Where In-The-Know Fish Lovers Get Their Goods

It’s 10 o’clock on a Friday morning. On a hushed, industrial street in Greenpoint—a booming neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York—there’s a pretty long line for… something.

slice-1

The line spills out of a narrow steel door on the side of a squat brick building. It contains a patchwork of people, young and old: most keep to themselves, holding cell phones and to-go cups of coffee, while others chat in English and Polish and Russian. Almost all of these people are smiling from ear to ear.

They’re waiting for fish—that is, some of the best (and best-priced) smoked fish available. For just five hours every Friday, Acme Smoked Fish Corporation, one of the country’s biggest, most respected producers and wholesalers of smoked fish, opens that steel door and sells directly to the public. It’s a unique pop-up shop, hosted right in the place where all the fish are cut, brined, dried and smoked.

Because they rely exclusively on word of mouth, “Fish Fridays” are still a bit under the radar, even though the tradition is actually 25 years old.

“Back in the day, Fish Fridays were just a way for us to unload extra inventory,” says Adam Caslow, co-CEO and a fourth-generation operator of Acme.

But the business as a whole has even deeper roots than that. It all began in 1905, when a Russian immigrant named Harry Brownstein (Caslow’s great-grandfather) settled in Brooklyn and started buying and distributing fish from local smokehouses. By the time of his death in 1969, his family was devoted to the growing operation, which had just earned its first supermarket chain customers.

Today, Acme supplies not only supermarket chains like Whole Foods, but also high-end shops and eateries that specialize in smoked fish, including Barney Greengrass, Zabar’s and Sadelle’s—all New York City institutions themselves.

So what’s the big deal, really, about Acme’s smoked fish?

In their hot and cold smoke rooms, Acme smokes high-quality fish—already cut, brined and air-dried in separate rooms—with smoke generated by burning real wood chips. For most of their items, that’s all there is to it. The natural flavor of the fish, be it the ever-popular salmon or a specialty species like trout, takes beautifully to the flavor of the smoke.

slice-2

Salmon is dry brined, or rubbed with a mixture of salt and sugar to season each cut before smoking.

Acme does offer a few extra flavors, like pastrami spices and lemon-pepper. One of the newest additions is honey-maple: in one room, thick slabs of salmon are brushed with the syrupy mixture, giving them a beautiful golden sheen.

After all is said and done, the smoked fish is sliced thinly with a special machine, wrapped tightly in layers of paper and handed over to one eager customer after another.

At half past 10, a young boy in line asks sheepishly, “Does it smell inside?”

“No, it doesn’t smell at all,” an older man, possibly his grandfather, reassures him. Then, after a beat: “Well, maybe a little.”

The distinctive smell is one that many New Yorkers, and perhaps now tourists, actually relish. It hangs in the air inside, where one long table is set up for these fleeting hours. Behind the table, a few employees take orders, calling out the occasional “Good to see you again” and “You’re here early!”

slice-4

At the far end of the table, where samples are offered, one customer holds up a translucent-thin slice of smoked fish to the overhead light, as if examining a hundred-dollar bill. Apparently satisfied, she tears off a piece for her friend and stuffs the rest in her mouth.

“In salmon, the oil gives you a nice sea-saltiness,” says Adam, describing what sets different species’ flavors apart, as he looks over the samples. “Then there’s something like trout, which is already smoky—so it takes particularly well to the smoke. It reminds me of being in the mountains or woods.”

The main distinction between salmon and trout, he goes on, is the difference in smoking temperatures. Trout is hot smoked: the high-temperature hardwood smoke both flavors it and cooks it through, lending it a multidimensional (but not especially fishy) taste.

And Adam’s favorite way to eat smoked fish?

“Me? Well, I do love it on a bagel with cream cheese, onion, tomato.”

Where smoked fish is concerned, tradition reigns supreme. Even with decades’ worth of change in the neighborhood and, by extension, the scene at Fish Fridays, few things are better than smoked fish on bread.

By 11 o’clock, the line out the door is longer than ever. But, as Adam points out, most people don’t mind waiting: it’s part of the experience. Still, he sometimes thinks about changing the setup of Fish Fridays. If they don’t do something new, won’t people stop coming?

slice-5

Behind the now-mobbed table, an energized employee rings up three pounds of smoked whole salmon (a Fish Friday special). Watching with a twinkle in his eye, one older customer says, “I see business is bad,” to laughter. “How will you survive? I’m worried about you.”

Look for Acme’s smoked trout in our recipe for Smoked Trout Tartines with Romaine, Cucumber & Radish Salad, and learn more about the company here.

 

 

stuffing thumbnail

Unseat Your Thanksgiving Stuffing Standby

When it comes to Thanksgiving, the sanctity of stuffing is something you don’t mess with. But just because it always deserves a place at the table doesn’t mean you have to follow the same recipe year after year. With a keen eye for some ingredients already at hand in your kitchen, one of these a delicious, complex stuffings could inspire a holiday-worthy change-up. Read more »

thumbnail

Turkey Day Survivor’s Guide: Wine

We understand that cooking Thanksgiving dinner is a labor of love, and once all your friends and family are gathered around the table, the most important thing is for everyone to have a good time. Luckily, when it comes to pairing food and wine on the big day, it’s pretty hard to go wrong. You can serve one type of wine for the whole feast, or leave it up to guests to personalize their picks according to their favorite dishes—whether it’s the ever-so-generously buttered mashed potatoes, the sumptuous stuffing or the juicy bird itself. Whichever approach you decide to take, we’ve got you covered. Read more »

blog-thumbnail-option-1

Why You Should Be Cooking Fish at Home

Andrew Gruel, owner of the Slapfish restaurants in California, is passionate about sustainable seafood. He believes it should be enjoyed both in restaurants and at home. And so do we. But did you know that currently about two-thirds of all seafood in America is eaten outside the home? That’s why we asked Andrew, a true seafood guru, to help us bust some of the most common myths that prevent people from cooking it at home. Here’s what he said: Read more »

blog-thumbnail-option-2

One Man’s Quest for the Perfect Fish

Josh Goldman has finally settled down: After years of searching, the fish farmer found the perfect fish to raise. Delicious and sustainable, it’s called barramundi, and it took him over three years and 30 tries to find it. Read more »

pumpkin pie thumbnail

5 Ways to Upgrade Your Pumpkin Pie

Let’s face it: for most of us, pumpkin pie only comes around once a year. So why not make the most of its fleeting, deliciously custardy presence? Below, Test Kitchen Manager Claire King gives us five quick tricks to make your pumpkin pie anything but forgettable. Read more »

Australis Barramundi VN 51

Seafood in a New Light: The Truth About Wild and Farmed Fish

It’s no secret that we’re huge fans of seafood: the health benefits are undeniable (we’re looking at you, Omega-3s!) and it’s a delicious and, most importantly, sustainable source of protein. Not to mention, producing seafood requires dramatically less energy than other animals. For example, it only takes one pound of feed to create one pound of fish, but for meat and poultry it can require up to nine times as much feed. Supporting sustainable seafood choices is a win-win for us all. Read more »

Cranberry Bog - 8413-4 (1)

Cranberry Chili

The problem with being a fourth generation cranberry farmer from Cranberry Country, Massachusetts—the southeastern part of the state that is pretty much covered in bogs—is that you, unfortunately, get typecast.

“People know that if you’re having dinner at our house, it’s probably going to have cranberries in it,” says Patrick Rhodes. Patrick is the latest in a long line of cranberry-growing, and cranberry-loving Rhodes’ who have been raising the tart, acidic treats since the 1930s. Like most folks, sure, they use them at Thanksgiving table. But the Rhodes family is so enamored with the little red berries they grow, that they eat them at pretty much every meal. Read more »

thumbnail-option-3

Join the Conversation: Food Waste in America

As part of our mission to build a more sustainable food system, we’re committed to doing our part to turn this trend around. We asked the Business for Social Responsibility (BSR), a leading global sustainability non-profit, to conduct a study to learn more about our impact on food waste. The study, which set out to compare a week of meals’ waste at Blue Apron versus the traditional grocery store, revealed that we reduce food waste by 62% in comparison. We’ve been able to achieve this thanks to our unique business model, which enables us to predict demand and work directly with farmers to grow only what’s needed for our recipes, as well as to pre-portion ingredients for our customers and donate to food banks across the country. Read more »

default

How to Channel Your Inner Sommelier

Like your favorite seasoning or spice, wine can instantly enhance a meal. To help you master the perfect pairing, we’ve offered simple tips, as well as highlights from our October wine delivery, to keep in mind as you plan your Blue Apron meals–your taste buds will thank you! Read more »

© Blue Apron, Inc. 2016 Privacy Terms