Sunday, July 29, 2007

A Summer Escape: Crabs in St. Michael's, Maryland

The main street in the town of St. Michael's

Though DC has everything a person could want, sometimes, one just needs to get away. And lucky for us, there are several great destinations within a few hours drive of the city. This weekend it was St. Michael's on the Eastern Shore of Maryland that I visited. A quaint little town full of cute shops, cozy bed and breakfasts, and simple but elegant, eateries, it is a very peaceful place--perfect for a brief escape from the frenzy of the city. St. Michael's is described in the official tourist brochure as:

[A] diminutive well-preserved vintage port, whose origins date from the birth of the colonies, is nestled between the loping Miles River on the north and the vast vistas of Michener's Broad Creek to the south. a collage of handsome churches, manicured colonial, federal and Victorian homes, historic heritage, diverse artistic talents and pleasant southern culture. It is also the proud cradle and repository of the Chesapeake's maritime history.

The Chesapeake is also famous for its crabs. So, when I got the invite for an impromptu jaunt down to Gooseneck Farm (a friend's estate-like vacation property overlooking a cove off the bay), I jumped at the chance. The weekend was full of relaxed and lazy fun, complete with cute and affectionate water-bottle-stealing-labs, AMAZING Maryland crabs (see description below), midnight boating, and lounging by the pool. It was rough having to "slum" it in the pool house--really tough as you can tell.

The "slummy" pool house

So...the crabs. Yeah, nothing is more summertime than dumping a bushel of crabs on a newspaper-lined (or in this case, our host's Post-It easle board paper-lined) picnic table. And the fun casualness of going at it with some mallets and your fingers--with nothing more than fresh corn (from the property, I believe), a baguette, and the ripest, reddest tomatoes as accompaniment--was so relaxing and fun. No pretentions. No worries. Just fun.

Everything was just plucked. The crabs were heavily seasoned and steamed in Old Bay. We went to town and picked up the bushel from the funny little deli/market called Big Als (where you can get wine, crabs, and bait). We even made more seasoning of a mixture of white vinegar guessed it...more Old Bay. So good. The sliced tomatoes and boiled corn required absolutely nothing given the main focus of the crabs, which were really sweet and delicate beyond the spicyness. It was a perfect evening there by the pool under the full moon. There were a couple torchiers, a candle on the table and plenty of Chardonnay and crazy talk.

...with one of the crabs...ugly but delicious.

Afterwards, we went for a midnight cruise along the bay on the host's boat, dodging oyster lines and boueys in the dark. The labs came too. And so we idled somewhere out in the water for a time...laying back, staring at the moon and the stars. The dogs were at my feet, quietly nuzzling.

View of the cove from the main house

In the morning we lazed around the pool a while...reading our pseudo intellectual tripe including Freakonomics and Marcus Aureleaus. Special, huh? What's even more special was Casey, one of the labs, stealing my water bottle as I was "engrossed" in my book:

Casey, helping herself to some Propel water

This is the only way to spend summertime: quiet and lazy days full of nice people, a couple of cute pups, some crabs, and a boat...

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