Eating Crab Balls with Russell Crowe

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Last March, the Maine Avenue Fish Market in D.C. was a delicious location for "State of Play."

If there's anything I love as much as food, it's going to the movies. As a kid, I spent summers working in my mother and stepdad's theater, a 200-seater on Orcas Island in Washington state, where I'd tear tickets, sneak candy and watch tons of movies multiple times. Like billions of star-struck kids, I dreamed of being discovered. (I'm still ready and waiting for my close-up, Mr. Coppola.)

But at least one family member made it to Hollywood. Because my sister now works in the film industry, I've been fortunate enough to fulfill my childhood fantasy of hanging out on a movie set. Even spent a week aboard Titanic while it was "docked" in Rosarito, Mexico.

When visiting these alternate universes, I'm always drawn to craft services, those generously stocked snack stations that keep the cast and crew from going hungry while they work. Last March, I visited Sissy in D.C. on the set of State of Play, a political thriller opening in theaters today. Yes, I had eye contact with Russell Crowe and, yes, he's even more handsome in person than on the big screen.

But what really got me hot was the set itself, the historic Maine Avenue Fish Market, which actually sits on the Washington Channel near the underpass of I-395, the wharf rising and sinking with the tides. The studio had purchased all the vendor's goods the day they were filming on location, so everything was up for grabs, gratis. I indulged in oysters on the half shell, clam chowder, fish'n'chips, and, my favorite, crab balls.

Those golden nuggets turned out to be a cross between a crab cake and a hush puppy. I could toss back those balls all day long. Or, maybe I just liked saying "I'll have some more crab balls."

Remarkably, the Market stayed open for business during filming and customers seemed fairly indifferent by the movie star in their midst as they shopped for live Maryland blue crab, wild-caught Gulf shrimp or all sorts of other seafood to take home.

Not me. I was mighty impressed.

Actually, I think the reason Mr. Crowe looked in my direction was because he couldn't help noticing my constant hand-to-mouth motion. "Would you like to share my order of crab balls?" I wanted to ask. But, protocol calls for guests to be cool. You do not talk to the talent. So, I kept my mouth shut and chewed.

About the author: Leslie Kelly is a Seattle-based freelance food writer whose work has appeared in the (now defunct) Seattle Post-Intelligencer, the Commercial Appeal in Memphis, and the Spokesman-Review. She's currently working in the kitchens of Tom Douglas restaurants and blogging at Whining & Dining.

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