Tuesday, May 3, 2011
Final Days of Florida Stone Crab Season 2011
Barb's Stone Crab Adventure
That's the video I made with VisitFlorida.com when I worked as the "dining expert." I loved coming up with this idea, finding the guy (That would be Ben) to connect with, then Ben finding me a botat to head out into the Gulf with..I spent the night before alone on a house boat, the sides of it dinging up against the dock every now and then, waking me out of the dozing I'd fallen into while watching some TV shows on my laptop to help me drift off to sleep...because I was alone (did I already say that), there were no locks on the doors, the guy at the end of the dock said "don't worry unless the dog barks," and the dog had barked...the splashes into the Suwanee River must have been gators looking to get me...
Oh, but this is about stone crab, right? That was one adventurous weekend. I love being able to tell people I ate stone crab on that dock, fresh in from the boats and fresh out of the steamer (Ben oversees the sorting, steaming, icing and trucking out to restaurants across the state)...
May 15 marks the end of stone crab season, which started way back in October. For anyone who hasn't tasted this Gulf treat, let me just say: you should. I remember the first time I tasted stone crab, when I was catering a posh, intimate dinner party in Philadelphia and the host offered a claw or two to us in the kitchen. I was won over. The meat is sweet, tender, delicate. Just the best.
Stone crab claws (you don't eat the whole crab, the way blue crab is eaten, just the claws) are harvested by independent crabbers in the Gulf of Mexico. It is big business and a good season can make or break a year. I had the rare privilege of going out on a crab boat with one of these guys--you do NOT make yourself at home in these waters, the crab pots are clearly marked and crab guys do NOT like you encroaching on their territory.
The claws are taken from the crabs, which are put back into the water--they find a good mud bed to burrow into and the claw (or claws) regenerate. Talk about sustainable--and the crab seasons have been getting better and better every year. (I hate to think what might happen to these beds and the way of life for these men and women post oil spill. I have not heard about ill effects yet, but it bears watching).
But for those of you who have not enjoyed the treat of stone crab, do yourselves a favor and order up a batch--yes, it's expensive. But live a little. Here are some places you can get the whole deal (stone crab dinners traditionally come with mustard sauce, hash browns or sweet potato fries, creamed spinach and key lime pie for dessert. A pack will come to your door with the mustard sauce and a key lime pie, but you'll have to add the sides on your own). These are not recommendations, just a quick list of places I've found; I follow George Stone Crab on Facebook, I've eaten at Islamorada Fish Company, and Joe's is famous for its stone crab--and its lines of people waiting to get--in Miami.
George Stone Crab
Charlie's Stone Crab
Incredible Stone Crab
Fresh from the Boat Seafood
Islamorada Fish Company