Paris boasts some of the best restaurants in the world, so it’s no surprise that Donald Trump may take a break from his usual fare of steak and ketchup Thursday evening when he dines with French President Emmanuel Macron.
The two presidents will be having dinner at Le Jules Verne, the posh restaurant on the second floor of the Eiffel Tower operated by renowned chef Alain Ducasse. On this evening’s menu might just be baked blue lobster with caviar.
Here in New England, blue lobsters make news, mostly because they’re extraordinarily rare.
In Europe, it turns out, not so much.
The chances of catching a North American blue lobster are one in two million, according to the University of Maine Lobster Institute. About 200 million lobsters are caught in the North Atlantic every year, so that means fishermen trap about 100 blue lobsters every year.
“If they catch a blue lobster, most fishermen just let them go,” according to Jeremy Sewall, chef and owner of Island Creek Oyster Bar. “Or they’ll donate them to an aquarium.”
So why are they blue? Lobster shell color is determined by a red pigment called astaxanthin. When astaxanthin binds to certain proteins, lobsters can appear blue or even yellow if they have a genetic mutation.
In 2014, two Maine fishermen caught two albino lobsters just days apart. An albino lobster doesn’t contain astaxanthin in its shell at all.
Nevertheless, when lobsters are cooked, the heat destroys the proteins that astaxanthin binds to, which is why the crustaceans typically show up looking rich and rosy on your plate.
Still, the blue lobster on the Le Jules Verne menu is probably not one of these exceptional North American blues, according to local seafood gurus.
It’s more likely that the Trumps and the Macrons will be dining on European lobsters, Sewall said. European lobsters are closely related to North American lobsters, but their shells are mostly blue when taken from the ocean.
Celebrity chef Gordon Hamersley said that the European lobster is called “homard bleu” because of its color. Just like its North American cousin, it turns red when cooked.
“Never say never,” Hamersley said, “but I’d be shocked if the French served him an American lobster in France.”
Nevertheless, the questions remains: What do North American blue lobsters taste like?
Mitchell Randall, executive chef of Ostra said he doesn’t think that blue lobsters taste any different from regular-colored lobsters.
But few would know.
“I don’t think people actually cook with North American blue lobsters,” he said. “They’re so rare. I’ve only seen them in aquariums.”
Regardless of what the world leaders and their entourages order, the dining experience promises to be a luxurious one. Le Jules Verne boasts a single Michelin star and a jaw-dropping view of the city. It’s also rather spendy. The restaurant offers a 5- or 6-course “Experience Menu” which run cost as much as $265. Pair each course with wine and you’re looking at the equivalent of a monthly payment on a fine automobile.
Of course, for the leader of the free world, the chef can surely skip the blue lobster altogether and whip up delicious steak frites — well done with ketchup, just the way Trump likes it.