Michelle and I went to Trade to celebrate my birthday, so I got to pick all the dishes, which we shared. We started off with a “small plate” of “Pomegranate glazed eggplant with capers, olives and pine nuts.” As I described in a previous post, Michelle and I made and enjoyed Jody Adam’s “Grilled Bluefish with Pomegranate Glaze, Garlic Yogurt and Fiery Greens” recipe, so I was curious to see how the pomegranate glaze would go with eggplant. The pomegranate syrup flavor was more muted in this dish than in the bluefish recipe. It was certainly not sweet; in fact, if I hadn’t seen the word pomegranate in the name, I wouldn’t have been able to detect it.
The mixture of pomegranate, capers, olives and pine nuts gave the eggplant a satisfying “umami” flavor, but the texture was the most remarkable thing about the preparation. The eggplant was sliced thickly, like a steak, and stayed firm. While I prefer my eggplant with a soft, creamy consistency, I really enjoyed this dish, especially after adding salt and pepper. (Trade doesn’t put salt and pepper shakers on the table, but if you ask your server, they’ll provide them.)
Trade offers five different grilled flatbreads, which came highly recommended. Rather than order the more conventional pizza-like toppings, we decided to go for the “Salt cod with tomatoes, preserved-lemon and olives” version. Our server smiled approvingly when we ordered it.
Salt cod, for those who are not familiar with this delicacy, is cod that has been preserved by being dried and salted. You have to rehydrate it and keep rinsing it with new water for a day for a day or two before you can cook with it. By the time the dried fish has gotten plumped back up to normal size, it looks like cotton and has about as much flavor, but I figured, if anyone can make this taste good, Jody Adams can. And she did. The flatbread was crisp, yet chewy, and the preserved lemons and olives gave a bit of salt and tang to the otherwise mild cod.
I frequently order lobster for my birthday in honor of my mother, Rose. According to my oldest sister, Louise, my mother ordered lobster after giving birth to me in the hospital. Since we kept Kosher at home, were frugal, and lived in the Midwest, she’d never had lobster before, and she was so excited about eating it that she saved the shell, brought it home (along with me) and buried it (the shells, not me) in the backyard.
I have to thank my mother (long past away, but here in spirit) for starting this tradition of lobster on my birthday, because the “Grilled whole lobster with peaches, three bean salad and hazelnuts” was definitely the evening’s showstopper. The natural sweetness of the lobster was enhanced by the delicate hazelnut sauce. Grilled peaches are one of my favorite tastes of summer, and also complemented the lobster. And the three bean salad turned out not to be the nasty, overly marinated mix of canned kidney beans, wax beans, and green beans that usually goes by that name, but three types of long, fresh green and yellow beans that had been cooked just long enough to bring out their mild herbaceous flavor.
By the time we’d made it through those three courses, there wasn’t much room for dessert, but since it was my birthday, we “forced” ourselves to order a bowl of ginger ice cream with cinnamon chili chocolate sauce and ginger snaps. It was a delicious end to a delicious meal.
Trade is billed as a “casual neighborhood restaurant,” so I wasn’t expecting elaborate service, but there were a few problems. Our water glasses were frequently filled throughout dinner and our food and drinks were delivered promptly, but we didn’t get offered refills of the excellent Equal Exchange coffee. Someone came by and gave our table a tentative swipe after the main course, but left quite a few crumbs behind. The server heard that it was my birthday and put a birthday candle in the ice cream, which I appreciated. And when I asked if she had any sort of “wet-nap” so I could clean my hands after finishing the lobster, she improvised and brought out steamed napkins with slices of lemon—a nice touch, but why not provide something for everyone?
These minor annoyances, of course, won’t keep me from coming back–hopefully before next year’s birthday lobster dinner.