Coastal Cuisine Fiction : Maine lobsters are best when caught in the winter. Peak lobster season is between summer and fall, when the lobsters have just freshly shed their shells. Lobsters with new shells are much sweeter and more flavorful, and many seafood enthusiasts consider these “shedders” to be a delicacy. The best time to eat Lobster is not in the winter, but in the late summer to mid-fall. Lobsters can be caught year-round, even during the winter and early spring months, but they won’t be as meaty and sweet as the prize lobster every foodie is used to. If you’re looking for a place to find fresh lobster, plan for next August and head to Rockland, Maine for the Annual Maine Lobster Festival. Lobster crate races, lobster eating contests, live entertainment, and tons of lobster to eat are just a few of the activities you can expect. Even though it is the off-season for harvesting lobster now, it doesn’t mean that you still can’t find a fresh and succulent tail to dip in butter and slurp down. Stay close to the coast, and always ask your server or market if the lobsters being served or sold are farm-raised or wild. If they’re wild, ask when their season was. As long as the months are close to the peak season, then your plate will be just as tasty as always. 66 FoodTraveler l Winter 2016 Fact : Peak season for mussels is October-March. Mussels filter iron from seawater to make the adhesive with which they use to attach themselves to rocks and barriers. Fishermen have been pulling up mussels and using them as a main food source for well over 10,000 years. It is, without a doubt, that the best times for mussels are in the fall and winter months, so buy them by the pound this season, and stock up for Super Bowl parties, New Year’s events, and more. Mussels are best to eat within a day of purchase, so fresh is naturally the finest. The freshest mussels should have a salty, briny smell, rather than fishy or dull. The shells should be bright and tightly closed when raw, and upon cooking, will open. Are you looking for a legendary place to enjoy mussels in their peak season? Head to Baltimore, Maryland. In the historic district of Fells Point, Bertha’s Restaurant is known for serving up the best mussels around. What was once a little dive bar in a funky location, has now become a landmark establishment, of which all the locals are proud. Bertha’s serves their mussels steamed with bread, and a selection of unbeatable sauces, such as anchovy, tomato, and garlic butter, or a Lancaster creamy mustard sauce. Order with one sauce, or several, depending on your palate. For a heavier meal, try the Paella for two. At $45, you can’t beat the smell of the saffron rice covered in shrimp, scallops, chicken, and Bertha’s signature mussels, all married to a Spanish sausage and drenched in spices. Most of these shellfish abide by the classic “r” month rule, though a lot of inland seafood establishments will only source farmraised seafood. Along the coasts, make sure you order the specials and what is in season, because you know you’ll be getting a fresh dish every time from these places. If you are looking for fish instead of mollusks and shellfish, then eat mackerel and wild bass in the winter time, as these are peak seasons for them as well. Alaskan King crab and Dungeness crab are in fair season, so stock up on these now if you’re a crab fanatic. You can’t go wrong with a fridge full of freshly-caught seafood!