Sometimes I just get lucky. When heading to a new destination, I do very little research. I just like to let things unfold. I plan to explore Annapolis and the Chesapeake Bay area but I don’t realize until I get here that this weekend is the Maryland Seafood Festival.
The festival is being held in Sandy Point State Park. I see there are some beaches and a lighthouse there. I arrive well before the festival start time to check these out and hopefully get a jump on an approaching rainstorm.
Sandy Point Lighthouse is not the typical lighthouse that I am expecting to see. It is a brick three-story lighthouse on a caisson foundation. It was erected in 1883 and lies about 1/2 mile off Sandy Point, north of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. I am amazed that this thing has survived, exposed to the elements, for 135 years.
The beaches are also much different than I am accustomed to. Instead of a powdery white sand like many of the gulf beaches, the sand is brown and courser. I really like the color differentiation especially in contrast to the numerous white gulls that flock to the beach.
The Main Event
After several trips up and down the beach its time to check out the festival. I’ve been smelling the food for over an hour. I am ready for some official Maryland crab cakes. Well, there is no shortage of vendors selling them. I opt for the Award Winning Crab Cakes, what award I do not know. In all honesty, I picked them because they had the shortest line.
For “carnival” food, these things aren’t cheap. A single 5 oz crab cake and a cup of seafood bisque are nearly $20. But oh my, these ain’t your momma’s crab cakes. Unless your momma is from Maryland. Free from very little, if any, filler the cake is a rich fork full of pure crab and seasoning.
I certainly enjoy this 10 o’clock appetizer but it just whetted my appetite. I peruse around the vendor booths. There are many arts, crafts, and local food items to choose from. There are no shortages of OLD BAY Merchandise. T-shirts, hats, shoes, scarfs, aprons, you name it has an OLD BAY logo on it.
Marylanders love their OLD BAY. It is like marijuana to the Coloradians, bourbon to Kentuckians, and taxes to the Californians. It goes with everything.
I particularly admire Todd and his Dirt Seasoning. He dares take on the all mighty Old Bay with his special blend of basil, thyme, oregano, and other spices. I pick up a couple of bottles because I like his entrepreneurial spirit. And it makes a darn good dip when mixed with sour cream.
The Oompah Udderific cheese spread lady, and her cheeses are a bit of a special treat too.
When talking with the cheese lady I get a bit of shock when she mentions her mom is from Lexington, KY. “Big Tit Liz was her name!” she proclaims. “She modeled rubber bathing suits for the Goodyear company”, she adds. I guess I had a perplexed look as she repeats herself a little louder while jostling her, uh, well, udders for added effect. I don’t think she made that up, but it was a hell of a story and I leave with 3 tubs of her cheese. The gal knows how to sell cheese!
Still a bit hungry, I think I’ll go sample some of the Maryland Crab Soup cookoff entries. Or maybe not, the line out of that tent is a mile long. The aroma wafting out from the tent is tempting but I just don’t have the patience for that.
I stroll back to the other end of the event grounds through the food vendors and recall that a cooking demonstration will be starting shortly. Earlier, I befriend a Maryland Seafood evangelist with the Maryland Department of Agriculture, (the event sponsor). He clues me in that samples will be available after the presentation. I arrive just as the pot of Maryland Grab soup, of all things, is beginning assembly.
The soup reminds me a bit of my hometown stew, burgoo. Except for wild game or beef, it uses crab and features the distinctive taste of Old Bay Seasoning, of course.
As we begin to enter soup and stew season, this one will be on my list.
Maryland Crab Soup
- 1lb crabmeat
- 1 (28) ounce can whole tomatoes diced
- 3 cups water
- 2 cups beef broth
- 1 cup lima beans frozen
- 1 cup carrots sliced
- 2 tables spoons chopped onions
- 1 cup yellow sweet corn frozen
- 1 tablespoon OLD BAY Seasoning
Combine tomatoes, water, broth, lima beans, carrots, corn, onions and OLD BAY in 4-quart saucepan.
Bring to boil on medium heat. Reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer 5 minutes. Add crabmeat. Cover and simmer 10 minutes.