Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Jumbo Lump Joe’s 'best crab cakes in the universe' and a sauce throw-down



My husband Meakin and I were driving along Pine Island Road in North Fort Myers, Florida the other day when suddenly I said, “Can we turn around and go back? I just saw a sleek, bright blue cart parked on the side of the road with ‘Jumbo Lump Joe’s’ written on the side. I think we should investigate.”

We found a vendor selling what he called ‘the best crab cakes in the universe.’ The man inside the cart told us, “I’ve won three state fair contests for the best crab cakes in the universe competition. I’m from Maryland and I know crab cakes.”


At the window another customer assured us that these were the best crab cakes in the universe. He had driven all the way from New Jersey he said. “Really?” I asked. “Well,” he replied as gave me a big reassuring smile, “I didn’t drive from New Jersey today, but I live there and so far these are the best crab cakes I’ve ever tasted.” We were sold.


Having won a couple of food contests myself, I know that the competition is fierce, so I was anxious to try Jumbo Lump Joe’s Maryland crab cakes that had been called ‘the best in the universe.’ Instead of the crab sandwich, we ordered individual crab cakes, a sample of Jumbo Lump Joe’s special sauce, and took everything home for a test drive.

When I got home I quickly whipped up my own version of a simple remoulade sauce that I thought wouldn’t overpower the cakes and decided to have a throw-down of sorts with Joe’s sauce vs. my remoulade. Since I represent the opposing team, I must tell you that my remoulade sauce is pretty darn good. I don’t follow an exact recipe, but I taste as I go. I start with some good mayonnaise (preferably Hellmans or homemade), add a dash of Dijon mustard, a smidgen of anchovy paste, a few drained tiny capers, a squeeze of fresh lemon or lime juice, and a little bit of dried tarragon. I had some fresh dill in the frig, so I chopped a little to add a little more freshness, but not overpower it.


Meakin and I passed Jumbo Lump Joe’s special sauce between the two of us for a taste with the crab cakes. The throw-down was over in a matter of minutes. I lost zero to two and I was one of the judges. We’re still analyzing his sauce, but it was a mildly spicy mayonnaise based sauce. We concluded the pink color came from either paprika or cayenne pepper (or maybe both) and we detected a hint of citrus. As you can see from the picture, we saved only enough to do a taste test for ingredients later and gobbled up the rest.

Now on to the crab cakes. I normally reserve eating crab cakes for white table cloth restaurants, although I have made them at home on occasion and always follow Mark Bittman’s recipe in How to Cook Everything. I have three things that I look for in a really exceptional crab cake:

1 – They must be made of the highest quality jumbo lump crab meat
2 – They don’t contain a lot of fillers
3 – They must be cooked all the way through


If you’ve ever had a crab cake that wasn’t done in the center (and I have), it will turn you off of crab cakes forever. Jumbo Lump Joe’s cakes met all of my criteria and more. You could actually see the large pieces of jumbo crab meat in the photo below, the cakes held together beautifully, they weren’t greasy (even though they were fried), and their taste was outstanding. As the customer told me when I was ordering them, “So far Jumbo Lump Joe’s crab cakes are the best I’ve ever tasted.” We totally agree and his sauce reigns supreme in our throw-down.


This story is as much about buying from a street vendor as it is about crab cakes and sauce. I admit that sometimes I am a food snob. Actually sometimes isn’t accurate; I’m always a food snob. At first I was reluctant to try a vendor on the side of the road until I remembered when we lived in a tiny town in southern Louisiana we bought the best shrimp we’ve ever eaten from a man whose truck was parked in front of a strip mall. They were heads-on large pink shrimp caught only hours earlier in the Gulf of Mexico.

So be bold and venture forth. Don’t be turned off by the fact that they’re selling food on the side of the road. Maybe next week we’ll give the taco stand beside the 7-11 a try. However, I doubt we’ll ever buy a used car from a guy named Honest Ziggy.

Jumbo Lump Joe’s sleek blue cart is located on the south side of Pine Island Road between Del Prado and Santa Barbara in a small parking lot in front of a Dollar General Store in North Fort Myers, Florida. He’s open every day except Sunday. The crab cakes are $10, a real bargain in my book. Don’t miss them if you’re anywhere near the area.

44 comments:

  1. I think you and Meakin were both the winners since you got to taste the crabcakes!

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  2. What a delightful post! I just might drive down to Fort Myers for this! We used to go down there often when my husband raced jet skis.

    It's good to know the tips on crab cakes, I've never made them, but my daughter wanted to try making some. I thought this was great since she's never interested in something like that before, just her biscuits and pasta! (not together) :)

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  3. A wonderful post today, Sam. The crab cakes look delicious and I couldn't agree more about not using too much filler. It can be a great deal of fun to use "the road less traveled by". I hope you are having a great day. Blessings...Mary

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  4. Sam, what a great posting!! Just makes me want to get in the car and drive. Nothing can beat a great crabcake.

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  5. I know I fall into the "food snob" category because I would never stop there and get a bite. I know I probably would be missing something good but who am I kidding I wouldn't do it.

    By the way, Honest Ziggy...very funny, great name.

    Have you ever tried a restaurant in Matlacha on Pine Island called Sandy Hook? I know that family pretty well, they do a good job, been there for ages.

    Great informative post Sam...like always. Beautiful photography as well. 10 out of 10!

    Cheers!

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  6. Oh!!! These crabcakes sound terrific! I like that you were about to get a shot of the cook in his mobile facility.

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  7. Some of the best local food can be enjoyed by the side of the road or out of trailer or parked in the gas station. Your post is proof that great food can be enjoyed almost anywhere.

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  8. Sounds great -- maybe you'll need to try them again for further analysis of that sauce!

    (The best pork I've ever had was from a roadside vendor along the Appian way just outside of Rome.)

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  9. My Mom is from Maryland and every summer we would go there and pig out on crabs. Your post reminds me of all those fantastic crab boils, crab cakes, crab dips...yum! These crab cakes look amazing - definitely wish I could taste one right now;D

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  10. Those crabcakes looks delicious! My husband is from Maryland and is a big crab cake snob too - his family recipe is amazing so I can understand why! Thanks for the lowdown on these quality cakes - will try Jumbo Lump Joe's next time in Ft. Myers:)

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  11. What fun! I love crab cakes....these look like amazing chunky crab cakes! Good luck with the sauce. I see another trip in your future.

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  12. oh wow I want one your so much fun love how you jazzed it up

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  13. You are making my mouth water, Sam! Sounds delicious!

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  14. Hello Sam!

    What a lovely post this was!! Your dish makes my mouth water,...drool,...drool,...drool,...

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  15. Joe does make a mean looking crab cake, now only if I could taste that bugger!

    But that crab cake sandwich would have been calling my name. A little remoulade, very thin sliced red onion, and just a touch of green lettuce.....mmmmmm.

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  16. I love this post! I'd almost drive up there just to taste! It looks divine. I was comparing your remoulade recipe to mine and they are somewhat similar. Mine is pink because it has paprika and red pepper sauce in it.
    I wish my mother could have tasted Joe's because she had that wonderful talent of being able to put all the pieces together and make a nearly exact copy. Citrus is interesting.
    There's a little bistro in Ft. Lauderdale that has some awfully good crab cakes ( I NEVER order them normally) but these have them beat! At least in looks!

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  17. The crab cake looks perfect! How smart you were to go with your instinct. Great post from an intrepid reporter. Sorry you lost the throw down.

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  18. I am having this sudden fantasy of jumping in my car and ordering a crab cake from him! Yum!! You are making my mouth water at the thought!

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  19. I wonder if they would consider driving to Oregon?! These crabcakes look wonderful and your remoulade sounds perfectly delicious.

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  20. Sam, Could you ask him to take a drive up the coast to New Bern? I'd love to taste his crab cakes -- and his sauce too. Could he have had some chipotle chiles in adobo sauce in it? I just made a sauce for fish tacos with them in it and it does turn the sauce a bit pink and gives it a nice kick.

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  21. My husband would be in Heaven with these, Sam. Crab cakes are his favorites, and he has had the best in Baltimore! I'll have to tell him about these for sure in case he's ever down your way. :-)

    Am taking a break from the workmen and stopped in for a quick visit. It's back to the grind in the morning... this is taking longer than I thought. Hope to be back blogging soon.

    Hope you're feeling much better...

    XO,

    Sheila :-)

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  22. Those crabcakes sure sound amazing!

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  23. wow my mouth is watering they look superb..I'm glad you turned around so we could all enjoy them..

    sweetlife

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  24. Aren't you the lucky ones to be able to try these crab cakes Sam, sauce and all. Joe must start shipping to Canada.

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  25. Sam, I'm back again to thank you for your very kind words. I really do appreciate them. Blessings...Mary

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  26. Oh! Sam, I love crab cakes specially the ones that are very lumpy :-) Looks delicious!

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  27. Those delicious looking crab cakes sound like a good reason to drive down and see Michael's cousin there. ;D Hey, you never know the taco truck may have the best darn tacos too.

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  28. Hi Sam
    Crab cakes are my daughter's favorite appetizer or entree to order in a restaurant, so it would be fun to see what she would think of Jumbo Lump Joe's cakes. They look delicious! He must have a good reputation to do so well in a parking lot. Many times vendor foods are the most authentic!

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  29. Hi Sam, I have an award for your site over at Living the Gourmet!
    Hope you have a wonderful day!

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  30. That is my kind of dish! I love crab cakes and your versionseem to have more crab than anything else! lovely shape and mouth watering golden color!

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  31. Now that is how you discover good food! It's terrific that you turned around. GREG

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  32. Sam, I would have pulled over in a second, but then I have a certain fondness for street food. Your throwdown sounds like so much fun. I'll have to try the same thing with the Schnitzel Truck in New York!

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  33. Now you have me jonesin for a good crab cake! Where can I get one in Hayesville?

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  34. We have a fantastic food cart culture here in Portland, but nobody sells crab cakes. There's nothing better than a crab cake with just the right sauce.

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  35. Hello Sam,
    I thought I need a bit of culinary inspiration so I must visit...I wasn't disappointed...these look and sound totally delicious. Send than van my way please! xv

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  36. Lordy, I love stopping by here!

    'Cept this one made me really homesick for "home." I was raised on the Eastern Shore of Maryland and always think of it whenever I hear folks talking about eating crab. How many times have you been back?! Have a crab cake for me next time, please!

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  37. I am all for food snobbery...
    Those crab cakes look dangerously delicious.

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  38. Bonjour Sam,
    How did I miss this crab cake post? My parents were born in Maryland a,d my sister and I use to go "crabb'in" in Virginia - I always thought my Mother made the best crabcakes. But if you could senfd this blue van my way I'll gladly try them!
    P.S. I bet your sauce is fabulous!
    Mimi

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  39. Reading this post, I realized that we have more in common than NC....I used to live in Ft. Myers, Pine Island and Naples....

    This cakes sound great!
    Penny

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  40. I can't believe that I am encountering crab cakes again, it seems only yesterday a fellow blogger from Maryland brought them up, with tempting pictures to boot, and now you! I cannot tell you how much I'd give to have a crab cakes right now. I dearly miss Maryland crab cakes and your discovery sounds like a heavenly treat.

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  41. How long do you think it would take me to get there from CT? Oh how I wish I lived closer to you!!!!

    Alex aka Ma What's For Dinner
    www.mawhats4dinner.com

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  42. If this isn't the perfect excuse to hop in the car and drive to Florida, I don't know what is! If you ever decipher Jumbo Lump Joe's special sauce, you MUST SHARE!! (Although I'd happily enjoy your remoulade).

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  43. We've learned along the way that some of the best, most authentic food comes from roadside stands, tiny hole-in-the-wall restaurants and trucks. These look fabulous! My kind of food anywhere, anytime! Too bad Fort Meyers is just too far from where I'll be this summer. Or is it?

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Sam