Last week I was a judge at the Mendocino Crab & Wine Days. For the past 11 years, local chefs have entered their crab cakes in a cook-off to be chosen best of the best. In a separate contest, local wineries enter the bottling they think pairs best with pure crab meat (look for this in a later post). It’s all Dungeness crab, caught locally off the coast of Mendocino.
We blind tasted our way (chef, restaurant and ingredients not identified) through 15 crab cakes and awarded scores for taste, presentation and originality. The best cakes really honored the crab — nice chunks of crab meat, simple preparation with no one ingredient overpowering the crab.
The judges for the most part were in agreement on which crab cakes worked and which ones didn’t. We preferred the less fussy presentations, and the cakes that had more crab than filler.
The winners above L-R: 1st place: Silver’s at the Wharf – full of chunks, moist, not perfectly shaped. We liked the acid from the grapefruit. 2nd place: Cafe Beaujolais. Great presentation, crab chunks with and green bean garnish. 3rd place Mendo Bistro. Nice clean flavors and presentation, panko breading, (just awesome in my notes).
The next day, there’s a public tasting of all the crab cakes, and everyone casts votes for the People’s Choice award. Results were similar to ours. 1st place: Def Chef Catering; 2nd place: Silver’s at the Wharf; 3rd place: Mendo Bistro. Congratulations to all!