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TIP OF THE DAY: How To Ensure The Tastiest Lobster

Live Lobster
[1] Fresh from the trap, freshly arrived at the restaurant (photo courtesy I Love Blue Sea).

Lobster Dinner
[2] No matter the original color of the lobster shell, it will cook up bright red (photo courtesy Sydney Fish Market).

Lobster Dinner

[3] Dining alfresco at Cliff House in Maine (photo courtesy Destination Hotels).


Have you had your fill of lobster this summer?

(Does anyone ever have his or her fill of lobster?)

We’ve previously written about how to buy a lobster from the tank, if you’re taking it home to cook.

If you’re planning to enjoy a lobster dinner at a restaurant, here are tips from a restaurant chef who specializes in lobster.

When we first heard about Chef Shell, we thought it was a nickname complimenting his expertise with shellfish.

However, he actually is Executive Chef Rick Shell, who oversees all culinary operations at Cliff House in Maine.

If you’ve ever sprung for a pricey restaurant lobster, only to have it not live up to your expectations—not sweet, not tender—here is his advice.

Lobster can evoke both casual and sophisticated dining memories. You can be at a picnic table, cracking lobster claws while sipping a cold microbrew; or at the most expensive restaurant in town, dining on lobster risotto with shaved black truffles.

“There is no right or wrong way to enjoy this gift from the ocean,” says Chef Shell.

But there are ways to ensure your lobster is memorable when you dine at a restaurant, he advises:

Weight. Always choose 1-pound lobsters. The meat is the sweetest. Do not venture past the 1.5-pound mark. It’s better to have two smaller lobsters than a larger one. And those big lobsters, that look so impressive and portend a great experience? The least sweet, with the toughest meat.

Preparation. Chef Shell boils the lobster, then places it on a wood fire to roast in the shell. Ask your server how the lobsters are prepared to compare techniques at different establishments.

Chewiness. Lobster should be like velvet, not chewy or tough. Chef shell advises that the usual culprit is overcooking. You can’t tell if the lobster is overcooked until you take a bite, so tell your server to relay that the kitchen should err on the side of undercooking instead of overcooking. In other words: You want soft, succulent meat.

Venue. Pick a place that sells a lot of lobsters: a good seafood restaurant. Even a steak house may be iffy. Look around: If you don’t see lobsters at many tables, it isn’t a fast-mover. It is more likely to be overcooked if the kitchen doesn’t turn them out in numbers; and if it’s a lobster tail instead of a whole lobster, it may come from the freezer.


More tips from Chef Shell:

  • First twist the tail off over a bowl, to catch all of the sweet rich goodness of tomalley (the soft, green substance found in the body cavity of lobsters, that fulfills the functions of both the liver and the pancreas). It is a delicacy that lobster-lovers adore.
  • Flip the tail over and slide the meat out. Eat the tail meat first and let the claws stay intact. This helps to keep them warmer until you’re ready for them. Ready for the claws? Then…
  • Gently twist the claws away from the body. First take the smaller part of the claw and break it off. This will also drain away any extra water, so be ready for that.

  • Use a knife to crack open the claws a instead of a lobster cracker (nut cracker). It does a more efficient and clean job. Take the back of a knife and stand the claw lengthwise. Hit the back of it to split it in two and gently remove the tail meat. Remove the cartilage gently: Simply wiggle back and forth and it will come out.
  • On to the knuckles. This is the hardest part, and where lobster crackers are most useful. Squeeze the knuckle and try to push out the meat.


    From beverage manager Caitlin Hula:

  • “Farmhouse saison beer is a fun pairing. Being from Maine, I highly recommend Allagash Saison or Peak Organic’s Ginger Saison. Both beers have tropical fruit, citrus and a peppery spice that pairs well with lobster.”
  • “If one wanted to go with wine, I suggest a full-bodied, fruit-forward white wine such as viognier.”
    NIBBLE TIP: Viognier (vee-ohn-YAY), from the Rhône Valley of France, is becoming much better known in white wine circles. It is now grown in California, Argentina and Chile, Australia and New Zealand. It is delicious with all fish and shellfish, including sushi.



    Cliff House is a luxury oceanfront destination that looks out over the southern coast of Maine, just over an hour north of Boston and minutes from the famed sandy beaches of Ogunquit.

    It welcomed its first guests in 1872, long before there was a need for garages for automobiles. The property stretches across 70 oceanfront acres atop Bald Head Cliff, overlooking the ocean’s edge and Nubble Lighthouse.

    The beauty and serenity of the location offer a get-away-from-it-all escape. And then there’s the food.

    The Tiller restaurant is suspended above the ocean. With panoramic views, spectacular sunrises, romantic sunsets, and the Atlantic horizon, it offers the perfect Maine oceanfront dining experience.

    With lots of lobster, of course.


    Full Lobster Trap

    [4] Hauling the trap onto the lobster boat (photo courtesy Catch A Piece Of Maine).

    Cliff House

    [5] Cliff House in Maine, just an hour and a few minutes north of Boston (photo courtesy Destination Hotels).



    TIP OF THE DAY: Create An International Version Of Your Favorite American Sandwich

    August is National Sandwich Month.

    We love sandwiches so much, we created a glossary with the different types of sandwiches.

    It is true that the Earl of Sandwich was inadvertently responsible for creating the modern English sandwich. But what we recognize as a sandwich—bread and filling—likely dates to around 9000 B.C.E., when permanent settlements were established in the Middle East.

    The hunter-gatherers began to plant and harvest grain, which was turned into the first breads: unleavened flatbreads that were baked over an open fire. They were also “edible plates,” holding roasted meat or fish on the journey from pot to mouth.

    People would eat “bread and cheese” or “bread and meat”; they just didn’t call it by a formal name. Check out the (sandwich history).

    Since the original sandwich was Middle Eastern, put a spin on your favorite sandwich today.

  • Plan A: Adapt an American sandwich. Pick any international cuisine you like, and add elements of it to an American sandwich.
    Examples: turkey with curried mayonnaise, curried egg salad or tuna salad, jambon de Paris and brie instead of American ham and cheese, tuna salad with feta and kalamata olives (photo #1, recipe below), etc.
  • Plan B: Have a sandwich that originated in another country. Examples: French croque monsieur or croque madame (photo #2), Greek gyros, Italian panini, Venezuelan arepa (photo #3), Vietnamese bánh mì (photo #4).

    This recipe (photo #1) takes the chief ingredients of the popular Greek salad (horiatiki) and adds tuna, creating “Greek tuna salad.”

    We adapted the recipe from one featured by Put On Your Cake Pants.

    Since local tomatoes are at peak now*, enjoy hefty slices on each sandwich.

    Ingredients For 2 Single-Decker Sandwiches

  • 1 can tuna (5 ounces), drained
  • 1/4 cup chopped cucumber (about 1 Persian cucumber)
  • 1/4 cup red bell pepper, chopped (substitute other color)
  • 1/4 cup diced red onion (or to taste)
  • 2 tablespoons crumbled feta†
  • 1 tablespoon kalamata olives, pitted and diced
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh dill or 1/2 teaspoon dried dill
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 teaspoons oil-based salad dressing (red wine vinaigrette or bottled Italian dressing)
  • 2 leaves romaine lettuce
  • 1 medium tomato
  • Dried oregano to taste
  • Optional seasoning: lemon zest to taste
  • Optional toppings, mix-ins or garnishes: anchovies, capers, pepperoncini, sardines
  • Bread of choice: large pita pockets, crusty loaf, multigrain
    For The Dressing

  • 1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt†
  • 1 tablespoon milk†
  • Salt or garlic salt, pepper and dill to taste†
    *When tomatoes are not in season, substitute 1-1/2 tablespoons chopped sun-dried tomatoes, mixed into the salad.

    †For a dairy-free sandwich, eliminate the feta and use a red wine vinaigrette dressing.

    1. COMBINE the tuna, cucumber, feta, and dried dill in a bowl.

    2. MIX the dressing in a separate bowl: Greek yogurt, milk and salad dressing. Add to the tuna mixture and still until combined.


    Greek Tuna Salad Recipe
    [1] Greek tuna salad, a fusion of American tuna salad and Greek horiatiki (photo courtesy Put On Your Cake Pants).

    Croque Madame Sandwich
    [2] Croque madame from France: grilled jambon de Paris and gruyère cheese, dipped into beaten egg and sautéed in butter, with a fried egg on top (photo courtesy Eggs Fresh Simple).

    Pulled Pork Arepa
    [3] Pulled pork arepa (here’s the recipe from Serious Eats).

    Banh Mi Sandwich

    [4] Banh mi, a Vietnamese sandwich inspired by French baguettes (photo courtesy Good Eggs).




    TIP OF THE DAY: Cold Pasta For Hot Days

    If you love pasta but not the idea of a steaming plate of it on a hot summer day, the solution is simple: cold pasta.

    Cold noodles have been a standard in Asia since…the creation of pasta? That was around 1700 B.C.E. in China (here’s the the history of pasta).

    The recipes that follow were developed by the corporate chefs at Melissa’s, the largest distributor of specialty produce in the U.S. With more than 1000 items available at any given time, Melissa’s sells both domestic products and exotic fresh fruits and vegetables from around the world.

    These are Asian flair, but western tomato sauces and olive oil-based sauces work as well on any cold pasta preparation you want to put together. A plate of angel hair with chilled vodka sauce or linguine with fresh (uncooked) tomato sauce—fresh basil on both—are just right on a hot day.

    You can substitute conventional wheat pasta for the buckwheat (soba) and rice noodles, as well as gluten-free pasta made from legumes and other vegetables.

    The chefs at Melissa’s are always whipping up something new. Even if you aren’t purchasing produce, take a look at them for inspiration.


    Pasta is Italian for “paste,” which refers to the paste of flour and water that is turned into ribbon noodles and short cuts (bowties, corkscrews, etc.).

    Noodles, from the German word “nudel,” refer to paste made with an egg.

  • In the U.S., the term refers to egg noodles as well as Asian forms of pasta. Noodles can be made from wheat, rice, bean, potato, or other flour, like oat; from sweet potato or arrowroot starch; from bean curd skin and tofu; and from mung bean threads.
  • Italian pasta is always made from durum wheat flour.
  • See the different types of pasta and noodles in our Pasta Glossary.
    First up is pancit, a Filipino dish. Pancit is the Filipino (Tagalog) word for noodles, derived from a Hokkien word for “convenient food.”

    Noodles were introduced by immigrants from China or East Asia, and readily adopted into local cuisine, with each region creating its own combination of noodles and other ingredients (just as in Italy).

    According to the food lore handed down by the Chinese, noodles should be eaten on one’s birthday for long life and good health. Chinese restaurants in the Philippines often have “birthday noodles” on their menus. These are long noodles: it wouldn’t do to serve short cuts when you seek a long life [source].


    This recipe, from Melissa’s corporate chef Miki Hackney, has been taken down a notch in fat. “Pancit is usually pretty high in saturated fats,” says Chef Miki. “I have made a ‘lighter’ version by omitting the traditional frying of noodles in rendered chicken fat, then including the fried skin in the dish.”
    Ingredients For 8 Servings

    For The Dressing

  • 1½ cup chicken stock
  • 4 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 5 tablespoons chopped garlic
  • 2 tablespoons ginger, grated
  • 1 tablespoons fish sauce
  • ½ teaspoon sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon chili flakes
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
    For The Pancit

  • 8 large shrimp, peeled and deveined (more as your budget permits)
  • ½ teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon peanut oil
  • 1 chicken breast, boneless, skinless, and cut in half
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Peanut oil, as needed
  • 2 cups red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 1/2 cups Chinese long bean, cut into 1” pieces
  • 2 cups carrot, julienne
  • 8 ounces sliced button mushrooms
  • 4 cups napa cabbage, ¼” sliced
  • 2 baby bok choy, ¼” sliced
  • 4 ounces snow peas, trimmed
  • Boiling water, as needed
  • 14 ounces yakisoba noodles
  • 8 ounces vermicelli rice noodles
  • Ice water bath
  • 3 scallions, ¼” cut on bias
    For The Garnish

  • 1 cup cilantro leaves
  • 3 calamondin or key limes cut into wedges

    Shrimp Pancit
    [1] Pancit, a Filipino specialty (photo courtesy Melissa’s).

    Raw Shrimp
    [2] Mmm, shrimp (photo courtesy I Love Blue Sea).

    Grilled Chicken & Soba Noodles Recipe
    [3] Grilled chicken with soba, buckwheat noodles (photo courtesy Melissa’s).

    Raw Chicken Breasts
    [4] Raw chicken breasts (photo courtesy Provisioner Online).

    Grated Ginger

    [5] Grated ginger photos courtesy (photo courtesy Luxury Thailand Travel).


    1. COMBINE the dressing ingredients in a small saucepan and heat to dissolve the sugar. Adjust the seasonings to taste. The dressing should have a slight tart taste. Set aside.

    2. PLACE the chicken breast in a saucepan and cover by 1 inch with water. Add salt and bring to a boil; reduce to a simmer and cover. Simmer until the chicken is cooked through, about 20 minutes.

    3. REMOVE the chicken from the liquid and place it on a plate to cool. When cool enough to handle, use two forks and pull apart the breast into rough shreds. Set aside and lightly cook the shrimp.

    4. HEAT the yakisoba noodles by warming in a microwave or soaking in boiling water, loosening the bunches as they heat. Toss all the ingredients but the shrimp and plate. Garnish with the shrimp and cilantro, with the lime wedge on the side.

    This and the remaining recipes are by Melissa’s corporate Chef Tom Fraker.

    Ingredients For 6-8 Servings

    For The Chicken

  • 6-8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • Garlic salt, to taste
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • Crushed red pepper to taste
  • Nonstick cooking spray
    For The Dressing

  • 4 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 4 tablespoons seasoned rice Vinegar
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 1 tablespoon ground ginger paste
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

  • 3 bundles of buckwheat soba noodles
  • 8 radishes or watermelon radishes, ends trimmed; cut into rounds
  • 1/4 pound snow peas, strings removed; sliced on bias
  • 1/4 pound broccoli florets
  • 2 carrots, ends trimmed; cut into rounds
  • 1/4 red cabbage, shredded

    1. PREPARE a hot grill. Season the chicken with the salt, pepper and red pepper. Spray the chicken with the cooking spray and place it on the grill.

    2. COOK both sides until you reach an internal temperature of 165°F. Let the chicken rest for 5-6 minutes, then cut into bite-size pieces.

    3. PREPARE the dressing: Place all of the ingredients in a mixing bowl and whisk to combine. Set aside.

    4. PREPARE the noodles according to the package instructions, then rinse them with cold water and drain.

    5. COMBINE all ingredients except the chicken in a bowl, add the dressing and toss. Place on a serving platter and top with the chicken.


    Chicken & Soba Salad Recipe
    [6] Grilled chicken and soba noodles.

    Thai Beef Salad Recipe
    [7] Thai beef noodle salad.

    Yakisoba Noodles

    [8] Yakisoba noodles (all photos courtesy Melissa’s).



    Ingredients For 4-6 Servings

  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
  • ½ sweet onion, diced
  • 2 serrano chiles, cut into rounds
  • 6 tablespoons hoisin sauce
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 pound beef flap Meat
    For The Dressing

  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon chili garlic sauce
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, minced
  • 1 tablespoon seasoned rice vinegar
  • 3 packages Melissa’s Yakisoba stir Fry Noodles Original Flavor (or substitute)
  • 3 mini cucumbers, ends trimmed; halved crosswise and julienned
  • 2 carrots, ends trimmed; shredded
  • 1 container baby heirloom tomatoes, halved
  • 1 red Onion, diced small

    1. PLACE the marinade ingredients into a sealable plastic bag and add the meat. Massage the meat and place in the refrigerator. Marinate the meat for 2 hours or overnight, agitating it every so often.

    2. PREPARE a hot grill and grill the steak to your desired doneness. Let it rest for 5-6 minutes, then slice.

    3. COMBINE all of the dressing ingredients and set aside.

    4. PREPARE the noodles according to the package directions (without the flavor packet) and then rinse under cold water. Drain.

    5. ASSEMBLE: Combine the steak, noodles, cucumbers, carrots, tomato and onion in a bowl. Add the dressing and mix well to combine.



  • 12 large raw shrimp, peeled; deveined
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1 lime
  • 1 red bell pepper, stem and seeds removed; quartered
  • 1 green bell pepper, stem and seeds removed; quartered
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, stem and seeds removed; quartered
  • 1 sweet onion, peeled; sliced
  • Nonstick cooking spray, as needed
  • 3 bundles of buckwheat soba noodles
  • 1 Asian pear, cored; diced
  • 10 leaves fresh basil, minced
  • Your favorite sesame-ginger salad dressing

    1. PREPARE a hot grill. Season the shrimp with the salt and pepper and place on the grill. Cook on both sides until the shrimp is opaque, about 2 minutes per side. Remove the shrimp and squeeze the juice from the lime over them. Set aside.

    2. SPRAY the bell peppers and onion with the cooking spray and place on the grill. Cook until you get nice grill marks on both sides and then remove from the grill. Once cooled, slice the bell peppers and dice the onion.

    3. PREPARE the soba noodles according to the package directions, then cool them under cold water. Drain.

    4. ASSEMBLE: Combine the noodles, bell peppers, onions, pear and basil in a bowl. Place the salad on a serving platter, top with the shrimp and serve with the dressing. Makes about 4-6 servings.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Caprese Sandwich

    Caprese Sandwich
    [1] Caprese Sandwich on a baguette. Here’s a recipe from Somewhat Simple.

    Caprese Sandwich

    [2]Melt the mozzarella on a panini press! Here’s a recipe from Cooking Classy.


    Every restaurant menu we’ve seen this summer has Caprese Salad on the menu. That’s because July and August deliver the best tomatoes of the year, and a Caprese—tomato, mozzarella, basil and olive oil—will never taste better.

    First “discovered” on the Isle of Capri in the 1950s, Caprese Salad became a favorite of King Farouk, and then a summer dish at Italian-American and Continental restaurants throughout Europe and across America. Here’s the history of Caprese Salad.

    It’s so popular, you’ll even find Caprese Salad on winter menus—when the tomatoes are hard and have no flavor.

    We’ve since made Caprese pasta salad, Caprese pasta (topped with uncooked tomato sauce, ciliegine—mozzarella balls the size of cherry tomatoes), Caprese appetizer bites, Caprese cocktail garnishes and a Caprese with other fruits subbing for the tomato (mango, peach, watermelon).

    We’ve even made a vegan version with tofu instead of cheese, and Caprese gazpacho (blender tomatoes with shredded basil, topped with perlini (tiny mozzarella balls—the different sizes of mozzarella).

    But we’ve never made ourselves a Caprese sandwich—until now, because August is National Sandwich Month.


  • Bread: baguette, ciabatta roll, pita, rustic
  • Tomatoes: cherry, heirloom, plum, marinated in olive oil
  • Optional: 1 clove garlic, halved
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Basil: fresh leaves, de-stemmed, patted dry
  • Mozzarella (format of choice—sliced, perlini, etc.)
  • Balsamic balsamic glaze or vinegar
  • Optional garnish: black olives

    While these stray a bit from the purity of a Caprese, they’re tasty alternatives when you want a bit “more.”

  • Toast the bread.
  • Rub the bread with a cut garlic clove.
  • Marinate the tomatoes with sliced sweet onions and oregano.
  • Substitute the tomatoes for sundried, or roasted red pepper (pimento)—a good choice in the winter.
  • Substitute pesto or arugula for the basil leaves.
  • Grill the sandwich on a panini press.
  • Preparation

    1. SLICE the tomatoes and cover with olive oil. Add the garlic and season with salt and pepper to taste. Let sit for 10 minutes or more.

    2. SLICE the bread (note: for a picky guest who didn’t like the “wet bread” from the balsamic and olive oil, we toasted the baguette and added a thin slick of sweet butter to the cut faces).

    3. SLICE the mozzarella and drain the tomatoes.

    4. ASSEMBLE the sandwich: first the basil, then the mozzarella, then the tomatoes. Drizzle with balsamic glaze and serve. We love black olives, so we served them in a ramekin on the side.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Agua Fresca, The Latin American Cooler

    Agua Fresca
    [1] Turn your favorite fruits into agua fresca (photo courtesy and recipe chart below Good Eggs).

    Watermelon Agua Fresca

    [2] If you can borrow a tap dispenser, it’s more convenient than pitchers (photo courtesy Flavor & The Menu).


    It’s heading above 90 degrees and humid here for the next few days, and we’re planning enough cool drinks to tide us over.

    Beyond water, sparkling water and our cache of diet soft drinks, we’re making a few quarts of agua fresca. In Spanish, agua fresca means fresh water; but in culinary terms, the water is combined with fresh fruit juice. The result: refreshing cold drinks that are sold by street vendors and at cafés throughout Latin America.

    A traditional agua fresca is an infused, sweetened water, flavored with fruits and/or vegetables. Nonalcoholic and noncarbonated, in the U.S. a similar drink is called a cooler.

    Agua fresca is also available bottled, in numerous flavors, and is made from scratch at home.

    The recipes can include a combination of fruits or veggies, flowers, herbs and/or spices, cereals, seeds, even almond flour. The result is often a more complex layering of flavors than American lemonade and limeade.

    Agua de horchata, a very popular recipe, is made of ground raw rice spiced with cinnamon.

    Other ingredients include flowers (hibiscus), herbs (sorrel), grains (alfalfa, barley, oats, rice), nuts and seeds (almond flour, chía). Try incorporating some of these after you’re already pleased with a basic fruit and/or vegetable recipe.


    Make a few flavors and supply a choice of garnishes.

    Depending on your guests, a choice of clear spirits—cachaca, gin, tequila, vodka—may also be welcome.

  • Fruits: banana, cantaloupe, cucumber, guava, mango, orange, papaya, passionfruit, pineapple, strawberry, watermelon
  • Tart juice complement: lemon, lime, tamarind
  • Garnishes: basil, cucumber wheel, jalapeño, lemongrass, mint, sliced and notched fruit
    For a vegetable component, cucumber is the most popular (with lime and mint or pineapple). But you can turn to other juices: carrot juice and apple or pineapple, beet juice and berries, etc.

    Keep it light: save the kale and broccoli for the juice bar.

    Chill the drinks in the fridge, but also have a supply of ice cubes.


    As an on-trend American update, you can substitute coconut water for all or part of the water in your recipe, especially delicious in this pineapple agua fresca recipe with lemongrass.

    Here’s the agua fresca recipe template. Unleash your inner mixologist and mix different flavors of juice, to create your own signature recipes.

    Agua Fresca Recipe



    A melon tap turns any large, seedless watermelon into a keg (or punch bowl, for a younger crowd), ideal for filling with watermelon-based beverages.

    Simply hollow out the melon, insert the tap and fill it with your beverage of choice.

    A fun element at a gathering, your guests will have a memorable time of dispensing their drinks from a watermelon.

    Serve it as a finale to the last event of the summer.

    Just fill the watermelon with watermelon agua fresca.

    For a hit of alcohol, you can find watermelon-flavored vodka from Smirnoff, Three Olives, Pinnacle (Cucumber Watermelon), UV (Salty Watermelon) and others.

    In the fall, you can do the same with a pumpkin and apple cider (and apple vodka, of course).


    Watermelon Agua Fresca In Melon

    [3] A melon tap, available on Amazon, turns a watermelon into a keg (photo courtesy Bradshaw International).




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