and it was clear most of them were ordering lobster rolls.
Cape Seafood, a seafood processing plant in Saco, Maine, was founded in 2012 by Luke and his brother, Bryan, to supply sustainable seafood to Luke's Lobster as well as other seafood restaurants across the country. It is certified sustainable by the MSC and is also a SQF Level 3 food safety certified seafood company. This is important as some seafood landed in the U.S. actually gets sent overseas to be processed, which can cause problems with traceability and safety.
The picture above shows a sign which is prominent in the restaurant, keeping customers updated on the source of all of Luke's seafood. Consumers should know where their seafood comes from and it's great to see that the bounties of our local waters is being served.
For an additional $3, you can make your roll a Combo, adding a drink, chips or slaw, and a pickle. And you can also add a side soup as well for another $7-$8. The menu has a number of Sides, including: Clam Chowder, Soup, Grilled Cheese ($5), Jonah Crab Claws, Lobster Tail, Slaw, and Cape Cod Chips. There are usually some seasonal items too, such as the Kale Warm Grain Salad ($15), which is topped by a chilled lobster tail, on their winter menu. The winter menu items also include a Lobster Grilled Cheese ($13) and a Crab Grilled Cheese ($10).
Hurricane's Soups, a small family business located in Maine. I tried the New England Clam Chowder, which is made with fresh wild clams, clam broth, heavy cream, diced potatoes & minced onion. It wasn't too thick or thin, having plenty of small pieces of potato and clams. It had a pleasing and creamy taste and it was also good to see that even the Oyster Crackers were local, from Westminster Bakers in Vermont.
Yes, lobster and cheese worked well here and I think the choice of Gruyere was a good one. The combination brings to mind the classic French dish of Lobster Thermidor, which is typically topped by melted Gruyere. You typically think of a Lobster Roll as a summer treat and this grilled cheese makes for a fine option for the chillier weather of the autumn and winter.
My only minor issue with the Gruyere and bread is that they are not sourced locally as the Gruyere is from Wisconsin and the bread from Colorado. When I raised the issue, I was told that it would be brought up to management for discussion. There seems to be little reason why they couldn't find a more local source for both items. And it seems that it would better follow their basic value of using local sourcing.
South End Buttery and the ice cream from Gifford's (located in Maine).
Luke's Lobster impressed me with their basic concept, including their devotion to seafood sustainability, and their food was tasty and compelling. Yes, seafood and cheese can work well together, though I'm not not everyone will agree. For pleasing comfort food this season, check out Luke's Lobster for their grilled cheese, and enjoy either the Lobster or Crab.