Saturday, September 20, 2008

Special Foodventure #75: Port of Los Angeles Lobster Fest, Whale and Ale (San Pedro)

"WHAT?! You haven't done the Lobster Fest ever? How can you be a foodie and not have gone yet?"

At least three friends have said something to this effect recently (with three festivals going on in the LA area this month, I guess it's hard to not have these giant clawed, big tailed critters on people's minds).

Obviously, this is something I have to resolve right away, even though lobsters have never been my favorite of crustaceans; I'd much prefer the fattier and more flavorful crab or the easier to portion and prepare shrimp. Heck, it barely edges over crayfish on the bottom of the list and only because it provides a bigger payload of meat for all the shell-breaking I have to do.

But I gave it a go anyways, it's been quite a while since I had unadulterated lobster (i.e. not concealed in a mac 'n cheese or a pot pie), I have a friend who really wants to go after missing out on the Long Beach one two weeks prior and it gives me an excuse to check out my favorite British pub in the area (more on that later).

As usual with food events, I try to get their as early as possible to avoid long lines and the running out of foods. Apparently with this festival, I wasn't the only one.
Thankfully, the line moved quickly and we got our tickets, into the entrance, found the lobster stall and through the queue in about 15 to 20 minutes, with our single lobster meal ($17) in hand . . .
Nice! Remembering my dislike for the messy and occasionally painful process of shelling these suckers, we ran them to the cracking table where the pros gave shells a smackdown! Then off to find a table (easy!) and let the feasting begin!
What can I say? Well for starters the lobster is well cooked. It's not rubbery nor waterlogged soggy, but firm and tender. I am not exactly reminded of the Northern Atlantic Ocean when I sink my teeth in, but it doesn't taste like grungy port the event's held at either. For the $23 (it was another $6 for admission) it's alright. I wish the accompaniments were better. The packaged cole-slaw was too sweet and not crunchy enough, and the "buttery dipping sauce" had the texture of gravy and tasted like Papa John's Garlic Butter sauce (minus the garlic). So yea, I mostly had the lobster with a squeeze of lemon and used the bread to soaked up the unappetizingly green but unbelievably creamy guts, which had no off-flavors and was actually a pleasant combo of sweet 'n briny.

Here's what the meal looked like I've decimated it (hold on to your stomachs!) . . .
We were weighing on whether to split another lobster, but decided to try out some of the other stall foods too.
I got the fish taco, ($4), about twice as big as the traditional size. The fish had an good texture for being pan-fried: very crispy and flaky. I asked for tartar sauce on the side but they topped the taco with it anyways, and that's pretty much how it tasted like. I managed to pick a few stray, un-sauced pieces of fish. It was completely bland.
My friend got the curious-sounding lobster balls, it's basically spheres of surimi (a.k.a. imitation -insert seafood here-). And I am starting to get sick of the tartar cover-up.

Feeling the sweet tooth and the alchy cravings coming but finding the funnel cake stall closed, we ventured out to downtown San Pedro to one of my favorite British pubs, the Whale and Ale. As usual, service was neighborhoody friendly and our bartender, Gail, gave us lots of pointers on places to see, things to try, all the while making menu and beer suggestions (and offering us some samples of the latter).
We finally settled upon splitting their sherry trifle. As for the trifle itself, it was as tasty as I remembered it: strawberries and pound cake macerated in sherry, topped with a layer of lightly-whipped cream. Though we wished we had more cream (or eaten it more evenly at the beginning) since it was nearly sherry straight-up at the end. For drinks, my friend got the Magners Irish Cider, which he liked 'cause it's drier than the more popular Wyder's and Woodchuck varieties, and I had their house amber ale, which had a nice hop flavors and a clean, mildly bitter finish, making for a refreshing, quaffable drink.
Feeling a second wind coming on, we got an off-the-menu specialty that I remembered from my last trip here: Yorkshire pudding cups topped with prime rib. Again, every bit as good as I remembered, toasty yet light pudding cups and juicy pieces of tender beef, with a dollop of creamy horseradish and drizzle of mustard to round things out.

Finishing it all off, we both got a Bailey's and coffee after noticing that they carried flavored varieties on the bar (I got the Mint Chocolate Bailey's, he had the Caramel -- both still tasted unmistakably like the classic version, but with a nice hint of refreshing mint-chocolate and toasty caramel notes at the end). A yummy way to finish off our snacking and drinking here, and made me wonder why I don't drink hard coffees more often --- it's the classic caffeine + alcohol combo, and better-tasting than the energy drink plus spirits combo.

So did lobster climb up my list? Yes and no, I still prefer crab and shrimp more, but it is closing the gap (so made I just had badly prepared ones all this time). And I definitely would consider making a return trip next year -- and bringing my own accompaniments.

For another take on the festival, here's Gourmet Pigs' report.

Port of Los Angeles Lobster Festival
Ports O'Call Village, San Pedro, CA

Whale and Ale
327 W 7th St.
San Pedro, CA
(310) 833-4833


Chubbypanda said...

... There was a lobster fest in San Pedro this weekend!?! Why was I not informed!?! =b

Actually, I asked Cat, who grew up in San Pedro, why she never told me about either the Lobster Fest or the Whale and Ale. She said it had never occurred to her. After ten years, you think you know a person... =D

Anonymous said...

I was so sad to have missed you! Unfortunately I have no way in getting in contact with you while I was at the festival and Burumun showed up EXTRA late. =*( I blame her! lol

How can you not love lobster! That's okay though, because there will be more in the world for me. ^_- I agree that it isn't that great of a deal because of the admission. The only way to solve that problem is to eat MORE lobsters. O=9

This is how much I wanted to go... My pal who was going to come with me ran into some financial issues and was going to bail... since I knew she wanted to go and I love sharing the joy of lobsters... I paid for everything from lunch to dinner so that we could have some fun and both enjoy lobsters! ^_-

H. C. said...

CP, haha -- a bit for lobster fest now, but I hope you do check out the whale and ale if you swing by San Pedro.

Kat, I don't hate lobsters either -- it's just probably not my top thing to try on a menu. Anyways, cool of you to treat your friend to a lobstery meal!

Anonymous said...

It's kewl. At least you went to lobster fest! ^_^ That's a step. My favorite lobster is still at Newport Tan Cang on Las Tunas. Asian people know how to do lobster/seafood. If you like crabs you might like their's too.

Looking at the lobster pics now makes me want to go there for a quick bite. If you have never been, the next time I am up in LA we should all go together. ^_^


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