I got a press release the other day telling me that the "very first shad and shad roe 'catch of the season,'" was to be served at the Grand Central Oyster Bar in New York.
It quoted executive chef Sandy Ingber: “This is a very exciting time of the year for shad and roe lovers. It’s almost like the first spring training game in baseball. It’s a time of year that true aficionados look forward to for months on end.”
Oh, terrific, I thought. It’s shad season! I was all set to write it up until I remembered that it was the middle of February, and shad is a springtime fish.
It has been a weird winter with a freakishly warm January, and I wondered if maybe that had confused the shad to swim upstream early. So I called the National Fisheries Institute which put me in touch with the New York state shad expert, who couldn't help but laugh as she politely expressed shock and confusion at the notion that shad would be in Northeastern rivers at this time of year. Florida and Georgia, maybe, but they wouldn’t be here until late March, at the earliest.
Back to the press release, which quotes Ingber again: “Shad roe is considered a great delicacy, and so far this year’s roe sacs have been unusually large."
After a volley of e-mails with the Oyster Bar folks, I learned that the shad was from Georgia.
Ingber in the press release again: "The shad is prized for the nutlike flavor of its firm flesh, and many aficionados enjoy it for breakfast, lunch and dinner in season.”
Do you see how many times shad’s seasonality is mentioned?
Now, if the Grand Central Oyster Bar wants to serve Georgia shad in the winter, that’s fine, but if they do, they lose the right to play the seasonality card.
Here are some pictures I cribbed from a feature that Dina Berta wrote for Nation’s Restaurant News a couple of shad seasons ago. It had the very clever headline "Me and my shad roe." They're from Augustine’s Fine Dining in Fredericksburg, Va., where shad will, in fact, be in season relatively soon. These dishes were made by chef Abraham Conlon
This is a house-smoked shad roe tartlet with roasted garlic and arugula.
And this is polenta-crusted shad roe, a frittata of country ham and stinging nettles, a spring onion coulis and balsamic gastrique.