Lobsterfest in the Midwest?

June 29, 2012 8:44:38 PM PDT
The closest Chicagoans can get to fresh seafood is the occasional perch, smelt or other fresh water species from the lake.

But our food reporter says a number of local restaurants are celebrating lobster fests this summer, bringing a taste of Maine to our shores.

They are born of relationships with fish mongers and seafood purveyors. A new crop of lobsterfests has sprung up around Chicago, and we're not talking about the obvious national chain.

On the menu? Salads, rolls, boils, even drinks, all calling for the iconic, hard-shelled crustacean.

Lobsters aren't limited to the Eastern Seaboard. This time of year in Chicago, several restaurants are asking their importers for a little extra effort, and are holding full-blown lobsterfests. The current one underway at both Shaw's Crab Houses - in the city and in Schaumburg - runs for another month.

"I think people like to eat lobster this time of year. You just think of Boston, Maine, summer, lobsters," said Shaw's owner Steve LaHaie.

LaHaie is particularly proud of their lobster roll. Hunks of claw and tail are lightly dressed with mayo and celery then stuffed vertically into homemade brioche buns for a pretty classic rendition. Meanwhile, their sushi chef is busy at his station, rolling up freshly-cooked lobster meat with cucumber and tobiko caviar between thin sheets of soy paper. Definitely a one-of-a-kind maki roll. They'll also serve up lobster-studded salads and a traditional boil, with all the fixins. He says the crustacean is extremely versatile, even for home cooks.

"And the nice thing is you can have a lobster broil. Whatever's left over, clean the meat the next day and make a lobster salad, make a lobster cocktail, a lobster roll, or whatever. So yeah, it's got many uses," he said.

In downtown La Grange, Nicksons Eatery is prepping for its annual LobsterFest, which will be held in a couple of weeks. Chef and owner Nick Baca wanted to bring a taste of the Eastern Shore to the western suburbs.

"I really just want to do it for them in a familiar way, and do a nice Cobb salad, anybody you know I think has had a Cobb salad in the Midwest, but we, we mix it up and put a little spicy mayonnaise with the lobster and put it right on top," said Nicksons owner Nick Baca.

Baca also fills a sturdy bread bowl with a lobster-garnished chowder, offers a lobster roll tossed with a scallion-lemon sauce and served in a toasted New England-style bun, even adds reduced lobster broth to vodka, for a briny twist on a "dirty" martini. The most classic way to serve it, of course, is with drawn butter.

"It should taste like the ocean, pure sea air, and fresh," he said.

Baca boils them whole, then splits them down the middle and grills each side, before serving it with a bacon-and-dill potato salad plus grilled corn. He's hoping to sell quite a few.

"Last year we did about 300 split lobster dinners, so we're hoping to match that, if not beat it, and keep on building with the lobster rolls as well outside, as we'll be serving those outside on the Saturday closing party," he said.

LobsterFest going on right now, ending July 31st:

Shaw's Crab House
21 E. Hubbard St.
(312) 527-2722
http://www.shawscrabhouse.com/

Schaumburg:
1900 E. Higgins Rd. Schaumburg
(847) 517-2722

LobsterFest running July 18 - 21:

Nickson's Eatery
30 S. LaGrange Rd.
LaGrange
(708) 354-4995
http://www.nicksonseatery.com

Also LobsterFest on July 3 and 4:
Tavern on Rush
1031 N. Rush St.
(312) 664-9600
http://www.tavernonrush.com

A Maine Lobster Boil, which includes one and a half pounds of lobster, sweet corn, baby red potatoes, cornbread.
For dessert, choose blueberry cobbler or key lime pie
$55 per person (tax, gratuity and cocktails not included)

To order your own:

Supreme Lobster
220 E. North Ave., Villa Park
(630) 834-3474
http://www.supremelobster.com/

LobsterAnywhere.com
Delivers fresh seafood overnight to customer's door
http://www.lobsteranywhere.com or call 1-888-85MAINE


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