Every year at about this time, Russ & Daughters celebrates New Catch Holland Herring season, a 4-5 week period in which the little delicacies reach their optimal state. They’re available at the 102-year-old appetizing shop on East Houston Street, as well as in Russ and Daughters’ restaurants on Orchard Street and at the Jewish Museum. Last week, fourth generation owners Niki Russ Federman and Josh Russ Tupper hosted their annual “Herring Pairing” at the Astor Center.
This year, the guest chefs were Jeremiah Stone and Fabian von Hauske of Contra and Wildair (the acclaimed restaurants are located on the same block as the Russ & Daughters Cafe). They were offering up an inventive spin on the new catch matjes (young) herrings, prepared with spruce, potatoes, brown butter and young onion.
At other tables dispersed throughout the Astor center events space, guests sampled herring in many varieties (curried with medjool dates and cashews, pickled in a cream sauce, Scandinavian style in a mustard and dill sauce, etc.). And, of course, there was a “photo booth.” Pictured above: Federman, Tupper and Stone having a little fun while demonstrating proper technique for consuming new catch Herring (you pick them up by the tail and lower the filets into your mouth).
The Herring Pairing event got its start in 2009 at a different location. That year, renowned neurologist and author Oliver Sacks (who passed away last year) wrote about the festival in the New Yorker. His enthusiastic Talk of the Town piece provided more than enough inspiration to turn a one-shot shindig into an annual happening :
There are certain passions—one wants to call them innocent, ingenuous passions—that are great democratizers. Baseball, music, and bird-watching come immediately to mind. At the herring festival, there was no talk about the stock market, or gossiping about celebrities. People had come to eat herring—to savor them, to compare them… Guests started from the great central table, the altar covered with new herring; washed these down with aquavit; and moved on to satellite tables… Around eight o’clock, after two hours of eating and drinking, the pace slackened. Slowly, the herring-lovers left the hotel (where the event was held), still discussing favorite dishes with fellow-travellers as they went… Some of us, the New Yorkers, will meet again, at Russ & Daughters. But the rest, after they have slept the deep sleep of the consummated herring-eater, will start counting the days to the herring festival of 2010.
The Herring Pairing will likely make a return for a ninth year in 2017. In the meantime, you can partake in Holland herring season in Russ & Daughters’ shop and restaurants while supplies last. More info here.