Much Missed Shad

April 14th, 2012 § 4 comments

One of the joys of a New York City spring was a great dish that appeared in a few restaurants at that time of year. HG refers to shad and shad roe. HG enjoyed it at two (long departed) New York restaurants — Christ Cella on E. 44th in Manhattan and the beautiful, venerable Gage & Tollner in downtown Brooklyn. Gage & Tollner was one of a kind — the oldest restaurant in Brooklyn and a mellow paradise of mahogany, tile floors and working gaslights. The restaurant was very much the favorite of the aristocratic old families who inhabited the gracious brownstones of Brooklyn Heights. Waiters were courtly, dignified African-Americans (many had been at G & T for decades and had service stripes on their jacket sleeves to prove it). G & T served a big platter of broiled shad and sauteed shad roe drenched in lemon butter and accompanied by parsleyed new potatoes, a rasher of crisp bacon and cole slaw. HG’s beverage of choice while relishing this dish was ice cold Ballantine’s India Pale Ale.

World headquarters of shad and shad roe was the town of Edgewater on the New Jersey banks of the Hudson River just north of the George Washington Bridge. Edgewater was the home of rivermen who netted shad in the Hudson for generations (for more information on the Hudson River Shad runs, refer to Joseph Mitchell’s wonderful essay The Rivermen collected in his book Up In The Old Hotel). HG once arranged a memorable shad and shad roe feast for journalists in Edgewater. The rivermen built a giant fire of wood and charcoal. Shad filets were nailed to oiled maple flanks and these were propped around the blaze. They were cooked to an astounding degree of succulence. Meanwhile, over charcoal barbecues the roe and bacon sizzled in big cast iron pans. This was a job for the women of Edgewater and these admirable ladies also provided extraordinary potato salad and cole slaw. Yes, it was a feast for the ages. Doubt whether it could be repeated today.

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§ 4 Responses to Much Missed Shad"

  • LadyDi (aka Natasha Yar) says:

    Thank you ever so much! Could not believe my eyes to see a CURRENT reference to the Edgewater Rivermen and their Shad fishing on the Hudson. BONUS was the picture of the Shad boat with the two rivermen doing their time honored thing. Just like my mind’s eye had pictured them, no doubt.
    My story: Just finished The Rivermen portion of “Up in the Old Hotel” and was absolutely thrilled to discover them. What led to my purchase the was an excerpt of Joseph Mitchell’s “The Bottom of the Harbor” which I read from my book “American Sea Stories”.
    That is my favorite of his, right behind the “Harbor”. I grew up in NYC,(’55) the Bronx but the parents moved us upstate, Rockland County for me to finish high school and basically survive! I remember constantly crossing the GW and scanning the Hudson and its riverbanks with infinite curiousity. I grew up a water lover and still am. To read about what Life was like there is just wonderful. I am thrilled to read of your experience at a Shad BBQ right there on the riverbanks, just as Mr Mitchell described it. Congrats on the precious memory and I for one, am appreciative of your sharing it! :> I have always loved anything that comes out of the sea/river whatever but have never had shad. Will have to be adventurous one day and seek it out, heh?! Thanks again and keep sharing those past pearls! Kind Regards, Diane

  • LadyDi (aka Natasha Yar) says:

    Thanks HG and here’s an FYI.

    Went to the Wikipedia to finally put to rest my curiousity regarding Shad and Edgewater. Still intend on visiting there my next visit to NYC. Anyway, it mentions it about halfway down the story of the Edgewater Rivermen. Sadly it concludes that as recent as 1980 there were about 100 fishermen still into the shad commercial fishing. But today there are none. Probably no profits left to gather I imagine. People went elsewhere for their tasty herring, I guess! :< Take care, LadyDi

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