There are some people that are instantly likable. John Shields, author of Chesapeake Bay Cooking, host of the PBS series Coastal Cooking, and owner of Gertrude’s in the Baltimore Museum of Art is one of those people. (Unless you are a crustacean, in which case you need to run for your life.) Not only is John personable, but he also has a passion for – and possibly an addiction to – this region’s native cuisine. I was a little cautious about speaking with him about Baltimore seafood restaurants because as a restaurateur he might see such establishments as competition. But, John loves Chesapeake Bay cooking and has no problem discussing his favorite (and sometimes hidden) gems.
John was the special guest at Wildfire’s annual Chesapeake crab dinner. I was happy to be present and follow along (crab in hand) while he taught us how to break the spice-covered crustacean down step-by-step. John informed us that due to some early season chilly weather, the current crop of crabs contain crustaceans that are a bit smaller and more expensive than usual; he speculated that this will change by early fall. John even visited our table later on to give DCFüd’s videographer (Cy, a Virginian with childhood memories of the river) a one-on-one lesson in how to break down blue crabs like someone who picks jumbo lump for a living.
Wildfire’s Executive Chef, Eddie Ishaq, did a wonderful job showcasing crab in a variety of uses. The blue crabs were well spiced. The pan seared halibut with garlic spinach and sauce supreme was delicious. The ribeye medallion and crab cake were very well executed; that was the best piece of steak I’ve had lately and everyone agreed that the restaurant did an amazing job n the crab cake. That particular surf and turf masterpiece is on the menu at the Chicago Wildfire restaurants but there are normally only enough of that particular cut of steak for Windy City Diners, so Eddie had to order the meat three months in advance for this particular dinner when John (who often dines at the Chicago Wildfire restaurants) asked about the dish. We (Cy, myself, and the people seated at our table) would have preferred a wine or beer pairing over the dinner’s cocktail pairing.
Below is our Youtube video: How to Pick Chesapeake Blue Crab with John Shields:
Based on how wonderful the food was at this dinner, I definitely recommend trying Wildfire’s dinner events, such as the Chimay Brewery dinner on August 9th ($60 per person plus tax and gratuity). The courses will be:
- Risotto Frito, paired with the Chimay Red Cap
- Mussels Meuniere, paired with the Chimay Triple
- Braised Sausage & Cabbage, paired with the Chimay Blue Cap
- Pot de Creme (dark chocolate custard with whipped creme), paired with the Chimay Blue Cap