Between being cooped up with the flu (twice) and a family vacation to San Diego, I haven’t done much backyard traveling lately. The month long hiatus has left me really eager to get out and do some local exploring. When my husband suggested that we head to Bodega Bay on Saturday to check out the bustling crab haul not even the rainy weather could keep me home.
We rolled into Bodega Bay around 1:30; the dark clouds looming on the horizon told us rain was on the way. Chatting up the guy in the coffee shop next to the post office (on Smith Brother Road ) we got some tips on where to find some fresh local crab. You really don’t need to look very hard but we wanted to get as close to the source as possible.
Heading down to the harbor from Highway One we surveyed our options. We were shopping for cooked crab but our son wanted to see some live crabs. Tucked just inside the Porto Bodega Marina we found Mr. Garcia’s, an unassuming mom and pop operation selling both live and cooked crabs. The rain started to pick up so we parked at the edge of the marina to let it pass. A small voice from the backseat said, “I want to see crabs.” We moved around the bay to watch more of the activity. Boats were coming in, crabs were being unloaded, Spud Point Crab Company was hopping. It was great to see the harbor so busy. The crab fishermen are due for a good year. The voice from the backseat got louder, “I want to see crabs!!” The rain was letting up so we pulled into Paisano Brothers Fisheries.
Large crates lined the pier, stacked high and long, full of crabs. Our son saw crabs, lots of them! Now he wasn’t so sure he wanted to see crabs. Walking out the pier we saw people coming and going with their various forms of crab containment – insulated Trader Joe’s bags, coolers, and bins. We watched a boat being unloaded. Empty crates went into the hull and came up laden with crabs. Paisano Brothers had bought more crab in the past couple of days then they did all of last year!
They only sell live crab at Paisano Brothers so we were there just as spectators. Specimens were selected from a tank, weighed, bagged, and hauled away. It all looked pretty straightforward. Should we try to buy live crab? What do you do with them? The guy doing the grabbing, weighing, and bagging of the crabs told us to just boil them in salted water. Bring the water to a boil, drop them in, bring it back to a boil and cook for 15 minutes. That was it. It sounded easy enough. But, how would we get them home?
Looking through the back of our SUV we found a plastic Halloween cauldron (don’t ask). That would work. We bought two crabs. They were weighed – 4.4 lbs. – bagged, and bagged again. I enthusiastically carried our bag into the office to pay. “Take it outside!” I was matter-of-factly informed. A rookie mistake; the sharp legs had of course pierced the double bag and it was leaking. With our leaky bag-o-crabs tucked into our cauldron we headed home. Then, a sudden realization; what are we going to cook them in?
After making a few phone calls we made a detour through Rohnert Park to visit Castino’s Restaurant Supply. We arrived home with a very large stock pot, a cauldron full of crabs, and a sense of satisfaction at having gotten this far. The crabs were hanging in there but I wanted to end their uncomfortable situation soon. Unfortunately, large pots of water take a while to boil. Is it ready yet? No. Now? No. Finally, we had a rolling boil. My husband did the honors. Fifteen minutes later we had cooked crab. Now, how do we clean them? Thanks to an articulate crab enthusiast on YouTube it was a snap. Dinner was served! The crab was meaty and perfectly delicious served with some lightly salted organic Clover butter.
After dinner our son asked, “Where did the crabs go?”
Want to buy some crab for Thanksgiving? They were selling for $3.99-$4.50/lb on Saturday for live or cooked crab.
Porto Bodega Marina (northeast corner of bay)
Live or cooked crab. Call ahead to order cooked. Open ½ day on Thanksgiving Eve.
Paisano Brothers Fisheries
1820 Westshore Road (west side of bay)
Live Crab. Open until 4pm on Thanksgiving Eve, as long as they have crabs.
Spud Point Crab Company
1910 Westshore Road (west side of bay)
Cooked Crab. Call ahead to order. Open until 1pm on Thanksgiving Eve, for pre-orders only.