Crackin' Crab in Mendocino

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FORT BRAGG—The conversation over instant messenger between my brother, stuck in an office in San Francisco, and me, eating crab cakes and drinking wine in Mendocino went something like this:

Eatdrinkeatdrink: How much do you hate me right now?
Jirwinsfo: A lot.
Eatdrinkeatdrink: No really. Oh, wait…ooops dripped some sauce from my delicious crabcake while chatting with Olivia Wu from the Chronicle.
Jirwinsfo: I hate you. I’m in an office right now.
Eatdrinkeatdrink: Hold on, I missed that. I’m drinking my fifth glass of wine.
Jirwinsfo: You are an evil sister. Evil, I say.

At least that’s how I remember it. But I mean, I *had* been judging wine and crabcakes at the annual Mendocino Crab and Wine Festival all afternoon and one’s memory is a fragile thing, you know. I think I got the gist of it…minus a few expletives.

I wasn’t the only one covered with crab shells and the last few drops of a tasty Sauvignon Blanc or two last during the last weekend of January. Along with me, hundreds of crabby folks braved the elements to attend the annual festival in Fort Bragg (and, well, pretty much everywhere along the Mendocino Coast). Crab crackers flying throughout the wet and stormy weekend, I am fairly confident that I am personally responsible for the demise of several crustaceans, and in the onslaught, may have also consumed a few fish, some mussels and well, a handful of other sea creatures. Their sacrifice will not soon be forgotten. Pass the butter.

Here’s what I learned at the Crab Festival:

- The crab cakes at the Mendo Bistro have no equal. Even after eating, um…10 of them (seriously), I still wanted more. More!
- The beds at the Stanford Inn in Mendocino may induce up to 11 hours of sleep at a time. Double that, if you light the fireplace.
- No one looks sexy in a crab hat.
- Everyone looks sexy eating big, steaming bowls of Cioppino from a communal bowl.
- Red wine and crab cakes are a scary thing. Most of the time.
- You could learn something from a fisherman. Like the fact that it’s always a good idea to use eye protection when lowering a 50 pound vat of boiling crabs into ice.
- Never look a crab in the eye stalk. Especially after sampling 41 of Mendocino County’s finest wines.

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