Tuesday, 17 February 2015

The Maine Lobster Boat Races 2015 Schedule - Tentative

I noticed this week that some people have been visiting my blog looking for the 2015 Maine Lobster Boat Races Schedule.  While the official schedule has yet to be published, I did manage to find the tentative race schedule which was printed in the 2014 Maine Lobster Boat Racing Newsletter.  I am reposting that schedule below and will be sure to post the official schedule when available.

The Tentative 2015 Maine Lobster Boat Races Schedule

June 13th - Boothbay Harbor Lobster Boat Races
June 14th - Rockland Lobster Boat Races
June 28th - Bass Harbor Lobster Boat Races

July 4th -  Moosebec Reach Lobster Boat Races
July 11th - Searsport Lobster Boat Races
July 12th - Stonington Lobster Boat Races
July 19th - Friendship Lobster Boat Races
July 26th - Harpswell Lobster Boat Races

August 8th - Winter Harbor Lobster Boat Races
August 9th - Merritt Brackett Lobster Boat Races
August 15th - Long Island Lobster Boat Races
August 16th - MS Harborfest Lobster Boat Races

If you'd like more information on the Maine Lobster Boat Races, including information on the fishing villages in which the races take place, just click here.

Friday, 6 February 2015

Five Fabulous Champagne and Lobster Pairings from a Specialist

Most wine aficionados agree that champagne goes perfectly with lobster and in previous posts I have provided basic serving suggestions.  Now I am delighted to be able to share some expert advice on lobster and champagne pairings from my friend, Tara O’Leary.  Tara works as a champagne specialist for Moët Hennessy and is an all around wine enthusiast and expert (see her full bio below).  I provided Tara with details of five of my favorite lobster recipes and she was kind enough to offer recommendations on champagnes which would complement each of these lobster dishes perfectly.  Enjoy!

Moet and Chandon champagne

LobsterNewburg with Grand Vintage 2006 by Moët and Chandon

A creamy sauce needs a champagne with some age, but that is also fresh enough to refresh the palate with each sip. The Grand Vintage 2006 by Moët & Chandon is the perfect pairing due to the complexity and depth of flavor from seven years of ageing in the cellars, combined with bright fruitiness that is the hallmark of the Moët style.

Veuve Clicquot champagne and lobster

Julia Child’s Lobster Bisque with Veuve Clicquot 2004

This decadent lobster dish needs a champagne that is able to go toe to toe with the cream and butter, and the bittersweet tang of the tarragon, and the Veuve Clicquot 2004 is the ideal choice. The structure and intensity conveyed by the high proportion of Pinot Noir (62%) from twenty Grand and Premier Cru vineyards, add to the robust, layered generosity of the 2004 vintage. The hazelnuts, quince and brioche notes on the palate lead to a fresh finish that keeps you coming back for more.

Ruinart Blanc de Blancs

Basic Steamed/Boiled Lobster with Ruinart Blanc de Blancs NV

This dish is about purity of flavor and the elegance of simplicity. Chardonnay is the soul of Ruinart, the world’s oldest champagne house (founded in 1729). This Blanc de Blancs (100% Chardonnay) is the height of elegance – it is bright and bursting with citrus and subtle white flower aromas and flavors. The delicate purity of the Chardonnay pairs beautifully with the sweet succulence of lobster ‘au natural’.

Veuve Clicquot Rose champagne

Lobster Fettuccine Alfredo with Veuve Clicquot Rosé NV

Comfort food with a luxurious twist. Creamy, cheesy fettuccine Alfredo is taken to new heights with the addition of lavish lobster, and the array of tastes and textures needs a champagne with equal amounts of style and substance. The Veuve Clicquot Rosé is that champagne. Elegant bright raspberry and wild strawberry notes are expertly balanced with an unexpected intensity from the high percentage of Pinot Noir that red wine lovers will adore. The richness of the sauce and the depth of the champagne make for a most satisfying combination.

Dom Perignon champagne

LobsterRoll with Dom Perignon 2004

Simple and spectacular. The seeming contradiction of pairing Dom Perignon 2004 with a lobster roll is precisely what makes it the perfect match. Dom Perignon itself is a paradox – a contrast of freshness and maturity, of vibrancy and intensity, making this champagne as comfortable at an exclusive black tie gala, as at a weekend backyard barbecue. Dom Perignon is only made from the best grapes in the best years, and with 9 years of ageing, the 2004 has a complexity as textured as the lobster, and yet is youthful and vivacious, and makes a playful partner for this traditional lobster favorite.

Tara Devon O’Leary is author of the Every Wine Tells a Story book series and the popular blog WinePassionista.com.  She holds a Diploma certification from the world renowned Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET), has served as judge at major annual international wine competitions and also currently works as a champagne Specialist at Moët Hennessy.

What Maine Lobster Can Learn From Microprocessors

cutler maine harbor
Beautiful Cutler Harbor. Photo courtesy of Billy Kitchen.

Last year marked a special milestone in my life - the 15th year of my career in advertising. It’s inspired me to reflect on how I entered the profession and what I’ve learned along the way. When people ask what got me from a tiny fishing village like Cutler into the city-centric world of advertising, my answer is that Cutler got me there, literally.
One August morning in the summer of 1999, a pleasure craft passing through Cutler Harbor got caught up in some polypropylene rope, resulting in a broken propeller nut and missing cotter pin. The owner of the Dettling 51 wasn’t happy about the accident, but it created a chance meeting with my father which can only be described as serendipitous. The yachtsman, Bob Schmetterer, was chairman of a very large global advertising agency. My father, a lobster fisherman and boat builder, was able to fashion a replacement pin for Bob’s prop. I was an unemployed college graduate, looking for an advertising job in San Francisco. A conversation led to a mention of my circumstances. My father was unaware of Bob’s profession at the time, but before motoring out of Cutler Harbor, Bob gave my father a business card to hand along to me. I have worked in advertising ever since.
Lobster Boats Cutler Harbor
Lobster boats at rest in Cutler Harbor.

I feel very fortunate not only to have been brought into the industry by a man who appreciates my lobstering heritage but also to have received his mentoring throughout my career. Bob is one of the great ad men of our era and an expert in branding. He helped transform Perdue Chicken into a household name and, in the process, changed the notion of branding commodities forever. I had the pleasure of working at his agency for many years where I worked on the branding of Intel. While there, I learned how turning a tiny computer chip into a brand can create billions in added value.
At first glance, it might seem that microprocessors and Maine lobster are worlds apart. Yet I believe there are parallels between the two industries and several lessons to be learned by studying Intel’s approach to branding.
Lesson One.   No product need be a commodity if it can communicate a compelling element of difference to consumers. 
Before the 1990’s, a computer microprocessor was a commodity product. Few people knew or cared what processor was inside their machines. Intel, however, believed passionately that its processors were of better quality than the competition. It embarked on a major branding campaign to communicate this point of difference not only to Dell, IBM and the other companies who bought its chips but also to everyday consumers. Getting the word out that Intel technology is the best you can buy turned Intel into a household name and created disproportionate consumer demand for its products. That demand has allowed Intel to sell its chips to computer manufacturers at a premium price ever since. Interbrand estimates that as of 2014, brand recognition itself contributes about $34.2 billion annually to Intel’s market value.  Because of branding, consumers don’t just want a computer, they want a computer with “Intel Inside.”
Similar to Intel microprocessors, most Maine lobsters aren’t sold directly to consumers. Around 80% of our product is processed and becomes an element of another product, be it an entrée at a white table restaurant, a buffet item on a cruise ship or a can of lobster bisque in a supermarket. Educating everyday consumers on the goodness of Maine lobster will enable more people to understand our brand’s element of difference and prompt them to seek out our products in whatever form they find most accessible. A supermarket shopper, for example, might decide to pick up a slightly more expensive lobster bisque because she feels reassured it is made with Maine lobster. Pulling consumers to the brand not only helps build demand, over time it should help justify increasing the price paid by the consumer as well.
Lesson Two.   Make your brand ‘visible.’ 
Intel microprocessors are an ingredient inside another product, computers. Because most consumers never see it, Intel came up with a clever way to make the microprocessor ‘visible.’ In 1991, the company created a co-op program which encouraged IBM, Dell and other manufacturer to put an “Intel Inside” sticker on their computers and in their advertising. In return for showing the “Intel Inside” logo in TV or print ads and on the PCs, a computer maker could get a rebate on what it paid Intel for chips. The “Intel Inside” stickers and logo soon became a symbol of a high-quality PC and the program helped propel the growth of the entire computer industry during that period.
For decades, many restaurants have branded the lobster on their menus as “Maine lobster.” Even without significant advertising efforts, restaurateurs, chefs and consumers have been able to discern a difference between Maine lobster and lobsters from other states or provinces. As more Maine lobster is processed within our state, it doesn’t just mean more jobs and tax dollars, it means an opportunity to brand more products as ‘made with Maine lobster’ and create thoughtful partnerships with restaurants and retailers.
Lesson Three. One brand. Different messages in different markets.
Intel advertises in all corners of the world with one brand voice. The company’s focus of its messaging however changes depending on the maturity of the market. One of my roles while working on the account was to help convince consumers to buy their first computer (with Intel Inside) in less developed markets like mainland China, India and Brazil. Intel knew it was useless to expound on its microprocessors if consumers weren’t interested in a computer in the first place. In more mature markets like the U.S., Intel focused more directly on telling the story of the Intel brand.
Similarly, in certain segments of America, including the Northeast, lobster is already a market staple. In other areas, lobster is a less established food item. How we talk about Maine lobster should vary in part based on how receptive consumers are to crustaceans in the first place.
A live lobster and an inanimate microprocessor definitely are not the same item. But they do share one quality: they are both used in other products. Intel found a way to cast its microprocessor in the public mind as a high-quality, premium product in which a company or consumer could have complete confidence. The task for the Maine lobster industry is to do the same. While the Maine lobster industry is a disparate group of buyers, brokers, processors, and of course, lobstermen, each member of that industry knows that he or she is handling the highest quality lobster in the world. Now the task is to ensure the public knows that too.
Bob Schmetterer Christina Lemieux
Bob and me reuniting on his boat in Maine, 13 summers after he
kick-started my career in advertising. Photo courtesy of Maxine Guay.

I originally published this article in the November issue of Landings.

Millennials and Maine Lobster. A Love Affair.

Maine lobster boat sunrise
A Maine lobsterman heads out for another day of work. Photo courtesy of Billy Kitchen

The landscape of the lobster industry has changed vastly in the years since I stepped off the stern of a lobster boat and into corporate America.  An exploding lobster population and economic turmoil have created challenges that my family and the larger Maine lobster community could not have foreseen in the 1980s and 1990s.

During these last two decades a group of consumers, called the Millennials, has also come of age. Their value system, shaped by years of exposure to corporate greed and political scandal, the anonymity of the computerized world, and the tenuousness of stable work has led them to yearn for authenticity in the products and services they purchase. This desire for authenticity, often tied to localism and regional pride, is redefining the relationship consumers have with Maine lobster, making our state’s iconic brand more relevant and revered than ever before.
Let’s talk about the word “brand.” We all remember the old Westerns in which a cowboy would mark a steer with a sizzling metal brand, leaving a symbol that all could see and recognize on the animal’s skin. Today the word has a broader meaning. “Brand” denotes abstract qualities associated with an object, be it a computer, car or crustacean. Think of the company, Apple. Its brand conjures up images of innovation, elegant design, and hipness. Its “brand” is the sizzling mark it has left in the consumer’s mind.
I have spent much of my adult life building and managing brands. I moved to New York City in the spring of 2002, while the dust was literally still settling from the collapse of the Twin Towers, to help manage one of the world’s most famous branded commodities, Intel microprocessors. I spent my days creating advertising to educate consumers about the superior quality of computers with Intel Inside. I occupied my evenings exploring the NYC food scene.
At that time New Yorkers perceived ‘Maine’ lobster as superior in quality, a product for which they were willing to pay a premium price. Manhattan menus rarely served lobster without specifying that the lobster had come from Maine. Diners indulged in Maine lobster dinners at white tablecloth restaurants as an expression of wealth. As an advertising specialist, I appreciated how fortunate Maine lobster was to have such an aspirational status, especially with very little marketing going on. Yet I also knew there was far more to the Maine lobster story.
What I did not know was that The Millennials were just coming of age. Their values would do more to help broaden the understanding and appeal of America’s favourite crustacean than ever before.
According to demographers, Millennials are a segment of the population born roughly between the years 1980 and 2000. The term represents over 80 million consumers in the U.S. who currently spend over $600 billion per year. More than in previous generations, Millennials are particularly conscious of their health, the environment and the origins of their food. They consider the products they purchase to be extensions of their values and support businesses that take responsibility for their products and operate with honesty and transparency.
While Millennials aspire to luxury products and experiences, they are much more interested in the human touch behind those products — the craftsmanship involved in the process, from first stitch to final sale. Some refer to this process as a product’s “provenance.”
My first summer in New York, as the Millennials were making their way into the workforce, I was introduced to the concept of food provenance by my business representative at The Atlantic Monthly Magazine. He was promoting a new book called "The Pleasures of Slow Food."  When he spoke of the growing Slow Food Movement, which placed increased importance on the origin and sustainability of foods, it crystalized in my mind what I felt was so special about Maine lobster: the people, principles and pride behind our product.
Fast forward 12 years and I find myself in a world where ‘sustainably sourced’ and ‘farm-to-table’ are part of everyday vernacular. Millennials buy into Maine lobster because they care about its provenance. They care that our industry is an owner-operated enterprise. They respect that we catch our lobsters at sea. They want to understand how we conserve the resource. How wonderful that today’s consumers value so greatly the practices we put in place to ensure the long-term survival of our industry!
Millennials, like generations before, love the sweet, succulent taste of Maine lobster but I believe they have a deeper understanding of and more respect for what it takes to get a delicious-tasting lobster onto their dinner plates. I believe that, while lobster is still aspirational as a symbol of wealth and luxury, to Millennials Maine lobster is aspirational in a special way – as a symbol of simplicity, of untarnished, rugged independence. In a world where they have been disillusioned by banks, governments and big business, the Maine lobsterman is someone they can believe in.
The world we live in is changing at an astonishing rate. It’s hard to keep track of the remarkable inventions and services that quickly become part of our everyday lives. New technologies and shifting consumer behaviour are upending some industries and making others obsolete. Yet due to fundamental elements of the Maine lobster industry – the people and the techniques used to catch lobster – the Maine lobster brand is more relevant than it ever has been before. Both the lobsterman and the marketer in me could not be more proud.