Local crab feeds appear like a lighthouse beacon during the dull winter months, guiding us through the hazardous, post-holiday shoals of chocolate withdrawal and seasonal affective disorder.
If you haven’t already done it, go ahead and cheer yourself up by reserving a seat at one of these all-you-can eat crab extravaganzas. Strap on that plastic bib and sip a glass of buttery chardonnay, and life will seem worth living again.
If you’ve experienced a few crabapaloozas here, you know that each one has its own unique ambiance and charm. Held everywhere from cozy community halls to upscale wineries and restaurants, the ever-popular crab feed offers something for everyone. In other words, not all are created equal.
Things you may want to consider include how the crab is served (cracked and cold, or in steaming bowls of cioppino), whether beer and wine are included in the ticket price (in addition to a no-host bar), what other fun extras might be offered (live music, kids’ performances or a DJ for dancing) and the all-important matter of fundraising activities (raffles, silent and live auctions) or lack thereof.
The pacing is also paramount.
“I like to see an event that’s moving and fun and has a live auction that doesn’t drag on for hours and hours,” said Jason Weiss, vice president of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Sonoma County, which will hold two crab feeds in Petaluma and Windsor this winter.
Although the raison d’etre for most crab feeds is to raise money for worthy causes — a tradition that started back in the 1960s and ‘70s — they are first and foremost eating events, so the crab with all the fixings is of primary concern.
“Here in West County, everybody does a crab feed, so you have to distinguish between yours and theirs,” said Harold Kwalwasser, public relations chair of the Sebastopol Rotary club, which will hold its annual crab feed Feb. 9. “We have a variety of members who either run grocery stores or wineries, so we pride ourselves on having absolutely the freshest crab and some pretty darn good wine.”
Tony DeLima, sales manager at the Tides Wharf in Bodega Bay, supplies many Sonoma County crab feeds with the tasty crustaceans, but unfortunately, the supply of hyper-local crabs is dropping off.
“Out of here, I don’t think you’re going to see very many more crabs,” DeLima said in early January. “We are waiting for Oregon to start ... the boats set the gear, but they are not able to pull because the weather is bad.”
Meanwhile, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife has announced it will open the commercial Dungeness crab fishery from the Sonoma/Mendocino county line north to Patrick’s Point in Humboldt County on Jan. 15, as many consumers had hoped. So fear not: The crab feeds will go on, and they will be as delicious as ever.
Although there are too many local crab feeds to list here, we threw a wide net to offer some tasty choices in a variety of regions and categories, from crab feeds for foodies to crab feeds with a view. Now get cracking!
Crab feeds for foodies
If you want to pull out all the culinary stops, look no farther than the 30th annual Crab and Wine Fest hosted by the Sonoma County Farm Bureau on Feb. 2 at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds in Santa Rosa.