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I am a wife, mother and grandma who enjoys the many aspects of homemaking. A variety of interests and hobbies combined with travel keep me active. They reflect the importance of family, friends, home and good food.
Cook ingredients that you are used to cooking by other techniques, such as fish, chicken, or hamburgers. In other words be comfortable with the ingredients you are using.
--Bobby Flay

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Saturday, December 01, 2012

Crabby Bill's Seafood Co. in Clearwater Beach, Florida

When we are at our vacation home in Florida we often meet up with family and friends who are either visiting or living in Florida.  Our vacation home is located about mid-way between Tampa and Orlando making it an ideal, convenient location for meeting up with family and friends staying at Disneyworld and it is in the general location that is popular with Canadian snowbirds.  We also have family in area that live here year round.  This is always special times for us because we don't get to see them very often.  Friends of ours live in Clearwater Beach, Florida for about 6 months of the year.  During our fall vacation in October we met up with them for a lovely chat over a rather tasty meal at Crabby Bill's Seafood Co.  Crabby Bill's Seafood Co has six locations in the Treasure Island area on the Golf Coast of central Florida.  We visited the Clearwater Beach location located at 37 Causeway Blvd in Clearwater, Florida.  Crabby Bill's Seafood Co was founded by Bill and Dolores Loder in 1968.  The current CEO is their son Matt.

gator nuggets
We really enjoy our seafood, usually having one  to three fish and/or seafood weekly.  I have to say I was very excited when we decided to buy our vacation home in Florida.  That quickly turned into disappointment.  While we have found some good seafood offerings, they are not what I expected for Florida.  The warmer waters give a different texture to the flesh, almost borderline mushy so I tend to stick with firmer textured choices in seafood.

We ordered the gator nuggets ($7.99) as an appetizer.  This is pieces of gator tail dusted in seasoned flour then flash fried and served with stone sauce.  Gator has quickly become one of my favourites in Florida.  The texture is firm and the taste is almost like frog legs but with a bit more depth.  It is usually served breaded, deep fried and with a zippy sauce as an appetizer.  The stone sauce was nice and flavourful but lacked the zip normally served with gator.

steamed shrimp
One of our friends ordered the steamed shrimp, served cold as an entée.  The generous 1 lb shrimp portion was delicious looking.  It was sprinkled with a little seasoning salt something that really isn't necessary with shrimp.  Shrimp is often served with seafood cocktail sauce as an appetizer which gives a bit of zing to the shrimp.  On the other end of the spectrum, shrimp lends itself nicely to creamy based sauces.

Shrimp is very easy to cook at home because it has a colour coded doneness factor.  Raw shrimp is grey but turns a salmony pink when cooked.  It can be boiled, steamed, or grilled.  Just don't over cook shrimp otherwise it gets rubbery.  To duplicate this recipe at home, choose large raw shrimp (frozen or fresh).  If frozen thaw.  Steam the shrimp in a steamer basket.  This keeps the flavour of the shrimp better than boiling in my opinion.  Remove the shrimp when the shell is a salmon pink and the flesh is opaque.  Cool.  Sprinkle lightly with seasoning salt.  Serve with a couple of wedges of lemon.

broiled grouper dinner
My husband ordered the grouper dinner ($19.99)  Grouper is a type of white fish that is fairly common in Florida.  The fish was served with mashed potatoes and green beans.  This is fairly close to the way I would serve grouper at home if I could find it.  Grouper is a mild flavoured fish with nice texture.  They are often used to make fish tacos and sandwiches in Florida so finding grouper in the grocery stores is fairly easy.

Crabby Bill's heavily seasoned the grouper with a seasoning salt that really took away from the mild flavoured fish.  In general, when seasoning fish use the like goes with like method.  Use strong herbs (eg. rosemary) and flavourings with strong flavoured fish like salmon and milder flavourings (eg. lemon, lemon pepper) with mild fish.  Never season fish to the point it masks its flavour.  The flavour should enhance rather than mask the flavour.

frog legs dinner
I ordered the frog leg dinner ($10.99) served with green beans and mashed potatoes.  The frog legs were delightful, something I always enjoy to the point I have cooked frog legs at home.  Frog legs are usually lightly coated with seasoned flour then deep fried until golden brown.  Crabby Bill's did a nice job with the frog legs.  I was impressed!

Quite often restaurants will resort to serving canned vegetable or use instant potatoes rather than the real McCoy.  I can always tell if the vegetables were canned because I pick up a metal taste.  Crabby Bill's did not do this.  The green beans were obviously cooked from fresh perfectly to al dente.  The mashed potatoes were also freshly made.  Now, I am not above instant potatoes for my emergency preparedness stock or home canned green beans (we eat a lot of those) but when I am paying for a meal in a restaurant, I expect the food to be cooked from scratch using fresh ingredients.

On a scale of one to ten, I would rate this particular restaurant in their small chain as a 7.  That means I would go there again but it wouldn't be my first choice.  The atmosphere was pleasant, and I got the impression most of the food served was cooked from scratch using fresh ingredients.  Freshly prepared food is the only reason I gave this restaurant a higher rating.  The service was adequate, somewhat friendly but definitely not top notch as they were quite inattentive which is surprising since the food is well worth the extra effort of good staff service.  The prices were decent with our total for four with drinks coming in at $93.58.  In general, this restaurant is a bit too heavy handed on the generic, season everything with, seasoning salt.  To me, that is a major flaw, a definite sign of a cook stuck in a rut, not interested in putting a bit of pizazz into his or her cooking.   The nice thing is all of the food we enjoyed there can easily be made at home.

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