Friday, March 6, 2015

Big Fat Daddy's Vintage Baltimore Pit Beef Signs

Big Fat Daddys

Signs, Signs, everywhere there's signs.  Big Fat Daddy's Throwback Signs.

Circa 1990's, before the days of the internet surge or days of Food Network, Big Fat Daddy's restaurant was, in fact, a wooden shack located on Route 40 in Baltimore back in the day. In those days we were part of Pit Beef Row--there was three of us.  Chaps, Big Al's and Big Fat Daddy's. I thought I'd tell you a story and show you some signs.


Pit Beef
Vintage old Big Fat Daddy's signs were restored by original artist DoLoBo, Baltimore.  

Location, Location, Location!

Coming down Route 40 (Pulaski Highway) from the North headed to the City, you'd first see us on the right outside of Little Texas Bar and Nightclub, right before the intersection of Chesaco. We had a nice size parking area and were a tiny shack.   If you continued onward, you would then pass Big Al's on your right,  and then finally Chaps on the left .   Chap's is the sole survivor of Pit Beef Row, still sitting in front of the Gold Club (Gentlemen's Lounge.)  

Big Fat Daddy's
Got Wood?

Both of the other "pit beef stands" made nice with Baltimore City Paper and we did not--we managed to royally piss them off.  Didn't matter though, because Steven Raichlen came eating and who needed the City Paper when we had the New York Times? 


Big Fat Daddy's Vintage Sign
After my brother died, I found the original flap to our building being used as a shelf. Artist Unknown.


Back in the day you could get a Big Fat Daddy's Meal Deal (Sandwich, Fries and regular size Drink for only $5.25).  People loved it.  Of course we pushed the upsize which would run you as much as $6.50, but for upsizing drink and fries, not a bad deal at all.   Taking it a step further, we decided to include the free fixin's salad bar with all meal deals. This is where we had a covered salad bar with the day's special salads free for you. Whether it was my redskin potato or Brian's delicious penne' pasta, you never knew what you would get.  


Vintage Onion Rings Sign
Original Sign from 1980's Concessions


Funny story, Brian  threw up a big heated tent to keep up in the winter, and especially so we could keep the year round salad bar that came with all meal deals.  An "Anonymous Tip" called the county on us saying our tent was not permitted, (it was temporary right?) and $20,000 in legal fees later we figured out that you had to get a permit to keep, even a temporary structure up all the time. (WOOPS) The tent stayed, and we maintained our little shack and our notoriety grew. Brian and I couldn't see eye to eye on things, and fast forward to after the pit beef stand days, I ended up taking full control of my company back. 



Reminders of the Past

It was a little strange after Brian died finding our old flap being preserved all those years. Brian had taken the flap with him when he left the location, and obviously cut it up and flipped it upside down 
to make shelves. 

The stand remains and now sells Crabs and Pit Beef, it's called the Cookout.  

Baltimore Artist DoLoBo
Thanks to Baltimore Artist DoLoBo who has done signs for me over the years.



DoLoBo  & Sign Credits

Baltimore Artist DoLoBo painted and restored our little signs , one of which is now on display at the Southern Food and Beverage Museum.  

The building flap was painted by someone who stopped in needing some quick cash for the day.   We didn't catch his name.  The Onion Ring sign was painted by some chick I used to know.   The below bird was painted by my wife. 

Big Fat Daddys Twitter
Speaking of tweets, did you see that I am doing BFDTweets.com


iramencyWifey is helping.

PIT BEEF VIDEO: 


Sunday, March 1, 2015

Canned Crab Meat For Cream of Crab Soup Chicken of Sea Wins

Big Fat Daddys Cream of Crab Soup
My Cream of Crab Soup  Where's the Lumps? 

What about Canned Crab Meat? 

I live in Baltimore, Hon. Baltimore is to Crab like peanut butter is to jelly.  Much to your surprise crabs aren't running as good here as they once were.  They've been over extracted and summertime steamed crabs are often running out of the South or South West. If you ask the local restaurants where the crabs are running (when they are mighty large in the summer), back in the day they used to say "Bush River" . Now they say "Somewhere off the Louisiana Coast".   What? Yikes.

So now enter winter, and you wonder how local restaurants keep up with their Maryland Crab Soup and Cream of Crab soup, and of course Crab Dip. Do you think everything they use is fresh?  Speaking as a former restaurant owner myself, I would be lying to you if I said I didn't use canned for certain soups. This is of course based on supply and demand.

Canned Crab Meat
When it is OK to use Canned Meat?

Here's my take on it. Nothing beats cracking open a steamed crab and pulling out the jumbo cluster of backfin and tasting that fresh crab.  If we could duplicate that in every meal, we'd be doing okay.

Realistically speaking it can't happen.  There's too much demand and not enough supply, hence most seafood companies will even list on their website "our partners" which mean if you read close you can find out what international countries they get their crab from.

Unfortunately, when buying fresh or canned crab meat it's hard to find authentic blue crab anymore. Unless you travel to Maryland's Eastern Shore, and find the old time pickers who may still package fresh tasty blue crab in a plastic container , and some who do supply local chain stores, you may as well face it, it's all mind over matter.

First of all, understand there's really a simply heiarchy of meat, but even Van Camps Chicken of the Sea has created so many categories now it's so subjective and confusing. Here's all the different types of crab meat in cans I've encountered.

  • Colossal (Largest Clusters) 
  • Jumbo Lump  (Large Cluster)  
  • Super Lump (what?)
  • Lump (Truly this is Backfin) 
  • Backfin??? In some cases Companies put backfin here...below the lump..what a racket. 
  • Special  (White Meat)
  • Claw  (Sweet Claw Meat, not white in color) 
  • Cocktail Claw (Specialty Markets) 


Colossal or Jumbo Lump, is most often used for presentation only and it's wise to do so.  Nothing looks better than a huge cluster decorating a fancy dinner plate, or  seeing clusters  in crab cakes.  For a five star establishment, this is a must. Many restaurants who try to downgrade often have customers complaining they are using "filler" in their crab cakes when in fact they are most likely using Special or Lump, which isn't really Lumpy anymore and can look just like bread or crackers when smushed together. The lumps and special may taste exactly the same flavor palette, however, your mouth will know the difference when biting into a huge lump vs a pile of pulled broken meat.  As they say, appearance is everything.

Therefore, in the past I, and many restaurants I know often make their Maryland Crab Soup or Cream of Crab soup with Special or Lump (and canned at that); adding a pinch of fresh or canned colossal on top for show.  If someone's digging around in my Cream of Crab soup above, looking for giant chunks, chances are they won't find it.  This is where the "sprinkle on top" comes in.  Most cakes must have Jumbo Lump or Colossal for look and texture.

Problem with pasteurized cans is the fine print (where it's wild caught from). The wonderful Maryland Cream of Crab you just bought in that restaurant in Baltimore is actually made in Maryland with Vietnam crab meat, say what? It's true.  But this is again, mind over matter. I bet you don't mind when you order that cup of Maryland Crab in a restaurant near Annapolis and it tastes so great, you don't even mind when you just devoured crab from Indonesia.  Oh shush, it was delicious wasn't it?

Why you Should and Should Not Whine About Pasteurized Can Meat 

Pasteurized, the crab has been cooked at high temperature to preserve it. I hear a lot of people upset over this but let's face it, when we eat steamed crabs they are cooked right? And loaded with rock salt and Old Bay salty seasoning on top (yum) that will make our blood pressure rise. But hey, I don't hear any complaints over that. Pasteurization is not the issue. 

Maybe you're upset because it's not real blue crab but some form of Indonesian beast.  I guess you have a good point there, but taste may not differ that much.

Now the real killer enter Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate which is added into the cans to preserve the color. This my friends is the problem.  This article on Livestrong explains, "Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate is acidic in nature and may be very hazardous upon skin or eye contact, inhalation or ingestion, causing severe inflammation". 

WHAT?  And my friends wonder why their gout blows up after eating seafood...hmmmm


Crab Meat
Lump is not What it Used to Be.  Can you tell which is lump?

I'm going to whine about Lump or Backfin which has really taken a down turn for the worse. You can go to a food or seafood show and see nice size lumps in their lump, but I've been finding a quality problem when I get canned lump.  Now I'm not saying it's every manufacturer, but it happens to me a lot and I do switch around to try different canned goods.  Why use canned?    Taste sometimes is subjective. Most has no taste to it, hence the food and Old Bay or whatever you are adding it into, carries the taste.

Canned :  Left: Van Camps SPECIAL $11.99* vs Sebastian LUMP $12.99

WOW. A dollar difference in grades?  On the left we have Van Camps Special which I got at the local store for $11.99.  It does not say where it is from, yet Chicken of the Sea is the brand, they are old and trusted, and you have to love the mermaid right?   She's hot.  Especially in her vintage days.....

Van Camps Crab Meat Love It
I love this meat and I was not paid to say this.
Find the Mermaid and more products here: Chicken Of the Sea Website

The Sebastian is Lump, a grade higher (or is it) and clearly labeled that it was made in China.  It was packaged by Bonmar, Florida, and ran me one buck more. I prefer the taste of the Van Camp's anyday even though it's a grade less. It is not really that much different in texture. Although the Van Camps' does not say where it is from, truth is it's

Therefore, I will next time go to the local store, I'll stay with Van Camps if they have it.  Also on the Chicken of the Sea website, they have Blue Swimming Crab...that is authentic blue crab, and should have a sweeter taste.

Van Camp's is based Headquarters in San Diego, California, and factory in Lyons, Georgia. The sister company Chicken of the Sea Frozen foods is also based in California.   If you are confused as to whether they make the famous Van Camp's baked beans read this whole Chicken of the Sea history.

Claw 

Truth is, the Claw is the most sweetest in taste. I use it in my Famous Crab Dip. Adding Claw to any of your special dishes will give you a sweet crabby taste.

Tweet me and maybe I'm share my Cream of Crab Recipe. @BigFatDaddys


Crab Dip Boules
Crab Dip Yum

Note: I wasn't paid for this post or compensated in any way. It's a product I use and love and wanted to weigh in on my blog.  I do campaign for companies and if so I clearly label when I've been paid or compensated. If you're a company and need help, find out how I can help you at BFDTweets.com

Food and Drink Marketing

Further Reading: 



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