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HOGFISH BAR & GRILL IN KEY WEST HOSTS CRAWDAD FESTIVAL

The Hogfish Bar & Grill is spicing things up on Saturday, May 15 for its first-ever Crawfish Festival, featuring the freshwater crustaceans that resemble miniature lobsters and turn bright red when cooked.

Hogfish owner Bobby Mongelli is having 400 pounds of live Louisiana crawfish flown in for Saturday’s traditional crawfish boil that should start around 2 p.m.

“A guy who does these things all the time, who’s from Louisiana and was the chef at House of Blues in New Orleans, approached me last year and asked if he could do a crawfish boil here at the Hogfish. I said, ‘Absolutely,’” Mongelli said. “It’ll be something different and a good way to spice things up. Now I’m just praying nothing happens with the flight or the shipment. We gotta keep these things alive until Saturday.”

Barry Cuda will be playing live music with some New Orleans flare throughout the day, and the crawfish will be boiled in spicy seasonings with corn on the cob, red potatoes and Andouille sausage, and served in three-pound servings with cornbread, Mongelli said.

“It should be a good time; we got these giant, professional crawfish pots to cook them in,” he said.

Crawfish are easily eaten by wringing their meaty tail from their body. And for the brave crawfish veterans, the final step is to suck the spicy juice from the boiling water out of their head. (But that step is not a requirement for the newbies among us.)

Crawfish season in the American South can last from November to July, especially during an exceptionally warm and wet winter, but the most reliable months — and the time you’ll find the best crawfish — are spring and early summer, from late February through May.

The critters are known by many names in different parts of the country: Crayfish and crawfish, crawdads up north (not in Louisiana), freshwater lobsters, and, formerly, mudbugs due to their lives spent burrowing in the mud of the Louisian bayou.“The earliest evidence of the use of the name ‘mudbug’ was in 1955, mostly in Louisiana and eastern Texas,” according to Sam Irwin, author of “Louisiana Crawfish: A Succulent History of the Cajun Crustacean,” on southernkitchen.com. “However, farmers discouraged the term because it became misleading to the public. The Louisiana Department of Agriculture consulted a marketing firm to help raise awareness of crawfish. They strictly said, ‘do not use mudbug if you want to have a larger presence,’” Irwin said, adding that the city of Shreveport, Louisiana is the only one that still uses the term.

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