Once upon a time, I had this wonderful revelation. I was traveling for work in Virginia with a boss who no longer works for the same company but who knew where the best food was to be found in every city we visited. He was also really good at rounding up the troops and getting the whole crew to go out socially on a regular basis and always had interesting stories about his days in the Navy and other adventures.
But back to the revelation! Wherever we were dining in the Williamsburg, Virginia area, the focus was on seafood, and especially crab. I had she crab soup and the best crab cakes I had ever eaten. You see, I had only previously ever had a Maine or New England style crab cake, which I thought was pretty good until I tried this beautiful golden thing, brimming with giant lumps of crab meat. The Maine style cakes are a different affair all together, with smaller bits of crab that appear to be pulverized and mixed with a generous amount of stuffing of some sort, and they generally have this reddish pink coloring from whatever they are seasoned with, a lot of paprika I assume. And lo, it was revealed unto me – Maine crab cakes kinda suck in comparison to the southern variety.
I knew the real hot bed of crab cake deliciousness was in Baltimore so on our way back home through BWI, I actually bought some of those frozen ones to go. And they were just alright and I was disappointed, especially when I realized I could buy the same thing in the freezer section back home. Eventually, I had moderate success with making them at home but I knew the canned stuff could never be as good as the real, fresh thing.
Fast forward to the summer of 2011. I went to the Big Summer Potluck and hung out with some of my favorite blogging friends who happen to be from Baltimore – Wendi, Beth, and Adryon. I let them know that I was jealous of their everyday access to awesome crab cakes and they all said I should come on down some time and try the best. No specific plan was made, but I sure liked the idea. Then come March when tickets went on sale for Big Summer Potluck 3 and I wasn’t able to go, the tweets started flying and #crabcakecrawl was born. I might not be able to see my pals at BSP, but maybe we could meet up in Baltimore instead and finally get those crab cakes.
Wendi took on the role of hostess and organizer and did an amazing job. I flew in on Friday morning and she picked me up at the airport and whisked me away to our very first crab cake at a Baltimore institution, G&M.
First, I was impressed with the size. Baltimore crab cakes are entrée-size – just one makes a meal with a side or two. And, look at those great big lumps of crab! We told our cute waiter what we were up to that weekend and he kept insisting we’d be back because G&M’s crab cakes are the best, but I had slight concerns. I didn’t love that crab cake as much as I thought I would and I hoped it wasn’t me. Do I maybe not actually like the real thing as much as I thought?
But there was no time to dwell on such thoughts. We were off to visit the quaint streets of Annapolis and happily poke into adorable boutiques and browse as long as we wanted without bored husbands waiting.
Later that night we arrived at Victoria Gastro Pub in Columbia for crab cake number two, where we were joined by Adryon, Beth and Beth’s friend Eileen. I was off to a great start with a perfectly mixed Tanqueray and tonic, followed by our appetizer of a bucket of duck fat fries. Okay, I know the whole point of this tour was crab cakes, but holy crap! Duck fat fries!! Talk about a revelation. So crispy and savory! I tried not to take more than my share but I fear I may have hogged half the bucket. Oops.
We all had the same thing for dinner – this sandwich. Victoria makes a less traditional style crab cake flavored with lemon basil aioli. Purists might balk but I don’t care – that is one delicious crab cake, overflowing huge lumps of fresh crab. And those purists might also have something to say about the whole bun/sandwich scenario but they can just stuff their somethings in a sack. This sandwich totally works. The bun is the perfect texture and flavor to support and offset the crab cake without overwhelming it. So there. And even that little plain looking spinach salad on the side? Super delicious. Must figure out citrus dressing recipe at home.
I also must rave about duck fat fries one more time because Adryon, who was only able to join us for this one stop on the crawl, also got a take-out order for her fiancé of poutine – duck fat fries topped with duck meat and duck gravy. And, being the fabulously nice person she is, Adryon let us sneak a few bites and holy mother of GOD – what a decadent, ridiculously delicious concoction. The French Canadians are on to something with this.
Next up, Ellicott City for ice cream at Scoop AHHH Dee Doo! (because clearly we hadn’t had enough fat intake with the crab cakes and duck fat), and then Pride and Prejudice in the park with the Chesapeake Shakespeare Company and a box of wine.
The play was a lot of fun and I am pretty sure I had a smile on my face the whole time. I’m telling you – Wendi knows how to plan a weekend! Coming up next – Saturday and crab cakes 3 and 4, including my favorite!