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Thursday, March 28, 2013

"I've been working on herring for the past decade, and it seems like more people are taking an interest in them" 

Well it appears  the herring are running out on the West Coast and it seems to have caught someone's attention out there. So happy to hear the Californians are so concerned!!  

Lots of herring hit Bay Area

WILDLIFE After collapse 4 years ago, the fish have returned - ringing a dinner bell for a variety of other species

Peter Fimrite
Updated 5:09 pm, Thursday, January 24, 2013

Great swirling schools of herring converged in San Francisco Bay this month, drawing fishermen, sea lions, harbor seals and thousands upon thousands of birds looking to fatten up for the winter.
The menagerie of wildlife is a sign that the bay's once spectacular herring runs, which collapsed four years ago, are returning to their former glory. The San Francisco run is the last urban fishery in the United States in which people can actually sit on shore and watch commercial boats haul in the squiggling fish.
As many as 12,000 birds converged on Richardson Bay, in Marin County, this week as the herring arrived en masse to lay and fertilize eggs, or roe, a delicacy for a wide variety of species, including sushi-loving humans. Fishermen scrambled to cast their nets amid the swooping, honking, squawking hordes.
"It is such an inspiration. There is something electric about a herring run," said Anna Weinstein, the seabird program manager for Audubon California. "To have such an exciting event, especially here in San Francisco, is really cool and exciting."
The herring, which live up to nine years and can grow to more than 12 inches long, spend most of their lives in the open ocean.
They come to spawn in the bay and its estuaries in November, where they congregate in masses that, if they were all netted, would weigh more than 50,000 tons, experts calculate.
The females lay their eggs on rocks, seaweed, riprap or pilings, and the males fertilize the eggs with their milt.
Near Mission Rock
The schooling fish were first spotted Jan. 7 off Mission Rock, near AT&T Park. Hundreds of thousands of the little fish filled the bay from the ballpark to the Ferry Building over the course of a week, said Ryan Bartling, an environmental scientist who specializes in marine fisheries for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.
The latest swarm started along the Sausalito waterfront last Friday, attracting fishermen from as far away as Washington.
"I've been working on herring for the past decade, and it seems like more people are taking an interest in them," Bartling said.
"This week, they were in Sausalito, and it was something to see. When you've got a 30-foot 'bow picker' fishing boat with birds all over, you can't miss it."
The Pacific herring fishery is important mainly for the product the fish produce, a delicacy known as golden roe, which is prized in Japan above herring eggs from other parts of the world because of its brilliant color and taste.
Fishermen generally cut the roe out of the fish or pluck it off kelp where the herring spawn. The remains of fish taken for their roe are used for pet food and chicken feed.
Near catastrophe
The arrival of the herring is a big thing, Bartling said, particularly in the wake of their nearly catastrophic decline. The number of herring seen in the bay dropped steadily starting in the late 1990s and reached a historic low in 2009, forcing the state to close the fishing season for the winter.
Scientists believe warmer water and a lack of krill and other food sources in the ocean caused the decline.
The arrival of herring is good for the fishing and sushi industries, but it is a bonanza for the marine ecosystem, where the herring are a crucial cog in the food chain, Weinstein said. Harbor seals, sea lions, porpoises, dolphins, brown pelicans, 11 species of seagulls, cormorants, scaups, scoters and grebes rush from all directions into San Francisco Bay to feast on fish and eggs during the herring run.
"It is the biggest estuarine wildlife event in the winter in California," Weinstein said.
"Everyone drops everything and feeds on herring roe. You'll see these fat gulls sitting there. It looks like Thanksgiving just happened."
Herring season
This winter's herring season, which began in November and is open from 5 p.m. Sunday to noon Friday through March, has a quota of 2,854 tons of fish and roe, or 4.7 percent of the estimated weight of all of the spawning herring in the bay. In 2000, the herring quota was 5,925 tons.
As it is, Weinstein said, most of the herring in the bay are under the age of 4. The older, more valuable, fish have almost disappeared. Even the number of 4-year-old fish caught in the bay is well below the historic average, according to state biologists.
"We're deeply concerned, as is the Department of Fish and Wildlife and fishermen, about the lack of older fish," Weinstein said. "It indicates stress, but the reason is a mystery."
Peter Fimrite is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. E-mail: Twitter: @pfimrite

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

"The House That Herring Built"

A little bit of herring history as reported by the Wall Street Journal -  a review of a new book about Russ & Daughters in NYC. 

Smoked, Sliced & Pickled
New York City's Russ & Daughters is a century-old shrine to lox and bagels, herring, smoked salmon, caviar, and the rest.

On East Houston Street between Allen and Orchard on Manhattan's gentrified Lower East Side sits Russ & Daughters Appetizers, a century-old shrine consecrated to lox and bagels, herring, smoked salmon, caviar, chopped liver, and the rest. Today a fourth generation of Russes manages the business that their great-grandfather built from a pushcart in what was then a teeming Jewish ghetto. That this tiny gem should still flourish under the same family—a fifth-generation daughter has recently been born—is an urban miracle, a testament to the unfailing regenerative powers of New York and its people.

Mark Russ Federman, the third-generation proprietor, has now retired and written "Russ & Daughters: Reflections and Recipes From the House That Herring Built," a memoir that captures the spirit of the shop: its obsession with quality and service, its understated cheerfulness, the family embrace that one feels as a customer. "You're either born a great schmoozer or you're not," Mr. Federman writes of this Proustian quality that involves listening as well as talking and "derives from a basic love of people." So why didn't Mr. Federman follow his customers as the second and third Jewish generations moved uptown or to the suburbs? Because, he writes, "I knew in my kishkes (guts) that we were in our rightful place in the world. Would a herring really taste like a herring if it were bought on the Upper East Side or in Great Neck?" Would schmoozing be the same in Westchester?

The decision to stay took courage and a deep commitment to place. "I didn't simply 'inherit' Russ & Daughters. . . . I earned the right to buy the business from the preceding generation," Mr. Federman writes. "I did however inherit the customers. I'm retired now but I can still hear them placing their orders . . . I need a whitefish . . . It should be a nice one . . . My son, the doctor, is coming home for dinner . . . No, not that one. The one next to it. No, that one's too dried out. Why don't you go to the back and get me a fresh one?" And Mr. Federman probably did. Retailers large and small will learn from this book the patient cultivation of customer loyalty while ethnic loyalists will find a dozen or so authentic recipes for such classics as cheese blintzes and salmon tartar and an irresistible steamed herring in parchment.

Mr. Federman's career began in childhood when he and his father would leave the house at five in the morning and drive in their bright red truck to the Brooklyn smokehouses "looking for the one place that would satisfy my father that morning with the quality" of fish he wanted for his store. "The sights, the smells, the tastes—in a smokehouse everything assaults your senses at once. Cavernous rooms with soot and smoke-blackened walls. Intense smells, some sweet, others acrid. All manner of fish in their briny baths in huge steel vats, hanging from their tails punctured by wooden hooks, splayed out on racks."

Mr. Federman didn't at first plan to go into the business, though, and went to law school instead. After serving as an Army lawyer in Vietnam, he ended up at an uptown firm where schmoozing is bought and sold by the hour. For this life he was ill-suited; it violated the imprinted memory of three generations in the fish business. In 1978, he decided to keep Russ & Daughters in the family. His plan was to help his parents run the store part-time and practice law part-time. But "the first day I took up my place behind the counter was the last day I practiced law. . . . I began earning my Ph.D. (professional herring degree)."

From the beginning he had a problem with Sidney, a long-serving counter man who ran the store as if it were his and treated Mr. Federman as an interloper, a nuisance. "Sidney could best be described as a farbissener, someone who is bitter and angry at the world and whose greatest pleasure is to make those around him just as miserable." When Mr. Federman felt he had learned enough about the business, he retired Sidney and hired a few old-timers for busy weekends—"Hy, Hymie, Al and Dave had once owned their own appetizing stores but were now waiting for the final exodus: Florida or Beth David Cemetery. . . . They told me when they would work, how much they would get paid, and how to run the store. . . . They couldn't get along with each other either. At times they would face off behind the counter with lox knives."

By this time the old neighborhood had changed dramatically. Latinos occupied the crumbling tenements. Two Dominican cousins, Herman Vargas and Jose Reyes, were now peeling onions, pickling herrings and washing dishes in the back of the store. "They did their jobs exceptionally well and with a positive attitude. About two years after I took over the business I had finally had it with the motley crew of lox-slicing prima donna countermen that I had inherited. One day, in a fit of pique, I brought Jose and Herman out from the kitchen and put them behind the counter. . . . It was a bold move: placing Latinos behind the smoked fish counter in a traditional Jewish appetizing store had never been done before. This was cutting-edge."

For the customers it was something else. "This was a Jewish store, selling Jewish food, prepared and sliced by Jewish employees. . . . Some customers were merely put off, some were offended, and some walked out. Their loss. As it turned out, these two men had talents I wasn't aware of." Today both men are still behind the counter, and both speak fluent Yiddish. What Mr. Federman fails to mention is his Sherpa salmon slicer, who used to guide climbers up Mount Everest and for the past 10 years has worked beside Jose and Herman. They have taught him that a bissel cream cheese is just a light schmear, according to a recent story in the New York Times, and he can cut salmon "thin enough to read a newspaper through it."

Mr. Federman's confidence in the neighborhood has been vindicated. In the darkest days, when junkies haunted the park across the street and prostitutes dragged their johns into the store to change $100 bills so they could take their $10 fees, customers asked why Mr. Federman didn't move uptown. He would reply that "sooner or later, uptown would come downtown," and it did.

Through it all, Russ & Daughters has maintained its integrity and become a revered institution. The holiday lines along Houston Street have grown longer, and not just the holiday lines. Herring and lox have attracted a pan-ethnic following. The fourth generation has created a website and now ships orders by But to the stores' traditional customers this operation is invisible. If great-grandfather Russ were to stop by for a plump Dutch herring, Herman would welcome him in Yiddish and the old man would feel at home.

For centuries on end philosophers have tried and failed to define the good life. Mark Federman's life as revealed here can hardly be reduced to a set of impersonal abstractions, but if philosophers are willing to settle for a case in point rather than a developed theory, let them read his marvelous book.

—Mr. Epstein, the author of "Eating:
A Memoir," was for many years the editorial director of Random House.
A version of this article appeared March 2, 2013, on page C8 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: Smoked, Sliced & Pickled.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Gettin' Jiggy With the Herring

Saturday, March 2, 2013

 More Herring Music 
Performed by that rockin' group  "The Guinea Pigs"

Thanks to Uncle Sammy for his ongoing herring research!!!!!!!

Friday, March 1, 2013

Captain Paul Peluso and His Wife Katrina's Culinary Institute for Herring

For those of you who were wondering how to pickle your own herring - let's go to herring school!!!

Part 1:

Part 2: