Fourchu Lobster

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A number of years ago I invited a bunch of  top chefs up to my place in Fourchu, Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia (and what chefs…Dan Barber, Jonathan Waxman, Cesare Casella, Candy Argondizza, David Pasternak, Nils Noren, Floyd Cardoz and Anne Burrell). Fourchu is my family’s home village and I wanted the chefs to go gaga over the local lobster.  Our village is way out on the southeastern tip of the island…maybe 750 miles from the east coast shoreline.  The lobsters are muscularly and mineral  flavored, ocean tasting, and sublime.  The chef trip was famously written up in a fine Departures article by Peter Kaminsky. The chefs were impressed with the lobster but it was a midnight run to a returning crab boat with fisherman Gordon MacDonald that really had them fired up.

Snow crab from the northeast is an exquisite delicacy that few people get to taste fresh. The snow crab is harvested far out in the ocean with overnight trips are the norm and come from the depths of pristine water. The problem is getting the crabs back before they turn black from the bends from being caught at the deep bottom of the ocean. Triage is usually done by immediately freezing the crab on its arrival on shore. Frozen crab is very delicious but nothing can beat fresh.

Cape Breton has breathtaking scenery and world class fishing. If you live in a lobster or crab village like  Fourchu as I do in the summers, you can meet the crab boat and have the sea water boiling back home. Meeting the boat is as much a social event as shopper’s delight. One buys the crab for $2 a pound at the dock and catches up on gossip and then quickly gets on with the ritual. That means 1) chipping the head off  the crab 2) pulling the hard center shell off 3) breaking it into two halves 4) cleaning out all the yellow gunk. 5) running home and putting it into the boiling water or the freezer for after the season closes.

No butter, no sauce just explosive crab taste. Sensational!  Try it frozen if you find it in your local fish shops or take a trip up to Cape Breton.  Both are absolutely worth the effort.

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Rush right down to L’Ecole, the restaurant at The International Culinary Center in Soho, NYC now…or at least for the next ten weeks. It is Fourchu lobster season. If you haven’t heard of Fourchu lobsters, well, they come from my grandfather’s village in Nova Scotia. They are the sweetest, most nuanced lobsters in the world, and that’s not just my opinion, see Josh Ozersky’s article for Time, “Fourchu Lobster: The Little Crustacean That Could”.

Even though you can eat Nova Scotia lobsters all through the year, Canadians preserve their lobster beds by fishing only sections of their waters for ten weeks per year. Fourchu’s lobster time is now through the end of July. Why are these lobsters the best? Because of microclimate and the sea equivalent of terroir-”mare-oir”. These lobsters dine in the rocks on algae, shrimps and other proteins that it give them a succulent texture and delicate ocean flavor. Fourchu is located at the tip of Nova Scotia on Cape Breton Island and so these lobsters live  in the coldest waters hundreds of miles out in the North Atlantic. North of Cape Breton the Gulf Stream  brings warmer waters to the north. However Fourchu is on the south side of Cape Breton and  misses the Stream entirely  and thus has colder waters (and more fog than any other place in Nova Scotia!). All of this adds up to lousy summers but sweet, delicious lobsters.


Lobster Cages in Fourchu

We are bringing down a truck load a week. The lobsters will be available for a $15 supplement to our prix fixe menu at L’Ecole. Call 212.219.3300 for reservations. We brought down enough of these crustaceans to share with a few friends, who will serve Fourchus at their restaurants for a limited time, including Dan Barber and Blue Hill,  Blue Hill at Stone Barns, Daniel Boulud and Daniel, Michael Anthony and Gramercy Tavern, Dan Kluger- ABC Kitchen, Ben Pollinger- Oceana, Cesare Casella and Salumeria Rosi Parmcotta, Paul Liebrandt- Corton, Floyd Cardoz and North End Grill, April Bloomfield- Spotted Pig and Josh Even- John Dory Oyster Bar.

Pass the word! Fourchus have arrived!

Chef Jason Potanovich and VP of Culinary Operations Chef Candy Argondizza celebrate the arrival of Fourchus!

Fourchu Lobster Press Dinner at L'Ecole

Lobster Roll served at L’Ecole for the Fourchu Lobster Press DinnerFourchu Lobster Press Dinner at L’Ecole


For those of you new to my blog, you might not know about my obsession with lobsters.  My grandfather was from a small lobster village on Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia.  I spent summers there as a child and now try to spend as much time as I can on ancestral Cann’s Point, adjacent to the village of Fourchu. In fact, I am sitting there as I write this post.

A couple of years ago a fisherman friend, Gordon MacDonald, mentioned that people from all over Nova Scotia came to buy Fourchu’s lobster right off the dock.  He said the village had the best tasting lobster.  I laughed but then started to seriously observe my tasting of lobsters from Fourchu to New York City.  My gosh, was he right! I invited a group of New York chefs to Cape Breton to taste my village’s lobsters. You can read all about that here in Departures. Now I had to find a way to get our lobsters to New York. We had been working on that challenge for a couple of years when lo and behold, I arrived in Fourchu last week and found that Gordon and Malcolm MacDonald had figured it out.  They had a refrigerated truck, the documents in hand, and 3,000 lobsters ready in the harbor to be packed up and sped down to the Big Apple.

I watched and cheered as the lobsters were loaded.  Twenty one hours later they were in New York with Aqua Best, and tonight and next week Fourchu lobsters will be on menus at Oceana,Ed’s Lobster Bar and Blue Hill.  At the FCI on Tuesday night August 2nd, we will feature them on L’Ecole’s menu.  Make your reservation quickly…there are only 3,000 in town.  Canada has strict conservation of lobsters and will only allow a 10-week season for the Fourchu lobsters.  If you don’t get one that made it to town this week, you’ll have to wait til next May. Lobster season just closed up here.

Poached Fourchu Lobster, tomato confit, zucchini, Taggiasche olives, lobster-basil jus, Oceana Restaurant, NYC, Executive Chef Ben Pollinger, Photo by Noah Fecks

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