Lobster pizza is the latest luxury comfort food

Note: This story was published on Fox News on July 5, 2011.  Similar stories also appeared in The Washington Times, The San Jose Mercury News, The Daily News of Newburyport, and the York Dispatch.

PORTLAND, Maine –  Macaroni and cheese and pot pies may conjure up images of grandma’s kitchen. But those traditional dishes these days are being combined with the king of seafood and transformed into value-added lobster dishes that some are calling gourmet comfort food.

A varied selection of prepared frozen products, such as lobster macaroni and cheese, lobster pot pie and lobster pizza, are making their way to grocery store freezers aimed at mainstream consumers — not just the white tablecloth crowd.

The creations are targeted at lobster lovers and foodies who don’t want to deal with a live product and want the ease and convenience of simply taking something out of the freezer and popping it into the oven.

The first time Maine Lobster Council Executive Director Dane Somers heard about frozen lobster macaroni and cheese, he didn’t think it was the smartest idea because many people associated the dish with the 99-cent boxed variety. He’s changed his mind now.
“It appeals to folks because it’s a familiar form,” Somers said. “It’s kind of exotic, but familiar at the same time so people can relate to it.”

Maine accounts for more than 80 percent of the U.S. lobster catch, with last year’s harvest reaching a record 93 million pounds.
Inside grocery stores, lobsters traditionally have been sold live out of circulating-water tanks placed near seafood departments. Some stores sell frozen lobster tails or lobster meat, but the value-added products were slim pickings.

In Maine, Calendar Islands Maine Lobster Co. launched its line of eight frozen lobster products in January. The products are now sold in more than 100 grocery and specialty food stores, mostly in New England but also in the St. Louis area and in Hawaii.

The top seller is lobster macaroni and cheese, followed by lobster pizza and lobster pot pie.

Restaurants have been selling fancy lobster dishes for a number of years, and Calendar Islands is trying to replicate the dining-out experience with in-home products, said John Jordan, president of the Portland-based company. The new creations are less expensive than they would be in a restaurant (and less than the company’s website prices), but they’re not cheap — the pizza sells for about $19 in grocery stores, the lobster pot pie for about $13 and the macaroni and cheese for about $10.

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