A few weeks ago I was honored to be a judge at Mass NARAL’s annual “Chocolate Madness” event, which raises funds to support women’s reproductive rights. I know better than to use this blog for directed political agendas, so I’ll leave you with the knowledge I’ve been in support of this event for more than 15 years — and it’s not because of my love of chocolate.
In fact, oddly, I really don’t have much of a sweet tooth. I do love the taste of chocolate, especially the really great dark chocolates that are making their way to market, but I never crave it. I can make it through the checkout line without a candy bar. Same with ice cream. I love the taste of it, but I never think to buy it and am rarely tempted by its sweet beckoning from a menu.
Anyway, “Chocolate Madness” was great fun, and dozens of area restaurants churned out a treasure chest of chocolate delights. The event was well attended, and it was a good opportunity to see fellow food writers, as well as chefs.
After the judging was over, I reconnected with baker Michael Rhoads (B & R Artisan Breads in Framingham, MA), a dear friend who opened a bread bakery. Once we caught up on family and friendship stuff, we got to chatting about food prices. The price of flour alone is up more than 300 percent. Hops. Rice. Devra First at the Boston Globe just wrote a great piece on Michael and the price of bread.
As we were talking about that, Clare Leschin-Hoar, a terrific food writer, joined our conversation and mentioned that she, too, was shocked but had done some research on an ingredient that had dropped in price. I couldn’t buy her story, but she agreed to let me run it here for you. So, thanks, Clare, and here it is:
Ready your bibs.
Reports of skyrocketing food prices are reaching anxiety levels. Wheat, corn, oils, beef, dairy are lightening wallets across the country, and consumers are starting to stockpile, but for a brief window there’s a surprising New England bargain to be had: lobster.
Last April at this time, lobsters were going for approximately $15 a pound wholesale. Today, prices are nearly half that, running around $7 a pound.
“I’ve seen lower prices over the years, but I’ve never seen prices actually drop in April,” says chef Jasper White, owner of the Summer Shack seafood restaurants in Boston and Cambridge.
Boston-based fish distributor Michael Dulock of Sunny’s Seafood says last year’s inflated lobster prices were caused by a combination of errors. In fall 2006, lobstermen in Maine and Canada did not reserve enough stock in floating crates called pounds, and ocean temperatures remained too cold to resume lobster fishing last April.
“The water was 7 to 8 degrees colder this time last year. The cold water keeps the lobsters dormant and the fisherman didn’t catch anything. They weren’t moving for the bait. So it was a combination of those two things,” he said.
This past fall, says Dulock, lobstermen were better prepared, by reserving more from their fall catch. They had a side benefit of lower fuel prices for their fishing vessels as well. But this spring’s warmer temperatures meant lobstermen were back out, creating a window of abundance and dropping prices.
What does that mean for consumers or anyone with an expense account?
“Lobsters are the deal of the season,” says Dulock.
At approximately $7 wholesale (the price changes daily), compared with halibut, which is in the $14 range wholesale for fillets, high-end lobster seems to be a surprising steal.