The crab cake that broke me.
"What should I eat while I'm here?"
I ask this question in part to poach local knowledge that the mighty internet cannot yield, but more because I like learning about people's preferences and tastes. Also, in a best-case scenario, the folks you ask start squabbling over their answers. Try not to fill up on popcorn watching that melee play out before you go eat.
When I asked my family in Laurel, MD, what to eat in Baltimore, they answered Crabs! in unison, so I complied.
They didn't have a specific spot in mind, so I Googled my way into Baltimore's offerings. On the way, I stopped in Ellicott City, MD, where I discovered that some mad genius put Old Bay seasoning in chocolate, which tastes like the type of strange accident you come across when you lick your hand after spending an evening prepping dinner and dessert. And maybe you've been drinking.
Kudos to that kooky chocolatier.
Ellicott City panorama-rama.
After my requisite 30-minute survey of Ellicott City's quaint main street, I headed to Faidley's at Baltimore's questionably "World Famous" Lexington Market and plunked down a stomach-turning sum for a famed crab cake.
"See this lemon?" the man behind the counter asked me as I picked up my tray. "This is for your water, only. Don't put anything on the crab cake! It's meant to be enjoyed as-is." Then he told me I was pretty in the most charming way, so I felt compelled to follow his advice.
There's that moment when you're about to eat something and, given the circumstances under which it was purchased (long wait, exorbitant price), you have to think, This had better be good.
Oooh, y'all. This crab cake did not disappoint.
First, there's its mass. This sucker is approaching small puppy territory. For the cheap (read: me), this is always a source of comfort when buying food for more than, say, $1.75. You don't care how good it is, but there had better be plenty of it. It's like the joke about the two old Jewish ladies eating at a café: "The food here is terrible," one says. "I know, and the portions are so small!" is her friend's response.
So I was getting my money's worth, that was clear.
Faidley's in Baltimore. Worth cutting through the palpable, rage-filled tension of the
disenfranchised residents outside for a scrumptious treat!
I stuck my fork into the unsullied crab cake and took my first bite. And second. By my third, I almost cried. It's perfectly salted, not too greasy, and stuffed to the rafters with huge lumps of crab meat.
This crab cake possessed a supernatural superfecta of everything I need in a single food in ways I could not have imagined. It was crunchy, chewy, salty, and even a bit sweet. It was dense and light. Indulgent but not overwhelming. It was perfect.
This was the crab cake that broke me.
I'm loathe to call a food my favorite. With the exception of the exceptional (stand-a-fork-in-it thick Massaman curry, overripe peaches), there are few foods I'd say I'd want to eat every day until the grave takes me. (Fuck you, grave.)
But this crab cake overtook nearly all previous or subsequent foods, rendering them transient, frivolous, or boring. Even the lobster roll I had at Chatham, MA's favored Kream'n'Kone -- chock-a-block with acres of plump lobster -- fell short. All I could think of was the crab cake to end all seafoods.
Is this it? Is this the end of seaside succulents as I know it?
Prove me wrong, New England. Prove me wrong.