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June 1, 2008

What goes best with steamed crabs?


Lissa's comment under Welcome to Crab Week raises a couple of important points:

Nice video, although I suspect that the first time I try to pick a crab, it isn't going to look quite like that.

So, what do you drink with crabs if you don't drink alcohol?

First, I forgot to mention in my Welcome that I hope everyone will plan to pick steamed crabs at least once this week, especially if you haven't done it before, and report back on where you went and how you did. Or, if you're an old hand at this, what you think of this year's batch.

Second, good question about the drinks, Lissa. I drink alcohol, but I don't drink beer. (Steamed crabs and a nice vinho verde? I think not.) People who don't drink alcohol usually get pitchers of Coke, but at Mr. Bill's Terrace Inn and probably some other crab houses, you can get pitchers of lemonade, which is my favorite.

(Christopher T. Assaf/Sun photographer)

Posted by Elizabeth Large at 11:02 AM | | Comments (78)


I like garlic bread and margaritas with my crabs!

2008: A Crab Odyssey

The first crab tools.

Now I hide for the rest of the week.

Does anyone have a good (only fair will be okay) recipe for stewed owl?

Does anyone have a good (only fair will be okay) recipe for stewed owl?

But it's so hard to find stewing owls nowadays.

While beer would be my drink of choice with steamed crabs, I've on occasion had a nice, crisp Sauvignon Blanc with no ill effect. Only at home, of course. I couldn't be seen in public drinking wine with crabs.

From Louisiana Cookery (1954)

Fricasseed Owl
Pick, clean, and marinate in vinegar and oil overnight. Parboil, then dust with flour, and fricasse until done, adding water or marinade.


Let's face it, nothing goes better with steamed crabs than beer. For those who don't drink alcohol, there are some tolerable nonalcoholic beers. A well made craft brew would be wasted with crabs anyway.

FH Jim, non-alcoholic beers still have a little bit of alcohol in them. That is a no-go for some of us.

Lemonade sounds good, especially if it isn't too sweet. I bet limeade would be better.

Heathen that I am, tearing my food to shreds amuses me. Especially if it fights back. I just channel my inner Klingon.

Now to find a place to eat them...

Hey VDP, that's a pictoral hate crime.


Mmmm, pig-on-a-stick

I couldn't find an appropriate post for this, so I'll just toss it in here. Sorry.

We parked in the Pratt St. garage for Little Italy and walked past Vellegias on our way to another restaurant last night. It was about 8 on a Saturday night and the place was locked up and pitch black. Normally they have a large lit sign on the roof. We asked around the nieghborhood and everyone said that they closed a couple weeks ago. You would think that would be news or at least blog-worthy. I wonder what happened? I heard it got sold awhile ago.

Yes eatng crabs is messy, vulgar and primal -- and that how we like it. I know some would say Natty Boh is good for crabs, but it gives me a headache. Someone really basic, pre-Lite beer era, like Schaeffer's or Schmidt's. I doubt they make either one now. Schmidt's was a real Philly man's beer. Schaeffer's was the only beer that I recall being marketing specifically to binge drinkers.
Schaeffer's is the one beer to have, when you're having more than one!

Glug glug

Oops I put this on the wrong post. Sorry. You can delete the other one.

I work in Little Italy, so I don't want to spread any more rumors, because they are zooming around like a freakin pack of flying monkeys. Who knows for sure what's going on, definitely something bad. When googled them I found this review site:

You never know how many of these user reviews were written by the owners or ex-staff, but this one sure wasn't by the owners. "Bad service, bad food. Overall, I hate my life now that I've eaten there. Only eat here if you want to be pushed to the edge of suicide."

All in all, regardess of the truthfulness, these reviews are shocking (and highly entetaining. I've never seen such anger and I've seen a lot of that in the restaurant biz. The truth is out there ....

Schaefer's Beer + 1970s + Moog Synthesizer = Magic:

We used to drink a ton of it in the seminary.

♫ national beer,
national beer,
you'll like the taste of national beer.
it's from the land of pleasant living.
we bring you national beer. ♫

Big John, BJ for short,...I heard the new owners are slumlords that decided getting into the restaurant biz would be a swell idea. Through my deep cover sources,the Coffman's (the new owners) have taken what the old owners started, driving the business into the ground, and upped the ETA by going into warp drive.

♫ national beer,
national beer,
you'll like the taste of national beer.
it's from the land of pleasant living.
we bring you national beer. ♫

And while we're at it we're here to say
It's brewed on the shores of the Chesapeak Bay.

I love a cold pitcher of Budweiser beer and a cup of Maryland crab soup with my crabs. Been a longtime family tradition.

My all time favorites are lemonade and an order of onion rings; in the old days it was pepper rings at the original Gunnings.

Hal... I only dredged those words from the depths of my wee mind, but couldn't remember the rest... Do you remember the Chester Peake?

For me, what goes best with steamed crabs is my bacon cheeseburger while I watch you enjoy your crabs.

Iced Tea!!! With lots of fresh lemon and Splenda - I go back to restaurants based on iced tea!

Hal... I only dredged those words from the depths of my wee mind, but couldn't remember the rest... Do you remember the Chester Peake?

I wasn't actually old enough to drink yet when I heard those jingles.

I thought Chester Peake was a character in the ads, maybe an oyster. That was a long time ago, though, and I'm not at all sure.

Does anyone here remember the dog food jingle "Dr. Ross dog food for him the favorite/it's got more meat and it's more flavor ..."? Or was that only in California back in the dark ages of television? I've never found anyone else who remembers it.

I want some of what Dahlink is smoking. :-)

Hal, darling... i wasn't old enough, either. I just heard my daddy singing these tunes. I think that Chester Peake was the skipkack that the brewery owned.

Big John,

THANK YOU for using the garage.

You're welcome FLIRV, but I suspect you are being sarcastic. Whatever. If you really are really a FLIRV what can you tell us? I wait with baited breath. I suspect you are a fraud. Ha ha.

I think Sparky knows more than he is telling. Give it up Sparkster. I think you got the goods! I called Velleggia's (correct spelling, sorry) and no one answered today. If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, it's a closed restaurant. I called one of my parishoners in LI and she said that the health department and Police shut them down AGAIN last night because they were trying to run the place off of a gasoline generator in the street. Mind boggling, but I don't think she would lie to her pastor. God be with the customers of Vellegia's in the future because they will need his Divine help to overcome unrefrigerated crabmeat. Halleleuyah! Can I get an Amen? Can I get an ambulance? Amen!?!??!?!? I talked to some other people and they told me crazy stories that simply don't want to believe. I hope and believe that the City health department will do their diligent best to preserve us from bacterial evil and the scourge of Capitalist greed and keep our bodies and souls from the poison of poison and greed. Can I get an Amen? Thank you. God help us if the Health Department does not. Amen. Seriously, bad crab meat will kill you. Sorry to bring this up on Crab Week, but The Lord works through me as vehicle of knowledge once in a while.

I hate so-called valets. They always steal my change and change my radio station.

TRUE Southern (North Carolina is my personal favorite) Sweet Tea goes well with anything, but the linger of the sugar in the tea really makes the already sweet meat even sweeter.

If you can't find a North Carolinian to make it for you, Chi-Fil-A makes a tolerable/fair substitute.

Hal--not smoking. Just channeling that tiny black and white screen of yesteryear.
I was hoping someone would remember the middle lines. It ends "Dr. Ross dog food is DOGGONE GOOD! Ruff!"

Lemonade sounds good, especially if it isn't too sweet. I bet limeade would be better.
Lissa, you're instincts are good here. I always make a nice pitcher of Limeade when we're having crabs. I think it goes very well. Hubby preferrs a lemon and/or lime soda.

Sorry, Dahlink. I'm pretty sure Dr. Ross dog food was never sold around here. I have al sorts of useless advertising jingles in my head, but not anything like that. (For fun, I can do the into to the old Superman series. The thing is, we're usually already having fun, so I don't need to.)

I took a leap yesterday and purchased live crabs from a truck parked on Woodbourne Road right off of Perring Parkway (next to the carefully hidden swim club).

They were nice size and heavy and vey alive and kicking. We use Old Bay and beer to steam them. I say we, but I am not the one to put them in the big pot - Hubby has to do it. (I can't cut the eyes & gills from soft crabs, either.)

I haven't had crabs from a truck in years - maybe decades. When I was a kid, a amdn in a truck used to drive through the neighborhood calling, "Hee haw for hard crabs" and my mother would buy from him.

I may have mentioned this before, but, in addition to having a breadman, an eggman (who doubled as a phtotgrapher and took our Christmas and pictures every year), and a milkman, we had trucks with fresh fruit and vegtables that came though every other day or so, just during the season, of course.

Rosebud - That's quite a bit of nostalgia! When I was a kid we had a milkman who also brought the eggs. Oh, those were the good ol' days.

re: Chester Peake -- He was the singing crab in the old National Beer ads of the early- to mid-60's. National started the whole "brewed on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay" campaign after Gunther was sold to Hamm's. From the Twin Cities, Hamm's used "from the land of sky blue waters" as its jingle. National, of course, tried to emphasize their local roots. The Hoffberger family owned all of National and a big chunk of Gunther, so they had plenty of time to prepare for what was, essentially, their sale of thier local rival to an out-of-state purchaser.

I'm not a drinker, so anything cold and wet will work with crabs. What really does it for me is to have frozen Girl Scout Thins Mints as a dessert. Now that we are in Florida, it's harder to find Thin Mints than it is to find Maryland-style hard crabs.

I thought Chester Peake was the singing troubador, who had some sort of bird (pelican?) as a "traveling companion." I don't remember singing crabs in Natty Boh commercials.

I did a tiny bit of research this morning, and I think Chester Peake may have actually been a pelican.

Was thinking about what others do with the crab as they pick it. Melted butter is my favorite thing to have with crab; real butter. I know others who dip the crab in vinegar. But are there any other 'additives' that folks use with their steamed crabs?

If you go to YouTube and search for Natty Boh there are some old black and white commercials.

I'm pretty sure Hal, VoR, CiT, has it right: Chester Peake was a pelican.

Survey Time -

When you have steamed crabs, do you:

a) eat as you go

b) save the claws for later

c) pick all the claws

d) save all the picked meat until they won't let you have another crab, and then eat it.

Survey: Eat as I go including the claws. Who could wait?

I think Reverend Ed may need an exorcism or maybe he had some of that bad crab meat.

Ring the bell, close the book, and snuff out the candle. Out you go demons.

Running a big restaurant (spelled Velleggia's, I looked it up) from a gasoline powered generator? I don't think that can be done. I'll bet the neighbors love that noise. Given the price of gas these days, that seems like a bad strategy. I suspect a hoax.

Having to attend a crab feast is like being held prisoner at a carnivorous alien autopsy. I eventually start to imagine I'm in a Klingon prison camp.

So, Crab Prisoner I assume you don't volunteer to clean (i.e. cut off the face of) the wriggling soft crabs whilst others are eating the hard crabs.

Question: What animal assasinated a U.S. president? The crab. It is believed that Warren Harding died from eating bad crab. Of course that was West Coast crab.

This is me running away ...............

Survey, I eat as I go unless I'm with my Dad. He loves the claws, its about the only part of a crab he will eat.

Survey...I eat as I go, too. When I was little, I'd hoard the claws and just eat those (I love the saltiness) but now I mix it up. Slowly. I've been picking crabs for as long as I could walk, but I am still sooo slow.

Another survey question: who eats the mustard?

I don't, but my grandparents used to save it for use as a twisted sort of condiment. Still makes me wrinkle my nose in disgust.

Was thinking about what others do with the crab as they pick it. Melted butter is my favorite thing to have with crab; real butter. I know others who dip the crab in vinegar. But are there any other 'additives' that folks use with their steamed crabs?
Believe it or not, hubby dips his crab meat in the Old Bay that has fallen onto the newspaper table cover.

I frequently have ice cream after crabs since I was not allowed to when I was a child. My mother swore that the Old Bay would curdle the ice cream in my stomach and make me sick.

b) save the claws for later

Another survey question: who eats the mustard?
When I was growing up, my grandmother always spread the mustard on bread and, when she was done eating crabs, she had that bread, which was, hopefully, piled high.

I love the stuff and hubby knows that, when he opens a particularly full one, to give it to me.

Ice cream is GREAT after crabs--the dairy cools the spice heat. My stepdaughter and I used to go to Friendly's for sundaes after picking crabs. She'd get hot fudge and I'd get a "negative"--chocolate ice cream with marshmallow topping...YUM!

Survey: Claws first, then the body, save the big lumps for last.

Beer, beer, beer. Ice cold beer. No oither beverage will do. So for those who don't consume alchohol, the choice should be root beer (Barq's Diet for those watching their calorie).

As for food, in a restaurant usually a cup of MD crab soup and onion rings.

If at home--Fresh corn on the cob with real butter, and rubbed with the crab seasononing from the crab. Some fresh sliced Maryland tomatoes as well, if desired, and also rubbed with some of the seasoning from the crab.

Survey -- (a). For each crab, I eat the claws first, then the body, with big lumps for last. (This may be the same method used by Dottie, but I couldn't tell if Dottie eats all the claws from all her crabs first, or just the claws of the crab in front of her.)

If we have fresh corn on the cob and we're steaming our crabs ourselves, we steam the corn with the crabs.

Sorry hmpstd. To clarify: for each crab I eat claws first, then body, then lumps. I like a nutcracker for claws and a small paring knife for narrow body crevices. I drink beer--weizen, thanks--or iced tea, and ice cream or watermelon for dessert. What a feast! Th-th-th-that's all, Folks!

I thought Chester Peake was the singing troubador, who had some sort of bird (pelican?) as a "traveling companion." I don't remember singing crabs in Natty Boh commercials.

I stand corrected and ashamed. Of course it was the troubadour and the fog-horn voiced pelican. It's the meds....

I give the claws away - too much work. Makes other people nearby happy, though.

I'm not a native Marylander, but I've been here about 15 years or so, and here are the problems I have eating crabs:

I get old bay everywhere... unless I have 1000 napkins, it gets all over my beer glass, nose, cheeks, hair (from brushing it out of my eyes), and usually clothes. I've seen other people come away relatively old bay free, but I'm always covered in it. Is there some trick other than using a zillion napkins?

And have you ever gotten the stuff in your eyes while wearing contact lenses?? burns burns burns!

Wait a mean no Maryland business has used a singing crab in a commercial?

I'm crushed.

Rosebud--loved the trip down memory lane. Was there also a man who took a pony around to take photos of kids? I have a photo of my mother and her three siblings all on one pony.

And what was it about stomachs curdling? My grandmother was terribly afraid that drinking orange juice with anything dairy would result in a "curdled stomach"--!

survey - save the claws and eat at the end - dipping into cider vinegar if it's available. slurp the mustard with great gusto. I'm dissapointed when I get a mustardless crab.
LJ - I've gotten Old Bay in my eyes too and in places I won't mention here to keep this rated "G"... :)

Claws first then the rest of the crab, mustard for sure especially in the shell corners. Fresh slices of Maryland tomatoes topped with the same spices and for dessert ice cold

In my expert opinion from Kentucky, having lived in the Baltimore area for the 30+ year glory days of the Chesapeake harvest from the late 50’s to the early 90’s, this is the only way to go!

Body first, especially, if you are eating in large groups. Convince others to save the claws to the finish because the body meat tastes better when warm. Accumulate a large pile of claws so others are competing with you for largest pile. (Some people hate to crack claws)

During the experience, have a frigid supply of Nat Bo, Nat Premium, (during the classic days), or now Yuengling Lager to move the fest along. Make sure there are piles of Utz chips available to cleanse the palate.

I find that after everyone is satiated, hopefully, there are very many claws left over that no one wants and I can bring them back to Kentucky to savor at a leisurely mid-afternoon lunch for the next week.

As for as the Chester Peake, it was a skipjack owned by the National Brewing Co. Someware, I have pic of it. Chuck Thompson broadcast from it in the summers in the 70’s, “from the shores of the Chesapeake Bay”.

I believe I saw, along time ago, a pic in the Sun of the Chester Peake run-up in a bay creek to be forgotten.

Gotta be beer, and more specifically, light beer for me w/crabs (ducking).

I get really thirsty from the salt and Old Bay. Alternating ice water and light beer is the only way to go.

One time I was on a "diet" and drank white wine and it was so sad.

btw, chocolate ice cream after crabs. The perfect complement.

Do other people save crab leftovers, like LEC? Sounds like a formula for food poisoning to me. I put steamed crabs in the same category as sushi--take no prisoners, allow no leftovers.

Do other people save crab leftovers, like LEC? Sounds like a formula for food poisoning to me.

Leftover crabs keep just fine in the fridge. I fail to see why that would be a food poisoning danger.

Dahlink -- given the price of crabs these days, I wouldn't want to discard any leftovers, so long as they get refrigerated within a reasonable time. You can pick a cold crab and use the meat in an omelet, pasta, crab cake, soup, or other recipe of your choice. Also, you can reheat a crab quite nicely in the microwave (60 seconds).

Dahlink, to put it another is saving leftover steamed crabs different (from a safety standpoint) from buying a pound of fresh crabmeat?

Hal VoR, Your Slogan here--excellent point! But perhaps a moot point for many of us weighing whether to buy gas or groceries this week. hmpstd, I have made crab soup the day after a crab feast and lived to tell the tale.

But perhaps a moot point for many of us weighing whether to buy gas or groceries this week

Hey, if you stretched to buy crabs, you certainly don't want to waste any!

Years ago, one of my friends said, her mother in law would give away all the crab soup in the house, including what was in the freezer if there was to be an electrical storm. The electricity was suppossed to somehow ruin the soup in some way I never did quite understand. Was this a wide-spread belief in B'more or just one woman's delusions? This thread about left-overs got me thinking about it!

I suspect that the concern for leftover steamed crabs has more to do with storage than the crab. Steamed crabs picked-up before noon, and kept in the shade until eating ends around 8 may not be the best candidates for keeping much beyond the next day. Kept refrigerated those same crabs would be akin to buying a pound of fresh crabmeat.

Re leftovers--I remember going to an office party years ago that included crab picking. The boss mused that putting the crab detritus in someone's mailbox would be an excellent prank. We were so glad when he left for another job in California!

Leftovers - hubby will continue picking and I will make crab cakes (the real thing!) and crab soup the next day.

Crab soup - my grandmother also took all the crab soup out of the frig & freezer and distrubuted it to eat immediately if there was to be a electrical storm. It must be a Baltimore thing from a few generations ago. Like the curdled stomach thing.

I was just pondering this myself-- what to wash down the crabs with now that I don't drink alcohol. I was thinking that ginger ale might do the trick, but limeaide sounds like the perfect pairing!

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About this blog
Richard Gorelick was appointed The Baltimore Sun's restaurant critic in September 2010. Before joining the paper staff fulltime, he contributed freelance criticism and features articles about food to area and regional publications. Along the way, he dispatched for short-distance trucking companies, shilled for cultural non-profits, and assisted in cognitive neurology research – never the subject, always the control.

He takes restaurants seriously but not himself, and his favorite restaurant is the one you love, too.

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