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Ten tips for eating steamed crabs

30 May

© Wpopp on Creative Commons

Eating blue crabs is an integral part of Maryland’s culture. And for my mother it approaches the level of religious event. So I thought I’d pick her brain (pun intended) for some newbie tips.

10.  Everyone has their own method for picking steamed crabs.  Everyone thinks their method is the best.  Let a couple of people show you how to pick and then develop your own best method.

9.  Do not expect to get up from the table with a clean shirt,  so don’t dress to impress when going to a crab feast.

8.  Get your beverages lined up before you sit down ( at least one frosty cold beer is essential)…. once your get your hands all messy you are not going to want to get up to get something to drink.  Depending on the spice factor of your crabs you may need several beverages.  If you are drinking soda an extra glass of ice at the ready is helpful.

7.  A roll of paper towels must be on the table.  You need a knife and a crab mallet.  Some people like a sharp knife, but a dinner knife works great because you can dig the meat out of the claws and eat it right off of the knife.

6.  A bucket or trashcan at your side for the shells helps keep your picking space tidy.  You can dispose of your shells after each crab is picked.

5.  The size of the crabs you get affects the picking experience.  Large crabs are costly but are easier to pick and have more meat so you will need to pick fewer of them.  If you are going for the full blown crab picking experience mediums are cheaper and keep you in your seat stuffing your face with small bits of delectable tastes for an extended period of time.  For some this also extends the drinking experience.

4. Go to the bathroom before you sit down.  As with getting something to drink… you will not want to get up to go once your hands are coated with crab spice.

3.  Restaurant vs. home.  Eating crabs in a restaurant or crab house means you have no stinky mess to clean up and someone else can keep the beverages flowing.  Sometimes that is okay.  But for a full fledged experience you have to eat them at home with family and friends…. and preferably cook them yourself.  At home you do have to deal with the mess afterward, but you can take your time eating…. even take a break, digest a little and come back later.  The atmosphere is more relaxing and if you have small kids it is definitely a plus to do the feasting at home.  And if you have leftovers cold crabs are also a delight.

2. Don’t smash the claws.  Although everyone has their own method it is essential that you not follow the example of people who smash the claws.  Place the blade of your knife of the claw, tap gently with the mallet until a single crack appears in the claw.  You can then snap the claw into two pieces and extract the meat without a lot of little pieces of shell.

1.  Some people provide corn on the cob, burgers and hot dogs or even fried chicken at a crab feast.  These are fast fillers… eat at the risk of dimishing your crab gusto.  And don’t forget that after a crab feast you will need to top things off with something sweet.  Ice cream is a traditional favorite.

Tastes Like Home: Philly Hoagie

16 Mar

Photo by Casey Taylor Patten

The first in an occasional series.

Often one of the biggest causes of homesickness is missing a fave food. After living in DC for over 10 years, my coworker had just about given up on finding a true Philly hoagie in the district … when it happened: She discovered Taylor Gourmet.

The two young owners of the deli, also Philly natives, moved to DC in 2002 and when they couldn’t find a good local hoagie shop, they were inspired to start their own. The hoagies (subs for the uninitiated) are named after places in Philly, for example the Philadelphia Landfill and the Schuylkill Expressway. And the bread arrives daily direct from the city of brotherly love. The meat and cheese is imported from Italy. But don’t ask for mayo or mustard—that’s a no-no on a true hoagie (though any Philadelphian would know that already).

My coworker recommends the classic 9th Street Italian and I like the vegetarian Christina Street but, judging by all the good press they’ve received, you probably can’t go wrong with anything you choose.

Anyone Who’s Anyone: Restaurant Week

21 Dec

Twice a year DC has a Restaurant Week, when gourmet restaurants all around the city offer fixed-priced meals. It’s a chance to try out new restaurants, which are much pricier during the rest of the year. Dates for this winter’s restaurant week have just been announced: January 17-23, 2011. Lunch is a prix-fixe 3-course meal priced at $20.11 and dinner is also a prix-fixe 3-course meal and costs $35.11. Not too shabby!

When should you make reservations for Restaurant Week? NOW! They fill up amazingly quickly even with nearly 200 restaurants participating.

During Restaurant Week it’s important to be prepared for sloooow service. Restaurants will be busy and servers will be annoyed.

Want to know what will be on the menu? I suspect the DC Foodies blog to post menus any time now. It’s especially important for vegetarians (like me) or picky eaters to know what will be on the menu ahead of time.

Foodie finds

20 Oct

Ben's Chili Bowl on U Street is perhaps DC's most well-known eating establishment. Photo by Ben Schumin

I’m not a big foodie, so I’m not going to devote many posts to the subject. I will, however, give you some great resources for finding the best food around the city.

  • I use The Washingtonian magazine’s Restaurant Finder all the time. It lets you search for restaurants by neighborhood, price, cuisine and star ratings, as well as those that are kid-friendly, have brunch, offer delivery and have  a party space. Also check out their Dining Guides and Best Bites Blog.
  • After I narrow down my choices on the Restaurant Finder, I read reviews on Yelp. You can usually get a good sense of whether it’s what you’re looking for.
  • Metrocurean is a great resource for all things food in DC. It started off as a blog but was so popular that it’s now a full-on website.
  • The blog Dining in DC is managed by Lisa Shapiro, who writes for The Examiner.
  • The blog D.C. Foodies is written by a group of locals: they review restaurants and discuss local events.
  • DCist and DC City Blog also have reviews and resources on area dining.
  • Be sure to check out Tom Sietsema’s dining column in The Washington Post, as well as his live Q&A discussions. That way, you’ll be in the know when chatting it up with other foodies.
  • There are loads of farmers markets in and around DC. Eastern Market is definitely the biggest and most well known. You must go. A great Sunday morning is poking around the market and then getting brunch at a nearby restaurant.
  • Got a craving for chocolate? Then look no further than The District Chocoholic blog, which provides reviews and recipes. The photos alone will make you gain 5 pounds.
  • Be on the lookout for news of the next DC Restaurant Week, as it’s a great way to try out the area’s finest restaurants for cheap. Reservations fill up fast, so don’t procrastinate.
  • DC has a large homeless population, so consider giving to the Capital Area Food Bank or volunteering to serve food at a soup kitchen like the well-known Miriam’s.