Some might be tempted to think that 288 single-spaced, small-type pages swallow too many trees for a book about a bay, but in the case of this comprehensive guide, it’s a legitimate use of space. Did you know, for example, that the Chesapeake is the largest estuary in the U.S. and one of the most productive bodies of water in the world? It is 200 miles long, and its watershed area spans 64,000 square miles, feeding six different states. Despite its vastness, the Chesapeake is surprisingly shallow, having an average depth of approximately 21 feet; a six-foot-tall person could wade through more than 700,000 acres of the bay and never get their hat wet.
But it’s ultimately about the seafood, right? Well, in that case, Chesapeake Bay is home to more than 521 species of fish, including rockfish, bluefish, flounder, oysters, eel and, of course, the crown prince of crustaceans, the mighty blue crab. In all, Chesapeake Bay produces about 500 million pounds of seafood annually, and according to Book Smart, Seafood Lover’s Chesapeake Bay may just be the most efficient means to navigate it.
No fewer than 113 eateries in 16 Maryland counties are listed in the book, separated by geographic regions such as the Upper Bay, the Southern Shore, the Western Shore and the Eastern Shore (the last of these accounting for 48 entries by itself). Baker and Smith are even kind enough to throw in Nantuckets in Fenwick Island (though Old Mill Crab House, which is on the western side of the same Delaware county, barely over the Wicomico County line, is curiously absent). Each establishment gets a 200-plus-word write-up, which includes such essentials as location, ownership, chefs and tantalizing references to the claims to fame for each. But that’s not all.
In addition to some fun “Insider Tips” — which include pithy insights, advice and recommendations that range from crab feasts, Maryland strawberries and Old Bay to Smith Island Cake, beating the midwinter blues, and chartering a sail around Annapolis — Seafood Lover’s Chesapeake Bay provides a host of “Colorful Characters,” like archetypal waterman Al Poore of Bozman, Md., artist Nancy Hammond and author James A. Michener, whose novel Chesapeake has become enshrined as a saga for the ages.
Also not to be overlooked are Seafood Lover’s 81 glossy, glorious pages of delectable recipes — a scrupulous selection that is virtually guaranteed to transform the reader’s mouth into its own body of water. Add to this a collection of “Maritime Must-Sees” (including a nearly five-page love letter about John Fager of Fager’s Island), a monthly calendar of events, a glossary and an appendix of regional seafood markets, and what you have is a fun, friendly and more-than-informative handbook on the culinary treasures of what is arguably the world’s greatest bay.
Seafood Lovers Chesapeake Bay: Restaurants, Markets, Recipes & Traditions.
By Mary Lou Baker and Holly Smith
Paperback: 288 pages
Globe Pequot Press (2014)
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