Softshell crab season has returned to South Carolina. And that means you can once again chew through an entire blue crab — feet, legs, carapace and all.
For just a few weeks each spring, blue crabs in South Carolina waters shed their shells and make their way to local restaurants. (OK, it’s a little more complicated than that. I used to wonder how exactly one caught a softshell crab, given that they’re extra-shy and careful during their brief softshelled phase. Turns out crabbers just know the signs of a crab about to molt, so when they catch one of those they put it under observation until it chucks its shell. Removing the crab from the saltwater at that point will keep the shell from hardening.)
So, what’s the big deal? Why do people hyperventilate about softshells, speaking of them as though they’re the ramps of the South?
There are a lot of reasons for the hype: The strangely delightful texture of the exoskeleton (it’s not soft; more like chewy); the salty, wet burst of internal goop; the fresh, delicate crab meat; the dangly legs; the fact that they’re only available for a short time and must be served impeccably fresh. Softshells take especially well to pan-frying; their light flavors blend well with springy vegetables and salads; they go nicely with rosé. They are, in short, a perfect spring food.
In this week’s Bite of the Week, Jonathan Sharpe takes a look at Terra’s entrée version — and there are plenty of other good local options.
As of press time, Solstice Kitchen was serving softshells fried with sherry-mustard beurre blanc and deviled crab salad.
Cellar on Green has crispy fried softshells with sweet pepper-shrimp relish, City Roots butterhead lettuce, yellow grape tomatoes and green goddess dressing.
Tombo Grille has softshell crabs with Adluh grits, green tomato chow chow and red hot aioli.
Rosso Trattoria has them. Oak Table has them. So does Bourbon, which isn’t yet open (well, not really; it’s in the soft opening phase), but will be serving softshells, too, according to owner Kristian Niemi. (Bourbon holds an opening party Monday to benefit Sustainable Midlands, by the way; tickets are $65 and can be purchased at sustainablemidlands.org.)
Softshell season typically lasts just a few weeks in South Carolina. It began last week, so if you’re looking to get in on it, don’t delay.
Celebrate Turkish Culture
On Saturday, the South Carolina Dialogue Foundation hosts the Turkish Cultural Festival, which features, among other things, Turkish food (and Turkish delight, that starchy, powder-coated, often rose-flavored candy beloved by some). The festival runs from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the foundation’s headquarters at 909 Shull St. in West Columbia.
Sign Us Up
The state’s food heritage is getting a bit of attention with the introduction of directional signs featuring Certified South Carolina Grown logos pointing to certain working farms around the state — including the Midlands’ own Cottle Strawberry Farm. Other signs will point the way to Firefly Distillery and Irvin House Vineyard on Wadmalaw Island, and Bee City in Cottageville, among others, The Associated Press reports. The program is a joint project of the state Department of Transportation, the Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism and the South Carolina Department of Agriculture.
Speaking of Cottle Strawberry Farm, the 2014 public picking season is now underway; it runs through about June. Visit cottlestrawberryfarm.com for U-pick locations, hours and other information.
Tax-Free Weekend at Best Mattress
With big savings from July 31st-August 2nd, you can afford handcrafted quality. Free bed frame and pillows on any Full, Queen, or King set $599 and above! Click for locations and hours.
Relaxation, Pain Management, and Stress Relief
Licensed massage therapist Allison Morris of AMR Massage is offering 50% off your first session and every 5th session free of charge. Click here for location, hours, and more information.
Columbia’s Largest Sidewalk Sale
Shop local this tax free weekend! Devine Street and Five Points are teaming up for a massive sidewalk sale featuring great in-store specials from all your favorite retailers and a Saturday art stroll. Read more hereand here!
New Downtown Dessert and Coffee Bar!
Tony’s Italian Eatery has teamed up with Southern Charm Sweets to bring you the highest quality dessert selection in the downtown area. 1120 Washington St., Suite 2. Find us on Facebook!
A Healthy Happy Hour
4-7 p.m at Good Life Cafe on Main St. Try our $4 local draft beers, $4 organic wine, 1/2 off select bottles of house wine and $5 handcrafted house cocktails with juices cold pressed and made daily. Click here for more info.
SEARCH FREE TIMES
U.S. Security Associates
Now hiring immediately for armed and unarmed security officers. WE TRAIN YOU! Columbia & surrounding areas. ussecurityassociates.com
Real Estate Spotlight
Concord Park From the $150’s. Off 12th St. Extension. 803.419.2227. mungo.com
Click here for more real estate.
WATERFORD APARTMENTS 1 & 2 BR’s available with many amenities. Prime location, and plenty of space. Live large at Waterford Apartments. Bring in our ad in Free Times for $50 off your application fee. 1340 Longcreek Dr., Columbia, SC. Click here for more info.
ST. ANDREWS COMMONS APARTMENTS 1 & 2 BR’s available with many amenities. Close to everywhere YOU WANT TO BE! 1200 St. Andrews Rd., Columbia, SC. Click here for more info.
GABLE HILL APARTMENTS 1, 2 & 3 BR’s available with many amenities. Surround yourself with Southern comforts at Gable Hill Apartments! Bring in our ad in Free Times for $50 off your application fee. 310 Ross Rd, Columbia, SC. Click here for more info.
Donate Plasma Today & Be Somebody’s Hero For Life. You could earn up to $400 a month! Program and fees vary per location. Contact your local center today. 803-736-5888. Click here for more info