Last night for a birthday and winter solstice champagne and crab celebration for 50+ people, our hostess ordered 35 cleaned and cracked crabs from Cook's Seafood in Menlo Park. I had been curious how she was going to stage this for a group of this size, and it turned out remarkably well.
At the entrance way, a table of champagne flutes was at hand. The musicians were on one end of the living room along with the stations for the champagne and hors d'oeuvres. The table in the dining room was set with a red checkered table cloth and 8 chairs. A big tray of chilled cracked crab, hunks of sourdough bread, cut lemons, and most importantly, 8 butter warmers, were laid out for us to take our turn sitting down and gorging on crab. We had paper plates, crackers, cocktail forks, stacks of napkins, and aluminum trays to discard our shells. It moved quite smoothly. It was amusing how little conversation there was at the table, as those seated were intently focused on their crab.
The crabs were good size, judging from the size of the claws and legs, likely in the 2+ lb. range. They tasted like they'd been cooked in lightly salted water. The body sections were at the right doneness for me, but I did find the legs a tad overcooked. I also ran across three legs that were ammoniated. But overall, I thought this was high quality crab. Whatever was uneaten was destined for the cioppino pot today.
Of the champagnes quaffed, the Pommery (aged at home for 2 years) had a lovely biscuity tone but was a bit too sweet to enjoy with the crab. Jean Milan was as fine as ever. Veuve Cliquot was its usual reliable self. My favorite with the crab was Tarlant "zero". Dervin was lean and mean with acidity that took the layer off the tongue. When our hostess grabbed the bottle to dump it out, we stopped her and asked if she had any creme de cassis. Instead, we made some lovely kir royale nightcaps with it to end a great evening.
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