Throughout the year, Restaurant Editor Bill Addison will travel the country to chronicle what's happening in America's dining scene and to formulate his list of the essential 38 restaurants in America. Follow his progress in this travelogue/review series, The Road to the 38, and check back at the end of the year to find out which restaurants made the cut.
Skimming the menu at Woodberry Kitchen at dinner last month, my eyes locked onto the description of a North Carolina wreckfish entree. It came with spring garlic cream, asparagus, new red potatoes, and … crab imperial? There was a dish I hadn't thought about in years. Memories of my Maryland childhood shook awake at its mention. A caloric wonderland of a casserole, the Chesapeake region recipe typically includes lump crabmeat folded into mayonnaise and a cream sauce (or melted butter) with seasonings like dry mustard and Worcestershire sauce, sometimes sherry. It was served on its own in scalloped shells or as the capper for stuffed fish. I ordered it every chance I could as a kid, though its brazen richness started becoming unfashionable by the mid-1980s.