Whose crabs are better?
First, let me state that both Blue and Dungeness crabs are worthwhile. These are not ghetto crabs, like I once ate in St. Petersburg outside a Rays' game until the fact that their flesh was black and oozing bothered me.
Blue and Dungeness are, along with Florida's stone crabs, the finest crabs America's Lower 48 have to offer. They're as good as the best crabs anywhere in the world, including zuwai gani in Hokkaido and king crabs in Alaska. Europe has world-class oysters, but it doesn't have crabs this good.
Trash talking the other coast's crabs is like trash talking the other team's Harbaugh. There's more respect than disdain. This should make the annual Super Bowl bet between mayors fairly evenly matched; it's not like a bushel of crabs up against 5-way chili, cheese curds, or a sandwich with fries and coleslaw in it. I doubt that you'll find a crab lover in either Baltimore or San Francisco who wouldn't totally enjoy a meal of the other side's crab.
But there is one area where this match is one-sided, and that's the crab cake. The easy victor is surprising.
Baltimore has always been a blue-collar town. San Francisco has always been ambitious, often to the point of arrogance. SF is the city that fancies itself the center of the culinary world, whereas B-more is a place where the best crab meals are in bars with no wine list and a waitress who calls you "hon."
So if you were to name a city that tries to stretch crabmeat, to make a single crab serve dozens of patrons, you might guess the city of "The Corner" and "The Wire" and "Homicide: Life on the Streets." A city where getting by rather than getting angel investors has been the order of the day.
But you'd be wrong.
|These are crab cakes (from Roadfood.com)|
San Francisco does not understand the crab cake. The pathetic patties of breading with wisps of Dungeness served here are an affront to the crustacean. They're often served with sauce in an attempt to give them the flavor they lack. Why not just have a piece of deep-fried toast and some remoulade, and get a crab claw on the side? That would be tastier.
|This is not a real crab cake. It's a San Francisco Style crab cake|
When I first moved to San Francisco, I quickly loved the softshell crabs. I don't know where they source them, and why they're a year-round product here even though crabs only molt during a very short, specific time (in Baltimore, soft shell crab season is less than a month long). But they're pretty good. I learned to love Dungeness crab and I eat plenty of it.
But crab cakes? At least some restaurant workers know what a disgrace they are here. Usually if a server recommends crab cakes to me, I'll just say, "I'm from Baltimore." Those who haven't been there will keep talking. Those who have will just say, "The salmon is good."