Chesapeake Bay Seafood Guide: What to Eat & When to Eat It

Foodie questions are among the most asked in these parts. To help you make the most of your meals here, we’ve put together this Chesapeake Bay Seafood Guide:  What to Eat & When to Eat It.

TalbotCounty_ChesapeakeBaySeafoodGuide_1WHAT’S LOCAL? Here on the Chesapeake Bay, we’re best known for three things: Chesapeake Bay blue crabs, oysters and rockfish (also known as striped bass). You won’t find them fresher anywhere else. The Bay is also home to dozens of other delicious fish including black drum, white perch, croaker and flounder. Our local chefs prepare them in ways ranging from classic to creative—and just plain steaming or frying is always an option.

WHAT’S IN SEASON? Blue crabs are in season April through October. They’re most popular by far in the summer months, but many locals swear by the plumped-up crabs of the fall. Rockfish season is much longer, opening in mid-April and lingering through December. For oysters, the old wives’ tale suggests the “R” rule—indulging only in months with an “R,” meaning September, October, November, December, January, February, March and April. The season officially runs October 1 through March 31.

WHAT’S THAT RED STUFF? That’s Old Bay seasoning, which has been made in Baltimore for more than 75 years by McCormick & Co. Steamed crabs are often covered in Old Bay. This zesty powder can also spice up king crabs, mussels and shrimp, but those particular sea creatures aren’t native to this area.

Dig into a bushel of crabs steamed and dusted generously with Old Bay, and served with drawn butter or vinegar if you’re feeling adventuresome (the jury is out on whether butter or vinegar is more traditional). Order a dozen raw, freshly shucked oysters on the half shell. You can slurp them straight from the shell or plop them on a cracker and top them with horseradish, cocktail sauce and a squeeze of lemon. Or opt for rockfish cooked up any which way.

Local chefs have been incorporating these delectable treats into distinctive dishes for decades. For a little taste of crab, try a vegetable crab soup, a cream of crab soup topped with a little sherry, crab dip (typically including sour cream or cream cheese and served with toast), or crab imperial atop any number of entrees.

Crab cakes, broiled or fried, are a local favorite, with nearly every restaurant in town vying for the title of best. (Hint: The true contenders usually feature especially delicious seasoning, plenty of lump meat and little filler.) Oyster preparations include cooked dishes like Oysters Rockefeller, and for those feeling especially adventuresome, oyster shooters. These come in a variety of ways, but perhaps the most approachable is a raw oyster slipped into a mini Bloody Mary, or just some beer or vodka with cocktail sauce, and downed like a shot.

As for fresh local fish, you really can’t go wrong—just ask your server for details on the chef’s specialty. You won’t be disappointed.

WHAT’S THE BEST PLACE? If you’d prefer to leave the cooking to the pros, we have a gracious plenty when it comes to restaurants. Almost all of ours offer seafood in some capacity. But if it’s specifically seafood you’re seeking, we recommend checking out the restaurants that specialize in it (many have crab or Chesapeake in their name!). If you’re up for preparing a meal yourself, or if you’re looking for a quick order-and-go option, there are plenty of markets that offer carry-out. Check out all the local seafood spots in Talbot County here.

Download our latest Travel Guide for more details on Talbot County’s seafood guide here.

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