A Different Kind of Crab Feast by Bodkin Creek
What drives a person to travel along dark, winding roads in search of a crab house in the dead of winter? In our case, two things: 1) We don't own a boat, which would provide better access to the Cheshire Crab (1701 Poplar Ridge Road, Pasadena,  360-2220) via Bodkin Creek, and 2) I am hungry for snow crab, the restaurant's Wednesday-night all-you-can-eat special. The last stretch of road takes us right alongside all manner of craft in dry dock. They loom like giants in the night sky. Seeing them up close like this, you realize how much of a boat at sea rides beneath the waves.
It's dark, but I can see we are entering our eatery by the crab deck, which is boarded up now. The water beyond is scarcely visible, but the very thought of the icy inlet makes me shiver. It'll be a different matter come the dog days of August.
Inside, there's a large lounge to our left and a seating area straight ahead, where a young man offers us a table on what looks like a busy night. We notice one young couple in particular, leaning over trays of snow crabs, plucking the white meat from the bodies and twisting and tearing the gangly red claws. Their table is piled high with shell, and they do not pause in their plucking to speak.
I decide to warm up with a cup of crab soup ($3.95). It's quite deliciousthick and sherry-laced, heavy with crab. Unfortunately, the clump of crab meat placed atop the cup for decoration has some shell in it; it spoils the effect, if not the soup itself. Joanne's oyster stew ($3.50 per cup) is brimming with chopped oysters and celery, flavored with paprika, and oozing butter at the margins of the cup. We move on to a plate of steamed mussels ($4.95), a dozen and a half fat specimens from Maine, in a subtle broth fragrant with lemon, butter, garlic, and wine.
Our smoked-fish sampler ($8.95) is a dandy. It would make a fine meal in itself, especially paired with a glass of white wine. The smoking has done a lot for the salmon and trout, but the bluefish in particular is a revelation. The plate comes garnished with capers, diced onion, a creamy horseradish spread, and crackers.
Just as we are finishing our appetizers, a crowd of middle-aged revelers emerges from the restaurant's lounge. They make their way to a table prepared for them, and C.C. notes that high hair is not dead in Pasadena. We haven't seen this much bouffant since the '70s. The big-haired crew is a noisy group too, and getting noisier in direct proportion to the number of drinks they're knocking back.
Our party isn't exactly silent itself, but our gabbing subsides when the entrées arrive. I stare at the opening round of the all-you-can-eat snow crab ($14.95), three huge sections. Snow crab is not much like the blue crab we Marylanders know and love; it doesn't have sweet-tasting meat isn't typically prepared with no Old Bay. (The only discernible seasoning is salt.) If you want to know the truth, the snow crab is a pretty bland-tasting critter . . . until you dip its meat into drawn butter. Then a minor miracle occurs. (The behavior of the wordless young couple makes sense to me now.) Accompanying my buttery crab is a side of corn fritters ($1.95). These clusters of sweet, deep-fried yellow corn are actually more nugget than fritter, but they're delicious, so I'm not complaining.
C.C. digs into her barbecued scallops ($14.95), two generous skewers of perfectly prepared sea scallops wrapped in bacon. The skewers are topped with a little cheese and barbecue sauce, and the whole is served over white rice. Her side salad is topped with honey-lime-cilantro dressing, which I like a lot but C.C. finds a bit too oily and sweet.
Joanne orders the catch of the day, hickory-grilled Atlantic salmon with lump crab and Dijon dill-cream sauce served over sautéed spinach ($18.95). The price tag isn't bad considering that the dish, which includes roasted red potatoes and the vegetable of the day (zucchini marinara), is large enough for two meals. And it is all excellent, right down to the spinach. Joanne's sole quibble is with the zucchini; its delicate flavor is all but lost in the generous helping of herb-filled marinara.
All of the Cheshire Crab's desserts are made in-house, so we have to try a couple. The lemon-mousse pie ($3.50) tastes like a cross between mousse and sorbet; it's very light, tangy, and refreshing. At the other end of the dessert spectrum, Extremely Rich and Fudgy Brownie a la Mode ($4.95) pairs a warm chocolate brownie with dark chocolate sauce and vanilla ice cream. The whole thing is crowned with way too much real whipped cream and slivered almonds. It's more than the three of us can finish.
As we leave, quite satisfied that we've gotten great dollar value, I glance for a final time at the snow-crab couple. They're cracking, dipping, eatingand still not talking.
Open 11:30 A.M.-9 P.M. Monday-Thursday, 11:30 A.M.-11 P.M. Friday and Saturday,10 A.M.-9 P.M. Sunday.