Saturday, October 06, 2007

California's Pride of Baltimore Crabcakes

Though Baltimore through and through, Unique Culinary Adventures often gravitates toward perspectives from elsewhere. When one of them reflects our own Baltimore perspective, we love it. Take for instance in Los Angeles, where Hungry Cat, a hip Hollywood hotspot at 1535 North Vine (I understand that now there's also one in Santa Barbara), occasionally goes to great length in showcasing the decidedly more laid back crab-eating culture for which our hometown is famous.

When the mood strikes, celebrity owner and chef, David Lentz (who grew up in Baltimore eating crab cakes) arranges for shipment of Maryland crabs to his establishment and has been known to serve up true Maryland style crab feasts right on down to the Natty Bo. Although one of the reviews I read suggested that after the journey, Hungry Cat's steamed crabs seemed a bit mushy, I've heard nothing but raves over the crab soup---and particularly the crab cakes.

I can personally vouch for the latter, at least as prepared according to Chef Lentz's recipe for Pride of Baltimore Crab Cakes from the January, 2006 Food & Wine Magazine in an article about---of all things--- bar food. That category surely has something to do with the fact that in addition to National Bohemian Beer, Hungry Cat's cocktail menu offers some of the most cutting edge cocktails anywhere.
Interestingly, the Hungry Cat crab cake recipe bears a bit of resemblance to the one we adapted for Dungeness crab meat in our Best Crabcakes Ever post. For that, we had turned to Chesapeake Bay Cooking with John Shields for the (secret?) recipe from Faidley's at the Lexington Market. The main difference between the two recipes is the addition of olive oil , grapeseed oil, and lemon juice to the mayonnaise mixture that holds the crab cakes together. Thereafter, half the mayonnaise mixture is placed aside to await the addition of garlic for an aioli accompaniment. The result is a true Maryland crab cake where the binding has a subtly enhanced flavor. Garlic aioli substitutes for tartar sauce.
Assuming this is truly what's served up at Hungry Cat, it passes my "Maryland Test" better than any crab cakes I've ever enjoyed when out of state.