I'm not someone who gets into the whole Baltimore "hon" vibe. First off, I'm not from here so it's not like the beehived denizens of Charm City have any kind of cultural kinship for me. Yeah, it's cute and it's fun but my Aunt Jo was from Bridesburg, PA and had a beehive, wore cha-cha pants, smoked and was as much of a hon as the celebrated Bawlmer species. In other words, there's "hons" everywhere, especially in places like Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Philly.
On top of that, the whole thing is organized by the owner of Cafe Hon, an establishment I'm loathe to patronize after a series of meals that have ranged from simply mediocre to among the worst I've ever had. Anywhere.
That said I'm also predictable as can be so when Chris sent me a link to an article about the festival's attempt to break the record for the world's largest crabcake I was on board.
Unfortunately, our festival pre-planning wasn't in high gear. We'd gone to a baby shower beforehand and in the rush to get ready and head out I'd forgotten to put Ryan's stroller in the car. With temps creeping up and parking sure to be at a premium I quietly cursed myself as it dawned on me that we'd be probably be carrying our three-foot, thirty-plus-pound daughter a good deal of the time.
In actuality the forgotten stroller turned out to be a bit of a plus as the warm weather and somewhat sunny skies had brought out tens of thousands who were there to shop, eat, drink and witness the spectacle of Hon Fest. (A spectacle that was best summed up by the burly 6'5" "hon" whose sundress could barely contain the broad, hairy shoulders and hands that dwarfed even the comically-oversized pack of Marlboro Reds.)
But we were there for the crabcake and after standing in a lengthy line at one of the few ATMs on the Avenue (another symptom of piss poor pre-planning) we headed to the booth where sandwiches made from the record-setter were on sale for $10 with proceeds benefitting Special Olympics.
The brainchild of Jim Cupp, sales manager for seafood processor Handy International, the crabcake weighed in at 253 pounds, besting Cupp's own record. Now, anytime something is billed as "the world's largest" anything I'm generally dubious about the taste, flavor and quality. Throw in the fact that the crabcake had been mixed around 3 AM and started cooking around 5 AM and well, you can see why I viewed the $10 more as a donation than an actual purchase.
After briefly chatting with the folks manning the booth we ordered our sandwich with Chris making the astute request for a "crispy" piece. The sandwich we were given had a nice, baked crust on top, unlike some of the platters on the table that looked like little more than scoops of crumbly crabcake filling had been dumped atop them.
Before settling down on the curb to sample the record setter we swung by the front of the booth to get pictures of Cupp and the custom made pan that had been used to fire up our lunch. With Ryan between us happily munching Utz Chips and calling our attention to every dog that walked by we poised our forks and dug in. (We both passed on the warm packets of tartar sauce that felt hot to the touch under the steamy Baltimore sun.)
I think "shock" and "surprise" would be the two words that best describe our reaction to the crabcake. While folks at G&M, Faidley's and Michael's certainly shouldn't be quaking in their boots this was far from the worst crabcake I've ever had (some restaurant on OBX whose name I can't recall at the moment wins that award) and was actually downright tasty. I'm not sure how Cupp was actually able to get a 250 lb. plus crabcake to have some spicy flavor and bite, but he did.
With chips and crabcake in our respective stomachs it was time to hoist Ryan into our arms and make our way back through the crowd to where we'd parked, pleasant memories of Honfest in our head and the world's largest crabcake in our bellies.