blog-for-the-bayIn honor of Earth Day, local bloggers FoodieTots and Arugula Files have organized something they’re calling “Blog for the Bay.”  It’s an effort to support clean water in the Chesapeake and to urge the EPA to move forward on Bay clean-up efforts.  They’re also encouraging anyone who’s interested to sign the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s petition.

As part of the project, we here at Capital Spice are happy to share one of our favorite things about the Chesapeake: Chris’ Marketplace and their delicious crabcakes!

If you’ve ever walked through the Dupont Circle or the Penn Quarter FreshFarm Market, chances are you’ve been drawn to Chris Hoge’s stand.  It’s a simple setup – just a few tables and coolers with a pair of butane stoves and a dry-erase board – but it’s been known to draw lines of people queued up to enjoy some of Chris’ delicious seafood specialties.  Chief among them are his jumbo lump crab cakes, made from Chesapeake Bay blue crabs.

It should come as no surprise that Hoge knows what he’s doing: he captained a commercial fishing boat for a time before settling into his current role as a vendor of “value added seafood products.”  With his connections to top-quality wholesalers and his knack for bringing out the natural flavors of his raw materials, his crabcakes (not to mention his shrimp refresco and his empanadas) put the competition to shame.

Details on where and when to find Chris – and what makes his crabcakes and other seafood dishes so damn addictive – after the jump.

braised-chicken-and-refrescoWhen you walk up to Hoge’s stand at the market, you’re likely to be greeted by a row or two of samples.  In the spring, you’ll find freshly-cooked bites of the lump crabcakes and tastes of the various fish-, meat- and veggie-filled empanadas.  Once the warmer weather rolls around, you can expect a piquant gazpacho and a rich shrimp refresco in a tangy tomato broth to make an appearance.

Each item on the menu at Chris’ Marketplace stand has points in its favor: the empanadas are light and flaky, with a terrific filling-to-pastry ratio; the refresco is light and (surprise!) refreshing with chunks of creamy avocado and bits of red onion to add depth to the soup; the gazpacho is spicy and has that great garden-fresh flavor.  But the crabcakes really are in a class by themselves.

Whether you opt for the lump crab and backfin variety or opt to splurge and enjoy the jumbo lump cakes, you’re in for a treat.  Why’s that?  Simplicity.  These crabcakes exemplify truth in advertising, as they contain almost no fillers or binding agents…they’re almost entirely crab!  And it’s not just any crab, either.  Hoge buys his crab from vetted sources like Rippons Brothers Seafood, a wholesaler that has been selling Chesapeake Bay blue crabs to those in the know for more than sixty years.  Simplicity reigns as he adds a proprietary sauce that hearkens back to his fishing days.  This helps to bind the steamed crabmeat (which retains more natural flavor than boiled meat) into cakes without requiring the addition of large quantities of breadcrumbs or other binding agents.  He can even make gluten-free crabcakes for special orders.

Hoge can be found at farmers’ markets throughout the region each week, and his crabcakes are also sold by phone and at Whole Foods – though the prices are higher and you’ll miss out on a chance to sample the delicious wares before you buy if you don’t purchase in person.  On Thursday afternoons, you can check out the goods at the Penn Quarter FreshFarm Market.  Saturdays find Hoge at the Montgomery Farm Women’s Market in Bethesda, and Sundays he’s on site at the Dupont Circle FreshFarm Market.  Beginning the first weekend in May, you’ll also be able to find his stand at the Annapolis FreshFarm Market on Sundays, opening for its second season this year.

When it comes to protecting the Chesapeake, there are plenty of good reasons for local residents to get involved – but there are none quite as tasty as the products from Chris’ Marketplace.