Saturday was a spectacular, clear San Francisco day so I headed across the Golden Gate Bridge to Fisherman’s Wharf for fresh local Dungeness crab and sourdough bread for my evening crab fest.
First stop, Fishermen’s Grotto No 9, a restaurant and outdoor seafood stand that’s been there for decades. I thought the wharf would be busy with tourists and locals buying crab and enjoying steaming cups of homemade clam chowder on this cold winter morning. Instead, it looked deserted with the exception of a few Japanese tourists.
The fish monger who’s prepared my crab for years was still there. His assistant helped me select a batch of crabs. As he tore them apart, rinsed and cracked the shells, he noted that tourism is off at the wharf and many locals are staying home. “Things are real slow.” One senses a deep public fear of eating seafood from areas affected by the Costco Besan oil spill, despite assurances of safety from scientists.
Perhaps shoppers want to see how those of us who indulge first will fare (your basic sacrificial lambs!). Or they’re more comfortable buying seafood from their local markets that stock crabs caught farther up the coast or out of state. My local Sausalito Mollie Stone’s market ordered 500 pounds of crab for the weekend from Eureka north of San Francisco, and sold 450 pounds by Sunday morning.
It’s not hard to see why this is happening. Local media coverage was intense following the disaster, and lots of grim speculation filled the airwaves when real facts were unavailable. Now we’re being inundated with the legal issues and pending lawsuits that compensate fishermen for lost income—sometime in the future. Let’s remember that these fishermen are suffering financially now, and need our support as they deliver a superior, safe product. In addition to supporting the fleet, shopping at the wharf gives you the pleasure of seeing your food prepared straight off the boat. Supermarkets cannot compete with this freshness.
With my crabs cracked and wrapped, I headed down the street to the Boudin bakery for just-out-of-the-oven sourdough bread—the perfect complement to Dungeness crab. Unlike the cold wharf, Boudin’s was warm, busy and filled with the intoxicating scent of baking bread.
In business since 1849, the historic Boudin invites shoppers to watch bakers work through large glass windows, or take a guided tour of the facility. I browsed racks filled with classic loaves, plus whimsical ones shaped like alligators, lobsters and seasonal snowmen. In the end, I couldn’t resist a giant, crab-shaped creation.
My crab fest was a huge success. It was definitely a crack, peel, dip, slurp, moan and indulge meal. Guests focused on eating and enjoying, not formalities. I covered the table with orange plastic and put out sturdy paper plates, lots of napkins and large bowls for discarded shells. A big ice-filled bowl stacked high with crab took center stage, surrounded by multiple bowls of hot, melted plain and garlic butter.
The crab-shaped sourdough bread was also hit. Guests loved breaking off the bread claws and dipping them in the garlic butter. A green Romaine lettuce salad with ripe avocados and blue cheese added depth, and chilled white wine washed it all down.
I read the previous blog about the crab boats being delayed and was happy to see that the crab is back. As a integral part of the Bay Area and specifically, San Francisco culinary culture, the delay of crab season must have caused many people great consternation. I wish I could also just go down to the warf and buy my crab the way you lucky people do!
Kudos to Beyond Wonderful for focusing on local foods! Not only is it the freshest, most delicious way to eat, but it’s also kinder to the environment. I look forward to sharing Barbara’s Bay Area adventures as the seasons change.