Dinner on the water
I still smile when I recall the look of surprise on my eight-year-old daughter’s face when the lobster claw she cracked into sprayed its salty juice into her face and shirt. Momentarily stunned, she simply smiled and kept on cracking.
“It’s okay. It’s part of the experience,” her dad laughed, as we all happily tucked into a feed of freshly cooked lobster aboard a custom-built passenger boat in the warm waters of Shediac Bay, NB. Our dining area was a picnic-style table painted in the vivid red, white, and blue rectangles and the yellow star of the Acadian flag.
Her dad was right: it’s all part of the experience with Shediac Bay Cruises out of Pointe-du-Chêne, NB, about half an hour from Moncton. We were enjoying a two-and-a-half-hour tour of the bay with 29-year lobster fisherman Ron Cormier.
If you’re looking for an Atlantic Canadian lobster experience, it doesn’t get much better than this. The “Lobster Tales” interactive tour, available in both English and French, offers visitors a glimpse into both the fishing life in the region and the general Acadian joie de vivre, which liberally peppers Cormier’s presentation.
With Acadian music wafting into the breeze, Captain Ron regales passengers with tales about lobster and the Atlantic fishery. He quickly gets the kids—and anyone else interested—into action, asking them to haul a lobster trap out of the water by pulling on a nylon rope that’s tied to a coloured buoy.
He delights the kids even further when he lets them don his captain’s hat and take a turn steering the boat. “We’re going to go fishing and we’re going to get you guys to work,” he says.
The outing ends with an onboard lobster feast, complete with rolls, potato salad and coleslaw. The cruise runs from late May through early October.
Traditional lobster supper
We were in Cape Breton for the Celtic Colours International Festival in October last year (Celtic Colours is an annual celebration of music and culture that features events in communities all over the Island), and were delighted to discover this sumptuous feast in Baddeck, NS. Lobster lovers of all stripes will no doubt feel the same way.
Baddeck is a resort town, situated at the start (or end) of Cape Breton’s Cabot Trail, (depending on how you’re doing the route). Baddeck Lobster Suppers is located in a converted Legion hall, just off the town’s main drag. Diners are treated to creamy chowder, steamed mussels, potato salad and a one-pound lobster, with coffee, tea and a yummy dessert (my husband’s gingerbread cake disappeared in seconds).
One of the delightful surprises we experienced there was meeting our knowledgeable server, a young man in his 20s who had fished the waters off nearby St. Anns for four or five years before opting to wait tables in the family business. He knew the industry—and where our meal came from—inside and out.
Come hungry—the chowder, mussels and salad are all-you-can-eat. Baddeck Lobster Suppers is open from June through October.
Lovely lobster rolls
But there’s more to lobster than the full-meal deal. Up and down our coastlines, in take-out shacks and fancy sit-downs, diners can find all manner of perfection on a toasted bun: a mouth-watering, drool-worthy, sinfully soul-satisfying sampling of Atlantic living—a little something we call the lobster roll.
“We do pride ourselves on offering a superior lobster roll; and, truthfully, our strategy is quite simple,” says Jason Bourgoin of The Battered Fish, a takeout with locations in Halifax and Bedford, NS.
“By adhering to the traditional Nova Scotian model, we use only high-quality claw and knuckle lobster meat, and then toss it in a light and citrusy sauce. The bun is key. We buy our bread fresh daily, not too soft, not too hard, but extra flaky. There are also a few unique house secrets that add to the overall flavour, which of course we can’t disclose,” he says with a smile.
Whether it’s a divine lemon and mayo lobster slider on a toasted bun—à la Atlantica Hotel & Marina Oak Island—or the Hot Lobster Sandwich from the kitchen of Rudder’s Seafood Restaurant and Brew Pub in Yarmouth, NS, everyone offers their own take on the classic. Trying to pick a favourite lobster roll is somewhat akin to trying to pick a favourite child.
You’ll hear raves about the offerings at Wild Caraway Restaurant and Café tucked in Advocate Harbour, the Old Fish Factory and the Salt Shaker Deli in historic Lunenburg, Port Williams’ Port Pub in—you guessed it, Port Williams—and the Halls Harbour Lobster Pound, just to name a few.
In neighbouring New Brunswick, Parkland Village Inn owner David Casey says they start with the very freshest of ingredients, featuring lobster caught in the cold waters of the Bay of Fundy and landed on the Alma Wharf, adjacent to his restaurant.
Similar to the Battered Fish, they only use chunky bite-sized pieces of knuckle and claw meat. “We also present it on a fresh-baked, grill-toasted multi-grain bun. Throw in a view of the highest tides in the world from Tides Restaurant and you have the makings of a perfect lobster roll.”
At the Homestead Restaurant on Coverdale Road in Riverview, NB, the rolls come “stuffed with lobster and are mega-good,” according to one Moncton resident. A different, yet equally delicious, offering in the province is found on the menu at the Restaurant La Sagouine in Bouctouche.
In PEI, head to historic old Charlottetown, to the Water-Prince Corner Shop and Lobster Pound. “We are a small family restaurant and we use fresh, local seafood,” says owner, Shane Campbell. Lobster on the Wharf on Prince Street in Charlottetown also serves a great traditional lobster roll, with the non-traditional option of a whole wheat wrap in place of a bun. As for the rest of the Island, you can find lobster rolls at fish & chip shacks in many communities.
Feel like crafting a lobster roll at home?
The recipe for success is easy: “Source quality seafood, premium bread and, most of all, have fun,” says Jason Bourgoin, in Halifax. “Lobster is a versatile crustacean, so try a few different methods.” A great place to start your experimentation is with chef Alain Bossé’s recipe for this delicious Old-Fashioned Grilled Lobster Roll.