It won’t be long until the fattest blue crabs of the season start to come in. We may have been eating them since mid-spring, when the over-wintering burrowers are harvested, and after a long season, they taste great. But this is the time crab lovers look forward to most, a time when our favorite shellfish is growing large and heavy.
And so we give you our biggest crab-themed dining guide yet. Food writer Pam George not only provides the lowdown on our local crab houses and some of the best crab cakes in the state, she also explores fine restaurants and other places where crab is the star of some very creative dishes, from Tater Tots covered with big lumps of meat to ceviche to classic crab imperial to pad Thai.
Baltimore may claim to be the crab-craziest city on the planet—and for good reason—but Delaware might reasonably claim be the crab-craziest state. Top to bottom, we love them. Blue crabs are found the world over, but those from local waters taste best. Even so esteemed an authority as The Smithsonian agrees. Skeptics who find it hard to believe connoisseurs can taste regional differences may be surprised to learn that variations in water temperature, salinity and food sources influence flavor. The warm waters of South America and Indonesia produce the same blue crab—callinectes sapidus—that is so often sold in cans at the grocery store, but without reason to put on fat—cold winter water—their meat is lean, sometimes stringy, not as sweet. Some crab lovers claim to taste a difference between the sweet, tender meat of crabs from the Gulf Coast and Carolinas—generally available all year—and the Chesapeake Bay. Some can tell a difference by the color and flavor of the “mustard,” and the most discerning of all notice a difference between Chesapeake crabs and those from the Delaware Bay or Inland Bays.
Our guide explains where the crab houses and carryout places get their crabs, and it explains how one local waterman harvests from the bay and why. It boils down to love of a lifestyle—for him and for us, because the act of eating crabs is to immerse oneself in a culture, one worth celebrating as frequently as possible.
Also in this issue, you’ll read how developer Brock Vinton realized a longtime dream of opening a winery. His year-old White Horse Winery is just one of several in South Jersey that is helping the area emerge as an important wine region, and it’s only a short drive away. See Roger Morris’ story, with beautiful photos by Javier Diaz.
If you’ve visited Brandywine Springs park in recent years, you may have noticed changes like the re-emergence of a pond on the property. Thank friends of the park who have dedicated themselves to making its history as a local resort well known. Writer Mark Dixon explores it and similar places of yore to shed some light on their histories and their presents.
As the start of the school year approaches, you can read about how an innovative program is slowing summer learning loss among low-income kids. And as Leadership Delaware prepares to recruit its 10th class, writer Bob Yearick looks at the program.
As always, there is much more. Enjoy.
—Mark Nardone, Executive Editor