Best place to buy a duck?
I've decided that a good way to spend the coming long weekend will be to take a whole duck through as many new recipes as possible; the cold smoker may even get to make an appearance. Call it a test run for the coming holiday season.
I stopped into Savenor's on the way home and they had nice looking fresh Long Island ducks for $5.99/lb, or about $30 a bird. Is this my best bet? Or should I be able to find a better value elsewhere. For what it's worth, I live in Cambridge and can get anywhere by T or bike.
For Long Island duck, Wilson farms is less expensive and seems to be the same quality as Savenors. Not an easy spot by T/bike, but not too bad on a nice day. Savenors really shines when you start considering Moulard or Muscovy ducks. If I remember correctly, and I am sure someone will correct me if I am wrong, the Long Island ducks have lots of breast while the other two have larger legs.
Do call Savenors a day before if you want anything besides the Long Island duck since they don't always have all the varieties in the case.
Does the duck have to be fresh (never frozen)?
If frozen is okay, check out Market Basket. The going price there seems to be about $2.79/pound, give or take. That's about a dollar less per pound than Wilson's. You should be able to get them at any of the larger stores (Woburn or Reading come to mind).
If you want to experiment with many recipes, perhaps you would be interested in smaller ducks. In that case, you might want to check out Kam Man (and perhaps other Chinese markets). At Kam Man I usually see smallish frozen ducks (no weight given) at a flat price of about $8 or $10/each.
I am sure there are some subtle differences, as some can detect between fresh and frozen chicken. I have used fresh and frozen ducks but have never felt that the frozen duck was significantly different. Maybe others would feel differently. Having said that, if the goal is to experiment (as opposed to serving dinner guests), if I were the OP I would not hesitate to save a few dollars and use frozen ducks. In fact, if multiple ducks are going to be used, perhaps the OP might consider getting one fresh duck and comparing it to frozen and coming to his own conclusion.
For what it's worth, my meat CSA (Chestnut Farms) distributes almost everything frozen. Their frozen chicken has such amazing flavor I would take it any day over a fresh Bell and Evans. Chestnut Farms chickens truly are free range; not only are there no cages, but these birds get to strut and peck quite freely in the great outdoors. Maybe it is that, maybe it is the breed, but these chickens really taste like chicken if you know what I mean.