Sunday, March 25, 2012

Flaming Beards and Big Meat

Even without my eyes to admire the view or my mouth to enjoy the good eating, my ears would have been well satisfied.

A friend had suggested a weekend trip to Annapolis, a place  I (mis)spent a fair amount of time in my youth, but hadn't revisited in years.

The lure was her new digs located right on the bay. with an all-glass view of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. With only a beach separating her and the sound of all that water.

And even with the gray day, it was a magnificent sight and sound.

And even with the occasional rain and lower temperature, boats were out.

Sailboats moving along at a brisk pace all afternoon. Cruise boats toward evening. Freighters in the distance.

I was helping her get organized in her new place and she was taking me out to one of her favorite restaurants.

But it isn't one of her favorites because of the food, although she's a huge steakhouse fan, but because of the colorful crowd (her words).

I'm always game for colorful.

She'd made reservations at the tiny bar, even choosing the specific stools she wanted to reserve.

Which was great for us, but got us some dirty looks when we sailed right into the waiting crowd and into our stools.

We toasted her new view with a bottle of Domaine Chandon Brut Classic.

Asking if I preferred crab or shrimp, we began with a crab cocktail that arrived on a small platter, looking to be about half a pound of lump crabmeat.

It was heavenly and could have been a meal by itself with the addition of a side or two.

Since we were at a steakhouse, I uncharacteristically chose red meat, opting for a filet mignon and roasted asparagus, while my friend inquired about the availability of prime rib.

The bartender returned from the kitchen solemnly, saying, "Zero prime rib, six baked potatoes."

How does a steak house get down to six baked potatoes by 9:00 on a Saturday night?

I thought his wording, "zero prime rib" pretty funny, but my friend was not amused, called dibs on one of the potatoes and settled for filet, too.

Waiting for our food, we amused ourselves with the bar crowd.

Looking down the bar, I saw an obscenely large steak and blurted out to its owner, "You've got a big piece of meat there."

While his brain fumbled for a reply, his buddy said, "You can't talk to my friend that way!"

They were the driving up from Wilmington, N.C., headed to New Jersey and then to Key West.

It seemed like an odd route at best.

The couple right next to us were waiting for a table and she was clearly eavesdropping on our conversation (not that there's anything wrong with that) and jumped in at an opportune moment.

A psychiatrist, she and her husband had lived in the area for ten years and wanted to talk restaurants with my friend once they heard she'd just moved there.

When they left for their table, another couple replaced them and they were feeling no pain.

They'd had dinner at the bar earlier, gone to a nearby pub and returned for a night cap.

Their story? From Scranton, on their way to catch the auto train to Florida and spending the weekend eating and drinking in Annapolis.

They were hysterical. Former stockbrokers who had met at a company softball game when he complimented her car (that old trick) back in the '80s, they'd extracted themselves from their marriages to marry each other.

She told a great story about working at Clyde's years ago when two members of the Jeff Beck group came in the bar.

They all started talking music and before they left, one of the musicians slid a big chunk of hash across the bar to her.

Not long afterwards, the bartender drank a flaming Galliano and inadvertently set his beard on fire.

After tamping it out and before he left for the hospital, she slid the hash over to him,, saying, "Have this. I think you'll need it more than I do."

That led to me asking them what their first shows had been (John Denver, who was a friend of hers, for her and Chicago for him) and music talk ensured.

The sous chef was at the end of the bar eavesdropping and jumped in then, pointing at me and asking what my first show had been.

His had been The Police on the "Synchronicity" tour. No wonder he'd been a music lover ever since.

By the time we left there satisfied with the colorful crowd, I was in a red meat coma and couldn't even think about ever wanting to eat again.

We went back to her place and drank more bubbles while listening to the bay.

Even better, I fell asleep to the sound of the water hitting the beach.

The bridge was lost in fog this morning, not that there weren't sailboats on the water anyway.

By the time we got ready to leave for points south, it was lunchtime.

Luckily this meal was more area-appropriate; Cantler's Riverside Inn was a crabhouse.

Originally a rough biker bar from the forties with lots of fights we were told, it had been bought by a guy named Cantler in '74 and turned into what it is today.

A casual place where people come via boat, bike and car to pick crabs.

And I can eat crabs like only someone raised in Maryland can.

They weren't local obviously, but from Louisiana, but they were supers (jumbos weren't to my friend's liking), well seasoned and hot out of the steamer.

So we settled in with a bartender named Karen (also one of six children) and ate Maryland crab soup and crabs.

My friend marveled at my picking speed and I inhaled crabs for the first time in my life in March.

The only thing that was missing was the sound of the water, but my friend was unwilling to sit outside because the plastic was up on the walls of the outside deck.

And as good as the crabs were, and they were meaty and flavorful, I already missed the sound of the water.

Looks like I'll have to go back to Annapolis again soon.

Sure, to eat, but mostly to hear.

No comments:

Post a Comment