Monday, August 11, 2008

Magothy Seafood Crab Deck & Tiki Bar

Freshly steamed blue crabs on the Crab Deck.

After months of on again, off again planning, Kate and I finally hit the road in search of our destiny together. What started as an idea for guinea pig back in December culminated in a crab outing in August.

The weather couldn't have been better for a trip to my favorite place to eat crabs. Magothy Seafood is set right on the banks of the Magothy River in Anne Arundel County. It's not a quick trip from home, but it certainly is worth it. I don't remember exactly how it happened, but I stumbled upon Magothy Seafood several years ago and I've been going ever since.

The setting is decidedly maritime and decidedly lowbrow. Nonetheless, it's a fun scene where boaters pull up along the dock, have some crabs and knock back some beers before heading back out onto the open waterways.

Steamed shrimp with hot and sour sauce and crab seasoning.

It's been a tough year for Maryland crabbing. Because of industrial and agricultural runoff, the Chesapeake Bay is nearly a barren mistress no longer capable of supplying the region from its' once-rich bosom. Most of the crabs that Marylanders eat today come from The Gulf of Mexico or Asia. It's a sad testament to the postwar industrial power that is the United States. Crabs that actually come from the Chesapeake Bay and its' tributaries won't start coming in until September and October when they've had some time to eat and fatten.

Today's crabs are from the Gulf coast. Probably Louisiana. They're decently sized "large" crabs (though these would have barely qualified as "medium" crabs when I was in high school) that are weighty with sweet meat.

Happily, Kate is an eaters kind of woman. Decidedly hip. Decidedly fashionable. She's not afraid to throw down with the boys in drinking or eating, willing to eat just about anything and can cook her ass off on the hot line of a commercial kitchen. Yep, decidedly sexy too.

There's no "I'll just have a salad" with this girl. Not even the "I don't like seafood" that I've been hearing from other girls lately. Remember, this is the girl who wanted to eat Peruvian guinea pig. If there's something interesting to eat, she's ready for it. And in an era where most girls barely know how to microwave a Slim Fast meal in pursuit of the emaciated look hyped by America's Next Top Model, this is a refreshing change of pace.

Fried oysters and battered fries.

The game is on. It's a dozen steamed crabs, one pound of steamed jumbo shrimp, two corn on the cobs, order of hush puppies and a basket of fried oysters and french fries, all washed down with a steady stream of Diet Pepsi (for me) and Budweisers (for Kate).

The food is good. We're hacking, pounding and prying our way through the meal. Everything is cooked just right. The shrimps are steamed right to the point where they're cooked so the shell peels easily away. The hush puppies have that crunchy snap you knew when you were a kid. Even the frozen oysters are fried to a golden crisp. The only problem is the abomination against humanity that is the seasoned and battered french fry. Why anyone would ever deign to blight a potato (even a frozen one) with that grotesque seasoned batter is beyond me. Someday I'm gonna find the food scientist who developed this frozen monstrosity and hunt him down.

The crabs themselves are meaty and sweet. Since I grew up around these parts, the idea of ripping apart and eating a steamed crustacean is second nature. I can dream about it and do it in my sleep. Of course, the uninitiated this seems like barbarianism defined. And perhaps it is - especially for those who prefer not to know where their food came from nor what it looked like. If you're the kind of person who prefers your food shrink wrapped in plastic then perhaps eating crabs will not be for you.

Hush Puppies

As you glance around the room, you'll notice different people ripping apart their crabs in different ways. Some like to start by tearing the top shell off. Some will rip the legs off first. Others, like me, will start with the underplate, then the top shell, tear off the lungs, split the crab in half and then go to town.

Properly steamed crabs are covered in an Old Bay-style of seasoning. Magothy Seafood makes their own and it's pretty good. Salty, peppery and perfect for both the crabs and shrimp. Hardcore enthusiasts insist on steaming their crabs over beer. Strange, coffee-centric guys are experimenting with steaming their crabs over coffee, but I won't say whom...

Sweet corn on the cob

There's something missing if you spend your summer in Maryland and don't spend part of it leisurely sprawled out on a deck eating crabs all day. Eating crabs is not for the famished. You should be hungry, but not starving. Ripping, tearing and beating your crabs takes time. It's not a smorgasbord of eating. That's why you order a bunch of side dishes. A little ripping and tearing, a hush puppy. More tearing and digging, a bit of corn. Still more tearing and just pop a fried oyster in the mouth. It's a great way to enjoy a diversity of what was once the bounty of the Chesapeake Bay.

Considering this method of eating, it's not surprising that it literally takes hours to complete a meal. At first, one is tempted to think that a mere dozen crabs is not enough. But as you slowly graze through the meal and the side dishes, you realize that yes, it is just enough and maybe it's one crab too many for two people - especially when your agenda doesn't stop there.

Magothy Seafood Crab Deck & Tiki Bar
700 Mill Creek Rd
Arnold, MD 21012-1128

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