I was invited to the Lobster Rumble in San Francisco 2014 courtesy of Tasting Table, to experience a lobster smackdown where eight chefs competed for top honors and to help raise funds for Share Our Strength. There was agony and ecstasy. We gorged on mounds of tender lobster encased in buttery rolls, deliberated and went back for more. There were lobster mascots handing out foam claws, posing for pictures and providing colorful entertainment throughout the event, which was presented by Lexus in the Herbst Pavillion in Fort Mason.
Actually, it was my friend Brenda of Bites & Bourbon who hooked us up with the invite, thanks Nerb and Tasting Table! I went with Brenda and Christina of East Bay Dish, and later met up with Ben from Focus:Snap:Eat. We got to sit in a special reserved section that was conveniently set in between the cocktails and the wine, and a couple of barrels filled with a variety of potato chips.
Santa Margherita was pouring generous full glasses of their wines. I enjoyed a sparkling glass of Prosecco di Valdobbiadene. The cocktails were made with Wild Turkey.
There are two schools of thought when it comes to lobster rolls, served hot drizzled with butter, or served cold mixed with mayonnaise. The winning Lobster Roll was from the Old Port Lobster Shack in Redwood City!
What was so winning about this particular roll? It was perfectly executed in the old school, classic style, a combination of tender claw meat and chunks of the tail mixed with Hellman’s mayonnaise, green onions, salt and pepper which lets the flavors of the lobster shine through. The side split roll is buttery and tender and lightly griddled on the sides. The serving was a nice generous size and was garnished with a single slice of pickle.
There was a fellow walking around serving samples of their Clam Chowdah, which smelled really good but I declined as I was too busy licking the butter off my fingers…
My favorite was the super rich buttered lobster with fried shallots and arugula in housemate buns from Farallon Restaurant. Do you see the rich buttery sauce overflowing from the bun? So decadent and so delicious, I loved the combination of flavors!
The Farallon crew: Executive Chef Ryan Simas, Tony Min and Patrick Alino
Another one of my favorite lobster rolls was from Anchor & Hope. I liked their display too – rustic elegance.
Their roll was cute, the edges were cut off and grilled, filled with chunks of lobster mixed with a rich lemon aioli then sprinkled with a house infused lobster roe sea salt, and micro cilantro. Tasty indeed. I liked that the server also offered to throw away some refuse that I was carrying around. Excellent customer service!
Willi’s Seafood and Raw Bar from Healdsburg served a really delicious version of warm Maine lobster with garlic butter and thin slices of crispy fennel in a round buttery roll that was very flavorful and moreish. The garlic flavor was very pronounced and lingered on my tastebuds for a while.
Waterbar should get extra credits for the amusing server with a dramatic mustache, who reminded me of a carnival barker, but he slung me a mean plate filled with extra chips and pickles and garnished with a dramatic red claw stamped Waterbar.
Their version was pretty classic, although of the warmed meat drizzled with butter variety which I tend to favor over the mayonnaise-y one. Loved the chips and pickles too!
This was the smallest entry. The tiny little bun held a delicate leaf of lettuce topped with a scoop of lobster salad mixed with mayo and sprinkled with fresh chives. From Franks Oysterhouse and Champagne Parlour from Seattle, WA. This was an example of the warm bun filled with cold lobster salad style.
The Half Moon Bay Brewing Company was eccentrically serving Pulled Pork Sliders at a lobster rumble. It was a nice diversion, the pulled pork was tender and mixed with a delicious sauce topped with crunchy slaw.
Jacks Oyster Bar & Fish House from Oakland had a delicious sample, meaty chunks of lobster bathed in hollandaise sauce infused with tarragon and topped with finely minced chives. Tasty, but I found the pretzel bun a bit heavy and chewy.
Local Mission Eatery was serving a Lobster Banh Mi that was topped with a pungent garlicky kimchi that overwhelmed the tiny bit of lobster salad underneath. The bread was kinda heavy and spongy for banh mi too. But as my friend Ben pointed out, it was later in the evening so they were probably getting low on lobstah…
Behind the scenes, the crew was working hard at keeping the trays filled.
Chef-owner Jake Godby was busy serving scoops of delicious Brown Butter Ice Cream and refreshing Thai Chili Lime Sorbet from his fabulous Humphry Slocumbe Ice Cream Shop. Both flavors were delicious. I loved the buttery ice cream, and Ben from Focus:Snap:Eat let me try his sorbet, which had a fresh herbal flavor with just a hint of fish sauce (jk)!
Also serving sweets was Biscuit Bender, located in the Ferry Building and brings a taste of the South to the Bay Area with handmade buttermilk biscuits. All their pastries (sweet and savory) are baked fresh daily and derived from their biscuit dough, perhaps even the dog biscuits!
They had baskets filled with iced Cinnamon Biscuits to tempt our exhausted palates.
What a fun and epic event! For a first time in San Francisco, the Lobster Rumble felt like it was really well organized and the Herbst Pavillion provided a roomy and civilized venue with plenty of amenities that made the entry fee (early bird tix were $65/$75 after that) seem reasonable (especially for AYCE lobster). I hope they come back to Rumble next year!
Thanks again Tasting Table and big congratulations to Old Port Lobster Shack!