Wednesday, June 15, 2011

I Left My Heart In... Baltimore?

Baltimore, Maryland.

It is not one of the destinations on my "Top Ten Weekend Vacations" list, but when the derby monster calls, you pick up the phone. So early on a recent Saturday, it was into the rental car with two fellow derby-ites and off to scenic Baltimore.

I had a sour taste in my mouth already from my last visit two years prior, where a simple weekend excursion to Charm City for a game turned into quite the affair. I don't want to bore you with all the details of the trip, but simply put, my family decided to attend the game and Jon and I decided to travel with them to save money on car rentals. But let me just tell you this: my dad seemed to neglect the fact that his children are all adult size now, and one of them dates a man that is over six feet tall. The small sedan will not work for long car excursions, especially when we know that there is a large, comfortable van parked right next to it in your driveway. Please reconsider the options next time.

To top off all the family "fun", it was Jon's birthday, which I have managed to ruin with a derby game every single year except one, when we were in Costa Rica... where I managed to contract the worst food poisoning ever.
Happy Birthday, Jon.

Jon and my family hanging out in Baltimore's Inner Harbor. Birthday festivities!

I am totally down to participate in photo fun time with mom and dad, but the morning after a game, all I want is a damn bloody mary

So needless to say, as Margaret Thrasher, Puss 'n Glutes and I drove down I-95 towards our destination, I was dreading another lackluster visit to a city that did nothing except piss me off. But this time, I was determined to not waste a weekend. I decided that if I had to go to Baltimore, I would exploit it for the one thing I knew about it: BLUE CRABS. I promised myself that I would settle for nothing less than a gluttonous dinner of steamed blue crabs, served to me at a waterfront restaurant with paper-clad tables accompanied by a large bucket of icy Coronas. This would justify my weekend in Baltimore. Nothing more, and certainly nothing less.

When we arrived, it was sunny and 80 degrees, a welcomed contrast to the shitty Northeast weather we had been enduring for weeks, and upon arriving earlier than expected, we decided to go for a stroll along the waterfront at the South end of the harbor, giving me a chance to also stake out the restuarant I had tagged for the evening's festivities, Bo Brooks.

Waterfront: check.
Paper on tables: check.
Corona in buckets: well, they had a tiki bar, so I was pretty sure I was covered. So, check.

[and here's the part about the derby game, quick and simple so we can get to the tastier stuff. Scrappy game, very fouly from both ends, jamming, blocking, aaaand the end. Gotham beat Charm City, 241 - 102. A very decisive win. Very fun. Now back to the crabs.]

So after herding the cats (Q: how many people does it take to get Fisti Cuffs out of the building after a game? A: We don't know, she's probably still in there!), it was off to Bo Brooks for some well deserved post game grub. And as I have mentioned in past entries, the post game indulgence meal is a very exciting event for me. I have just burned 2,746,836,367 calories (that's a scientific number, by the way) and yes, I deserve fries smothered in crab dip. True story, they were amazing.

And the steamed crabs. Oh, the crabs. They sure hit the spot. Granted it wasn't peak blue crab season, and yes I was aware of the fact that despite being right on the Chesapeake these crabs were imported from Texas – a weird and somewhat disturbing phenomenon where the Chesapeake's abundance of blue crabs can't actually support the demand for them without completely wiping out the blue crab population of the bay. But as far as a satisfying eating experience goes, this was indeed one of them.

I love cracking crabs. I grew up doing it almost every weekend at the family shore house. There's a lagoon in the backyard and the first order of business upon arriving was to get the crab traps out from under the deck and the old chicken meat from the freezer. Tie the meat in the traps, and lower them over the railing, checking on them occasionally between dips in the lagoon and trips to the beach. On Sunday afternoon, we'd collect our catch (with a little supplement from the local crab shack) and my Grandma Mary would steam them up with a huge dish of spaghetti in red clam sauce.
And right there, that simple picture actually accounts for a large part of my summer childhood memories. But Grandma Mary is long gone, the shore house now belongs to my aunt and uncle, and when we do visit, those Sunday dinners have given way to concerns about leaving early to beat the traffic. But one look at a heap of crabs waiting to be broken into brings me right back to that sticky-from-the-salt air kitchen table, surrounded by the rotating cast that is my extended family, while my mom shows me for the one-hundredth time how to suck the secret meat out of a claw and one of my sisters kicks me under the table, just 'cause.

And really, isn't that why we love food in the first place?

And as if it couldn't get any better than that. After waking up in our hotel room which included this view from the balcony:

Thank you, Hotwire!
we were back in our trusty rental car ready for the drive back up North... almost. We had gotten a tip-off the night before from some teammates who claimed the best ever pie shop was right around the corner from the bars we were hanging out at post crabs the night before. All joking aside folks, what kind of person would I be if I refused pie??? So it was back to the waterfront for one more small adventure in the city that was oh so slowly winning me over. Did I mention how obnoxiously beautiful and fun the Fells Point section of Baltimore is? Who knew Baltimore boasted more than a high crime rate and John Waters?

And then there was the pie. Dangerously Delicious. Well, it was indeed, but that's also the shop's name- Dangerously Delicious Pies. Hello breakfast.

The three of us ordered our breakfast - hearty slices of BBQ pork pie and settled in with mugs of coffee while we impatiently dreamed of the goodness ahead. Brace yourself:

They make their own pulled pork and BBQ sauce right in house too!
After we wiped the drool and crumbs from our chins, we exchanged devilish glances and with a nod, it was done.

We had ordered dessert.

Strawberry rhubarb, a favorite of mine!
Banana cream

I can't even. It's just good. Good. Fucking good pie. Completely decadent and amazing.

Why, yes. I think I will

I loosened my seat belt considerably when I got into the driver's seat. I started the engine with a sigh and we began the trek home. In my mind I was thinking about September, when this year's Eastern Regional Tournament happens. It means yet another weekend excursion to Baltimore.

And you know what? I'm excited.

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