Crab season has come, so let’s unleash the marching bands, set loose the crab floats in a parade, and elect a Crab Queen, complete with a seaweed sash.
The crab harvest runs generally from late November through June, though prime season is in the winter months, when the cold waters flourish with the light reddish brown crustaceans. Christmas crab all around!
And let’s just stomp on any thoughts of fake crab, that rubbery, tasteless surimi that’s found in cheap California rolls or krab salads. Anyone who purposely eats surimi is banished from reading the rest of this article unless he or she promises to immediately go out after and try the real thing. You’ll discover why these large, hard-shell crabs are a true Northern California specialty, considered a delicacy for their sweet flavor and pink, flaky meat.
For the absolute best crab, go buy yourself a boat, get a permit, catch it by enticing it into your underwater crab pot, cook it in the galley and eat it on deck. But if that doesn’t fit your schedule, head to the Bodega Bay marina, where you can buy it straight off the dock, though you have to get there very early to meet the fisherman.
The next choice is to buy it from local seafood specialists like G&G grocery and Spud Point Crab Company where, even after its short truck ride, the crab is so fresh that you should call ahead to make sure your cherished crustacean is available.
Crabbing is the main fishing industry of Bodega, yet it arrives daily only in limited quantities as the ocean allows, and is sold here only fresh, not frozen. Because of the great care taken to thoughtfully harvest this coveted crustacean, Seafood Watch has given the Dungeness crab a sustainable seafood rating of “Best Choice.”
G&G Market has locations in Santa Rosa and Petaluma, and the family owned operation now sells more crabs during crab season than any other retailer in the North Bay. Part of the appeal is that G&G stores have live crabs in tanks (their butchers clean your crab for free), and also offer cooked crab ready-to-eat, fresh from the chiller cases. Prices vary, but recently, G&G was advertising fresh catch for $4.99.
Another best choice is Spud Point Crab Company in Bodega Bay (the first hint is the name, right?). The Anello family has been fishing the area since just after the turn of the 19th century, and today, Tony Anello keeps the legacy alive with his trusty boat named Annabelle. The Spud Point market is directly across the street from Spud Point Marina, guaranteeing the sweet, succulent crab is dock-to-door fresh, where it’s sold whole, or in sandwiches, cakes chowder and salads.
Take your haul home, boil it up or steam it or pull out your fanciest cook-book for Julia Child’s crab spring rolls, and voila, crab is a traditional holiday feast along the northwest coast, pairing perfectly with everything from sparkling wines to crisp beer.
This time of year, many restaurants showcase crab, too. Tides Restaurant in Bodega Bay does a bang-up job with its Friday night crab feeds, offered through Jan. 18, and bringing chilled Dungeness, clam chowder, linguine, green salad, French bread, cocktail sauce, mustard sauce and drawn butter for $49.95.
Details: G&G Market, 1211 W. College Ave., Santa Rosa, 707-546-6877; and 701 Sonoma Mountain Parkway, Petaluma, 707-765-1198, gandgmarket.com.
Spud Point Crab Company, 1860 Westshore Rd., Bodega Bay, 707-875-9472, spudpointcrab.com.
Tides Wharf, 835 Highway One, Bodega Bay, 707-875-3652, innatthetides.com.