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2 Catt. 1: In re Red Hook Lobster Pound

2011 October 5
by JEREMY, C.J.

JEREMY, C.J., delivered the opinion of the Cart. CATTLEYA, J., delivered a separate concurrence.

“Excuse me, sir, but is that really $15?” the bespectacled gentleman — a Congressional staffer, I presume (always a safe guess) — asked me as I waited for my lobster roll. I nodded. “It is,” I said. He shook his head and walked away.

We granted cartiorari in this case to review Red Hook Lobster Pound (“RHLP”), a “mobile gastronomic enterprise” purveying lobster rolls, a New England and Maritime Canadian delicacy. See Estate of Siebert, 739 A.2d 356, 367 (Me. 1999).

The first thing you notice about RHLP is the price of a lobster roll. One can’t help but notice it. In the world of mobile gastronomy, where Mr. Hamilton is all you ordinarily need, the company of Mr. Lincoln tends to turns heads.

You ask, “Is it worth it?”

You can get a whole lobster on (aptly-named) Maine Avenue, steamed and ready for the dissecting, for the same price, you say. (I suggest you do visit the Fish Wharf, but whole lobster is a bit messy for a lunch-break repast.) And you can get a lobster roll at America Eats Tavern for only $16, you say.* (Quite delicious, if you have the time. And consider tax and tip. Unless, of course, you’re Rachael Ray.) And a lobster roll surely costs less in Boothbay Harbor, you say. (But factor in the plane ticket and the L.L.Bean buys, see generally L.L.Bean, Inc. v. Drake Publishers, Inc., 811 F.2d 26 (1st Cir. 1987), and you arrive at a figure far, far greater than a mere $15.)

And so, is RHLP’s lobster roll worth the $15 they ask for it? Yes.

Red Hook Lobster Pound

Red Hook Lobster Pound

The customer is offered two choices: Maine or Connecticut. See In re TaKorean, 1 Catt. 4 (2011) (“brevity is a plus”). (In addition to the lobster rolls, there is also a “Shrimp Roll.” While shrimp is all well and good, and while it certainly has its place in the wider universe of crustaceans, no one in their right mind orders shrimp over lobster.)

A Maine-style lobster roll is “fresh Maine Lobster meat mixed in with our homemade light lemon based mayo.” Like a Mainer’s disposition, it is cold and acerbic. A Connecticut-style lobster roll is “fresh Maine Lobster meat poached in butter.” It is served warm, for a Nutmegger’s warmth is notorious.

(Notice, a moment, RHLP’s own capitalization of “Lobster.” Such reverence can lead only to good and delicious things.)

Without questioning Mr. Rockefeller’s sensibilities, we opted for the Connecticut preparation, to which we limit our review in this case. Simplicity in a dish, like brevity in a menu, is a plus. See TaKorean, 1 Catt. 4. The Connecticut-style lobster roll is a simple dish, indeed. Unlike the tuna salad-like consistency of the more familiar (to me) Maine-style preparation, RHLP’s Connecticut roll features large pieces of fresh, perfectly poached, ever succulent lobster meat enveloped in a light sheen of melted butter. A garnish of green onion and the buttery piece of toast surrounding it all complete the dish.

Connecticut-Style Lobster Roll

Connecticut-Style Lobster Roll

The proportions are right. Cf. TaKorean, 1 Catt. 4. The flavors are right. Cf. In re CapMac, 1 Catt. 1 (2011). No ingredient is lost, and there are no unnecessary flourishes to detract from the lobster or to obscure faulty technique.

And, given the quality of both the lobster and its caring preparation, and even the quantity of lobster provided, the price is not exorbitant. Make no mistake: At $15, this is no everyday food truck. This is a special occasion food truck – an anniversary and graduation food truck. Better yet, an expense account food truck. (Or better still, a food truck by which to secure the good graces of a Justice of the Supreme Cart.)

Finally, to address my sister’s concern that I “focus[ ] on the price of RHLP’s Connecticut-style Lobster Roll much more than its merits,” I add only two points. Firstly, that this is a dramatic shift from my sister’s own comments during conference. And secondly, that my sister’s apparent lack of concern with what is, at first and second glance, a steep price only validates those who would cast off this august body as reflecting only the voice of an élitist legal culture. Though, in the end, we agree as to the relative reasonableness of RHLP’s pricing, my sister’s galling initial lack of concern with the opprobrium that has traditionally attached to a high price tag shows just how out of step with the workaday Everyman she truly is.

AFFIRMED.

*Erratum. My sister rightly informs me that the lobster roll at America Eats now costs $21, not $16.

CATTLEYA, J., concurring.

I concur in the judgment. Although the Cart’s reasoning is not wrong, it focuses on the price of RHLP’s Connecticut-style Lobster Roll much more than its merits. In fact, in an opinion of over 600 words, only two sentences provide useful information on the taste and texture of the roll.

Unlike the tuna salad-like consistency of the more familiar (to me) Maine-style preparation, RHLP’s Connecticut roll features large pieces of fresh, perfectly poached, ever succulent lobster meat enveloped in a light sheen of melted butter. A garnish of green onion and the buttery piece of toast surrounding it all complete the dish.

This is not nearly enough to describe the taste, and certainly not the textural quality, of the roll. My brother has previously noted my concern with food texture, see In re DC Empanadas, 1 Catt. 3 (2011), and he is absolutely right about this. The feeling of the roll—against the fingers, teeth, and tongue—was an exceptional experience.

As soon as I picked up the roll, I knew that RHLP didn’t overlook the bread component of the sandwich, which is an easy mistake to make. The buttered bread developed perfect grill marks and a toasty outside, leaving behind a slightly crisp layer into which my teeth could sink with satisfaction. At the same time, the bread was just thick enough so that the inside was still soft and pillowy.

The lobster filling was fresh and flavorful, especially with a squish of fresh lemon. The butter sauce was applied delicately. Too often, cooks use butter sauce to drown (and hide) overcooked and rubbery meat. This was not the case here. The lobster chunks were large and meaty, and they melted on my tongue.

My brother is correct to note that this roll comes at a steep price, though he need not have noted it in such detailed length. I do not mean to appear so little concerned with the price. Rather, I think it would be enough to say that at $15, this is by no means an everyday option. The issue I take with the Cart’s opinion are my brother’s unnecessary, and more importantly, irrelevant details regarding such things as America Eats Tavern (which is outside this Cart’s jurisdiction), Boothbay Harbor (which, obviously, is not even an option for the reader, unless he has a private jet and an extended lunch break), and Rachael Ray (whom I can’t even say anything about because there is nothing I could say that would be very nice).

The bottom line is, of all the dishes that I have tried so far in my capacity as a Justice of the Supreme Cart, RHLP’s Connecticut-style Lobster Roll was by far the best. Certainly, it is not at everyday treat. But I do not regret handing over, in the words of my brother, a Mr. Hamilton plus a Mr. Lincoln. And the next time I find a semi-legitimate reason to treat myself, I will eagerly return to try out RHLP’s Maine-style Lobster Roll. (What’s more, I plan to pay for my next $15 roll by skipping TaKorean’s disappointing taco trio ($9), see In re TaKorean, 1 Catt. 4 (2011), and CapMac’s sour mac & cheese ($6), see In re CapMac, 1 Catt. 1 (2011). I would advise the reader to do the same.)

Finally, I must ask my brother to respect our discussions during conference. The Justices of this Cart must have room to speak openly and freely with each other. Until I donate my papers upon my death to a worthy institution (say, for example, the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress), I expect that my conference notes will remain confidential. (And even when I do make my papers public 50 years after my death, I will reserve the right to keep any autopsy records closed, as Justices of other high courts have done.)

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