Cold Harvest

Scottish langoustines are delicate and sweet.

Anne Robinson started her New Jersey-based mail-order retail foods company in 2005 almost on a dare. The Ohio native's Scottish-born husband, Andrew Hamilton, was a regular at a Greek restaurant in Manhattan known for its fish and shellfish, and he'd often ask the owner why he wasn't serving "the best seafood in the world"—by which he meant Scottish langoustines, saltwater crustaceans prized for their succulent, delicately flavored tail meat.

Hamilton's questions weren't merely the musings of a proud Scot. With langoustines (Nephrops norvegicus, also known as Dublin Bay prawns, Norway lobsters, and scampi), quality is largely a function of water temperature: the colder the water, the sweeter the flesh. Although langoustines fished from warmer parts of the Atlantic are delicious, those from Scotland are widely considered the finest—and not just by the Scots.

Eventually, the owner of the Greek restaurant threw down a challenge: he told Hamilton that if he could get him fresh Scottish langoustines—which had never before been sold in the United States—he would put them on his menu as soon as the first shipment arrived. So, Hamilton did just that. In November 2003, working with a supplier near the Scottish port of Oban, Hamilton began to import live specimens of the fragile shellfish. The restaurateur kept his word and began to serve them. Soon thereafter, top New York French establishments like Per Se, Alain Ducasse, and Daniel followed suit.

Two years later, Robinson, who'd previously worked in direct marketing, launched a mail-order retail foods company, Scottish Gourmet USA, to complement Hamilton's growing wholesale business. She now sells a range of high-quality Scottish products—from game birds to farmhouse cheeses and malt whisky truffles—but the langoustines remain one of her most popular items. Because Scottish Gourmet caters to individual customers nationwide, its langoustines aren't available live. Rather, they're blast-frozen immediately after being pulled from the silty sea bottom and shipped on ice via the company's New Jersey warehouse. To order, call 877⁄814-3663 or visit www.scottishgourmetusa.com.