Sunday, February 10, 2008

Sitting by the Dock of the Bay

This weekend I went to Kent Island, Maryland, to film a video podcast for the Kristin Brooks Hope Center, the folks behind 1-800 SUICIDE. After the shoot, KBHC president, Kent Island local and good friend Reese Butler suggested lunch at the Harris Crab House. Well, as the saying goes, when in Rome...

The Eastern Shore is world famous for its seafood, especially crabs and oysters. So I couldn’t resist an appetizer of a dozen oysters (Crassostrea virginica to be exact) and a crab cake sandwich. According to my buddy Reese, who lives on Kent Island, Harris Crab House employs more than 120 people. Before you jump to conclusions and assume that this must be the biggest restaurant on the East Coast, Harris’ employees do more than cook and serve food, some of them are actually watermen who dredge the bay for oysters and set crab traps, and others serve as delivery men for the operation's seafood distribution business in the DC Metro area.

Oysters at Harris Crab House

Knowing this bit of Harris’ history, I assumed the food would be as fresh as can be, and it was. The oysters were sweet, delicate and about as fresh as you can get (unless you happen to be a captain of a skipjack.) And the crab cake sandwich was outstanding. I only wish I hadn’t had breakfast a few hours earlier or I would have ordered a dozen steamed crabs.

Crab Cake Sandwich at Harris Crab House

Kent Island is about 30 minutes away from DC, just over the Bay Bridge. Plus they also offer next day airmail seafood delivery via their website. In fact, Zagat gave Harris Crab House the Award of Distinction with a rating of “Excellent.”

On a sad note, since the introduction of MSX and Dermo in the 1950’s, two infectious diseases that have played a large role in the decline of the Chesapeake Bay’s oyster population, doubled with the fact that the oysters in the Bay have been over harvested for decades, these treats are becoming endangered. The good news is that several oyster hatcheries along the Eastern seaboard are working with scientists across many fields to develop innovative restoration initiatives for the Bay. In addition to these programs, one idea is to introduce a non-native oyster from China called Crassostrea ariakensis.

The following video podcast I created for a past project focuses on current research underway with C. ariakensis, the potential risk of new diseases that could affect the Bay’s ecology and/or human health, the attitudes of Maryland’s watermen toward the oysters' possible introduction, and the role of local, state and federal policy. Enjoy. And, while C. virginica are still in the Bay, make the trip to Harris Crab House and enjoy some of the freshest seafood our area has to offer.

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