The Savoy restaurant in SoHo is getting ready for its annual shad dinner. Rachel Wharton from Edible Manhattan magazine filed the following report.
Each spring, Savoy owner and chef Peter Hoffman celebrates shad, an east coast fish which travel up the Hudson River to spawn from now until May. On Tuesday night, the restaurant will recreate an old-fashioned outdoor shad bake, doing it city-style in their upstairs fireplace.
As part of a four-course meal, the eatery's cooks nail the whole boned fish to boards, cover it with bacon and put the whole thing in the fire.
"This is a method of cooking that's been done for hundreds of years, probably taught by the Native Americans to the colonists," says Hoffman.
Before refrigeration and FreshDirect, says Hoffman, March was one of the hardest months to find food. The first real spring goodies to arrive were not salad and strawberries, but shad. The species may require a skilled fishmonger to remove the many tiny bones, but once those are gone, the fish tastes great.
"Shad for me is a very rich, full-flavored fish. They're packed with lots of essential oils for their trip up the river," says Ryan Tate, the chef de cuisine at Savoy. "Rich, meaty, it's a really delicious piece of fish."
To catch local shad these days, one has to travel farther north up the Hudson, but 100 years ago it used to be a city cash crop. Hoffman himself once caught the fish off 158th Street, an adventure he chronicled in Edible Manhattan.
He likes the limited-time-only species so much, it will be on Savoy's menu until the season ends in May.
"More and more everything is available everywhere in the world, and when you have something special in that way, that really is site-specific, that's exciting. That's singular," says Hoffman.
To read Hoffman's stories of fishing for shad off the Manhattan shores in the 1970s, visit ediblemanhattan.com.