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Big Mistake!

Lobster has been slam dancing down the corridors of my mind a lot lately, so yesterday while shopping at Sam's Club, their giant lobster tails caught my eye. "Buy me, buy me, buy me," they chanted seductively. But $27.88 a pound? hmmmm... think think think....

Okay. Last time I had a whole Maine lobster in a restaurant, it was basically inedible. It was so stale I was sure it must have been the first lobster ever caught by a European! Sending it back hadn't helped because they brought me its twin. Really bad, and the menu price had been well over thirty bucks. Okay! $27.88 a pound makes sense. Into the cart goes 1.2 pounds, meaning two tails not of equal size.

I failed to read the small print on the label BEFORE paying for them and hauling them home. The label says, "Product of the Bahamas. Wild." It's WARM WATER lobster! Not good. Really tough shells that only turn orange, not red, when cooked. And worst of all, you have to concentrate really hard and focus if you want them to taste like lobster when you eat them. Oh, there's a remiscent flavor all right. But it doesn't make love to your taste buds the way cold water lobster does. Or as Peggy Lee (RIP) would have put it, it was a giant "Is That All There Is?" type of experience.

So from now on, I read labels carefully, even if I have to start carrying a magnifying glass in my pocket. But there must be some people who like it or Sam's Club wouldn't always have so many of them in stock

Fortunately, I picked up a couple of Alaskan king crab legs too. DEEEElicious! And they were only $12.47 a pound. Next time I'll know where to spend my money!

Anyone else had warm water lobster? What was your experience? Oh! And have you also had cold water lobster to compare them with? Maybe it's just me.

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  1. As a preferably warm-water scuba diver, I've spent lots of time in the Caribbean and eaten lots of warm-water lobster--even freshly caught ones. They're never as good, to my mind, as Maine lobster. They'll do in a pinch, especially if slathered with garlic and butter or other sauces that Maine lobster doesn't require. But I agree, they just don't have the flavor that cold-water lobster does.

    1. I live in Florida, so we eat Florida lobster tails often. I don't find them objectionable as you do. And yes, I've often eaten Maine lobster in restaurants.

      --Lisa

      1. You should have bought more crab. I like the flavor of crab more than lobster.

        1. Well, yeah, if you're expecting American lobster, you're going to be disappointed... it's a completely different animal. They aren't even in the same family, much less the same genus or species :-)

          That said, I'm a fan of spiny lobster. It is what it is and it's good at that. Lobster dishes in Asia, for example, use spiny lobster (I don't believe it's the exact same breed as the one from the Bahamas you mention, but I believe it's similar), and I couldn't imagine substituting American lobster.

          I guess what I'm saying is that they're distinct enough that I hate to call one "better". The problem, I think, is when people are set up to expect that spiny lobster is going to be similar.

          6 Replies
          1. re: Dmnkly

            Don't know what "American" lobster is, but I've had large clawed "Main type" lobster both in the U.S. and in Europe. But cold water seems to be the great determiner of flavor, as far as I can tell. Spiny lobster tails from Australia are certainly flavorful. So are California spiny lobsters. I had no idea water temperature made such a difference until I got those critters home and cooked them. It's like expecting cake and getting bread.

            1. re: Caroline1

              American lobster, Maine lobster... same difference. Genus Homarus, Species Americanus. The species of the ones in Europe is Gammarus. But they're both Homarus.

              I misunderstood the distinction you were making. But aren't California spiny lobsters warm water? I don't think it's as simple as "cold water good, warm water bad".

              1. re: Dmnkly

                There was a time when California's waters were warm, especially south of Santa Barbara. Then, gradually throughout the 20th century, man put dams up on every river feeding into the Pacific (one was left un-dammed in the 1960s when my husband and I did an environmental seminar with Paul Ehrlich, but I don't hold much hope for it today), and that, of course, cut off all of the sand going into long shore drift, which cut away all of the sandy beaches, changed the course of the Humboldt current, and generally made a mess of things.

                I grew up in San Diego. I am now 74 years old. Well, at least until September. When I was in high school, we used to have New Years Eve swimming parties behind Hotel del Coronado, and the water was warm. Also, in high school, I cut my feet on live coral in the La Jolla Cove.

                Today, you will turn to a block of ice if you swim behind the Hotel Del in the wintertime. There isn't any live coral for god knows how many hundreds (thousands?) of miles.

                Forty to fifty years ago, Del Mar used to have a huge sand castle festival. As of about thirty five or so years ago, they had to haul in sand and dump it on the beach for the festival. The ocean has undercut the bluffs of Solana Beach, and some condos have fallen into the ocean as a result.

                And the water is like ice! There was a time, when I was a kid, you saw surfers in shorts. Today you see wet suits, wet suits, wet suits! But the lobsters love it...!!! '-)

            2. re: Dmnkly

              Suburban Toronto has some of the best Chinese restaurants outside of China, and they have adapted north Atlantic lobster (American?) perfectly to their cuisine.

              1. re: jayt90

                I'm not suggesting it won't be delicious, but it certainly won't be the same. I LIKE that "inferior" texture with a lot of Asian dishes. :-)

                That said, I would be curious to see if they did a straight substitution or retooled the recipes somewhat.

                1. re: Dmnkly

                  When you are in Ontario, make a side trip to Markham and Richmond Hill, just north of Toronto, for an amazing enclave of Asian restaurants.

            3. I have had warm water lobster in SE Asia, and it was not as good as Maine, IMO. As a matter of fact, once I read your post, I realized that I generally prefer any type of sea food from the colder waters, be it shellfish or fish.

              3 Replies
              1. re: macca

                That's like saying that you've had chicken, and it was not as good as beef. They're different animals entirely and should not be expected to taste the same.

                As far as water temperature goes, there are some who believe that some of the best and most varied seafood in the world is found off the Hawai'ian Islands, where the water temperature seldom dips below 70F. Ahi, mahi mahi, ono, opakapaka and all the other groundfish--oh, and slippah lobstah, too.

                1. re: alanbarnes

                  I don't think it is like chicken and beef. And I never said I expected them to taste the same. I mean I would prefer salmon instead of snapper, for instance- or swordfish and tuna instead of mahi mahi. And I am sure that "some" believe that the best seafood is off Hawaiian Islands- I am just not one of them!

                  1. re: macca

                    Hmmm, the swordfish and the tuna I caught off the Kona coast last month must have been lost. Or maybe they just liked the company of the mahi mahi.

              2. I love warm water lobster... use kitchen shears to split one side and broil it. very, very tasty.

                1. Caroline1
                  Go to Costco. Get a ton of their delicious shrimp which ar about $8-10 a lb. Stuff yourself into oblivion and then enjoy the scrumptious fruit klafouti (sp?) you purchased with all the money you saved on the seafood :-}

                  15 Replies
                  1. re: Tay

                    Have they stopped selling Asia farmed shrimp in your warehouse, Tay?
                    That's all they offer in my area, and I find it has an off flavour, compared to Gulf or northern water shrimp.

                    1. re: jayt90

                      jayt90
                      I'm not sure. I'd have to check. All I can say is that they have been firm, sweet and totally spot on flavorful every time I've purchased them. I usually get them already cooked/chilled, complete with cocktail sauce and lemon wedges. I believe they are the extra large size.They sell them in 1+ and 2+ lb trays. No matter how many I buy, they never last past their expiration date :-}

                      1. re: Tay

                        Call me a radical stick in the mud, but I will not buy or eat any farm raised sea critters. Or fresh water critters either.

                        1. re: Tay

                          T

                          jfood agrees and loves those big shrimp from Costco about $11/lb in CT. But jfood thinks they are from SE Asia, for some reason he think Viet Nam. But they are mighty tasty.

                          Try the frozen/defrosted ones fromthe "traveling" show (whatthe heck that means is beyond jfood. In a pan with some oil, garlic and lemon, or on a BBQ outside, fantatstic.

                      2. re: Tay

                        Well, the Alaskan king crab legs were pretty darned good! I coulda bought a half a ton of those suckers! '-)

                        1. re: Caroline1

                          Caroline1
                          I believe it! I just hate paying for shell...lol! With the shrimp, aside from the tails, it's all about the actual edible food!

                          1. re: Tay

                            Gonna show my age agin, but I think it's coming up close to thirty years ago that Red Lobster used to have an All You Can Eat Crab Legs feast on Thursday nights. I'm pretty sure it was snow crab, because I remember the legs being served in clusters. It was around ten bucks a person. It took four of us about a month for Red Lobster to cancel the special.

                            My very favorite crab is Dungeness. So sweet. But getting harder and harder to find this far from the Pacific.

                            Kinda burned out on shrimp. I suspect I've overindulged one time too many. Who do we have to protect us from ourselves? <sigh>

                            1. re: Caroline1

                              There is a Chinese all-you-can-eat buffet place out here that features steamed king crab legs. I haven't beeen there in years but I know people used to cluster around that part of the buffet waiting for the trays to come out. Now,I think it's only a certain night of the week. If's funny, they also would bring out deliciously prepared salmon fillets and(at least, initially) hardly anyone would touch them... Except my group :-}
                              BTW: I'm totally longing for the day I get burned out on shrimp.:-}

                              1. re: Tay

                                I've mentioned it on these boards before, but there's a Chinese buffet in El Paso that started out with a really magnificent sea food buffet. I think the only thing they didn't offer was sea turtle. And when they first opened (they were a second location, the original did dim sum but not buffet or a lot of seafood), everything was absolutely fantastic. I don't remember any kind of seafood only being prepared one way. The place was always packed, primarily because once anyone got in, they were wont to leave. That's where I learned there is no public humiliation to gluttony if the plates are constantly cleared. Big mistake. It was only about thirty dollars, if my memory isn't on lunch break. There is no doubt in my mind the owners were losing money. So they very creatively turned everything into Szichuan with the liberal addition of an over-the-top hot pepper oil to everything but the rice. I really regreted that. Their mussels were five ways to heaven!

                                1. re: Caroline1

                                  Caroline1
                                  I don't know how these places make a profit, but I agree that many have had to modify their offerings. I used to stop at the bufffet I mentioned, in order to pick up takeout. You filled containers and they weighed them and charged by the lb. Of course, people used to go in and load up on seafood. I always thought it odd that you were paying the same amount per lb for, say, salmon, as you were for, mac and cheese, or potatoes. The last time I was there (quite some time ago) I noticed that they charged $2 more per lb for seafood takeout. I don't know how they calculate a mixed container. The really odd thing was that they didn't count salmon as a premium priced item. Just shellfish: crab, shrimp, scallops,clams, .... Go figure?

                            2. re: Tay

                              With you there T. Jfood can not stand fighting his food at the dinner table. Cannot stand whole lobster. It's a attle and a mess for the meat. Give jfood shrimp and scallops any time.

                              1. re: jfood

                                The "food" is DEAD, Jay. You don't have to fight it! But all sea critters have to be prepped somehow before eating. It's a matter of personal taste, but I much prefer the fun and cameraderie of a table full of friends wrestling with lobster or crab legs with lots of laughter to aid one's digestion than to be stuck alone in the kitchen cleaning four of five pounds of heads-on shrimp or shucking six or seven pounds of scallops! Been there, done that. Ain't nothin' wrong with letting guests shell their own dinner as long as I'm not stupid enough to put my best Irish linen on the table. '-)

                                1. re: Caroline1

                                  C

                                  It depends.

                                  On a beautiful evening overlooking the pool with a bunch of friends, a bunch of crustaceans, lots of napkins and some cold beer for the friends there is nothing better than the snapping of lobster and snow crabs. Gotta agree wholeheartedly on that (jfood still likes the shrimp better)

                                  WRT shrimp, jfood has one of the tools that you push into the shrimp and splits/opens. 5 pounds of shrimp take about 20 minutes. A little music and time just passes.

                                  Big argument last night at dinner with friends is which house is the first pool party when spring arrives.

                                  1. re: jfood

                                    Sounds fun, but I don't have a pool (yet???) in this house. We'd have to hike out in the back yard among the pecan trees and dangle our feet in my creek!

                                    A housekeeper in El Paso taught me how to clean shrimp quickly and get the tail fins out intact. Easy to show someone, difficult to explain, but basically you break off the head, pull away the legs, then take hold of the top of the meat and slide it out of the shell. Wish I was as fast as Terry was. She could do three pounds of shrimp in less than five minutes!

                                    But as I said in another post, I'm pretty much getting burned out on shrimp. Leaning toward scallops and crab and seriously wrestling with my sense of thrift on shipping charges to have some abalone shipped across four states. BIG western states! <sigh> I keep reminding myself that sometimes the wanting is a lot more fun than the getting. Like those blasted warm water lobsters! '-)

                                    1. re: Caroline1

                                      Caroline1 & jfood
                                      As I said in an earlier post, I'm longing for the opportunity to become 'burned out on shrimp'. It rates right up there with Mac & Cheese as a favorite 'comfort food.' Right now,I 'm into the Costco shrimp cocktail, thing but that may change, though probably not until my next lifetime. :-}

                        2. Growing up in New England, I definitely prefer Maine lobster, though my husband, who is from Texas, likes those jumbo spiny/rock lobster tails too. I had always understood that the cold-water spiny lobster (for example, from Australia) are more flavorful and have a better texture than warm-water spiny lobster (like those from the Bahamas). BTW, speaking of Australia, I LOVED the Moreton Bay Bugs they have (bay/slipper lobster). Those things are delicious.

                          I've never bought Maine lobster tail frozen, only the whole lobster alive from tanks, while the spiny lobster tails have always been frozen.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Rubee

                            I think any type of delicate, non conductive tissue foods are always going to suffer more from having been frozen. It's like pizza: It's never as good as a takeout food as it is eating it in the Pizzaria.

                          2. some of the best seafood i've eaten is my nephew's fresh caught florida lobster, deep fried. wow-za! and i love maine lobster and gulf shrimp and dover sole and scottish salmon and.....

                            where is scubadoo97 on this?

                            1. Rule of thumb: lobster tails are almost always from spiny lobsters, which are by definition warm-water bugs. If you're expecting Homarus Americanus when you buy a lobster tail, you're going to be disappointed every single time.

                              That's not to say that spiny lobster is inferior to true lobster, they're just completely different animals. As you noted, there are some outstanding lobster tails out there.

                              One problem, though, is that most of the lobster tails we get in the US have been frozen, which AFAIK never improves the flavor or texture of meat. And although frozen lobster tails can still be good, there's no doubt that there are plenty of bad ones out there too. Sounds like you got your hands on a pair of them.

                              4 Replies
                              1. re: alanbarnes

                                Well, I've eaten both kinds of lobster all of my life, and never had anything as disappointing as these Bahama lobsters. I suppose it's possible that I just happened to pick the pair that had set out in the sun for a couple of hours before they were tossed in the freezer, but I will never never never ever buy wild Bahama lobsters again. Ever!

                                So now I have a pound of it on my hands. I really think crab cakes are a terrible waste of crab, but I'm seriously thinking of turning this stuff into lobster cakes. Maybe if I use enough celery I can develop some flavor...?

                                1. re: Caroline1

                                  My last meal would be Maine lobster. Maine lobster is sweeter that warm water lobster. I've had FL lobster tails and I've boiled them with some vinegar and it tenderizes them, while they are good they are not great as Maine lobster.

                                  1. re: Caroline1

                                    Well, if the flavor is lacking, sauce 'em up. What about some kind of Chinese stir-fry? Garlic? Ginger? Fermented black bean?

                                    1. re: Dmnkly

                                      Thanks, but I now have such bad associations with them I wouldn't want to risk using them in recipes I like. I never make crab cakes, so that may be the answer. But I'm also thinking of treating my neighbor's cats. '-)

                                2. Jfood is with you C. He only buys cold water lobsters for the house, and buys shrimp for himself since he is not a lobster lover.

                                  1. I love your writing, and I will stick to the crab legs. fayefood.com

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: fayehess

                                      I grew up eating those giant spiny lobsters just pulled out the of Caribbean in Florida and Jamaica, boiled up on the beach in some sea water. Never could understand what the fuss was about with those weedy little Maine lobsters.

                                      1. re: mlgb

                                        "Weedy little ... lobsters?" LOL! It wasn't a Maine lobster, but when I was in Istanbul the first time years ago, a Turkish friend took me to lunch at a place called Fish Restaraunt (Balak Lokanta) on the Bosphorous. They had a huge tank, maybe 4 meters by 4 meters by a meter and a half deep, that housed a huge variety of live sea critters. There was a lobster waaaaaay in the back corner. Looked like maybe a two pounder at best. Ordered it. When they brought it to our table, I could have died! The SMALL claw weighed two pounds! No way an army could eat it at one sitting. I took about five pounds of it back to the hotel with me, and the chef graciously refrigerated it and made all sorts of dishes for me and my husband from it. Turned out the losbster was quite famous all over Istanbul. WHY DIDN"T SOMEBODY TELL ME! <sob>