Order this... Luscious lobster at Southeast Light Delights
If you’ve spent time on Block Island, you’ve probably gone to the Southeast Lighthouse, and you’ve seen a blue food truck with a sign on it saying Southeast Light Delights. Perhaps you thought it a food truck that sells water and hot dogs. And you would be wrong, because this food truck, run by André Boudreau and Lisa Nolan, sells amazing lobster rolls, lobster grilled cheese — and all things lobster. These are not the lobster rolls of yore, some flakes of lobster meat slathered in too much mayonnaise and celery in a sad hot dog bun. Southeast Delights makes lobster rolls that contain the entire lobster — fresh claw, knuckle and tail meat — in a gorgeously buttered roll that is a work of art itself. There is so much lobster meat that the roll can barely contain it all, so customers walk away happy and feeling that they got their money’s worth.
We could have talked with André all day about his childhood, island life and his many talents besides that of chef. In addition to running Southeast Light Delights with his son and wife, André has acted in films, helped facilitate kids’ plays at Christmastime, and serves on the Town Council. He decided to sell lobster rolls in the food truck because “it didn’t exist” and chose the Southeast Light location because “it’s in my backyard.” (Lisa is Executive Director of the Southeast Light Foundation.) Here’s some more from André:
Q: What’s your earliest food memory that made you think “I want to work in a restaurant?”
A: Don't think I ever thought "I want to work in a restaurant.” Its just what you did in 1980s Pawtucket — you gave up your paper route and went and washed dishes. For me it was Kip’s, and the Beef Hearth, there was also the Checker Club, My Brother’s Pub, Mama Spumoni’s...
Q: How did you end up cooking on Block Island?
A: 1987, my first summer on Block Island, Peg Manley hired me to cook at the Beachead. I’m not sure she had any idea of the crew she assembled — Huey Mulholland, Bobby Townsend, Sharlene Worth, Leslie Campos, Kerri Gaffett, Christopher Bright, and Frank Nicastro. Ninety percent of the kitchen crew was from Pawtucket, the rest were from Mars, it seemed. Those truly were the best days... Not a day goes by I don't think of Peg, especially when my help doesn't show up on time, or are hungover. I now know how she felt. She would have loved to see what I have going on here.
Q: What is your favorite food to cook with on the island?
A: Whatever is grown here. We grow as much as we can for the food truck, the basil, sometimes the lettuce, we tried growing our own tomatoes a few years back, but they're never ready in time. Just today we scored watermelon from Brian Neville, island-grown. Swing by the produce stand at the Abram’s Animal Farm, you never know what you'll find to use. Its just a joy to use what the island provides and people respond well to that.
Q: If you’re eating out on the island, what other restaurant do you go to and what do you order?
A: We go to two places on island. Rebecca’s is our commissary, reasonably priced and all good, go for the fish and chips, or the fishermen's platter. Their seafood is always fresh, believe me, we can tell! For date night, it’s Winfield’s.
Q: Who was your most memorable customer?
A: Anyone who comes to the window and tells us they have never had a lobster roll, it’s like a needle scratching across a record. We stop everything and explain what lobster we use, where we get it, how we’re going to prepare it. All of our lobster rolls are made to order with claw, knuckle, and tail meat. We never use frozen lobster. Every single person comes back with such joy on their faces.
Q: What’s your favorite dish to cook right now that you wish everyone would order at least once?
A: So, last July when I was ordering lobster, my rep, Ross Pasche, who is an old island fixture from the 70s, says to me, “How ‘bout you try these scallops? We get them right there,” as he points to the New Bedford scallop auction house. “There are none fresher. People will cry when you serve them.” So I said, “As long as I don't cry when I get the bill.” The following day we had what really is the best sandwich on the island....our baked stuffed lobster roll.
Q: What is the one food you never want to eat again?
A: Salmon Sauce, which is canned salmon with hard boiled eggs (and sometimes canned peas) in a cream sauce. Mom would make it during Lent at a time when my parents didn't have two dimes to rub together. It’s so disgusting to even think of it now. I actually do think of that every Friday during Lent, even these days, and I rebel and cook a steak.
Q: What would you want to eat for your last meal?
My grandmother Annette Tessier's French Meat Pie with ketchup, but not on the top. The ketchup is on the side so you could dip each bite. Hopefully, I’ll be wicked old then, and forgetful, and all those memories will come flooding back as if it were yesterday.
André then brought us two popular items — the Baked Stuffed Lobster Roll and the Lobster Grilled Cheese. Fresh lobster meat warmed with butter is the base of the roll, topped with plump, juicy large scallops that are seared in the same lobster butter, completed with enough Jarlsburg cheese to make it a bit decadent but not to overwhelm the sandwich, crisp applewood smoked bacon for a salty smoky taste, and topped with buttery seasoned cracker crumbs — again, just enough to complete the dish but not enough to take away from the scallops and lobster. It’s the kind of roll you take a bite of and sigh because it’s so perfect and you’re already a little sad that it will soon be gone.
The lobster grilled cheese was also satisfying and a wonderful mix of flavors — delicious fresh sourdough bread contained warmed lobster in clarified butter, American cheese that mysteriously absorbs the flavor of the lobster and the butter and turns it into…lobster cheese? Whatever it becomes, it goes perfectly with the seafood, more bacon, pink Himalayan salt and fresh tomatoes that taste of sun and garden.
Our tasting concluded with dessert, and I have to preface this by saying that my dining companion and I are of an age — in our 50s — and André served us something that immediately evoked childhood memories for both of us. I grew up going to a place called Bubbling Brook that served soft-serve ice cream, and if we were good on the car ride over, we could get the candy shell on it. André has both the soft ice cream (a bit more rich and creamy than the ice cream of my youth), and the magic shell in both chocolate and cherry flavors. I cannot adequately describe the wonderful taste of that cherry hard shell — it has a magical quality as the “chocolate” shell encapsulates the ice cream — the minute you bite into it the shell breaks and the ice cream pours out. It’s a total mess at the end and so worth every bite as we shared our memories of eating the same thing as kids.
Southeast Light Delights is planning to stay open weekends through Columbus Day, weather pending. Do treat yourself to at least one of these lobster delights this fall. Yes, there are also hot dogs, bratwurst, PB&J and Del’s lemonade — but you’ve gotten yourself all the way up the hill or around the island — don’t you deserve a little decadence? This is the place to go for one last bite of summer to savor as fall approaches. First-time or long-time, you may too be echoing André’s customers: “This is the best lobster roll I’ve ever had.”