Q&A with Chef Ed McFarland
If you’re thinking the last thing the Hamptons needed was another restaurant dishing up lobster, don’t make a snap judgement (that’ll be the last pun, promise!). Last summer, amidst the landscape of beloved fish shacks on the East End, Ed’s Lobster Bar managed to set itself apart.
Chef Ed McFarland is back for his second summer at the restaurant’s Sag Harbor outpost and he talked with us about this summer’s menu updates, tips for preparing lobsters at home, and plays a few rounds of “the perfect pairing.”
Congratulations on this being your second summer out in the Hamptons; that’s no small feat. What do you think contributed to last year’s success and ultimately the return for 2020?
I think a lot went into it. I think the location, the fact that I wasn’t reinventing the wheel; I was doing something that I already knew how to do, not something completely different.
It was almost exactly the same as the city other than the size and a couple of minor menu changes.
What can you note specifically are the differences between the New York City restaurant and the Sag Harbor restaurant?
I have a pizza oven in Sag Harbor so we do a cheese pizza, clam pizza, the lobster pizza, and I do a shrimp pizza from time to time as a special.
Are there any changes we’ll notice to the menu or otherwise for the 2020 season?
We’re going to have a more expansive lunch menu that I did not have last year that features similar lunch items to what I do in the city. The Lobster Grilled Cheese, or what we call the Lobster Madame, which would be similar to that with a fried egg on top. We’ll bring out the Lobster BLT, the Fried Clam Roll, more of the sandwich items during lunch, and a bigger brunch menu, as we just started doing brunch this January.
As the name would suggest, the restaurant turns out some really fun and, at times, maybe even unexpected dishes with lobster as the star (lobster poutine, anyone?!). What’s one menu item that surprised you by how well it was received, and what’s one that you maybe expected to perform better?
I think the one thing that really surprised me was how many fish tacos I sold. I have the same dish on the menu in the city, but it doesn’t nearly quite sell as well. I feel like everybody was eating fish tacos all summer out there and if there was a dish that didn’t sell well what would it have been? I would’ve expected more lobster rolls…
Obviously, everyone’s first choice should be to come into the restaurant, but what advice do you have for home chefs who are looking to perfect the classic steamed or broiled lobster?
They should watch me on YouTube because I do my own little cooking thing on YouTube, doing all different dishes!
All kidding aside, I think as far as cooking the lobster, it’s keep it simple. If you’re boiling a lobster at home, when it floats, it’s cooked. It’s the easiest way to cook it. You can’t go wrong. It floats. It’s ready to go take it out. Eat.
If you’re broiling the lobster, just make sure that you get some sort of agent on top of it. Some butter, olive oil. If you want to stuff it with a mixed breadcrumb, like a crab meat stuffng, that’s great too, but make sure you get a little oil underneath it and a little oil on top so it stays moist.
Let’s play a couple rounds of “The Perfect Pairing.” It’s MDW and we’re coming in for our first lobster roll of the season. In addition to the entrée, what should we get to first wet the palate without getting too full, and what should we be pairing to drink.
I’d probably just say to go with a glass of Sancerre with that, and as an appetizer I’d certainly go with Fried Calamari because that’s really a signature dish of the restaurant the way we do it.
Next, a couple comes in but the wife doesn’t do seafood. What’s the perfect meal you’d prep for her?
We could do a brisket burger, which is really fantastic. It’s really unique. It’s pan-seared and we put it on a Chinese pork bun, which is slightly sweet with the house-made pickles and the house- made tartar sauce, and we do Old Bay fried onions on top of that, and that’s a very delicious take on a burger. That’s a great option for somebody who doesn’t eat seafood and doesn’t want to have a veg plate.
I think that if it’s the end of the season, you got to start eating more lobster rolls! You got to have whole lobster because as the water’s getting cold, the shells are getting harder and you’re getting a lot sweeter meat. The lobster season never ends. Lobster season is 365 days a year.