Shadfest 2009 – Lambertville, New Jersey
Across the Delaware River from New Hope, PA, Lambertville has been celebrating the return of the shad fish since the early 80’s. The shad were plentiful in the Delaware at the turn of the century but upstream had pretty much wiped them out by the 60’s. The closure and clean up of plants up rivers started the rebirth of the river and in the 80’s when local fisherman started catching them again it was a sign to celebrate and Shadfest was born.
Personally I find the shad to be an ugly fish with a strong smell and oily texture. I don’t know much about which fish is related to which but I bet shad is related to mackerel. My mom and dad loved mackerel and served it often with boiled potatoes and carrots. Mackerel were cheap in plentiful in Maritime Canada but to me that didn’t excuse the strong smell and oily texture of flesh. Shad is like that. The picture of the shad was taken in a Lambertville art gallery where they were taking the fish, coating it with paint, wrapping the fish in paper and selling the resulting art for $75 a “print”. At the top of the photo you can see the freshest “print” but if you want your own I can catch one for you at the low price of $70. Let me know.
Like most festivals, Shadfest was a collection of entertainers, amusements, artisans, commercial business displays and food vendors. It was good to see Comcast, Geico, local real estate companies, local charities and groups have their tents up to support the festival. Most established brands had free give aways and different means to engage the crowds. Every year I am amazed at the amount of artisans and all the photos, paintings and jewelry they have for sale. I did linger near the photo tents a bit as you can tell by the blog I like to include photos in my storytelling.
Despite all the distractions and give aways, I came for the food vendors. Most of them are clusters in one area near the corner of Union and Bridge Streets. The smell in that area is wonderful – the sweet smells of onions and garlic cooking with the sausage and peppers, of smoke from the charcoal and London Broil and of deep fried fat of the funnel cakes and deep fried oreos. It is a festival for a foodie. Many of the food vendors are in fact local organizations like the Lambertville Union Fire Company but some are local restaurant out to support Shadfest and increase the awareness of their usual offerings and menus.
One of the local businesses supporting Shadfest was Bell’s Tavern. This local legend, where I have had one of the best steak dinner in my life, was serving up Crab cake Sandwiches. The $7.50 oversized sandwich came with a at least a 6oz pan-fried crab cake, lettuce, tomato and an Old Bay dressing. I added some extra Old Bay dressing to sandwich as the crab cake was so large. The dressing brought some heat to party and was a nice match for the sweetness of the abundant crab. Bell’s was also offering up Shrimp and Shad Fritters for $7.50 but I think they would have to pay me to eat them although I bet the shrimp and batter could cover up the oil and taste of the shad.
Other local businesses were getting into the Shad food offering. Here Lambertville Station is serving up blackened Shad at their tent outside their main restaurant. This serving of shad makes sense to me as they are using a great deal of spice to cut the taste of the actual fish so visitors to Shadfest can say they tried shad. Not sure what they will tell the folks back home but they can say the tried it. The other thing I am not sure about is with all that oil how they don’t burn their restaurants down. Maybe that’s why Shadfest gets so good support from the firefighter community.
Local New Hope business Triumph Brewing Company was selling Shad Chowder, pulled pork sandwiches and home-made chips at their tent. They were also sampling some of the craft brews to thirsty adults. The pull-pork was out selling the Chowder about 5 to 1. Once again the main purchasers appeared to be visitors to the area looking to sample the fish and few hardened local who ate it “cause they could.” The home-made chips are the same ones that came with my Smoked Turkey Sandwicha few posts back in this blog.
Potentially the most disturbing discovery at this year’s Shadfest was Shad Punch. Since over the years I have tried, no forced myself to try different Shad dishes I knew I would have to try this just to keep my foodie license current. Thankfully the vendor was joining in the Shadfest fun and had re-named the Arnold Palmer for the festival. I bought one and enjoyed it in the 92 degree heat. The combination of iced tea and lemonade has been around golf course for years and it easy to see why with how refreshing the combination was today.
As I continued my journey around the Festival I came across these two entertainers working the crowds with their blue grass music. Next to them was the outside stand for the No. 9 Restaurant that was serving specials as well as their entire lunch time menu. They had closed their dining room for the festival but had a few chairs in the shade. As I listened to the blue grass I noticed the smaller sign for the braised short rib sandwich for $9. Although still full from the crab-cake sandwich from Bells, I love short ribs so I went for it. The wait was enjoyable as the boys played their tunes and entertained the crowds.
This massive sandwich arrived with a generous portion of hot moist favourful pulled short rib meat and crunchy coleslaw. The rib meat came with a horseradish cream sauce but I found the heat from the horseradish was too mild for my liking but perfect for Donna. The servers did offer hot sauce but I passed but in retrospect I should have gone for it. The wait for sandwich was reasonable but gave a chance to explore the rest of the street while the music continues. This lead to the discovery of the day that I haven’t had a chance to research yet but some of the readers might know what these are.
These drinks were offered at Buho’s Mexican Restaurant, next door to No. 9, on Kline Court. The staff’s English and my Spanish were not compatible so I didn’t get the background on these drinks but they looked really interesting. I will be looking these up but in the meantime, if you know about these drinks let me know in the Reply Box below.
As I write this the 2009 version of Shadfest is finishing up as another success, I want to encourage you to attend next year’s festival and to put any comments you have about this post and Shadfest in general in the Reply Box below. Take care see you at next year’s Shadfest.