The price of lobster hit record lows in New England and Atlantic Canada last year, and some fish-industry insiders say great deals now abound for crustacean consumers. Is it possible that lobster has become an "affordable" menu item for catered events?
Don't start reaching for plastic bibs. The price of lobster has rebounded in New England and now is only about a dollar below where it was last year, and lobster pounds aren't overstocked. Low prices might enable planners to negotiate, but caterers won't volunteer lower rates in proportion to retail costs, says Courtney MacIsaac of The Maine LobsterBake Co. in Portland, Maine.
Giorgi DiLemis, vice president of food and beverage for Gaylord Hotels, says fresh lobster now is more affordable than filet mignon but more expensive than popular chicken dishes.
In other words, hold the butter sauce. For planners, lobster is still a luxury.
A lobster dinner or clambake is an obvious catering choice for meetings in New England, but the event team at the 424-room InterContinental Boston turned the meal into a truly memorable experience for 120 members of the InterContinental Hotels Group food-and-beverage department, in town for a recent leadership summit.
"We pride ourselves on providing guests insider experiences whenever possible," says Stephanie Loeber, the hotel's director of public relations.
Here's how it played out:
In the evening, attendees gathered in the lobby of the hotel, which sits on Boston's historic waterfront, sampling caviar blinis and vodka. Then, in shifts, the group was escorted on a short stroll along the waterfront to James Hook & Co., a large lobster distributor and a family-owned operation for nearly 85 years. The hotel had arranged for the Hook brothers to greet attendees and talk about the history of the company, the evolution of lobstering in New England, and the economic impact of the industry in Boston. Attendees were shown to the live lobster pounds, or giant holding tanks, and each pulled out a crustacean that was packaged for carrying back to the hotel.
Once there, attendees traded their catch for a flute of champagne by placing the lobster inside a trap, tended to by hotel staff dressed as lobstermen. The party continued in the hotel's Rose Kennedy Ballroom, with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the harbor, while the staff took the lobsters to the kitchen. A few minutes later, dinner was served. -- T.I.