Claws for celebration: Mail-order lobster, oysters, caviar and more

By Jane Kellogg Murray

Tucked away in New York’s bustling Chelsea Market lies The Lobster Place—the first company to bring wholesale live lobster distribution to the city, way back in 1974. Today it’s one of the largest purveyors of fresh seafood in the country, supplying hundreds of New York City’s best restaurants, while countless hungry New Yorkers and tourists alike line up inside the 6,000-square-foot market every day for a taste of the best fresh steamed lobster, lobster rolls, raw oysters, on the half shell, hand-rolled sushi, and more.

Have your tastebuds started tingling yet? Save yourself the trip to the market and order in instead, with The Lobster Place’s online store. Here you’ll find mail-order seafood kits prepared for every occasion, from a backyard clambake to a romantic Valentine’s dinner at home. The beach is not included, but everything else is—the oyster sampler, for example, includes 36 oysters from three of the best varieties they have in house, plus lemons, house-made mignonette and cocktail sauces, LBI Love Potion Hot Sauce, shucking instructions, and oyster tasting notes. All delivered straight to your door.

It’s been a long haul since The Lobster Place’s humble beginnings more than 40 years ago, when founders Rod and Joan MacGregor would make the 16-hour round-trip drive to Portland, Maine, their old pickup truck loaded with lobsters and little more than a tarp and some seaweed to keep the crustaceans alive before selling to their restaurant vendors and customers from their storefront. Keeping it in the family, Rod and Joan’s son Ian took over operations in 2002, expanding the business into the lobster mecca it is today. And these days, the catch of the day can go from shore to your home in a matter of hours—what a time to be alive.

Tasty Tidbits
  • The Lobster Place features over 50 species of fin fish—more than any other supplier in the country—sourced locally, nationally, and globally through their fishing partners throughout the US and Canada.
  • They recently expanded their wholesale facility with a new location in the Bronx, where they can hold more than 9,000 pounds of live lobster. The high-quality crustaceans are sourced from dealers in Canada, and Maine.
  • Every month, The Lobster Place purchases, grades, and butchers upwards of 20,000 pounds of yellowfin and bigeye tuna, held to the strict grading standards of New York City’s top kitchens.
  • The Lobster Place Seafood Market donates 1,500 pounds of oyster shells each week to the Billion Oyster Project, an organization dedicated to restoring New York Harbor oyster beds and educating young people about the ecology and economy of their marine environment.

The Lobster Place’s Method for Cooking a Live Lobster

Lobsters release a toxic byproduct that renders them inedible if they die before cooking, so they must be either precooked or shipped live. The Lobster Place’s selections arrive within 24 hours of harvest, so they remain super fresh and ready to cook. While the best cooking method is still up for debate, The Lobster Place’s recommendation is boiling. In their words: “As far as we’re concerned, it’s the simplest and most effective way to achieving lobster perfection.”

1. Select a pot large enough to fit all of your lobsters, and fill it 3/4 of the way with water. Add one tablespoon of salt for every quart of water, as well as a handful of rockweed (included in every live lobster kit from The Lobster Place). Bring the water to a boil.

2. Grasp the lobster by the body and lower it upside down and head first into the boiling water. Once all of the lobsters have been added, cover the pot.

3. Once the water returns to a boil, allow 10 minutes for the first pound and three minutes for each additional pound (i.e. a two-pound lobster should take approximately 13 minutes). You’ll know when a lobster is done when it turns a bright red-orange color, its tail curls up underneath the body and its antennas can easily be pulled out.

4. Once they are finished cooking, remove the lobsters from the pot with tongs and place on a plate to drain and cool. While lobsters are cooling, melt clarified butter (included in The Lobster Place’s kit) in a saucepan and pour it into dipping bowls for the table.