Thursday, September 22, 2011

Wine and Crab Cakes: Amy Brandwein from Casa Nonna and Chris Clime from PassionFish win the 6th Annual Crab Cake Competition in Washington DC, USA

Pictures: The Winners - Amy Brandwein from Casa Nonna and Chris Clime from PassionFish

A crab cake is an American dish that looks like a Hamburger but is composed of crab meat and various other ingredients, such as bread crumbs, milk, mayonnaise, eggs, yellow onions, and seasonings. Crab cakes are traditionally associated with the area surrounding the Chesapeake Bay, in particular the State of Maryland. I participated in the sixth annual “I Love Crab Cakes!” competition in Washington DC.

I have written about Maryland crabs and wine here.

Maryland – with the large Cheasapeak Bay – is indeed blessed with Blue Crabs which came in different forms, when you eat them at a Crab Shack. In addition, Maryland boast some interesting wineries that produce wine that go very well with Maryland Blue Crab dishes.

Picture: Map of Maryland

The Blue Crab

The blue crab is a crustacean found in the waters of the western Atlantic Ocean, the Pacific Coast of Central America and the Gulf of Mexico. Male and female blue crabs can be distinguished by their "aprons", or their abdomens. Male crabs have a long, narrow apron, while mature female crabs have a wide, rounded one.

Chesapeake Bay Blue Crabs

The Chesapeake Bay, located mainly in Maryland, is famous for its blue crabs. There are four ways to eat Chesapeake Bay Blue Crabs:

Steamed Hard Shell Crabs: Blue crabs are most often eaten in the hard shell. Steaming them in large pots with water, vinegar and seasoning is the norm on the East coast. The cooked crabs are cracked by hand, but most diners will use a small knife to pry the shell apart and cut the unwanted parts from the crab. The meat is pulled out and eaten directly.

Picture: Steamed Hard Shell Crabs

Soft Shell Crabs: The Chesapeake Bay is famous for its soft-shell blue crabs. As crabs grow larger, their shells cannot expand, so they molt the exteriors and have a soft covering for a matter of days when they are vulnerable and considered usable. Crabs caught just after molting are prepared as soft shell crabs: first cutting out the gills, face, and guts; the crab is then battered in flour, egg, and seasoning, then fried in oil until crispy. The entire crab is consumed, legs and all.

Picture: Soft Shell Crab

Maryland Crab Soup: This is a kind of an Italian Minestrone with crab meat.

Picture: Maryland Crab Soup

Crab Cake: Basically a Hamburger made with crab meat.

6th Annual “I Love Crab Cakes” Competion

The American Institute of Wine & Food (AIWF) National Capital Area Chapter and Phillips Seafood hosted the sixth annual “I Love Crab Cakes!” competition and fundraiser, named in honor of Karen Cathey, on Monday, September 12, 2011.

Picture: The Crowd at Phillips Seafood

The Winner: Amy Brandwein, Casa Nonna

Located south of Dupont Circle, Casa Nonna is features rustic Italian fare, from salumi, cheese and antipasti platters, to house-made pastas and wood-fired pizzas.

Picture: Amy Brandwein

Executive Chef Amy Brandwein began her culinary career in 2000 as pastry assistant to James Beard Award-winning Chef Roberto Donna at his landmark Piedmontese Italian restaurant, Galileo. She and Chef Donna opened Bebo Trattoria in Arlington, Virginia, in 2006, where she held the position of Chef de Cuisine.

The Winner - Popular Choice: Chris Clime, PassionFish

PassionFish is a new restaurant located in the Reston Town Center, 40 minutes from downtown Washington, DC. The cuisine of PassionFish represents the bounty of the world’s oceans, lakes, seas, and waterways reflecting the flavors and natural resources of the Mediterranean, Europe, Asia, and the Americas. The dishes feature a vast array of seasonal fresh seafood, distinctive flavors, and simply elegant presentations.

Picture: Chris Clime

Chris Clime is the Executive Chef at PassionFish, the newest sister restaurant of the popular DC Coast, TenPenh, Ceiba, and Acadiana restaurants in Washington DC. He is a native of Virginia.

Other Participants

Chris Kenworthy, Todd Gray’s Watershed:

Nate Auchter, Salt & Pepper:

Ann Marie James, Executive Chef from Wagshal’s and Spring Valley Catering:

Nicolas Flores, Hank’s Oyster Bar:

Richard Hetzler, Mitsitam Native Foods Café:

Shannon Overmiller, The Majestic:

Maryland Wines?

Boordy Vineyards is Maryland’s oldest winery, established in 1945. Since then, the Maryland wine industry has grown rapidly and now consists of more than 40 wineries. Still, Maryland is a very small wine producer, with only about 100 hectares of vineyard area. I had hoped to accompany my crab cakes with Maryland wine, but was disappointed. The wines that were served were not from Maryland; they were OK, but not more.

Crab Shacks in the Washington Area

Here are my favorites in or close to the Washington DC area are for crab cakes:

Jimmy Cantler's: Be prepared for long waits on the weekends, but the tranquil riverside setting in Annapolis is worth it. Cantler's is about 45 minutes from DC. 458 Forest Beach Rd., Annapolis.

Tim’s Rivershore Restaurant and Crabhouse: a favorite place for Harley riders and RocknRoll lovers on the shores of the Potomac, about an hour south of Washington DC. 1510 Cherryhill Road, Dumfries

Maine Avenue Seafood Market: You can pick up live crabs to steam at home or buy some already steamed at the Washington DC seafood market on Maine Avenue at the Potomac River. It is a fascinating place. 1100 Maine Ave.

Other places, which I have not yet checked out but which have been recommended to me: Best places for Maryland Jumbo Lump crab cakes: (very close to DC) Jerry's Seafood in Lanham-Seabrook, (a little bit farther) G&M in Linthicum, and (well worth the drive and very close to the outlets) Harris's Crab House in Grasonville, overlooking the Kent Narrows.

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