At 9:00am we were waiting at the doors of Round Table Pizza.
Not so much to order pizza but to make sure we had a table for the Football games. The place always filled up quickly and by game 10:00am gametime, the breakfast pizza was consumed and the beer was flowing.
Such was the life of a west coast football fan.
1986 in the northern California town of Santa Rosa was not a place nor time that you normally could see a New England Patriots game – that is, unless they were playing the 49ers, which they were on this chilly mid-December morning.
I had on my Mosi Tatupu jersey and was surrounded by Niners fans wearing their red and gold jerseys – Montana and Rice were the most prominent, but there were quite a few Lott’s, a few Craig’s and even one Ray Wersching, which no one understood.
The only other person in a Patriots jersey was a jaded woman of about 40 who was still intoxicated from the night before and wearing someones old Russ Francis jersey like a dress, which instantly made her the center of attention and took a lot of the heat off of me….
…which turned out to be not so much a matter of dealing with the throng at Round Table, rather than having to satisfy a wager that I made with a few good-natured fans that I shared my table with.
They knew me, they said, from eating at the restaurant that I cooked at – one of them raving about my crab cake sandwich – to the point that he had an entire section of the dining room wanting the sweet and creamy concoction.
Especially the bleary-eyed blond wearing the Patriots jersey/skirt who was working the room like a bar fly, barging in on conversations, her gravelly laugh piercing the reserved atmosphere of the pizza joint. She perked up and shimmied over to our table and lightly sat on the arm of the guy sitting next to me, apparently not too concerned about how much leg she exposed…
…which was uncomfortable for everyone, particularly my friend and old Navy buddy Tim, who wanted to take her for a ride to Bodega Bay and abandon her on the beach – but I wanted to see the game and felt like I could deal with the woman who no one wanted to claim, and who everyone just referred to as “Francis”.
The Patriots were coming off of their first ever Super Bowl appearance and were a win away from clinching the AFC East and returning to the playoffs. Naturally I was feeling froggy, even though they were coming off a loss to Cincinnati who had snapped New England’s seven game winning streak.
Conversely, the 49ers were mired in an up and down season and entered the game, played in Foxboro, Massachusetts, as a mushy two and a half point favorite nonetheless – more on reputation than on tangible results to that point – and fighting for the NFC West title…
…but once the 49ers had covered the spread by shredding the Patriots’ run defense for a decisive and clutch victory, dinner was suddenly on me.
I called the restaurant owner, explaining my predicament, and after some initial ugliness concerning him driving up from Petaluma to open the restaurant, we finally agreed on compensation and within an hour I was in the kitchen mixing up a large batch of my sandwiches, which at the time were called “Krabby Patties” – no, really – and were very popular sellers…
No? Though not exactly a traditional Maryland crab cake, one bite will have you salivating every time you see one being served at the Krusty Krab while watching SpongeBob Squarepants with your kids…
…because I invented Krabby Patties. That’s right, I am the mastermind behind the secret formula and it was I who devised the order in which to put the beasts together .
Pending lawsuits against Nickelodeon aside, it is important that 49ers and Ravens fans have something to agree upon, and with both cities famous for their seafood establishments, their common denominator are these sandwiches:
1 large egg
1 tablespoon cream cheese
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
¼ teaspoon salt
Pinch of cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh chives
1 pound fresh Dungeness crabmeat, pulled apart into ½-inch chunks not completely shredded
½ cup fine fresh bread crumbs
½ cup dried bread crumbs
beat egg in a medium mixing bowl. Add the creamed cheese, mustard, salt, cayenne, and chives and mix well. Add crabmeat and fresh bread crumbs. Mix gently, being careful not to break up crab too much.
Spread dried bread crumbs on a baking sheet. Divide crab mixture into 8 crab cakes, shaping them into patties about 3/4 inch thick and 5 inches in diameter. Squeeze well to remove any excess liquid. Using a spatula, roll crab cakes in dried bread crumbs to coat on all sides and place on a large plate. Cover crab cakes with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 300°F. Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter with 1 tablespoon of the oil in a medium nonstick skillet or griddle over medium-high heat. Add 4 crab cakes and cook until golden brown on both sides, 3 to 4 minutes on each side. Be careful when turning them so they stay together.
Transfer to a baking sheet and place in oven to crisp and keep warm.
Serve topped with sliced american on a crusty bulkie roll with lettuce, tomato, onion with sides of dijon mustard, your favorite tartar sauce and cocktail sauce and explain to your guests that all three are needed to properly experience the cakes.
Garnish with lemon and grapefruit wedges and have a pepper grinder nearby for random seasoning…
I had finished cleaning up as night fell on Santa Rosa. Mostly everyone had left with the exception of the owner of the restaurant and “Francis” who were having what appeared to be an intimate conversation at the bar, both nursing vodka martinis – her grating laugh shocking me out of my bleach-induced cleaning coma.
I left them in the restaurant, happy to have pawned “Francis” off on my boss, but depressed over my Patriots losing to San Francisco…and as we approach game time for today’s Super Bowl, I am again depressed, again about the Patriots – knowing that they should have been here, except that they melted like cheese on a Krabby Patty against an imposing Baltimore Ravens defense…
…and the rematch that everyone in the civilized world wanted to see – San Francisco vs. New England – well, we will never know what that would have been like – certainly not like the first encounter this season where the Niners had taken a 31-3 lead only to see Tom Brady and the Patriots make that advantage evaporate, forging a 31-all tie before San Francisco pulled it together to squeak out a win.
My only consolation is getting to eat a Krabby Patty a little later on tonight while writing my biting and most likey sarcastic look at the Super Bowl that never was…
…and perhaps give my old boss a call to offer my congratulations or condolences – he may not take my phone call, though, because he ended up marrying “Francis”, and has never forgiven me for introducing them…