The Verdict

So I have made it back from my first boating trip in Chesapeake Bay, and our skipper declared me a sailor when we hit shore because I managed not to get seasick, despite some potentially noxious bobbing as we sped home to avoid impending bad weather.

Beyond this welcome new appellation, I made several great discoveries along the way. Like a more authentic version of the pulled pork I tried my hand at in my own kitchen not so long ago, and which was good, but nothing like what we had for lunch on the first day. We had stopped to pick up the sandwiches before setting off, and 15 or 20 minutes from harbour, found a quiet little cove where we dropped anchor, cracked open some cold Coronas, and feasted on pulled pork and leftover Famous Dave’s (cole)slaw. Given my greater interest in the meat than a tired soggy bun, I skipped the bread and focussed on the pork, which was incredibly tender – mostly a mass of meat fibres in a delicious barbecue sauce, though I also got lucky and found a nice chunky piece which made my fellow sailors jealous.

That evening we docked in Annapolis (in so-called Ego Alley: our boat was the smallest, but we were fabulous anyway) and started our quest to find the best crabcakes in the area. We started with a pretty measly (size-wise) $13 cake from Phillips, which was in fact damn fine because it was basically a mouthful of pure, chunky crabmeat. In that night’s competition was a crab cake sandwich from a dodgy looking Chinese/Japanese joint called the Ninja Cafe (fairness and economic principles dictated that the Ninja be given an equal chance to compete in Chesapeake tradition). This was more tasty in terms of spicing (perhaps the famous Old Bay seasoning? My palate is still too untrained to separate it from the rest), though in texture and size more like a fish burger pattie. It was good, but we had to give Phillips the medal.

For dessert that night I had ice-cream in the flavour of Moose Tracks (vanilla, chocolate swirls, peanut butter cups, duh!).

Lunch the next day hailed from an Annapolis food market, which had a $9.95 for 5 baby crabcakes special. These were somewhere in between Phillips and the Ninja, that is, still plenty of chunky meat, but obviously more filler (breadcrumbs, presumably). They did come with a very good dipping mayonnaise, which my fellow sailors declared definitely spiced with Old Bay.

The cake-cup finally went to the Edgewater restaurant, where we couldn’t have lunch before we set off because they were closed, but which we found on our return. Skipper had waxed lyrical about their lunch special, which incudes a crabcake, fries, free salad and bread for a fine price of $9.95. This cake was kind of monstrous (think partly squashed tennis ball), but it had a righteous golden crust, and the inside was a lovely mass of meat with little filler (the fries weren’t worth writing about). While the Phillips number was good in terms of “purity” of meat, I guess I’d rather eat pure crab if it came to that. When I think cake, crust is paramount, and I’ll be looking forward to reproducing some version of the Edgewater special – sans sides, and in ping pong ball size, naturally – when I crank up our deep fryer on our return. The Old Bay spice is in the bag.

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