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Truth in Menus

If you read "Maryland Crab Cakes", would you expect Maryland crab or Maryland style (if there is such a thing)? Who enforces truth in menus? If the menu reads Maryland Crab Cakes, I believe I should be paying for Maryland crab not South America Crab...

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  1. well French Onion Soup is clearly not French unless you are in France!! And an English tea is only English in England. Lancashire Hot Pot, Cornish Pasties, Tex-Mex, Dundee Cake, etc etc. I think it is meant to be style.

    9 Replies
    1. re: smartie

      French Onion Soup derived its name because the French created in the 17th century and it is part of French cooking technique (name earned). English tea is actually named for the popular ritual of English High Tea (name earned). But as far as I know Maryland did not create crab cakes nor does it have a style of cuisine all of its own.

      1. re: CIAinDC

        Actually, "high tea" is an English working-man's supper consisting of sausage, pie etc served at around 5 pm. When Americans say "High Tea" and mean some high-falutin' pretentious ritual of fancy finger sandwiches and silver service, that is actually called "Low Tea". Because it's served at a lower hour such as at 2 pm.

        To me, "Maryland Crabcakes" to me means in the style that is commonly made in the mid-Atlantic region. If I see a sign that says "Kosher Deli" I'd never assume they strictly follow Kosher laws; rather I'd take it to mean they serve things loosely based on that style and tradition.

        But if a place says "organic" or "local" when it's not or calls it snapper when it's rockfish, that to me is fraud. Such places should be exposed to the public and fined. It's fraud.

        1. re: Leonardo

          I live in NY and actually, I think if it says "Kosher Deli" it really is Kosher. At least around me that's true. Maybe elsewhere in the country...

          1. re: DGresh

            hmm i made much the same comment and it got removed.. i have no clue why.. in it i mentioned why despite my jewish raising i am not kosher - how can anyone find a truthful anecdote about myself as offensive?

            anyhow w/out going back into anything as offensive as my own life
            i cannot agree about kosher. to people who are kosher, or halal, or anything of that sort, it is very important, so if you call your place kosher it had better be. if you are not call yourself a jewish deli, or a NY deli, or even (though i find it a very odd phrase) kosher style

            1. re: thew

              Oh yes it's important! The bakery I run is certified Kosher with rabbinical supervision, but we bake on Saturdays. One of the local rabbi's gives us a hard time about this issue, so we have removed our Kosher Certificate and now tell customers that while we use all Kosher ingredients, we are a "Jewish-Style" bakery. Whatever that means, as you said.

              1. re: Catskillgirl

                i don't think baking on saturday "dekoshers" your food. one of the nice things about judaism is the ability to compartmentalize your beliefs and actions w/out excommunication.

                1. re: thew

                  There are many degrees of Kosher-ness (hey, if you can say "dekosher" I can say "kosher-ness"). I am careful to let people know that if it is an issue for them, they would be better served at another bakery. Lots of our customers like the idea of the products being kosher, but it doesn't bother them that we have cheese products for sale along with the parve stuff. Around the holidays (Rosh Hoshanna is HUGE here) it does become sticky - I would never mislead someone to whom being kosher or not really matters.

              2. re: thew

                On the other hand, if a place says "Kosher Deli" and doesn't have a certificate displayed saying who the oversight is from, do you really expect that place to be kosher?

                1. re: tmso

                  no, but it's moronic to say "kosher deli" and then serve a reuben with swiss and corned beef. just call it as thew mentioned.

      2. The only one that bothers jfood is "homemade".

        The rest are just adjectives to give a description, not a geographic location of the kitchen or the ingredients

        1. I may be inclined to think the crab is from Maryland as well. I mean-why mention Maryland at all unless the crab is from there? Isn't that region known for crab that is sweet, superior and wonderful in a cake form? They need to just call them crab cakes. Then again I'm thinking I'm not so highly refined (or crab cake experienced) that I would detect the differences between the two. But I would know what I liked and if I liked the non-Maryland Maryland Crab Cakes, I would be ok with that. Though I am fairly certain the other night that I ordered sole and was given salmon (over pasta). Pink but not oily. Blah. I just re-read what I typed and I SWEAR I've only had 1 glass of wine.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Boccone Dolce

            To me, it's like ordering Kobe beef but getting Grade A. Or ordering organic whatever and not getting it. Although I would eat (let's say) chicken if it weren't organic, if the menu said it was I would understand why I was paying extra. Now if I am paying extra and I don't get organic, then I think I've been cheated.

          2. I get the French onion comparison, but I don't think it applies in this case as i'm not sure that Maryland Crab Cakes differ from Crab Cakes other than the crab used. French onion soup means you'll be getting a big glob of cheese and bread on top of the onion soup, so calling it onion soup wouldn't do it justice.

            1. "Truth in Menus" and "Crab" goes much further with me. Whenever I see crab listed as the main ingredient, I ask the wait person "Is it crab or is it imitation krab" Invariably they get a quizzical look on their faces and say they have to find out. Twice now I've been told something was real crab and ordered it. When it arrived it was obviously imitation "krab". In one instance the waitress said, "But the kitchen told me it was real crab!" to which I replied, "then the kitchen obviously lied to you!" Please, please, all you working cooks and chefs out there, when asked this question by a patron, TELL THE TRUTH!

              3 Replies
              1. re: morwen

                You're assuming they know the difference. What's the line?: "never ascribe to malice that which can be explained by ignorance" or some such thing?

                1. re: ccbweb

                  If a chef or a professional cook can't tell the difference between a package of imitation krab and a container of real crab, then I have serious doubts about their cooking abilities not to mention their reading skills and eyesight. Imitation krab does not taste like real crab. Imitation krab looks nothing like the real thing, shredded or in pieces. Imitation krab is required to be labeled as imitation. If someone asks if it's real crab when what they're serving is imitation and they reply yes it is, that not only is fraud but an insult to the customer when a plate of processed, flavored, reshaped whitefish arrives. Is that malicious? Maybe not, but it surely implies contempt for the customer and intent to defraud. I will not pay crab prices for flavored, reshaped whitefish.

                  1. re: morwen

                    I agree with you. Entirely. I also honestly think you're giving the majority of folks too much credit. I really do think that there are a fair number of folks working in kitchen who don't actually know the difference despite the complete truth of what you point out.

                    The end result is the same, clearly: bad food they're attempting to sell as good product.

              2. And then there was the guy vacationing in the Keys that ordered dolphin and was miffed when he found out it was just a fish. No "Flipper" for you!

                4 Replies
                1. re: grampart

                  I will never live down the horrified look I gave my sister and the waiter when sis ordered a dolphin sandwich on Key Biscayne. I was all of 10 at the time and can still remember being just aghast at the thought of eating dolphin!

                  1. re: Catskillgirl

                    "Dolphin" or Mahi Mahi, is usually what is served at eateries. Although often called "dolphin" it is really a dolphinfish. It is unrelated to the other dolphins. Dolphins are mammals and their tails are horizontal, they are warm blooded, intelligent and breathe air. Mahi Mahi is a cold blooded fish and has a vertical tail. Some people do eat the mammal dolphin, but it's not what is commonly served at restaurants. At least not in the U.S.

                    1. re: scuzzo

                      Thank you, my sis informed me of the difference before I had to leave the table! I had just never heard of the fish and assumed that it was the mammal she was ordering. As I said, I was 10 years old and not too bright. *G* But I did not know that Mahi Mahi is dolphinfish! That's interesting. I've never tried it, but thought they were two different fishes.

                      1. re: Catskillgirl

                        It is also commonly known as Dorado (dorado maverikos) in some pats of the world.

                2. On a previous post on this board on April 9th: 'Are You Getting What You Ordered' (topic #507638), I also highlighted some of the sheer fraud that is going on in the business...Being vocal about it is perhaps one of the best deterrents.

                  1. Unless it specifically says its made from Maryland or Chesapeake blue crabs, I assume it means "Maryland" the way "New England Clam Chowder" means "New England" - a style, not provenance.

                    There's not nearly enough Maryland blue crab to go around, so if it's not expensive when away from the area, do not assume it's from there.

                    17 Replies
                    1. re: Karl S

                      This is also a good rule when ordering a grouper sandwich in Florida. If the said sandwich is $8.99 you can rest assured it's either not fresh Fla grouper and is either a frozen grouper species from Asia or an unknown species lurking as an imposter.

                      1. re: Karl S

                        Ahhhhhh I am beginning to change my mind Karl. I got the New England thing as 'style' - i.e. New England vs. Manhattan.
                        I'm just not familiar with crabcake styles to think of others. All that comes to mind are the crabbycakes from Spongebob Squarepants cartoons.

                        1. re: Karl S

                          So what is "Maryland" style? What are the ingredients exclusive to this style and no other? Or maybe the cooking technique? What is the difference between "Maryland Crab Cakes" and plain old crab cakes?

                          1. re: CIAinDC

                            In my experience, some bread crumbs, a bit of mayonnaise, Old Bay Seasoning (an absolutely required ingredient), Worcestershire sauce and lump crab meat.

                            Saute in a pan with some butter until golden on both sides and warmed through. Can be eaten as a sandwich or on its own.

                            I'm sure there are other slight variations, but that's what I've always had around the Chesapeake Bay and on the Delaware Shore.

                            1. re: ccbweb

                              I am sure that is a standard crab cake around the US. I have had it like that in Florida, in NY, in Cali, in.... in... in... The variation depends on the maker not the region.

                              1. re: CIAinDC

                                a quick google search shows that Old Bay is a must. Not so common out here on the west coast, but still pretty available if you look. I have certainly had crab cakes without Old Bay. Other camps claim Maryland carb cakes are spicier than crab cakes, or must have peppers and onions, but that seems to be open to debate. Sort of a mine is, yours isn't, mentality. Reminds me a lot of the cajun/creole debate here not long ago.

                                The fact that Maryland style has reached Cali, NY Fla, doesn't really negate the style, just show the popularity.

                                1. re: lgphil

                                  I don't believe there is a Maryland style. In culinary school, they teach you how to make crab cakes (which is basically the same recipe as above) but there is not mention on Maryland anything. The is no other way to make crab crabs... (binder, seasoning, maybe some veg, and in the oven or pan-fry).

                                  1. re: CIAinDC

                                    Actually, there are, just like chowders. The binders vary and the seasonings most definitely vary. I've had Chinese crab cakes, Japanese crab cakes, Mexican crab cakes, et cet. Maryland.

                                    1. re: CIAinDC

                                      Jfood would disagree. Just because they did not teach it in culinary school, does not mean it does not exist. Lots af things never taught to jfood in his education that do exist in the real world.

                                      As you continue on your post CIA (hopefully this is hyde park not langely) career, you will find many things that were not taught in your short stay on route 9. Big world of learning out there. Don't stop learning after school.

                                      1. re: jfood

                                        That's assuming I just graduated. Still no one has answer what seasoning, binder, etc. is of the Maryland style...

                                        1. re: CIAinDC

                                          Here are 85,600 hits on google for "maryland crab cake recipe".


                                          Knock yourself out

                                          1. re: jfood


                                            3rd paragraph...“Maryland crab cakes mean Maryland crabs.”

                                            1. re: CIAinDC

                                              Jfood always likes a discussion where the other side gives him ample data. If you continue reading your cited article:

                                              1 - Some Marylanders insist that a Maryland crab cake is any crab cake that’s seasoned with Old Bay, a Maryland made concoction of celery salt, pepper, mustard, pimento, cloves, and more.
                                              2 - Some say the secret is to use only backfin crab meat.
                                              3 - Still others argue, it’s any crab cake eaten in the state of Maryland.
                                              4 - Some folks say that traditional Maryland crab cakes are spicier than most.
                                              5 - Others insist that they’re made with green peppers and onion.
                                              6 - “Even chefs don’t agree on what makes a Maryland crab cake
                                              7 - Actually Marylanders can all agree on one point: Maryland crab cakes must be made with blue crabs, scientifically known as Callinectes Sapidus

                                              BTW - as you know your cite is a quote from Barbara O’Banon of the National Marine Fisheries Service. OMG - she works for a government agency empowered to watch for sustainability in fish. Is she from MD, has she ever set foot in a kitchen, a single government GS-1 as a Perry Mason moment, jfood does not think so.

                                          2. re: CIAinDC

                                            Uh, yes, that has mostly been answered here. The key seasoning is Old Bay Seasoning and Worcestershire sauce. The binder is mayonnaise (in some recipes supplemented with egg for a firmer texture) and cracker/bread crumbs. Et cet.

                                            If I encountered a crab cake (as I have) with cilantro and lime juice and bits of hot peppers, it would not be a Maryland crab cake. If I encountered a crab cake with ginger, scallion, soy sauce and panko (as I have), it would not be a Maryland crab cake. Et cet.

                                            1. re: CIAinDC

                                              Um, the quick hitter "recipe" I posted above is, I believe, the basic "Maryland Style." Old Bay Seasoning and Worchestershire Sauce are the major seasoning components, plain bread crumbs and mayonnaise serve as the binder.

                                  2. re: CIAinDC

                                    even in Maryland people don't say the same thing about what it is suppose to be.
                                    California roll if they dont call it California is nothing but that krab and not really California but everybody calls it that.

                                  3. re: Karl S

                                    Some of that crab comes from Texas and I assume the rest of the Gulf Coast. It's difficult to find crab in Houston restaurants and if you want blue crab you must buy it at the coast or in local Asian markets, or simply catch it yourself. Nothing finer than fresh caught blue crab, other than fresh speckled trout, of course.

                                  4. Most of the time when a menu reads Maryland jumbo lump crab, you're getting pasteurized Indonesian blue swimmer crab. Sadly, this is true in Maryland, as well. So it's more of a style, but the menu should read differently.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: almansa

                                      When it comes to seafood, there is simply not enough supply of many famous items to satisfy demand, certainly at the expected price point. Trying tripling the price point for crabcakes to get real fresh blue crab from Maryland flown up the day before to whereever....

                                      Generally in life, if it looks too good to be true, it probably is.

                                    2. When was the last time the thing on your plate resembled the pretty picture on the menu?

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: Veggo

                                        just a week ago Saturday actually, went to Tank Noodle in Chicago for some Vietnamese food. The items that came out:

                                        1) Pho with sliced beef
                                        2) a dish with a pork chop, grilled"lobster tail", vietnamese sausage, and a sunnyside egg over rice
                                        3) grilled beef and shrimp over vermicelli noodles
                                        4) pork fried rice

                                        looked just like the pics on the menu, and tasted great. However the "lobster" was actually a large prawn. Either way the dish was still great for $12.00

                                        I would have to agree that many times what the item looks like on the menu does not look like what you get served at the lower quality places.

                                      2. Man, you guys are so confused about Maryland crab cakes, I don't know how you can deal with German Chocolate Cake.

                                        How about London Broil, made from British beef?

                                        The great Irish soda bread importation occurring annually?

                                        Italian water ice? Do they freeze it before or after it crosses the Atlantic?

                                        Drink Canada Dry? be glad to, if I liked either Seagrams or Molsons.

                                        I had a chicken cordon bleu the other day and if that ever won a ribbon , I don't know where.

                                        Of course, the German Chocolate cake is the real trick.

                                        5 Replies
                                        1. re: FrankJBN

                                          Especially since it wasn't actually German chocolate to begin with. Mind bending, eh?

                                          1. re: ccbweb

                                            I'm all ears...I'd love to know more...


                                            1. re: maria lorraine

                                              The cake now known as German Chocolate cake is from a recipe that used Baker's brand German's Sweet Chocolate. Their chocolate was formulated by an employee in the mid 19th century whose name was Samuel German; thus, "German's Sweet Chocolate." Never had anything to do with Germany.

                                              Baker's still makes and sell's "German's Sweet Chocolate."

                                              1. re: ccbweb

                                                And Baker was the name of a man. It didn't refer to the occupation.

                                                Thanks for the post...


                                          2. re: FrankJBN

                                            LOL! I've got a great visual of little loaves of bread bravely setting off to sea... Thank you. You made my day. And I was interested to read the origin of German Chocolate cake. Anything to do with chocolate is interesting reading!