COOL MONTHS CRAB: Somehow, through time and taste and a hundred ad campaign meetings, seafood and specifically shellfish has become a summertime delight. Picture a crowd of laughing friends on a deck, laughing, drinking chardonnay and wearing sundresses and such. We're not sure how the idea of outdoor, lazy summer day dining and the shelled denizens of the sea got paired up, because, of course, the official crab seasons in California follow cooler temperatures. We aren't all in shorts dipping crabmeat into butter while sitting at some picnic table; rather, it is very often November, or January, and we're in a sweater standing over a steamy pot. Of course, a sweater is kind of everyday wear in Mendocino County for much of the year, and certainly during its annual Crab, Wine & Beer Festival, which is ready to roll from Friday, Jan. 18 through Sunday, Jan. 27.
MELTED BUTTER, CRAFT BEER: A lot of the tried-and-true (and delicious) elements will be back for year 14 of this popular foodie gathering, but the new 2013 headline is the emphasis on local craft beers. That is sure to set off a few debates -- are brews or glasses of wine better with crab? -- but we can only imagine the arguments will be friendly, certainly if they're held over a plate of buttery, salty crabcakes. "(A) multitude of dinners, tastings, demonstrations, excursions, events, and lodging specials" are the name of the crabby game over the ten-day run, so if you feel you never get your fill of fresh crustacean goodness in everyday life, you'll likely sing a different tune in Mendo. Plus, please, Mendocino County in January. Can you picture the wintry, crisp, atmospheric scenes now? After you've enjoyed a local craft brew or two? If anyone could put that feeling on a postcard, we'd buy it.