All Crabbed Out at the MD Seafood Festival
Sep 19, 2011 12:25AM ● Published by Anonymous
Although we left with extremely dirty feet from traipsing through the muddy Sandy Point State Park, we also left with full stomachs and lots of great photos.
The Maryland Seafood Festival kicked-off Saturday morning. The Bay Bridge was masked by heavy haze and the ground was very muddy from the past week’s rain, but the sun happily shined down on the festival.
We arrived at about 11:30 a.m. and upon entrance, we were given VIP wristbands. With our VIP tickets, we received a sampler card to try 10 items from various vendors, though we did have to return to the VIP table to ask for it specifically. We have heard from some who had the same VIP tickets as us that they were required to purchase a separate $15 sampler card. We've tried to touch base with the reps at the Seafood Festival, but haven't gotten an explanation yet -- keep in touch for more details.
Our goal destination at the Seafood Festival was The Capital's 21st annual Crab Soup Cook-Off. As a recent transplant to Kent Island, Lindsay has a newfound love for crab soup and was eager to try a variety of soups from multiple restaurants.
After waiting in a very long line, we entered the tent to try 24 soups from 19 restaurants. We didn’t try every single one – after a while, the taste of Old Bay, delicious as it is, got to be too much. So we focused on our favorite categories: Cream of Crab and Alternative Crab Soup. Our favorite in the Cream of Crab Soup category was Bella Napoli from Pasadena, and we weren’t alone in that opinion – the restaurant won both the people’s choice and the judges’ choice in that category. The judges chose Hell Point Seafood and Buddy’s Crabs and Ribs as second and third place, respectively, while the people chose Ports of Call and Lemon Leaf Café (out of Chestertown).
As for vegetable crab soup, Lindsay and Kelsey enjoyed what they sampled, but didn’t try enough to form a strong opinion as to the best. However, others did! Riderwood Catering (of Silver Spring) won the top prize from the judges, while M&M Catering out of Linthicum came in first for the People’s Choice.
The alternative crab soup was really where restaurants had a chance to shine, though. Some interesting flavor concoctions we tasted included a Roasted Corn and Blue Crab Soup from Acandia in Washington, D.C., which Kelsey really loved for its sweet and creamy flavor. Lindsay enjoyed the corn and crab chowder from Red Red Wine Bar, while Kelsey put Riderwood Catering in the #1 spot for its cold pepper crab soup, which had incredibly large chunks of crab swimming in a chilled tomato broth. One of the most interestingly flavored soups we tried was the Coconut Scented Maryland Crab Butternut Squash Soup (What a mouthful!) from Wagshal’s. It truly had an explosion of flavor, but didn’t taste enough like crab for us to rank it in our top choices.
One unique choice came from Great Sage Organic Cuisine in Clarksville, which offered a vegan soup that used artichoke instead of crab. Whether or not a vegan soup should be offered in a crab soup cook-off is debatable, but the soup itself was tasty.
In the end, the judges and the people chose Hell Point Seafood’s Chesapeake Chowder for the alternative category. The soup was a blend of lump crab, rockfish, Serrano ham, leeks, and scallions. Kelsey’s favorite from Riderwood came in third in the people’s choice, while Oceanaire’s Tomatillo and Avocado Gazpacho – featuring a brilliant green color – came in second for both awards.
After voting for our favorites, we headed back out into the sun. We were really too full to try anything on the sampler card, so we gave ours away to two ladies and ventured out. With mud-spattered feet and full bellies, our work was done.