[Yes, I know this is a day late. Yes, I know it’s actually Wednesday. Yes, I am sleep deprived and super busy this week.]
Seafood. Seven Five Seven. Simply Satiating.
They say there’s nothing like going home. New York can certainly hold its own in the culinary world, but there’s just something about that good ole feeling I get when I’m back home eating seafood. I know it was caught by a local fisherman, dragged onto the boat, hauled into the dock and unloaded and processed all without leaving that one area code that does it all, the 757. This past weekend Miss Fancy Boots and I traveled home on the ole railroad in an effort to be thrifty. While the $130 we saved over flying was greatly appreciated by my financial advisor the 3:00AM departing train and 1:50AM arriving train were not so appreciated by my sleep advisor. The trip combined two important events. The Poquoson Seafood Festival held in Poquoson, VA or if you ask MFB “Pawcohsen” and a bridal shower that MFB’s momma was throwing for one of MFB’s childhood friends. Now let’s review which I was more excited about, unending amounts of fresh local seafood or a gaggle of estrogen armed with mimosas and munchies. Hmm, that’s a tough one.
The lone picture: crab cake, shrimp, oysters and fries from Graham & Rollins
Well if you guessed seafood then you guessed correctly. If you thought I was really that excited about a bridal shower, we should talk… ASAP. However, in my excitement for delicious food I failed to pause for the cause and take pictures. I’m truly sorry, please forgive me. Regardless here are the reviews of my favorites from the festival.
- Sherri’s Crab Cakes… to be honest, FreshDirect has some pretty good crab cakes so it’s not like I’ve been completely without. However, Sherri’s were by far the best in show at the festival this year. Making an award winning crab cake is pretty simple. You need to have less than 5% of the whole thing be any ingredient besides crab. Otherwise you just end up with an over breaded, filler stuffed teaser. The other key is to remember that you’re making a crab cake, not a flat shingle of crab meat. Too often I find vendors or restaurants whose crab cakes more resemble a quarter pounder patty from McDonald’s than a delicious heaping pile of yummy crab. The patty should be thick and fill out the entire bun. Sherri’s does a great job with both of these cardinal rules.
- Surf Rider… has always been my favorite seafood restaurant in the seven-five-seven. While I have only ever frequented the Hampton location, I’m sure the rest are just as great. Surf Rider made its debut at the Poquoson Seafood Festival this year to celebrate their planned opening of a restaurant in Poquoson, at the end of Rens Road. The goal date for the grand opening is early May 2012. Until then, you can pick up some of the mouth watering she crab soup they were serving at one of their other four locations. This soup was the perfect fix to what became a brisk and chilly fall evening once the sun set. Not too watery and not too thick with a wonderful balance of creaminess, crab and spices.
- Graham & Rollins… a Hampton, VA staple, whose crab cakes have been featured and sold on QVC, these guys provided the best value at the festival. Their classic boats (one item for $8, two for $13) are by far the best value you’ll find across the numerous vendors. You can pick one (or two) from a variety of seafood staples (shrimp, clams, oysters, scallops, crab cake) and it’s served alongside fries. Toss in a sweet tea or lemonade for an extra $2. Walking way with a complete meal for $10 is a steal at the festival. Doing it with award winning seafood should be illegal. Yet year after year the Graham & Rollins folks have kept their prices stable and their quality improving. There’s a reason the line is always three times as long here (don’t worry it moves quickly!).
Maybe you’re [certifiably insane] not a fan of good seafood? No worries, there are plenty of arts and crafts to keep you happy. The vendors line a path that snakes through the woods on the grounds of Poquoson High School just steps from the food arena. It’s your typical arts and crafts set up with everyone huddled under pop-up tents enticing you in with breathtaking displays. This year’s festival lacked the diversity or uniqueness I’d come to expect. There were multiple tents of painters and photographers (something I feel you can never avoid) as well as a ton of jewelers (mostly of the beaded variety). I’m almost convinced there’s some global contest to see who can score the most loyalty points at JoAnn Fabric with their frequent shopper card. There were a number of vendors who were making fabric based items like purses, bags, scarfs, dog accessories, place mats, you name it the list went on and on. But again, there were about four tents with the same set up of these fabric creations. The staple sand art vendor was there. It used to be tradition for me to make a sand art every year. At this point if I could find them all I’m almost positive I could acquire some display space at the MoMA for those beauties. The highlight for me was a college artist named Brian J. Hart (a Hokie grad himself) who drew some amazing pieces and then had them signed by the relevant notables from each school. Definitely check out his work! The prints are pretty reasonable, but be sure to bring your bonus check along if you’re looking to snatch a framed and autographed version. I was also really impressed with a vendor who used glass paint on white window frames to create some beautiful coastal imagery. Of course, then MFB’s bro-in-law reminded me I could just DIY that project and save $200-$400.
I should also mention that there’s a great kids area full of bouncy houses, super slides, pony rides and the like so it’s certainly a family friendly event. In fact, the festival is so family friendly there is no alcohol served (perhaps the only negative). Live music can be heard almost continually from one of the two stages that overlook the food area and the children’s area/giant open field. The festival is the same weekend ever year (second in October) so I highly encourage you to check out next year’s for some sure to please seafood.
Until next time, Cheers!