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A crab by any other name...[Maryland Blue Crab]

A crab by any other name...[Maryland Blue Crab]
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  • A crab by any other name...[Maryland Blue Crab]

    Post #1 - May 13th, 2006, 10:16 am
    Post #1 - May 13th, 2006, 10:16 am Post #1 - May 13th, 2006, 10:16 am
    Alright, I'll admit I am a crab snob, having grown up in DC/MD during a time when blue crabs were in abundance. I learned to tear through entire crabs not long after learning to tie my shoes, and still rate their sweet succulent meat as my greatest gastronomical pleasure.

    So... I'm biased, but I have a major pet peeve with the rampant false advertising that takes place at restaurants at every level. It is incomprehensible to me that places can refer to an ingredient as crab, or crabmeat, when in reality it is sirimi. Don't get me wrong, sirimi has its place, and makes for a perfect ingredient in certain dishes. But how can you blatantly list it as crab? At least they could use "" and call it "crab", or maybe spell it with two b's (crabb). I do realize sirimi has become so prevalent that it's sometimes fair for restaurants to assume you know that's what you will be getting.

    But what really bothers me is when a place will take the next step and actually use a specific designation, such as "blue crab" to describe an ingredient, and then deliver what is clearly sirimi. Why bother to trick and disappoint me that way? This happened recently at a high end sushi place, where I assumed it had to really be true this time, given the $15 price of the roll we ordered. I anticipated this roll with great excitement, only to find it stuffed with what was unmistakably sirimi (along with other ingredients). Hell, even if they had died it blue, I would have been more forgiving and lauded them for their creativity (while laughing at their understanding of wht it's called blue crab) :-). Blue crab is a distinct species of a crustacean for heaven's sake!! And you're giving me some fish composite, that might have trace particles of some kind of crab? Based on 20/20 reports, this roll likely contained more rodent hairs than pieces of any sort of crabmeat. I guess Rainbow Rat Roll wouldn't sound as appealing.

    To me this is really not any better than calling a dish chicken marsala, for example, and using pork instead--it is the other white meat after all.

    I think this issue should have been given much higher priority than the foie gras ban.

    Anyway, this is meant to be a lighthearted rant--in the grand scheme of things, I'm fortunate to be able to eat and enjoy all of the things I do.

    Crabbily yours,

    Alessio
  • Post #2 - May 13th, 2006, 11:40 am
    Post #2 - May 13th, 2006, 11:40 am Post #2 - May 13th, 2006, 11:40 am
    You might enjoy this post from the inimitable david hammond:

    Lies They Feed Us: "Wild," "Crab," Etc.
    Ed Fisher
    my chicago food photos

    RIP LTH.
  • Post #3 - May 13th, 2006, 12:03 pm
    Post #3 - May 13th, 2006, 12:03 pm Post #3 - May 13th, 2006, 12:03 pm
    I, too, am from Baltimore, and, with one exception, have yet to find a crabcake in Chicago that deserves the name. Like, literally, calling what they serve here a crabcake is like calling a car a steak. The one exception is that the crabcakes I've had at Catch 35 at least are recognizably members of the same category as the ones in Baltimore, even if not quite good enough to crack the top 10 in that city.
  • Post #4 - May 13th, 2006, 12:37 pm
    Post #4 - May 13th, 2006, 12:37 pm Post #4 - May 13th, 2006, 12:37 pm
    riddlemay wrote:I, too, am from Baltimore, and, with one exception, have yet to find a crabcake in Chicago that deserves the name. Like, literally, calling what they serve here a crabcake is like calling a car a steak. The one exception is that the crabcakes I've had at Catch 35 at least are recognizably members of the same category as the ones in Baltimore, even if not quite good enough to crack the top 10 in that city.


    My kids like crab cake a lot, and they usually order it if they see it on a menu. I'm fine with crab cakes in general, though it's rare that I have one anywhere that knocks me out...but I'm open to the opportunity. What are your criteria for an excellent crab cake? I'm guessing the key ingredient is lots of fresh crab, but beyond that...

    Hammond
    “Nobody exists on purpose. Nobody belongs anywhere. Everybody’s gonna die. Come watch TV?”
  • Post #5 - May 13th, 2006, 12:46 pm
    Post #5 - May 13th, 2006, 12:46 pm Post #5 - May 13th, 2006, 12:46 pm
    David Hammond wrote:I'm guessing the key ingredient is lots of fresh crab, but beyond that...

    Hammond,

    Here's a nice looking, and tasting, crab cake from Buddy's Elliott Street Bar in Baltimore. Just crab, old bay and hellmanns, nothing more.

    Buddy's Elliott Street Bar Crab Cake
    Image

    Enjoy,
    Gary

    Buddy's Elliott Street Bar and Grill
    3123 Elliott Street
    Baltimore, MD 21224
    410-522-0222
    One minute to Wapner.
    Raymond Babbitt

    Low & Slow
  • Post #6 - May 13th, 2006, 1:07 pm
    Post #6 - May 13th, 2006, 1:07 pm Post #6 - May 13th, 2006, 1:07 pm
    David Hammond wrote:What are your criteria for an excellent crab cake? I'm guessing the key ingredient is lots of fresh crab, but beyond that...

    I think it's pretty close to being as simple as that. I'm hedging my bets because I've never made a crabcake. However--the taste of a good Baltimore crabcake (and incidentally, just about every crabcake in Baltimore is at least good--purveyors of anything less would be run out of town on a rail, if they even dared, which they wouldn't) is highly reminiscent of the taste of the crabmeat pulled with your fingers out of freshly steamed crabs from the Chesapeake Bay sitting in a heap on today's spread-out newspaper. If you've tasted the latter, you know what to look for in the former.

    Baltimore crabcakes that are down-rated by Baltimoreans are usually regarded so because of an excess of "filler" (usually breading)--the best crabcakes are practically all crab, as in G Wiv's example--but at least the crabmeat that's in even the lesser crabcakes there is recognizably crab. The problem with so-called crabcakes in Chicago (and, by the way, every other city in America that I've ever been in that isn't Baltimore) is not only that there is too much filler, but that whatever crabmeat may be present is devoid of flavor. Or has a vaguely "fishy" taste. Crab doesn't taste like fish at all. For the simple reason that a crab is not a fish.
    Last edited by riddlemay on May 13th, 2006, 2:09 pm, edited 1 time in total.
  • Post #7 - May 13th, 2006, 2:07 pm
    Post #7 - May 13th, 2006, 2:07 pm Post #7 - May 13th, 2006, 2:07 pm
    riddlemay wrote:Crabcakes that are down-rated in Baltimore are usually down-rated because of an excess of "filler." The problem with so-called crabcakes in Chicago is not only that there is too much filler, but that whatever crabmeat is present is devoid of flavor. Or has a vaguely "fishy" taste. Crab doesn't taste like fish at all. For the simple reason that it's not a fish.


    From my experiences in the Northern Neck of Virginia, excess filler in a crab cake seems to be about 10% filler. The problem with that is quite often the crab cakes made with very little filler tend not to hold together very well.

    A lot of the crabmeat that I have found in this area (in supermarkets) has been pretty mediocre (compared to the Chesapeake area).
  • Post #8 - May 13th, 2006, 3:25 pm
    Post #8 - May 13th, 2006, 3:25 pm Post #8 - May 13th, 2006, 3:25 pm
    I don't want to get this thread too off topic, but...

    Riddlemay and others from the DC/MD/VA area...I, too, and from Maryland, and rarely order crabcakes here. (In fact, I rarely order crabcakes in Maryland because I prefer my bluecrab in an unadulterated form.) That said, when D.Kelly was in business in Chicago, their crabcakes were fantastic! I can't say enough good things about them. The owner/chef of D.Kelly is now at Avenue M, which I haven't eaten at. If you make it there and crabcakes are on them menu, you should definitely give them a try. If they're anything like what he served at D.Kelly, they'll be great.
  • Post #9 - May 13th, 2006, 9:14 pm
    Post #9 - May 13th, 2006, 9:14 pm Post #9 - May 13th, 2006, 9:14 pm
    Best crabcakes we ever had thus far has been at Pappadeux's (in San Antonio, TX) - large chunks of crab w/ a crispy outer coating holding it all in. Went to college in Baltimore and unfortunately did not do enough "appreciating" of the Maryland blue crab (also due to lack of finances at the time and lack of transportation).

    Image

    The crabcake at South Water Kitchen - not so good; Was smushy and wet despite looking very pretty.
    Image
  • Post #10 - May 13th, 2006, 10:17 pm
    Post #10 - May 13th, 2006, 10:17 pm Post #10 - May 13th, 2006, 10:17 pm
    I recommend the crabcakes at Stoney River in Deerfield and Deer Park. They are made with large pieces of lump crabmeat.
  • Post #11 - May 14th, 2006, 9:39 pm
    Post #11 - May 14th, 2006, 9:39 pm Post #11 - May 14th, 2006, 9:39 pm
    I was insanely fortunate to have a proper introduction to Blue Crab by living in New Orleans; not only was the proximity to the Gulf ENOUGH (as well as having a trawler as a grandfather), but my Mom's 2nd husband was from Baltimore, and he managed to drill the goodness of the crustacean into me. There appears to be a friendly rivalry amongst folks in NO and Baltimore/VA/DC as to who makes the most formidable crab cake; with the risk of rescinding my Louisiana driver's license, I have to say that the NE versions EASILY have proven to have the least "filler" in them. And Old Bay is KING. ;) Yet with such an esteemed paradigm of crabiness set in place, I've yet to try any crabcake in Chicago. Am I really being that much of a Primadonna?? Jeez..
    Get a bicycle. You will certainly not regret it, if you live. --Mark Twain
  • Post #12 - May 14th, 2006, 9:55 pm
    Post #12 - May 14th, 2006, 9:55 pm Post #12 - May 14th, 2006, 9:55 pm
    HI,

    My friend Helen grew up on an estuary to the Chesapeake Bay. She loves blue crabs and is a crab cake purist. I have had her disappointed too often by our local versions of crab cakes, I don't suggest sharing orders of these anymore. The crab cakes at David Burke's Primehouse *might* be acceptable to her because it does feature lump meat. THis crab cake is rolled in Japanese pretzles for a nice crunch I enjoyed.

    Ironically I lived in Maryland for 4.5 years when I was a kid. I cannot recall one occasion where we ate blue crabs at a restaurant or crab shack nor did we buy any crabs. When I returned years later, I couldn't believe all the road side trucks selling blue crabs. My first crab shack experience was maybe 10 years ago travelling with friends from Moscow on the East Coast. I occasionally inquire with my parents how could we have been so blind to such a wonderful local food?
    Cathy2

    "You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
    Facebook, Twitter, Greater Midwest Foodways, Road Food 2012: Podcast
  • Post #13 - May 15th, 2006, 6:55 am
    Post #13 - May 15th, 2006, 6:55 am Post #13 - May 15th, 2006, 6:55 am
    Sal Monilla asks:
    Yet with such an esteemed paradigm of crabiness set in place, I've yet to try any crabcake in Chicago. Am I really being that much of a Primadonna??

    No, you're not. Lucy kept promising to hold the football in place for Charlie Brown, but did she ever? As Cathy2 says,

    My friend Helen grew up on an estuary to the Chesapeake Bay. She loves blue crabs and is a crab cake purist. I have had her disappointed too often by our local versions of crab cakes, I don't suggest sharing orders of these anymore.

    This is wise.

    That said, I do appreciate the suggestions of some here as to where exceptional crabcakes can be found in Chicago. I hope you won't be offended when I reply: I don't believe you. In the spirit of good fellowship, I'd like to believe you--but I just can't. Thirty-five years of living here has taught me better. I recognize that this means that someday I may pass up a Chicago crabcake that really does have merit. But weigh that against the thousand deaths of my soul that would be sure to occur were I to continue the search. The odds are better in Russian Roulette. I'm sure you understand.
  • Post #14 - May 15th, 2006, 10:05 am
    Post #14 - May 15th, 2006, 10:05 am Post #14 - May 15th, 2006, 10:05 am
    I admittedly am a lifelong Midwesterner, with little or no exposure to real Maryland crab cakes. That said, Hugo's Frog Bar prides themselves on their crab cakes, and I think that they're pretty good. However, the best crab cakes that I have eaten, hands down, were served at -- of all places -- Morton's. They were outstanding and exactly how I would envision real crab cakes to be (i.e., high quality lump crab meat, little or no filler -- buttery and delicious).
  • Post #15 - May 15th, 2006, 10:13 am
    Post #15 - May 15th, 2006, 10:13 am Post #15 - May 15th, 2006, 10:13 am
    Ron has noted the exception that proves the rule. Morton's has tremendous, gravity defying, almost all-crab crabcakes. They come at quite a price, however.

    PS, and stop the presses, hon:

    2006 Baltimore Magazine ­ Reader’s Choice: Best Steak
    Baltimore Magazine ­ Reader’s Choice: Best Crabcake ­ 2nd Place

    (From the Morton's site.)
    Last edited by JeffB on May 15th, 2006, 10:25 am, edited 1 time in total.
  • Post #16 - May 15th, 2006, 10:21 am
    Post #16 - May 15th, 2006, 10:21 am Post #16 - May 15th, 2006, 10:21 am
    riddlemay wrote:I, too, am from Baltimore, and, with one exception, have yet to find a crabcake in Chicago that deserves the name. Like, literally, calling what they serve here a crabcake is like calling a car a steak. The one exception is that the crabcakes I've had at Catch 35 at least are recognizably members of the same category as the ones in Baltimore, even if not quite good enough to crack the top 10 in that city.


    I don't understand why someone would expect to find a good crabcake in Chicago. I wouldn't expect to find good Italian beef sandwiches in Baltimore, either.

    The best crabcakes I've had are at G & M crabcakes in Linthicum, MD. Faidleys's had pretty damn good ones as well.
  • Post #17 - May 15th, 2006, 10:38 am
    Post #17 - May 15th, 2006, 10:38 am Post #17 - May 15th, 2006, 10:38 am
    saps wrote:I don't understand why someone would expect to find a good crabcake in Chicago. I wouldn't expect to find good Italian beef sandwiches in Baltimore, either.

    The best crabcakes I've had are at G & M crabcakes in Linthicum, MD. Faidleys's had pretty damn good ones as well.

    I don't understand why someone would expect that, either. I never have expected it. I have, however, at times had my better judgment overcome by my wish to have reality overturned.

    By the way, I'm an equal-opportunity non-Baltimore crabcake hater; Chicago is no more guilty of being an abject failure at crabcakes than is any other city in America that isn't Baltimore. I'm proud to say I've hated the crabcakes in New York, Philadelphia, New Orleans, Los Angeles, Miami and San Francisco (or at least found them woefully deficient). It has nothing to do with proximity to a coastline or the lack of it.

    I agree with you about G&M.
    Last edited by riddlemay on May 15th, 2006, 11:21 am, edited 1 time in total.
  • Post #18 - May 15th, 2006, 10:39 am
    Post #18 - May 15th, 2006, 10:39 am Post #18 - May 15th, 2006, 10:39 am
    Cathy2 wrote:Ironically I lived in Maryland for 4.5 years when I was a kid. I cannot recall one occasion where we ate blue crabs at a restaurant or crab shack nor did we buy any crabs.


    I have to confess that the first time I confronted a blue crab, I had no idea of what to do. Fortunately, I had one of the local baseball coaches invite me over and teach me how to clean them.

    Then, he lent me a crab pot that I would put out on my dock. It seemed like an unfair trade. One chicken neck (maybe $0.19/#) or a little chicken fat from the kitchen would get me 3-4 crabs every day.
  • Post #19 - May 15th, 2006, 4:19 pm
    Post #19 - May 15th, 2006, 4:19 pm Post #19 - May 15th, 2006, 4:19 pm
    Cathy2 wrote:The crab cakes at David Burke's Primehouse *might* be acceptable to her because it does feature lump meat. THis crab cake is rolled in Japanese pretzles for a nice crunch I enjoyed.

    That was one of the two best crabcakes I have had in some time, but I wouldn't say it's much like the Maryland style.

    Anyway, the other good crabcake came from P.J. Clarke's, of all places. That's all crab, but not lump meat.

    David Burke's Primehouse
    312/660-6000
    www.brguestsrestaurants.com/restaurants/primehouse
    James Hotel
    616 N. Rush St., Chicago

    P.J. Clarke's
    www.pjclarkeschicago.com
    1204 N. State Parkway, Chicago, 312/664-1650
    Embassy Suites Hotel, 302 E. Illnois St., Chicago 312/670-7500
  • Post #20 - May 15th, 2006, 4:43 pm
    Post #20 - May 15th, 2006, 4:43 pm Post #20 - May 15th, 2006, 4:43 pm
    jlawrence01 wrote:Then, he lent me a crab pot that I would put out on my dock. It seemed like an unfair trade. One chicken neck (maybe $0.19/#) or a little chicken fat from the kitchen would get me 3-4 crabs every day.


    I am teeming with envy. :P
  • Post #21 - May 15th, 2006, 5:05 pm
    Post #21 - May 15th, 2006, 5:05 pm Post #21 - May 15th, 2006, 5:05 pm
    Cathy2 wrote:The crab cakes at David Burke's Primehouse *might* be acceptable to her because it does feature lump meat. THis crab cake is rolled in Japanese pretzles for a nice crunch I enjoyed.

    LAZ wrote:That was one of the two best crabcakes I have had in some time, but I wouldn't say it's much like the Maryland style.

    C2,

    Primehouse's crab cake is damn good, excellent in fact, but I agree with LAZ, probably not what a true blue crab lover from Maryland is looking for.

    David Burke's Primehouse Pretzel Crusted Crabcake
    Image

    Enjoy,
    Gary
    One minute to Wapner.
    Raymond Babbitt

    Low & Slow
  • Post #22 - May 16th, 2006, 7:52 am
    Post #22 - May 16th, 2006, 7:52 am Post #22 - May 16th, 2006, 7:52 am
    Two items I never order outside the Chesapeake Bay area: crabcakes and soft-shelled crabs. The lack of perceived value (my God, even at ground-zero, a Faidley's crabcake is now, what, $12?) as well as the potential for disappointment (almost 100%) are simply too great.

    The downside of experiencing the very best is that it makes you more reluctant to settle for less as well as exposing you to aspersions of snobbery and "elitism" from friends, relatives, and benighted others. After my first trip to Italy many years ago, I found it difficult to enter an Italian restaurant anywhere else with anything but the attitude of condemned prisoner awaiting a last-minute pardon from the governor of Texas.
    "The fork with two prongs is in use in northern Europe. In England, they’re armed with a steel trident, a fork with three prongs. In France we have a fork with four prongs; it’s the height of civilization." Eugene Briffault (1846)
  • Post #23 - May 16th, 2006, 10:10 am
    Post #23 - May 16th, 2006, 10:10 am Post #23 - May 16th, 2006, 10:10 am
    jlawrence01 wrote:One chicken neck (maybe $0.19/#) or a little chicken fat from the kitchen would get me 3-4 crabs every day.


    Three to four crabs a day! That's hardly an appetizer! :) Man, you needed to spend way more time working the crab trap. ;)
    Last edited by chgoeditor on May 16th, 2006, 3:15 pm, edited 1 time in total.
  • Post #24 - May 16th, 2006, 12:53 pm
    Post #24 - May 16th, 2006, 12:53 pm Post #24 - May 16th, 2006, 12:53 pm
    I dunno, having made several thousand pounds of crabcakes in my life so far, I really do think that a crab cake should be just that - not a pile of fried crab, that is something totally different. A certain level of filler must be attained to stick it together, but not enough to make itself known. I dont see anything wrong with a couple tablespoons of mayo, mustard, a teaspoon of worcestershire, a pinch of old bay, an egg, a squeeze of lemon, and a half cup of bread crumbs for say, two or three LBs of crab. IMO, I'd send back a crabcake not sufficiently cut so as to make it a recipe. i guess the way that i see it is, I can fry a pile of crab myself - i want to taste YOUR crabcake.

    Erik.
  • Post #25 - January 2nd, 2008, 11:07 am
    Post #25 - January 2nd, 2008, 11:07 am Post #25 - January 2nd, 2008, 11:07 am
    Jesper wrote:I recommend the crabcakes at Stoney River in Deerfield and Deer Park. They are made with large pieces of lump crabmeat.

    I ate at the Deer Park location on Monday night, and had the crab cakes. They were wonderful. If you like a crabcake with almost nothing in it except succulent, delicious crab, surrounded by a tasty sauce, this is your place.
  • Post #26 - January 2nd, 2008, 4:43 pm
    Post #26 - January 2nd, 2008, 4:43 pm Post #26 - January 2nd, 2008, 4:43 pm
    SushiGaijin wrote:I dunno, having made several thousand pounds of crabcakes in my life so far, I really do think that a crab cake should be just that - not a pile of fried crab, that is something totally different.


    I totally agree. I don't want to eat a big pile of fried crab, even a pile of good quality fried crab. My uncle has been a cook at Seagull Pier Restaurant just off the Chesapeake Bay Bridge since 1975. He makes a killer crab cake. His recipe for a single cake:

    1 lb lump meat
    Two slices worth of bread crumbs
    3 dashes hot sauces
    1 T mayo
    1 egg
    1 t Old Bay

    He'd roll out the red carpet for any visitors. Ask for "Boy" and tell him his niece Sharon sent you.

    Seagull Pier Restaurant
    2705 Chester Forest Ct
    Virgina Beach, VA 23452-7709
    (757) 464-4641
  • Post #27 - January 2nd, 2008, 11:06 pm
    Post #27 - January 2nd, 2008, 11:06 pm Post #27 - January 2nd, 2008, 11:06 pm
    I'll have to nominate the Ritz Carlton as having the best crab cake in Chicago. Tons of fresh, sweet crab meat with just enough binder to hold it all together. Yum.
  • Post #28 - January 3rd, 2008, 6:42 am
    Post #28 - January 3rd, 2008, 6:42 am Post #28 - January 3rd, 2008, 6:42 am
    Faced with an abundance of left over king crab meat and some several day old cibatta from my tomato soup and grilled cheese dinner last weekend, I raided the fridge and pantry to make a version of happy_stomach's crab cakes. I added a minced Thai pepper to the recipe and fried them up. The crab cakes were so good (although considerably different than "normal" crab cakes due to the use of big chunks of king crab instead of lump blue crab) that my original plans to make crab Rangoon were abandoned in favor of making more crabcakes.
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #29 - January 3rd, 2008, 4:15 pm
    Post #29 - January 3rd, 2008, 4:15 pm Post #29 - January 3rd, 2008, 4:15 pm
    I'll have to nominate the Ritz Carlton as having the best crab cake in Chicago. Tons of fresh, sweet crab meat with just enough binder to hold it all together. Yum.


    The Dining Room at the R-C is closed, isn't it?
  • Post #30 - January 3rd, 2008, 4:18 pm
    Post #30 - January 3rd, 2008, 4:18 pm Post #30 - January 3rd, 2008, 4:18 pm
    Sundevilpeg,

    You are 100% correct. They now only do special event functions. No longer do they offer restaurant service since January 1, 2007.

    Regards,
    Cathy2

    "You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
    Facebook, Twitter, Greater Midwest Foodways, Road Food 2012: Podcast

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