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MARYLAND (EN ROUTE TO B.W.I.): THE BEST CRAB PICKLES

By Nora Zelevansky / September 8th, 2009

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Welcome to the Monday of all Mondays (which is not a Monday at all, but a Tuesday).

I don't know if it's just residual back-to-school trauma from my youth (brought back in violent flashbacks by the hordes of kids clomping to class in fall woolen plaids, despite the 90˚ weather), but Labor Day Weekend's end always feels like a signal that it's time to get back to serious work.

Booooo.  Hissss.

That said, I'd like to spend this week dwelling on the vacation I just finished: why confront the pressure, when you can live in ostrich-style denial?

So, you all know (if you're paying attention, AHEM) that The Drewser and I meet his fam on the east coast's Delaware shore or Chesapeake at the end of most summers.  And, even if you don't know that (because you were doodling during class!—See?  I'm in teacher mode!  Is that gum you're chewing?  No gum at school!), then maybe you read my insane ravings about the out-of-this-world softshell crab sandwich I love from Stevensville Crab Shack?

Well, this time around, the Crab Shack was our first stop on the way to the beach.  (I'm no dummy). And I noticed a new item on the menu (or new to my knowledge): Crab Pickles.  I just had to ask what that even means.  Turns out "Crab Pickles" are deep fried pickles with Old Bay seasoning (traditionally used to season steamed crabs during delish crab feasts–see below!)

Now, I LOVE fried pickles and I order them whenever I see them on a menu.  Previously, my favorite were these sort of fluffy versions (with tangy seasoning) that I tasted once at BLT Burger in Vegas.  I didn't order these on the way to the beach, but we stopped in again on the way to the airport and I just had to try them.  And, trust me, they were well worth it!

Not only were they salty and crispy and spicy and actually the fried outer layer seemed to be seasoned with dill too (so good!), but they were spears (instead of the usual "chip" shape), so the experience was like eating mozzarella sticks or fried zucchini.  Instead of the fried outer shell falling apart or crumbling off, it was like a solid crunchy, flavorful masterpiece that seemed like it would have retained its shape even without the pickle inside.  Still, the outer shell perfectly complimented the inner dill spear.  So so good.  Especially served with their tartar sauce, which is incredibly tangy and caper-filled or Ranch dipping sauce.

Now I have yet another Stevensville Crab Shack treat over which to obsess.  Guess I'm in a bit of a pickle.

Hee hee.  Sorry.

xo – N.

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[CLICK IMAGES TO ENLARGE: Me and My Pickle Happiness (I Look Serious, Right? Well, I Am!), Our Traditional Steamed Crab With Old Bay on Newspaper Feast]

DE/MD (TO DC): THE BEST SOFT SHELL CRAB SANDWICH

By Nora Zelevansky / March 31st, 2009

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I don't know if it's the warm weather or just wanderlust, but lately I can't stop thinking about the various summer road trips A. & I have taken over the years.  Today, oddly, the drive I feel like reliving isn't technically a road trip, so much as a route to somewhere else:

At the end of every summer, Andrew and I meet his family in Bethany Beach, Delaware for a week of mellow beach time.  Some summers have been hurricane-filled; others have been Democratic Convention-heavy; still others have simply been characterized by perfect sunny days and early nights. Every summer, though, we eat our weight in boardwalk treats from fries with vinegar to chocolate-covered bananas and Andrew's favorite soft serve. And, of course, on one special night, we cover the picnic table on the screened-in porch with newspaper and we gorge on blue crab and Old Bay.

For some reason, the drive to and from Washington Dulles airport stays with me, as much as the rest of the trip. Maybe it's because I miss the east coast, but I just love passing through all these tiny old towns and rural farm areas.  Despite Andrew's usual antsy desire to get to the airport quickly or to the beach even quicker, I generally coerce him into a few choice stops along the way.

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(A Happy Me–Last Summer–With A Cherry Limeade For The Drive)

I'll take you through a post-vacation drive to the airport: First, after we've stopped for 30 minutes at The Outlets, I need a Diet Cherry Limeade from Sonic for the drive.  There are no Sonics in LA proper (though they cruelly advertise), so it always feels like his huge treat.  (Claudette actually hooked me them, when she lived briefly in Dallas).  Basically, it's Sprite, grenadine and fresh limes, so it's sweet, but tart.  Okay, now I need one.  Damn.  Sonic is a "Drive-In" technically, so I always end up standing in a parking spot like an idiot, waiting for my drink, while Andrew gets gas across the street.

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(CLICK TO EXPAND IMAGES: Andrew at Adam's Fruit Market)

Next, we stop at Adam's Fruit Market, where Andrew rushes me between options like Apple BBQ Sauce, Jalapeno Mustard and Fig Jam.  I mean, seriously, who can resist a great country store?  I could happily peruse for hours.  Everything just feels so relaxed and wholesome!

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(CLICK TO EXPAND IMAGES: Our Pit Stop at Stevensville Crab Shack)

Last, but surely not least, we cross over into Maryland and stop at Stevensville Crab Shack (or at least we did last summer and, judging by my obsessive preoccupation with the experience, we'll be going back again).  Although blue crab is everywhere in Delaware/Maryland, a really great crab cake or soft shell crab sandwich can be elusive.  But these were so delicious that I'm still thinking about them. Also, I just love pulling off the road and sitting under an umbrella with my back to a field, while noshing on these delicious (not too greasy, not too mayonnaise-filled) miracles.

Then it's back to the airport for the long bitter sweet trip home.  I'm always a bit melancholy.  But Waldo and Mina, here we come.

xo – N.

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(CLICK TO EXPAND IMAGES: Baldo and Bean)