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Southeast New Brunswick celebrates our favourite large crustacean

Like cake at weddings or turkey at Thanksgiving, a good feed of lobster is a traditional part of Maritime parties. We break out the shellfish at birthdays, holidays and when friends “from away” come to visit. And in southeast New Brunswick, lobster is the force behind festivals.

For 65 years, lobster has reigned supreme at the Shediac Lobster Festival. Two more annual festivals have come on board: la Fête du Lobster Roll and the Alma Lobster Fleet Launch.

Picturesque Alma, NB, is a working fishing village. Each year for the past four years, residents celebrate the fall fleet launch—the beginning of lobster season—with food, music and fireworks

Alma Fleet Launch

The picturesque village of Alma lies at the entrance of Fundy National Park, an hour’s drive from Moncton. More than a tourist destination, Alma is a working fishing village and lobster is the bread-and-butter of the community.

“Visitors are fascinated by the fishing activity,” says Andrew Casey, general manager of Tides Restaurant/Parkland Inn. “My restaurant empties out when the boats come in. People leave their food on the tables and rush out to get pictures.”

Tourism and the fishery harmonize in mid-October as the fall fishing season gears up. The wharves are filled with crews preparing their boats amid stacks of colourful traps and buoys.

For the last four years, the village has celebrated the launch of the fall fishing fleet with food and, more recently, with free concerts and fireworks. In 2015, more than 600 people joined in—remarkable given the launch happened at midnight and Alma has only 245 residents. The year before, the launch was at 3am, and 6am before that.

The erratic timing highlights the striking feature that is a fact of life in Alma—the tides. The 12-metre (40-ft) difference between high and low tides amazes visitors and rules the work and lives of the fishing crews. At low tide, boats sit in wooden cradles on the muddy seafloor. As the tide rises, they float but can only leave the harbour within two hours of high tide. At the beginning of the lobster season, when boats are weighed down by 300 traps, the window of opportunity is even smaller. Daylight doesn’t matter—the tide dictates the timing.

The 2016 launch will happen around October 14; the department of Fisheries and Oceans will set the time. But whether it’s day or night, rain or shine, there will be a party in Alma, honouring the work of the fishing crews.

La Fête du Lobster Roll

For one week last September, 22 Moncton chefs pushed the definition of ‘lobster roll’ to the limit. During la Fête du Lobster Roll, they made lobster rolls with ingredients as adventurous as bacon, avocado, foie gras and caviar in rolls made from roti, sushi rice and puff pastry.

According to the 800 people who voted online, the Old Triangle Irish Alehouse had the winning lobster roll. Chef Brent Hardy jumped at the chance to participate. He has loved lobster rolls since childhood.

“Part of the summer experience,” he recalls, “was going to the beach and having lobster rolls and fried clams.”

His winning lobster roll, however, was far from usual. Lobster was seasoned with Korean mayo and chili flakes. To provide crunch, Hardy added “a fresh slaw” of celery, red pepper and green onion marinated in Sriracha (Asian hotsauce) and lime juice. Hardy built a steamer to make the Asian-style steamed bun. Chef Michel Savoie’s creation at Les Brumes du Coude came in second. “I had a Thai craving,” says Savoie, “so I decided to make something spicy with some different textures.” His lobster roll featured kimchi, smoked bacon, caviar, mayonnaise and a scallop.

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