Enjoying stone crabs and other local food
It’s hard to be crabby when you’re eating stone crabs.
At Moore’s Stone Crab Restaurant, in the picturesque and wealthy Gulf-side town of Longboat Key (average household income: $104,000), you can take an indoor or outdoor seat for a view of the Sarasota Bay. You’ll watch watch small and large boats glide by and enjoy a breeze if it’s not too hot out.
Moore’s is the oldest restaurant in Manatee County that has had the same consistent ownership (it opened in 1967).
Although Moore’s serves all kinds of seafood dishes and some landlubber ones, its specialty is its namesake–stone crabs, which are in season in Florida from October 15 to May 15. During that time, trappers for Moore’s and many others throughout the state get stone crabs, which are enjoyed for their large, meaty claws. Trappers take off one of the claws–they are not allowed to take the whole crab–and throw the crab back in the water. The missing claw will grow back. In its lifetime, a stone crab can regenerate its claw three to four times.
Trappers for Moore’s trap stone crabs between the Clearwater Beach area and the Florida Keys. In an average season, trappers for Moore’s catch 350,000 to 400,000 lbs. of claws. On a good day, that averages out to 2,000 to 4,000 lbs, according to the restaurant’s website.
Meanwhile, crab lovers enjoy chunks of meat (hot or cold, your choice) without all the work involved with other kinds of crab eating. Moore’s even cracks the claws open for you, so all you have to do is pick at it a little to open it up and enjoy the meat. You can also dip the meat in a mustard sauce. As eating stone crabs might get a little messy, wait staff place a bib emblazoned with the restaurant name around your neck (don’t worry, you can take it off if you want).
Of course, Moore’s is not the only place to eat stone crabs when in season. Joe’s Stone Crabs in Miami Beach is famous for serving them. If you search “where to buy stone crabs in Florida” online, you’ll come up with restaurants particular to your area. Many restaurants (including Moore’s and Joe’s Stone Crabs) allow you to order stone crabs and have them shipped. Just be ready to pay some dough–a dinner for two of medium-sized crab claws with mustard sauce from Joe’s costs $126.95 if you want it shipped to you.
At Moore’s five crab claws with one side and two hush puppies was about $23 (eating in the restaurant, not ordering for home delivery). Prices can vary each season and also depend on the size of the claws.
For more facts about stone crabs and recipes, check out this link from the Florida Department of Agriculture.
Eat Local 2012 invites residents to restaurants, special events
While we’re talking about food that’s fresh from Florida, Florida Culture would be remiss not to mention the upcoming Eat Local week in the Sarasota area. Eat Local puts the spotlight on the importance of buying produce and other food produced locally, according to Don Hall, executive director of Transition Sarasota. Transition Sarasota, Slow Food Greater Sarasota, and a number of other organizations are sponsoring the event, which is in its second year.
Eat Local 2012 will be held April 14-22 and includes 17 participating restaurants, such as The BeachHouse Restaurant in Bradenton Beach, The Ritz Carlton Sarasota, Charisma Cafe in Bradenton, and the Sandbar Waterfront Restaurant in Anna Maria Island. The restaurants will serve house specials with at least 80% of the ingredients coming from local sources. The event is defining local as within 125 miles for produce and meat from within the state of Florida for meat.
Serving food from local sources attracts more customers to The BeachHouse Restaurant, says manager Mike Shannon. He says the restaurant makes a conscious effort to buy fish, eggplant, broccoli, tomatoes, and other produce from local companies. Common sources for these items include Gamble Creek Farm in Parrish, King Farm and Hunsader Farms in Bradenton, and the Suncoast Food Alliance. The restaurant even gets caviar from Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota.
“We’re lucky in Florida to have such a long growing season,” he says.
Another highlight of the week will be a talk by Shenandoah Valley, Va.,-based farmer Joel Salatin. If you’ve read or watched anything about the buying local food movement, then you’ve probably seen the bespectacled, outspoken alternative farmer. He has been featured in the documentaries “Food Inc.,” “American Meat,” and in Michael Pollan’s book The Omnivore’s Dilemma. Salatin will give a lunchtime talk at The BeachHouse Restaurant on Thursday, April 19, from noon to 2 p.m.