hungry cat crab fest! (review with pics)
after jumping through a few hoops and much, much anticipation, i finally managed to score a table at the hungry cat's 2nd annual crabfest. all-you-can-eat blue crab done maryland style, steamed in old bay seasoning and vinegar - pretty much impossible to find in town unless you make it yourself.
reservations had booked solid for nearly a month, and i'd started out at #14 on the waiting list. eventually a slot opened up (any time of day i told them) and so i starved myself all morning before heading out for my afternoon table.
i started off with some beer - a from the tap selection before i wised up and ordered the 'national bohemian' canned bear ostensibly from baltimore (but really brewed in milwaukee apparently). still, it went well with the food to follow, which began with an incredible crab soup - a light chowder simply bursting with so much crab meat i no longer knew what to do with myself.
a couple of sides soon followed: a bean salad, perfect in its vinagarette and crumbled bleu cheese goodness, had a slight crunch to it and was served cold. a similarly oily red cabbage italian coleslaw was a bit heavy on the flavor but if anything, was too much of a good thing. oh yea, there was buttered corn as well.
finally, we arrived at the moment we'd been waiting for. maryland hardshells rained down on our newspaper-lined table, caked in enough super-savory old bay spice to make your lips wither. hammer in hand, we got a'crackin. (well, she did, i just sort of destroyed their armor with my teeth, ghetto chinese-style).
overall we had 11 crabs and an assortment of severed claws - there were a few duds in the bunch, where you could tell the crab was not all that fresh, but its understandable since they'd been shipped across the country and you normally have a hard time finding blue crabs here (chinese supermarkets notwithstanding). additionally the crabs were a tad understeamed, but i didn't mind at all. (korean-style crab is served completely raw, and i dig that stuff, for what its worth).
at some point they ran out of their hardshells and started substituing santa barbara rock crabs - which are still pretty good (they're larger and hard to find), but not quite the same if you want the authentic baltimore experience. blue crab meat is much sweeter than either rock or the ubiquitous dungeness, but you really have to dig at it as the crabs are midgets compared to what you can find at say, redondo beach pier.
cap it with a pleasant strawberry shortcake (could have used a bit more sauce), and it was a pleasant, 4-hour afternoon lunch, just like the french do it.
*incidentally, the waiter mentioned that many people have been asking for crabfest to be a more-than-once-a-year event, and that they're considering doing it again perhaps later on in the blue crab season =)
I'm glad you had a chance to try the crabs. We were early on the reservation list but couldn't go till 7:30pm because I had done the Lance Armstrong Cancer 100 mile bicycle ride earlier that day. Needless to say, we had to wait for our table and when we were seated they were out of the crab and a couple of the specialty drinks. We got the soup and the soft shells which were both really good, but they offered us our choice of the Santa Barbara Stones, Lobster rolls, or a Pug Burger. After riding 105miles I opted for the Pug Burger - but asked for it with a fried egg (they said they couldn't do it - that's the second time that I have asked for it within a week and a half) - too bad. It was good as always and the only place that actually delivers the burger cooked rare like I prefer it. Only one of our party opted for the Stones and he liked them. We had fun, but it was a damn shame that we didn't get the crabs. We were all very excited about the crabs and waiting for the evening. Some of our party flew back in early from Austin, Texas just to get back for it. I'm going to have to work on them about the fried egg option (the best way a burger can be served), especially since they offer it at brunch. It's like taunting me. Hopefully, they'll do the fest again later this season.
Apparently I was there to enjoy crabfest at the same time as Rameniac, since he caught a bit of me in one of his photos. It was a fantastic afternoon meal. The cold bean salad was fresh, light and refreshing with a bit of bite from the onion, and the crab soup was one of the best dishes I've had in months. The open face crab sandwich was delightfully decadent and the perfect precursor to the hard-earned bits of crab meat to follow. I'm not too into desserts, but the strawberry shortcake was perfect: not too sweet, with a bit of tartness, slightly warm and the cake was light and wonderful. Finally, I scored an "I got crabs..." t-shirt, and couldn't be happier about it.