Sunday, December 4, 2022

Lobster tails are complicated


Who would have thought that shopping for lobster tails would be complicated? Expensive, maybe, but it was indeed complicated. I am in the market for nine 8 ounce tails for a Christmas Eve dinner in Chicago. I live in Rochester, NY and will be flying to Chicago. 

I have run across three different types of lobster tails. As they are referred to in the continental United States: cold-water (North Atlantic such as Maine and Nova Scotia), warm-water (Carribbean), and Australian (rock or spiny lobster tails from langouste near North Australia). There are more, but in my shopping and research, these are the types I have came across.

Cold-water tails are preferred by Americans. Cold water reduces the saltiness of the meat, and the meat stays uniformly firm. The taste is not fishy and the color is uniformly white. The shell is uniformly reddish. Warm-water tails are saltier, the meat color varies, and the shells are spotty. Australian lobsters have no claws and are a blue-green color, and the tail meat can be stringy.

Tails are sold frozen, unless you get a whole, live lobster. I can get a frozen 8 ounce, cold-water tail for $36 per pound in Rochester, NY, i.e., $18 per tail. That's approximate, depending on the exact weight.

There are many online sellers of lobster tails. The best price I could find is $36 per tail. Frozen seafood is normally shipped overnight with dry ice. Dry ice emits a gas, so the shipping container must be ventilated, and the shippers have strict and expensive requirements. This makes online purchases very expensive. Unless a shopper lives in a very remote place but can somehow get overnighted deliveries, I am not sure why anyone would shop online for lobster tails. It is cheaper to drive a hundred miles one way to a market than to shop online.

The price of a cold-water tail at markets in Chicago is substantially more expensive than Rochester. I called several Chicago fish markets. If I could find an 8 ounce cold-water tail at all, it was over $25. The most reliable deal for acquiring 9 tails was listed at $65 per pound. For nine 8 oz. tails (assuming the shop would split a pre-wrapped package of two), that's $292, versus $162 in Rochester (where the shop promised a purchase of nine is possible). Big box stores carry lobster tails, but the tail size varies and the tails are usually "previously frozen", meaning frozen, thawed and refrozen.

If I purchase the tails in Rochester, I need to get them to Chicago. I could ship them with ice packs (without dry ice), and that would likely be reliable under normal conditions. But, it's December. Shipping anything in December is complicated. Even early in the month, weather delays can occur. Later in the month, shippers won't take responsibility for a frozen seafood shipment.

However, our airline allows traveling with frozen seafood. Wrap the tails in plastic, pack in a plastic container with blue-ice (not wet ice), and wrap the container in plastic. (Dry ice can be used with special packaging, but there is a $150 charge.) At home, I found an appropriate box and a gigantic, zip-lock travel bag. Door to door, the trip is six hours or less, which will be fine. We will "check" the bag in which the box will be packed, so the tails will be in the baggage compartment, which will be cool in December if not below freezing. Our airline does not accept responsibility for frozen seafood in checked bags, but it's a non-stop, 2 hour flight, so it is low risk that the bag could be lost.

We'll see if the controversy about white whales being endangered by lobster traps has any impact.

Monday, September 20, 2021

Happy Hawaiian Holiday - day 16 - Homeward bound

If Gary is taking pictures of the Honolulu airport, that must mean ... OH NO, the Happy Hawaiian Holiday is coming to an end! Like many Hawaiian venues, parts of the airport are open-air because the weather is so constantly pleasant. During these two weeks, we found the sun pretty intense, and I got a mild sunburn through a flimsy beach umbrella.

Susan is on her flight to San Francisco today to see a cousin for a few days, but I still have a couple hours before boarding (Honolulu to Newark to Rochester), so I splurged on the United Club. Before the pandemic, the Club offered a variety of hot and cold items on a buffet, plus a bar. Today, the items are cold (except for Ramen noodle prepacked cups). But, the items are decent (I had bowtie pasta with chicken in a Caesar sauce), and I am sitting with a house Chardonnay. It is pretty quiet right now and very comfortable compared to the usual gate areas.

See the lamp table below with A/C and USB ports. It's an open wi-fi, but separate from the standard airport wi-fi, and I just clocked it at 260 Mpbs.

Happy Hawaiian Holiday - day 15 part 2 - Around Waikiki


Today was our last full day in Hawaii. We will be off to the airport in the morning. Susan will visit a cousin in San Francisco for a few days and I will be back to work on Thursday. The first photo is Waikiki beach from our tour bus. Below are some other shots around Waikiki.

Recognize this location? It is the marina from which Gilligan, the Skipper and the others departed on their "three hour tour". I think it looks amazingly unchanged.

A bronze statue of Don Ho at the International Marketplace in the ritzy shopping area of Honolulu.

Gary and Sue at Basalt restaurant on Kuhio Avenue, Honolulu. The black thing on my plate is a Hawaiian sweet roll. Regardless of the color, it tastes like sweetbread.

Happy Hawaiian Holiday - day 15 part 1 - Pearl Harbor


Pearl Harbor gets its own blog post. Susan and I took a group tour on a bus and spent two hours in the Pearl Harbor memorial area. The panorama above shows the USS Arizona memorial on the left, so click the photo to see an enlarged version. The USS Arizona memorial was closed this day, probably due to Covid.

Our main options were to walk around the grounds of the memorial area (lots of plaques and such), a free historical museum and 15 minute video, a ticketed submarine museum, and the gift shop. We spent our full two hours reading the plaques, watching the short historical films and walking through the free museum and shop. If you visit and want to do everything, you could easily spend four hours in the memorial area.

Whoever we are and wherever we're from, I think we should visit our "hallowed grounds". No matter how much you hate war, don't avoid the concept of war. Immerse yourself in the atmosphere of the spots where it occurred and feel what you can feel. Americans should visit Gettysburg, visit 9/11 Ground Zero and visit Pearl Harbor. (There are other American locations, such as the Alamo, Wounded Knee, etc., I won't try to name them all, but I hope you get my point). You may hate it all, or be proud of it all, or feel lucky someone made sacrifices, etc., but at least you "did the research".

There were Japanese-American customers on the tour bus, and I wish I could have heard how they perceived it all. The tour guide was good, but he was a white guy about my age and did not seem to have an official script, so his "stream of consciousness" comments were from his perspective. The guide was not a park ranger or military person, "just" a commercial bus driver. The historical information at the site was mostly objective, and there was information about American internment camps. Today, the US and Japan are allies, but things were pretty brutal in the 1940s.

Sunday, September 19, 2021

Happy Hawaiian Holiday - day 14 - Kailua, Japanese BBQ and the Skull & Crown


This photo show the bar at the awesome Skull and Crown Trading Company in Honolulu. More on that below.

On this Saturday we got an Uber from Waikiki to Kailua, on the Oahu north coast. We did some shopping and eating. The only photo I have is of some wild chickens. I found a Hawaiian silk shirt, made in Hawaii ($86). I would later find a cotton shirt (made in Hawaii) in Waikiki for $35. Most Hawaiian shirts are made in Asia.

We returned to Waikiki and had dinner at the Gyu-Kaku Japanese barbecue. This is a restaurant chain not present in upstate New York. You sit at a table with a cooking flame and the staff brings food that you cook to your taste on a grill. We had a lot of fun with this.

Then another Uber ride to Chinatown to the Skull and Crown Trading Company. We visited yesterday without a reservation and sat in the courtyard, but this evening we reserved a spot in the Tiki Room near the bar. This place is known for its mixed drinks and traditional Hawaiian décor, plus a few extra touches such as shrunken heads in jars. See the photo at the top. My phone died here, but we got more photos from Susan's phone. It is an adventure to get to this bar because traffic is restricted, possibly due to a police substation on a nearby corner. The S&C is a great sensory experience, with the special drinks, crazy décor and Hawaiian music.

Saturday, September 18, 2021

Happy Hawaiian Holiday - day 13 - off to Oahu / Waikiki

This photo is from day 12, our last dinner with Dan and Lauren at the Monkeypod restaurant in Kihei. Dan and Lauren would leave for home on day 13 while Susan and I would head to Oahu.

The next two photos are from a two-hour catamaran cruise from Waikiki to Diamondhead and back. We got a good deal from Travelzoo, but there was some "pin number" confusion among customers who got that discount. We are constantly logging in to this or that web site with our cell phones in order to check in to some event, and it causes delays. The hotel needed to see our Hawaii official registration, the restaurants require custom registrations for contact tracing, and they all advertise through multiple tourists web sites with their own procedures.

The cruise was nice, although there is a bar on the boat, which means half the customers decided to pay over $100 for a cruise and open bar, but they ultimately don't care about the cruise and are sometimes loaded before they get to the boat. One woman yelled, "Cuckoo!" about ten times, which sounds inexplicable, but alcohol was presumably involved. Susan and I really just wanted a boat ride, so we did not drink.

We then got an Uber to a tiki bar called "Skull and Crown", in Honolulu's Chinatown. The driver could not seem to find a way to get onto the correct street (Chinatown is a maze of one-way streets with no-turn signs), so we had to walk the final half block. The bar itself is pretty cool, but the nearby street corners are populated by the denizens of the night. The cops won't let the locals loiter in front of the bars and restaurants, but if the Uber driver can't actually get to the address, the passengers need to figure out where they are and walk through the crowds. Honestly, a half block separates a really cool tourist bar from people sleeping on the sidewalk.

We are planning to visit Skull and Crown again tomorrow with a reservation for the coolest room with the shrunken heads and tiki music, now that we know the drill on how to get there.