Crazy for crustaceans
One of Baltimore's most popular summer activities is the crab feast -- a party where the guest of honor is ... devoured.
Food lovers from all over share a mighty fondness for the Chesapeake Bay blue crab.
Just lay down some newspaper for a tablecloth, and get down and dirty. A pile of crab shells quickly becomes the centerpiece of the table.
"We've been doing this for about 11 years, and we've been bringing down over 10- to 20,000 people a year for crab feasts to celebrate our blue crabs," says Greg Dawson of J.O.B. Marketing & Travel Consultants.
One crab lover dug his claws a bit deeper into the crafty crustacean, penning a series of books called "Sam the Crab."
"I have books, T-shirts, aprons," says author Joseph Cahill. "Sam is in such wild places as Japan, France, England. He's gone all over."
Baltimore is known as the city for cooking up this crustaceous cuisine, and ... you can do it yourself. Faidley's Seafood at Lexington Market sells live crabs ready to steam, as well as pre-steamed, for the more squeamish connoisseur.
And don't forget the Old Bay seasoning, which helped give Baltimore bragging rights as a crab town.
Crab cakes are popular among tourists and locals alike at Phillips Harborplace (301 S. Light St.) and Brightons Restaurant at the Harbor Court Hotel (550 Light St.), which also specializes in crab soup.
"We take lots of pride in putting lots of crab in our soup here," says Brightons chef Craig Scott. "This is premium, large, jumbo, blue crab from the Chesapeake Bay."
For a more casual setting, try the steamed crabs at Obrycki's Crab House and Seafood Restaurant (1727 E. Pratt St.), about a 10 minute drive from the harbor.
"What's unique about Obrycki's is our seasoning," says Cheri Cernak. "We have a special black pepper, dry mustard blend that is a house blend here ... and I think that's one of the things that people really enjoy."
Crab soup and crab cakes aside, there's an art to basic crab-eating. The best way to separate the pros from the amateurs is by watching their technique.
"I've seen people take a fork and a knife and try to slice into them," says Cernak. "I've seen people take a crab up into their mouth and take a bite out of them."
Wrong. You gotta crack open the shell, and pluck the meat out -- a lot of work for only a little meat, but most diners feel it's well worth the effort.
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