Lobster salad has hit $ 100 per pound at one shop in the Hamptons, a new high.
What makes lobster salad $ 100 at one place and half of that elsewhere? Given that I treat every beat like it’s the Pentagon Papers, I launched my own crustacean investigation.
First I went straight to the source, Loaves & Fishes Foodstore in Sagaponack, home of the $ 100-per-pound lobster salad. They told me they sell 1,000 pounds during the season.
You read that right: $ 100,000 worth of lobster salad sold over a few months.
I asked them where they buy their lobster from, figuring Hamptons lobsters were, like everything else here, fancier and more special — therefore more expensive than, say, the $ 9-per-pound lobster my friend Doug and I buy at the end of his pier in Maine.
Loaves and Fishes buys Canadian hard-shell lobster — “the best available,” they said.
As it turns out, there are very few local lobster fishermen still working out here. Red tide hurt the industry years ago, plus our waters are warm. The lobster pots in local waters are about 80 miles out along the continental shelf, too far for most small-boat operators.
Why don’t we import from Maine? In part because Maine waters are warmer, too, so shells are less hard and therefore have to be shipped much quicker. And Maine boats face the same size issue as here.
Yet Gosman’s in Montauk is selling lobster salad for less than half Loaves & Fishes’ price, at $ 47 per pound.
Surely they aren’t buying expensive Canadian hard-shell lobster?
Oh no, they said. They are.
A significant pre-season bulk order helps them keep the price down. And they sell up to 50 pounds a day in summer.
I’m certainly not saying any one shop is price-gouging, as these people are making their entire year’s income over two to three months. It is simply supply and demand.
Lobster salad is, after all, a Hamptons staple.
Of course, we could buy lobster for $ 15 per pound, cook it and toss it with some mayonnaise ourselves. (Apparently, a 2-pound lobster yields a pound of lobster salad).
But we don’t. We pay 10 times more to have it made for us.
So is it worth it? The lobster salad at Loaves & Fishes was delicious, and with capers and dill a little different than any other I tasted. I can’t tell you if paying the highest price humanly possible makes it the best lobster salad.
But does it matter?
Not in the land of money-is-no-object.
At Stuart’s Seafood Market in Amagansett, where their (Canadian-sourced) lobster salad sells for $ 65 per pound, their customers, they often tell them, “You aren’t charging enough for this!”
Stephanie Krikorian is a celebrity ghostwriter and author of the forthcoming book “Zen Bender: A Decade-Long Enthusiastic Quest to Fix Everything (That Was Never Broken),” out on Aug. 15.