Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Absence Makes The Heart Go Hungry

I apologize for my absence in the blogosphere. Life has invariably taken over writing, filled with weddings and airport delays and all of the trappings of real versus virtual. This isn't to say that recent food adventures have not been noteworthy (some have; some haven't), but by now my mental notes have dwindled to a few dim memories.

But who can go on vacation without one last meal? I leave tonight, and last night's last supper happened to coincide with my friend's 30th birthday party. Said friend's sister and I planned a dinner for eleven people at Back Forty, known mostly for its grass-fed burger. But this was no burger-fest. Instead, it was a down-home Maryland crab boil, replete with newsprint tablecloths and wooden mallets. In New England, we eat lobster. I hadn't ever been to a crab boil, and I'm not completely sure I'd go again. It was fun, but it was also messy and complicated.

For forty bucks a person, the kind folks at Back Forty will deliver an appetizer of salt cod fritters, served with a spicy mayonnaise dip. Next comes crabs in three separate (and large) deliveries, silver buckets turned over the newsprint as Old Bay-doused suckers tumble every which way. The waitress instructs the table on proper crab-procuring procedure, which involves peeling back the outer tab of the shell "like a beer can," snapping off the shell's top, and twisting each leg off. The legs have almost no meat, and the body has slivers underneath useless gills; the spongy devils must be removed by hand. The real treasures are the claws, but the tough shells can't really be done by hand. That's what the mallets are for, but be forewarned that hitting a crab claw with a mallet forces crab juice in many directions. All my crabs seemed to squirt in the direction of my boyfriend's eyes.

With dinner came grilled corn rolled in Old Bay and boiled in salt and butter. These were fine, but no match for the fruit cobbler at meal's end, some happy combination (we think) of blueberry and peach, shortcake, and whipped cream. I don't know how many crabs I ate; we must have plowed through at least one hundred, and that's no exaggeration. And while the crustaceans were tasty enough, I'm not so sure I'd want to work that hard for my food on a regular basis.

Back Forty
190 Avenue B
New York, NY 10009

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