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Susan Axelrod

Susan Axelrod's food writing career began in the kitchen; she owned a restaurant and catering business for 15 years before turning to journalism. By day, she is the social media editor for Portland Press Herald. To relax, she bakes, gardens and hikes with her husband and their two dogs, preferably followed by a cocktail or a Maine beer. Susan can be contacted at 791-6310 or saxelrod@mainetoday.com On Twitter: @susansaxelrod

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Posted: June 6, 2014

Robert’s Maine Grill wins ‘Editor’s Choice’ award at Lobster Rumble in NYC

Written by: Susan Axelrod
Owner Michael Landgarten, left, and chef Brandon Blethen after winning the Editor's Choice Award at the Tasting Table Lobster Rumble on June 5. Photo by Morganlone Yaeger for Tasting Table.

Jubilant owner Michael Landgarten, left, and chef Brandon Blethen after winning the Editor’s Choice Award at the Tasting Table Lobster Rumble on June 5. Photo by Morganlone Yaeger for Tasting Table

The lobster roll from Robert’s Maine Grill in Kittery bested those from 22 other restaurants around the country to win the Editor’s Choice Award at Tasting Table’s Lobster Rumble NYC, held last night at the Metropolitan Pavilion.

This was Robert’s first time at the Rumble.

“We headed down 6 a.m. yesterday; it seems like about a month ago,” said owner Michael Landgarten, talking on his cell phone as he and his crew drove back to Maine from New York this afternoon. “Six of us from Robert’s – the chefs and the GM. We were planning on doing it in one, but it took us two vehicles: a van and a car. We had a bunch of lobster, but we also had a lot of rolls that were taking up a lot of space.”

They brought 400 freshly baked hotdog bun-style rolls that they split into 4 pieces each for the event.

“Part of the victory goes to Sommer Mason, a baker at Lil’s Cafe (in Kittery, which Landgarten also owns),” he said. “She came up with just a fantastic delicious roll that compliments the lobster.”

The crew took brief advantage of being in Manhattan, visiting icons like Shake Shack and Eataly, before setting up their station at the Metropolitan Pavilion. Those with VIP tickets came through the door first, giving the competitors a gentle preview of what was to come.

“Right around 6:45-7 p.m. it was like black fly season in Maine – an unbelievable crush of people,” Landgarten said. “All six of us were hands-on in our distinct little roles. We were mixing right to order … all these little micro jobs.”

The crush went on for four hours, leading to “lots of sore backs,” however, “the event is run amazingly well,” he said.

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Robert’s lobster roll, left, and the table at the Metropolitan Pavilion. Photo by Morganlone Yaeger for Tasting Table

The 5th annual Lobster Rumble, which benefits Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign, drew a sold-out crowd of 2,000. Other competitors from Maine were The Clam Shack of Kennebunkport, which won the TT Fan Favorite Award in 2012 and 2013, and Eventide Oyster Co., winner of the 2013 Editor’s Choice Award, competing for the second year in a row.

“We got great feedback, but there was incredible competition,” said Landgarten. “I loved what we were doing: a super-purist lobster roll, no tricks, straight up mayonnaise, a little seasoning, a little lemon, the lobster meat really shining through.  There was a dominating line in front of The Clam Shack. They are obviously rock stars of this event. It was the last thing on my mind to think we were going to win. I have so much respect for the other restaurants there  — Luke’s Lobster, Mermaid Inn — these places that I’ve admired for so long.”

Finally, it was time for the awards ceremony.

“We heard our name and it was kind of a strange, alternate universe … like I went into a hallucinogenic dream, but there it was,” said Landgarten.

Guests chose the lobster roll from Thames Street Oyster House in Baltimore, Maryland, for the 2014 TT Fan Favorite Award.

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