Food

Fish On

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September 2018
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By
Victoria
Allman

"Fish on, fish on!" Jack the first mate cried over the rumble of the powerful engine. Dumbstruck, I watched as my line began to run. "Reel in, reel in!" he shouted at me as if I were a child. I looked down at the spinning reel.  I began winding the handle.

"No, no, let it run now." Ben the engineer chastised as he reached in front of me to adjust the drag on the rod.

"I got it," I seethed through clenched teeth. The crew had taken the sport-fish vessel out for the day. I was the least experienced and therefore the most excited. Jack and Ben had the most experience and therefore the biggest egos.

Jack had a keen sense of the water and shortly picked up a group of birds ahead.

"Birds starboard," he yelled as he swung the boat to the right. Ben let the lines out, and we watched the lures dance in the foamy wake. Jack shouted down to us from the tower. "They're diving the surface of the water."

"That means there are larger fish below driving smaller fish to the surface," Ben explained to me.

I was enjoying the whole scene when Jack started calling "fish on" and barking orders at me. "It's your rod," he scoffed as he shifted the boat into neutral.

With a violent twitch, the tip of the rod in the holder in front of me bent like a bow. The reel whirled, letting out the spool with an alarming buzz saw sound. It hissed like a hose that had snapped and was spewing steam. I grabbed the rod from the holster and placed it on my thigh to anchor it. I held tight and adjusted my stance as tension increased on the line.

"Let it run," Ben said.

"Reel in, reel in," Jack yelled. They were both chomping at the bit to take the rod away from me. But, there is a code of respect on the water and this was my rod, my fish and my fight.

I knew I had to tire the fish out before he exhausted me. I shifted the rod and bent my knees, flexing to absorb the pounding of the waves. I pulled the rod tip up toward the sky, bringing the fish in closer. I dropped the rod parallel to the deck and reeled in the slack. I repeated this procedure three or four times. The muscles in my arms shook. The Rolling Stones belted out "Start Me Up." I could barely hear Mick's voice. "Ride like the wind at double speed. I'll take you places that you've never, never seen."

"There it is, reel it in now," Jack shouted from above. As the fish swam closer to the boat I could see flashes of color and the blunt nose of a mahi-mahi. A blur of silver and blue lit up the water as the fish saw our boat and panicked. He leaped effortlessly, flashing iridescent green stripes. I hesitated, watching the show. Adrenaline surged through my veins. I felt like Hemingway. The fish gathered a reserve of strength and ran with the line. I leaned back and reeled once more. The fish finally appeared behind the boat. Ben leaned over and gaffed the beast. It bucked and flopped wildly as Ben hurled it onto the deck at my feet.

I looked down at my conquest. He was beautiful. He was mine. "Not bad," Jack mumbled from above. "Beginner's luck," Ben added. I beamed. Back in the galley, I butchered my fish. I picked up my filleting knife, testing its sharpness against my thumb. I looked into the fish's eyes. "Thank you," I said in homage. I ran the knife down its pectoral fin, separating the bones from the flesh.

My mind raced through recipe options. Mexican? Asian? Caribbean? I didn't want to insult my fish with just any old preparation. This meal was going to be a memorial to its life. To the fight he gave.

I cut thick meaty fillets for the crew. I puréed cilantro and cashew nuts to crust the top. The scent of cilantro filled the air. I danced around the galley. I belted out the words in my head, "You make a grown man cry." I steamed coconut rice and diced mangoes for a salsa. The work flew by.

This was no ordinary crew dinner. This was not food I picked up at the market. This was MY dinner. MY fish. The delicious smell of the sea emanated from the oven. The guys may not have been forthcoming with praise for my fishing skills, but they would love the dinner I had just brought home. After all, in my mind that's what fishing is all about. The meal it provides. "She's a mean, mean machine."

HERB AND CASHEW PASTE

6 mahi-mahi fillets, 6 oz each (or other white flaky fish)

1 teaspoon sea salt

½ teaspoon black pepper

Sprinkle salt and pepper over all sides of mahi-mahi and place on a cookie sheet.

Paste:

¼ cup cashews, lightly toasted 1/3 cup cilantro, stems removed 4 cloves garlic

2 green onions, cut in quarters ½ teaspoon ground white pepper 1 teaspoon cumin

2 tablespoons white vinegar

2 tablespoons honey

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon sea salt

Place all the ingredients in a food processor and puree for 2 minutes until a rough paste is produced. Spoon the herb paste on top of the fish, creating a half-inch thick topping.Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and bake the fish for 15 minutes, depending on the type of fish used, until the flesh is firm. Serve with mango salsa.

MANGO SALSA

1 ripe mango

2 tomatoes

½ red onion

¼-½ habanero pepper, depending on heat tolerance

¼ cup chopped cilantro leaves 2 limes, juiced

1 teaspoon sea salt

Dice the mango and red onion to uniform quarter-inch size. Cut the inner seeds and pulp out of the tomato leaving a flat fillet of tomato to work with. Dice the fillet to a quarter-inch size. Chop the habanero as small as possible to evenly distribute heat. Mix all ingredients together; taste for seasoning and serve with fish. Serves 6.

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Meet newcomers to the Bay’s waterfront dock-and-dine scene

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During the past few years, quite a few new restaurants have opened and tapped into the cornucopia of fine local seafood.  Some innovative chefs grace plates with creative flavors and ingredients, while others take a traditional path with family recipes handed down for generations by watermen’s wives. Many concoct ways to consume invasive species, such as the blue catfish and northern snakehead, but eateries that nail up a sign declaring “Steamed Maryland Crabs!” attract the most attention.

To help you rediscover the bounty of the Bay, Marinalife has handpicked 10 terrific crab shacks and seafood houses for you to explore.

Maryland

Bowleys on the Bay Bar & Restaurant
Middle River, MD

For a tropical getaway without long-distance travel, Bowleys on the Bay has created a resort destination groove on Frog Mortar Creek in Baltimore County. Push your toes into the sand on 300 feet of beach surrounded by palm trees while sipping a rummy cocktail and listening to a steel drum band. You can watch boats glide into Long Beach Marina or see planes take flight at Martin State Airport as you nibble on fresh local seafood, hearty sandwiches, and meat dishes.

Where to Dock:  Long Beach Marina

The Choptank
Baltimore, MD

In the heart of the historic Fells Point district, The Choptank has risen from the foundation of the 200-year-old Broadway Market. Its menu reads like a culinary voyage around the Chesapeake Bay with steamed crabs, just-shucked oysters, steamed mussels, crab soup and fried chicken. On the spacious outdoor deck, sample 20 draft beers while live bands play tunes, and the stars twinkle above the urban skyline.

Where to Dock:  The Sagamore Pendry Hotel & Dock

Watershed

Baltimore, MD

It’s hard to say what Baltimore loves more — seafood or sports. But if you’d like to indulge in both, head over to Watershed in the Federal Hill neighborhood, which is in easy walking distance from Orioles Park and the Ravens’ M&T Bank Stadium. A menu laced with classic dishes harvested from the Chesapeake waters entices you to pick a dozen steamed crabs or slurp fresh local oysters while watching games on big-screen TVs. Located in the newly remodeled Cross Street Market, you can belly up to the long wooden bar on the main floor and wash down a platter of Old Bay wings with a cold Natty Boh. Or step up to the roof deck to watch the bustle below on South Charles Street with an orange crush in hand. A casual vibe and live music create an upbeat place to hang out with friends.

Where to Dock: Inner Harbor Marina

Latitude 38 Waterfront Dining
Annapolis, MD

Where the Severn River flows into the Chesapeake Bay, you can order local seafood with a view of boats cruising into Ego Alley, the showplace for vessels visiting Maryland’s state capital. With the new Upper Deck Bar and plenty of event space, this waterfront eatery accommodates groups of all sizes. Take your pick of regional favorites from crab cakes and peel-and-eat shrimp to herb-crusted rockfish and oysters Rockefeller. Chicken, beef and bourbon meat loaf ensure carnivores won’t go hungry.

Where to Dock:  Annapolis Town Dock

Marker Five
Tilghman, MD

Every visit to the Bay’s Eastern Shore holds the promise of exceptional seafood along unforgettable waterfronts. From Marker Five’s outdoor patio, you can watch watermen chug along Knapp’s Narrows and marvel as the Tilghman Island Drawbridge rises to let boats pass through. Eagles soar overhead while you peruse the menu of classic Chesapeake fare.  It’s almost impossible to resist starters such as Maryland crab soup or smoked corn and crab fritters, and your first bite of pulled pork, buttermilk fried chicken biscuit or pan-fried monkfish will delight your tastebuds.

Where to Dock:  Knapp’s Narrows Marina & Inn

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Portside Grill on Urbanna Creek
Urbanna, VA

Located in the heart of Virginia’s oyster-growing region, this family-owned and pet-friendly restaurant specializes in taking local seafood from the water to the table. At Urbanna’s only waterfront eatery, you can tie up along the bulkhead and kick back on the patio for casual dining with a spectacular view.  Crab tots and fresh oysters will whet your appetite for a Southern style meal of crab cakes, shrimp and grits, and chicken stuffed with Smithfield ham and goat cheese.

Where to Dock:  Regatta Point Yachting Center

Deltaville Tap & Raw Bar
Deltaville, VA

In a charming cove along Jackson Creek where the Piankatank River flows into the Bay, you’ll find a seafood eatery with an energetic vibe, live music and a nice sampling of craft brews and cocktails. The expansive view from the back deck matches the extensive list of dishes on the menu.  Highlights include hush puppies packed with crab and corn, Jonah crab claws, shucked oysters, and Lowcountry boils with crawfish, shrimp and other local catch. Try to leave room for dessert favorites: deluxe peanut butter pie or raspberry cheesecake.

Where to Dock:  Deltaville Yachting Center

The Surry Seafood Company
Surry, VA

A leisurely cruise up the James River to Gray’s Creek will deliver you to a seafood-centric destination where you can dock, dine and decompress.  Surry’s chefs present delicacies from the local waters such as golden fried oysters, bacon-wrapped salmon and flounder stuffed with crab imperial. If the serene view of the grassy marshlands makes you want to linger longer, spacious hotel suites are available above the restaurant. Boater bonuses: 45 new floating docks, fuel, ship store and bathhouse.

Where to Dock:  The Marina at Smithfield Station

Longboards at East Beach

Norfolk, VA

The green bamboo shoots on the menu’s border give a clue that this restaurant is blessed with a touch of tiki.  While seafood standards remain popular — she-crab soup, cod fish and chips, and Old Bay wings — Longboards also takes you on a culinary journey to Polynesia to taste Hawaiian-inspired dishes such as Singapore shrimp with veggies and Waikiki wings. Enjoy the restaurant’s upbeat atmosphere and stellar sunsets at the marina.

Where to Dock:  Morningstar Marinas at Little Creek

Stripers Waterside
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Remnants of a “Vote Against Prohibition” sign still linger in faded letters on a brick wall in Baltimore — a true representation of the city’s historical love for a brew. 

From the clipper ships that brought beer from Germany during the Revolutionary War to the birthplace of the beloved Natty Boh, Baltimore is not only rich in maritime and war traditions — it’s also known as a beer city. 

Baltimore boasts a nice selection of well-known bars and swanky restaurants, but you may not realize how many experimental breweries and eclectic taprooms are located just down the street. 

From serving ice-cold pints on a hot summer day to offering taproom tastings and outdoor events, these local breweries present unique, homemade craft beers in an entertaining atmosphere. The following locations explore antique structures, historic warehouses and a barn-turned-brewhouse in Baltimore City and County.

BALTIMORE CITY

Diamondback Brewing Company

1215 E. Fort Avenue

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A garage-style window opens above high-top seating in this south Baltimore brewery — a perfect summertime hangout.  The experimental production brewery serves unfiltered lagers, hop forward ales and pizza in a lively urban atmosphere. Try the Maple Thief oatmeal stout, the Green Machine IPA or the American Locust Point Lager alongside a signature seasonal scratch-made house pizza such as the Howard, made with pulled duck confit, smoked provolone, onion, parsley and “Pee-Paw’s Secret BBQ Sauce.”

Ministry of Brewing

1900 E. Lombard Street

Upper Fells Point/Highlandtown

The stunning structure of the former St. Michaels Church in East Baltimore has high ceilings lined by archways with golden trim, colorful murals and a gorgeous organ on the second floor balcony overlooking an open space where pews used to sit. Originally opened in 1857, this church that once provided refuge to German Catholics was abandoned in 2011 and is now one of the city’s hottest brewery hangouts. Long beer hall-style tables and high-tops now fill the spacious renovated church. Biblical scriptures are written above where the taproom’s bar serves a selection of rotating beers such as the Old Maude brown ale, The Point pilsner and 9.9 Problems imperial stout.

The Brewer’s Art

1106 N. Charles Street

Mount Vernon

This hip and artsy brewery matches the vibe of the quirky neighborhood and local community. Built as a private residence in the early 1900s, the vintage townhouse remains in the same classical style as it looked centuries ago with a slight transformation into a cozy taproom. Each room provides a different feel from the upscale dining room to the gritty Downbar and the cozy upstairs lounge. While most breweries only offer beer, this location pours everything from house brews to red, white, rosé and sparkling wines, and craft cocktails.

Full Tilt Brewing

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RavenBeer

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Rosedale

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Heavy Seas Brewery

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Guinness Open Gate Brewery

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As the first-ever Guinness brewery in the United States, this historic site was home to a distillery before the Dublin-based brewer arrived in 2017. Experience traditional and seasonal flavors made with hops from all over the world, as well as locally sourced ingredients. Most brews are made with Legacy Ale Yeast, used by Guinness for 100 years. Be sure to try the signature Baltimore Blonde, brewed here exclusively. Enjoy the three-acre outdoor beer garden, outdoor kitchen, taproom, restaurant, events such as summer movie nights, 30-minute tastings of four different beers, and free tours.

Farmacy Brewing

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Battle of the Crustaceans: Lobsters vs. Crabs
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Best Region for the Season

lobster - this or that - marinalife
Courtesy of Justine G

Lobster

New England and Canada are known as major lobster hubs along the Atlantic, and Maine is one of the most famous regions in the world for these mouth-watering delicacies. For the freshest catch, Maine's top lobster-loving towns include Rockland, Bar Harbor, Belfast, Georgetown, Harpswell, Kennebunk and Ogunquit.

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More than 6,000 species of crabs across the world vary in everything from appearance to taste. For example, Maryland crab fans meticulously pick the meat from under the crab's shell, while in Florida, they split open the legs and claws for a tasty treat. To experience the best Maryland blue crabs, visit cities such as Baltimore and Annapolis, as well as Kent Island on the Chesapeake Bay's Eastern Shore and Solomons Island in southern Maryland.

Habitat

crab - this or that - marinalife
Blue Crab | Courtesy of Pakhnyushchy

Lobster

Although they are mostly ocean creatures, lobsters do frequently appear on land and sea. They are omnivores and sometimes eat their own when confined or stressed. You can find them throughout the world's oceans in freshwater and brackish environments. Some of the most delicious species are caught in the Gulf of Maine and along coastal Nova Scotia.

Crab

Typically found in saltwater or brackish water, thousands of different crab species live in all of the world's oceans. Like lobsters, some are land-crawlers. Many solely live in the water and others inhabit the edges along rocks and sandy shores. The best crustacean havens for crabbing include Maryland, Virginia and Delaware. Florida stone crabs are found in southern waters in shallow, rocky locations including knee-deep seagrass beds and reefs.

Traditional Recipes

Lobster

The sweet taste of lobster pairs well with your taste buds in any variation. Cook it in a gamut of dishes from steaming, grilling or boiling, to chopped-up in a warm soup or cold salad. Some of the most famous classics include a New England lobster boil, baked lobster tail, lobster mac and cheese, creamy bisque and much more.

Crab

Pick-and-eat crab feasts are a beloved pastime across the mid-Atlantic region. Catch, steam, season, crack open and scarf down! Use a mallet to break the claws open and get the good thick meat. Two varieties of crab soup creamy or tomato-based are popular along the East Coast, as well as dishes such as crab dip, crab Rangoon, crab pretzels and best of all the world-famous Maryland crab cakes.

Fun Facts

lobster - this or that - marinalife
Lobster Dish | Courtesy of BDMcIntosh

Lobster

Lobsters actually have two stomachs and can detach a limb and grow it back during their molting cycle. Today, lobsters are among the pricier seafood selections and are considered a delicacy, but that wasn't always the case. In early 19th century New England, lobsters were so abundant that their shells were used as fertilizer and their meat was fed to pigs as scraps.

Crab

Crabs are typically an aggressive crustacean and often fight with other crabs and aquatic creatures. They can walk in any direction and mostly scurry sideways. Unlike lobsters that can live to age 100, Atlantic crabs only survive for three to four years. Dungeness Crabs from Alaska can live up to 13 years, and the Japanese spider crab has the longest lifespan of all its fellow crustaceans, often reaching 80 to 100 years old.

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