One recourse was to turn the problem into a main course. “This is to raise awareness,” Rorapaugh said. The aim, printed in plain language on the menu, read like a wanted poster: “Snakeheads need to be eradicated. Not controlled, not managed. Eradicated!”
Riggins, the running back turned football commentator turned outdoorsman, said he loathes snakeheads and happily signed on for the event. “This is his passion,” said his wife, Lisa-Marie, a Montgomery County prosecutor. “He said, ‘I can’t keep talking about football.’ He’s into man and the land.”
The event was a sellout. It benefited Miriam’s Kitchen, which serves the homeless, and the Oyster Recovery Partnership, which works to restore the bay’s oyster habitat.
At last year’s dinner in Annapolis, every dish included snakehead. But this winter’s recent cold snap made snakehead, native to China and Korea, nearly impossible to catch. “Researchers don’t know . . . but they think they go in deep water and bury themselves in the mud,” said Austin Murphy of Whackfactor Outdoors, who, like many recreational fishermen, kills snakeheads by shooting them through the head with a bow and arrow.
This year, blue catfish, oysters, Maryland crab cakes, yellow perch, Spanish mackerel, rockfish and braised pork ribs were on the menu. But the second course, the snakehead, was all the talk.
After diners polished off Poste chef Dennis Marron’s Spanish mackerel, waiters started serving the snakehead. Wells’s beautiful description — fish soaked in chimichurri, napped with avocado sauce, Nopal cactus relish and chipotle crema, with Flying Dog ale to wash it down — left out a few details he shared earlier as he laid skewered fish on a baking pan.
Snakeheads have a wonderful dense coat of slime, Wells said. When frozen, the mucus protects the fish, so it stays fresh. He compared the flavor to that of tilapia. Wells described the texture as perfect.
“It’s more like a dense ocean fish, not a freshwater fish,” he said. “A lot of people are squeamish because of its name.”
People such as Safari. She sat with a fork and knife poised over the skewered snakehead. In it went, and Safari’s worried expression dissolved. “It’s yummy,” she said, mouth full. “It’s quite light . . . not fishy.”
At Table 13, Linda Strohecker, who lives with her husband, Bobby, on the bay in Shady Side, chewed on the fish as a measure of revenge.
“I love it,” she said. “Tastes like grouper.”