Seafood aficionados will readily admit an occasional craving for fresh Maine lobster, yet often have trouble locating a market that carries the Atlantic Ocean delicacies in a condition resembling live.
An enterprising Boston restaurant family has leaped into the void by offering Legal Sea Foods Shore to Door Express, a venture more aptly named Lobster Express because the firm air-freights the clawed crustaceans, still kicking, anywhere in the country.
Ordering is simple: A buyer calls a toll-free number, selects the amount of shellfish desired and can have the lobsters ready to take the plunge into boiling water within 24 hours.
The firm, which still operates a Boston fish house by the same name, keeps the lobsters alive by packing them in reusable plastic foam containers kept cold with frozen gel coolants. The shellfish themselves are nestled in seaweed for an oceanic atmosphere during the long trip to the West Coast or elsewhere.
Naturally, the service is on the pricey side, but could be made somewhat reasonable if traditional air freight was used rather than express mail. However, air freight might take as long as four days to deliver the precious cargo and by that time the urge may have passed.
Possibly the best deal offered by Legal Sea Foods is the $58.95 "lobster lover's special." In addition to four live one-pound lobsters, the buyer receives place mats, bibs, nutcrackers and cooking instructions. Best of all, with this selection the air express delivery charge is included, normally a $29 expense for a similar-size order.
If money is not an object of concern, then there are a few other items worth noting. The Executive Catch includes one ounce of beluga caviar, 1 1/2 to two pounds smoked Irish salmon, eight-ounce bluefish pate, eight-ounce salmon pate, one pound of cooked Gulf shrimp and four live one-pound lobsters for $149.95. This is delivered by air express and includes the nutcrackers, etc.
Finally, there are 14 live lobsters, 14 pounds of steamer clams and seven pints of fish chowder for $289.95. Shipping on this particular order is extra.
In case the urge ever hits, the lobster hot line for Legal Sea Foods is (800) 343-5804.
Incidentally, lifelong Maine residents believe that the best-size lobsters for eating, in terms of tenderness, are those that weigh between 1 pounds and 1 1/2 pounds. Lobsters much larger than that may not have shed their shells in several years and, consequently, the meat tends to be tough and chewy.
Making a Buck--A list of the nation's 100 most successful independently owned restaurants was recently published, and Southern California operations did not exactly break the bank. In fact, no Los Angeles-area restaurant made the top 20 in terms of sales at one outlet in the survey conducted by Restaurants & Institutions magazine.
The listing has more to do with popular-priced rather than high-brow cuisine and, as a result, the highest-grossing area eateries are somewhat surprising.
Junior's Restaurant topped all local spots listed with annual sales of $6 million. The deli-style operation served 725,000 meals last year at its Westside location.
Following close behind deli central is Clifton's Brookdale Cafeteria in downtown Los Angeles, with sales of $5.8 million. Carrying trays must be quite appealing because the cafeteria estimated that 2 million meals were consumed from its buffet lines.
A step or so off from the torrid pace of Junior's and Clifton's comes The Smoke House in Burbank with a $4.6 million annual yield. The restaurant serves a sizable portion of its 350,000 yearly meals to film crews on location.
Others included in the list are: El Cholo, Los Angeles, with $3.6 million; The Red Onion, Newport Beach, $3.5 million; Philippe, The Original, Los Angeles, $3.3 million; Little Joe's Restaurant, Los Angeles, $3.1 million and Rex Il Ristorante, Los Angeles, $3 million.
Raw Milk Ruling--A U.S. Federal District Court judge ruled on Monday that the Health and Human Services Department had unreasonably delayed acting on a consumer group's petition to ban all sales of raw milk. The court ordered the agency to propose a decision on the matter within 60 days.
Washington-based Public Citizen, a consumer advocacy group, filed the suit in September asking for an interstate and intrastate ban on the sale of unpastuerized milk because of the suspected threat it poses from harmful bacteria.
Numerous federal officials are in favor of an interstate ban, but a final HHS decision on the matter could preclude any restrictions on raw milk sales.