The sixth annual Claw Down competition took place at Newagen Seaside Inn on Sept. 14, and top honors were awarded to the Boothbay Harbor Country Club, The Thistle Inn, and Carriage House Restaurant.
In all, 11 chefs competed for the coveted awards, with bites that contained about every ingredient and flavor imaginable that marries well with lobster.
Nathaniel Adam, executive sous chef of the Boothbay Harbor Country Club, took the Judges' Choice Award with his winning bite of sweet corn and candied thyme brown butter emulsion, butter poached lobster, tarragon seafoam, sea salt tuile and red tobiko.
The Thistle Inn’s Dick Reid won the People’s Choice Award with a similar bite to the one that took first place in the “A Taste of Local Flavor” event during Boothbay Harbor Fest last week: Truffled lobster Newburg, with butter poached lobster, black truffle oil, lemon-thyme port reduction, local micro greens, and a sliver of black truffle, all on a saffron risotto cake.
Kelly Patrick Farrin, of the Carriage House Restaurant, took the Chefs’ Choice Award and Best Table Presentation. His bite was called “Xaiolongbao,” aka soup dumpling: House shucked lobster and Napa cabbage, blueberry soy sauce, pickled radish and its micros. Farrin said lobster stock in the dish was thickened with gelatin and agar agar and added to the dumplings before they were steamed.
The “Best Maine Lobster Bite” competition was, as usual, a sold-out event, with around 350 attendees. Claw Down MC Michael Maxim kept the crowd informed and entertained, and steel drum band Sister Steel performed, while the hundreds of attendees enjoyed gourmet bites of lobster and sips of wine and beer.
Claw Down is hosted by the Boothbay Harbor Region Chamber of Commerce. The event’s mission is to promote local lobster and showcase the culinary talent in Maine. Boothbay Region Greenhouses provided lighting, greenery and nautical décor.
The Judges' choice winner was selected by a panel of four: Chris Papagni, Portland food writer and consultant; Arlin Smith, owner of Hugo’s, Honey Paws and co-owner of Eventide in Portland; Pamela Laskey, founder of Maine Foodie Tours; and Diane Hudson, Portland food and features writer.
Besides the three winning chefs, other competitors were: Cods’ Head Fish House & BBQ Chef Stanley Hornsby, Feast Maine Catering Chef Daron Goldstein, Linekin Bay Resort Chef John Dexter, Mine Oyster Raw Bar & Gathering Place Chef Ralph Smith, Oak Street Provisions Chef David Arsenault, Oliver’s at Cozy Harbor Wharf Chef Mike Nguyen, The Boathouse Bistro Tapas Bar & Restaurant Chef Karin Guerin, and 1820 House Chef Daniel Lynch.
This year, 500 pounds of shucked local lobster went into the bites.
Reid and Adam will go on to compete at the Maine Lobster Chef competition at Harvest on the Harbor in Portland on Oct. 20.