Food

Get Hooked on Local Seafood - From the Maine Lobster to the Louisiana Crawfish

Steamed or in a Roll?

By
Susan
Elnicki Wade

You wouldn't go to Boston for gumbo or consider crab cakes in Nebraska. No matter where you dock your boat this summer, get the scoop on specialty seafood and pick the perfect dish.

LOBSTER: From Rags to Riches

It's hard to imagine that lobsters were once considered a poor man's food. In Colonial New England, lobsters grew so abundantly that they were fed to children, prisoners and indentured servants. Many Massachusetts servants put clauses in their contracts stating that employers could not serve lobster more than three times a week. In the mid-1800s, high-society diners in New York and Boston took a liking to this tasty crustacean and elevated lobsters to a delicacy.

Species of lobsters appear in every ocean, but the cream of the crop comes from the Atlantic waters of Maine and Canada, where more than half of the world's supply is harvested. Lobster fishing season in North America peaks twice a year, in late spring and the fall. Even though visitors look forward to the summer ritual of a lobster boil, it's not necessarily the best time of year for cracking claws. That's when lobsters migrate into warm waters to molt and mate, so they're hungry and not as tasty.

Lobster purists insist that a steaming pot of water with a dash of salt is the best way to prepare this savory seafood, because it brings out the natural flavors. But regional cooks like to play around with lobster to create dishes for both the white linen crowd and the casual diner. Lobster Newberg, which was allegedly created at New York City's renowned Delmonico Restaurant in the 1870s, is a dish designed for special occasions. Its simmering blend of tail meat, butter, heavy cream, cognac and a pinch of cayenne pepper is a rich decadent delight.

Yet, some prefer simpler recipes. The lobster roll, pieces of lobster mixed with mayo, celery, and lemon juice, and tucked inside a toasted kaiser roll, is an ideal summer lunch at a beach in Cape Cod.

SCALLOPS: A Heavenly Feast Available in Two Sizes

Since the Middle Ages, the scallop shell has been the symbol of St. James. Christians who made pilgrimages to his shrine wore a scallop shell on their clothes or on a string around their neck. When they stopped to rest, pilgrims were allowed to scoop a shell's worth of food at churches, castles or homes along the way. Centuries later, when French cooks combined scallops with mushrooms, cream, wine and parmesan cheese, they named the savory dish "Coquilles de St. Jacques," or Scallops St. James, after the holy man and his followers. Like the medieval pilgrims, scallops want to roam. Other bivalves, such as oysters, mussels, and clams, latch onto a surface and spend their lives in one place. Scallops are free-swimming mollusks that flit about the waves by opening and closing their shells with their adductor muscle. This powerful muscle is what we eat. Scallops come in two different varieties. The larger sea scallops, which can grow up to eight inches in diameter, are found in the North Atlantic from Newfoundland to North Carolina. They cost less but are ideal for quick grilling or pan frying to a golden brown.

Bay scallops, which reside in bays and estuaries from New England to the Gulf of Mexico, have a sweeter taste and only hit the 4 inch mark. Sea scallops are gathered from fall to spring, whereas bay scallops are ripe in autumn.

SALMON: Up the Creek Without a Paddle

Northwest Native American folklore believed the salmon are people in fish form with supernatural abilities and eternal lives. They resided in beautiful homes under the sea, but offered themselves to tribes on land as a source of food, as long as humans treated them with respect and allowed their spirits to return to the sea.

This legend illustrates salmons' unique behavior of being born in fresh water, living in the ocean's salt water, and then returning to rivers and streams to spawn and die. This cycle of life takes place on both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. Almost 99% of Atlantic salmons are farm-raised, but nearly 80% of western salmon are caught in the wild.

Salmon is a hit with healthy eaters, because it is high in omega-3 acids and vitamin D. Plus, it's considered a fatty fish, which helps combat cholesterol and heart issues and works well for grilling.

If you travel to the West Coast this summer, you'll discover that salmon recipes mirror the region's diverse cultures and influences. California, with its large Asian population, is known for pressing fresh salmon into sushi rolls or grilling filets with soy sauce, garlic, brown sugar and chives. In the Northwest, Native Americans like to roast salmon on cedar planks, the same way their ancestors did for centuries.

CRABS: Boiled or Steamed? The Debate Rages On

Our planet is home to 4,500 species of edible crabs snow, Dungeness, queen, red rock, Chinese mitten, and Pacific spider crabs, to name a few. Dipped into melted butter, every one of them tastes divine. However, U.S. crab eaters fall into two distinctly different camps: Maryland blue crabs fans or King crab devotees. One is East Coast driven, the other stems from the West Coast.

Regional distinctions are as different as day and night. Maryland blue crabs, the runt of the crab species litter, are small in stature but big in flavor. They swim along the western edge of the Atlantic Ocean from Nova Scotia to Argentina, and the Gulf of Mexico, but most are pulled from Louisiana, Maryland, Virginia and North Carolina waters. They mate and then hibernate in the mud from October to April. When water temperatures rise above 50 degrees, they emerge with a feisty gusto and crab season begins.

Maryland natives express strong opinions about cooking their home-grown crabs. Steamed for 25 minutes with hefty shakes of Old Bay seasoning is the best way to go. Piping hot crabs fanned out on a picnic table with brown paper and wooden mallets is a summer rite of passage. When the meat is molded into crab cakes, green pepper or bread crumb filler is seriously frowned upon, because locals want to savor every bite of the tender, sweet crustacean. Soft shells crabs that have just shed their hard outer shells are dusted with flour, fried to a crunchy brown, and then laid between two slices of white bread with a swipe of mayo. Crispy legs that dangle out from the crust taste like a tiny bite of the Chesapeake Bay. Stone and king crabs are all about the legs. These prized crustaceans are found around the Pacific Rim from eastern Korea to northern British Columbia and the Bering Sea, Aleutian Islands, Gulf of Alaska, Sea of Okhotsk, and Kamchatka shelf. Fishing season lasts from October to January. King crabs reign supreme among this species, a and the long spindly legs turn a creamy white color with red accents when steamed, and they're considered one of Neptune's greatest gifts to mankind.

CRAWFISH: Pinch the Tail & Suck the Head

Whether you call them craw daddies, crayfish or crawfish, everybody knows you're talking about a distant relative of the lobster that has deep roots in Louisiana and Gulf Coast cuisine. Locals say the best time to eat them is spring (mid- March to mid-May) when water temperatures rise above 60 degrees, and the adults are hell-bent on mating and the babies aren't yet born. They're juicier then and have more meat on them. From August to February, shells become tough and harder to peel.

To eat like a Cajun, look for a Louisiana crawdad boil with corn on the cob, potatoes, andouille sausage, mushrooms and onions cooked together in a big old pot with a dash of hot sauce or seasonings. If you want to run like the local herd, pinch the crawfish tail to get every morsel of meat and suck the brains from the head to have a full-flavor experience. A cool bottle of Abita beer helps muster enough courage to take the first slurp of the head.

Another Big Easy favorite, Crawfish Etouffee, offers an option for the less daring. Its name comes from the French word to smother, and aptly describes the thick stew of plump crawfish in a thick blonde roux served over rice with fresh chopped scallions. A slice of hot French garlic bread along with an icy Hurricane, and you'll be singing tunes along with the zydeco band.

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A red cocktail with seasonal fruit
Fall Cocktail | Source Veselova Elena from Getty Images

The Captain Cider

Ingredients:

1.5 oz Captain Morgan Original Spiced Rum
1.5 oz Cranberry juice
1.5 oz Hard apple cider

Instructions:

Fill a rocks glass with ice and combine all ingredients. Gently stir and garnish with a cranberry and apple slice.

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Hot Apple Cider | Source Wendy Melgar from Getty Images

Hot Captain Cider

Ingredients:

2 oz Captain Morgan Original Spiced Rum
6 oz Fresh apple cider

Instructions:

Combine the rum and apple cider in a small pot and microwave or heat over a stove. Carefully pour drink into a mug and garnish with a cinnamon stick and apple slice.

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

If the pandemic hampered your travels and you haven’t cruised into the Chesapeake Bay for a while, then welcome back to its sunny shores. While you were away, the oyster and striped bass populations blossomed, and blue crabs grew plump in the shallow marshlands. 

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

Virginia

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
Norfolk, VA

The bustle of Norfolk’s recently renovated Waterside District is attracting newcomers from along the Atlantic seaboard. Among the new eateries is Stripers, a seafood haven from the Outer Banks that features 30 beers on tap and a panoramic view of the Elizabeth River. Take a seat on the patio and savor dishes made from scratch, from clams and cod to mussels and shrimp.  After a hearty meal, explore the area’s attractions and nightlife.

Where to Dock: Ocean Yacht Marina or Tidewater Yacht Marina

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What's Brewing in Baltimore?
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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
Locust Point

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

5604 York Road
Govans

This neighborhood brewery is all about live music, tasty drinks and providing a fun social atmosphere. Hosting everything from yoga classes to live acts and comedy shows, the brewery offers a full event calendar throughout the year. They often cater parties and sponsor fundraisers such as partnerships with Baltimore Animal Rescue & Care Shelter (BARCS) and Art with a Heart. The taproom is known for two famous brews: Hops the Cat American IPA and Dan’s Jams, a Swedish Fish sour ale. Complement your brew with spicy wings, honey sriracha-glazed Brussels sprouts or a juicy Full Tilt burger.

BALTIMORE COUNTY 

RavenBeer

8901 Yellow Brick Road, Suite B
Rosedale

As Baltimore icon Edgar Allan Poe was known for frequenting local city bars, this brewery pays homage to the writer with its own spin on classic American and German-style beer. Founder Stephen Demczuk began brewing when he was in Europe. Inspired by Poe’s writings, Demczuk named his concoctions after the famous literature. Variations include Annabel Lee White, a Belgian-style white beer with citrus, The Raven Special Lager, The Tell Tale Heart IPA and The Cask, a Bavarian double style IPA.

Heavy Seas Brewery

4615 Hollins Ferry Road
Halethorpe

Maryland breweries wouldn’t exist today if it weren’t for Heavy Seas founder Hugh Sisson. He pioneered the state’s first brewpub and helped pass laws allowing them to operate. This southwest Baltimore County location began as Clipper City Brewing in 1995, then later rebranded as Heavy Seas. Hang out at the bar, grab a burger from Koopers food truck or play cornhole in the game room. On Saturdays, listen for the bell ringing in the taproom for free tours. They also hold charity fundraisers and work with local artists who design the unique beer can graphics. The brewery has big plans this season to redesign the outdoor space with new landscaping and a patio area.

Guinness Open Gate Brewery | Photo by Alexa Zizzi

Guinness Open Gate Brewery

5101 Washington Boulevard
Halethorpe

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

3100 Black Rock Road
Reisterstown

Deep within Baltimore County’s horse country, this working farm raises horses and cattle, and grows hay, fruits, vegetables and row crops. This family-run brewery resides at the gorgeous Willowdale Farm, where a 3.5-barrel brewhouse is open for tours. Surrounded by horse pastures, barns and acres of farmland, a nine-stall horse stable was converted into a tasting room. Guests can picnic and enjoy the day strolling through a beautiful orchard.

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