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Lou & Lucy’s Leftovers: Florida’s Maine lobsters

Lou Groccia and Lucy Pickett, the Gazette’s self-proclaimed food experts, can’t stop chewing the fat.

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I know I have talked about this before — buy local — but I want to rehash the subject.

I recently vacationed in Florida. Being a huge tourist destination, Florida is an interesting mix of people from all over. The food is also a mix, apparently to satisfy the varied tastes.

As per usual, wherever I happen to be, I am always looking for local or regional offerings on a menu or to acquire and cook. I was surprised (Why, I don’t know) that almost every restaurant I went to down there was featuring Maine lobster. One thing I am not interested in when I go to Florida is Maine lobster. I was also surprised to see Connecticut Blue Point oysters on one menu. Gulf oysters being some of the best oysters in the world, I wondered why they did not offer them. I guess the buy-local trend has not hit Florida in any significant way.

I will admit to buying the wild-caught, frozen Gulf shrimp at the grocery when I see them here, because they are far superior to the farm-raised, frozen, easy-peel from who-knows-where that are often the only choice.

I bought some fresh Gulf shrimp while I was on the Gulf — they were outstanding — simply grilled with a basting of lemon and butter and a healthy dose of some Florida-made hot sauce.

Some of the fish you see in Florida are rare in New England, like fresh Florida grouper or triple tail or skip jack. So why is there so much Maine lobster in Florida? If you were in Florida would you order Maine lobster?

One popular fish down there is the firm-textured mahi-mahi. It is served in every form you can think of. Mahi-mahi is a tropical or sub-tropical fish we see up here a lot. It is also known as dolphin fish. Don’t worry, I am not talking Flipper here.

While in Florida, I had some clams that looked and tasted like New England little necks. Come to find out, they were farm-raised at Cedar Key in Florida. And they are a clam variety of Florida. Who knew?

I guess the point is: people want what they can’t have. In this country, you can get most things wherever you are. Perhaps New Englanders who live full time in Florida really want their Maine lobster just like I want my Gulf shrimp. I would say, no matter where we are, we are spoiled when it comes to our choices in food. But I still say it pays to buy local-fare. It will be fresher and better.

Why didn’t I try the Gator bites?

— Lucy

Blame the “snow birds” for the Maine lobster glut in Florida. The snow birds are all those retired people from the Northeast who vacation in Florida over the winter until April 1.

Once the clock strikes midnight on April 1, whole flocks of these snow birds hit the highways, heading back home up north. Once summer rolls around, these snow birds invariably bring up the lack of really good key lime pie hereabouts. And how they wish there were more “early-bird” specials at the local restaurants. And how they can’t wait to head back down to Florida.

Oh, how I wish I were a snow bird.

— Lou

Comments
Legacy Comments1

The best oysters in Florida are from Apalachicola Bay. Now the water is too salty and lacking nutrients for a regular harvest. Droughts at the source of the Apalachicola River, hurricanes, and the BP oil spill contributed to the problem. Harvesting of the oysters has been curtailed until May 31, 2013.

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