(New York Jewish Week via JTA) – Imagine arriving at Pastrami Queen but not finding any pastrami, or showing up at Holy Schnitzel to find its signature breaded chicken chop from the menu.
To quote Tevye, that sounds crazy, right? But that’s exactly what’s going to happen if you visit Sherry Herring, the Israeli eatery that recently opened on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. It’s the first branch of the famous sandwich bar in Tel Aviv’s harbor to be famous for – you guessed it – its herring sandwiches.
But for now, to quote Sherry Ansky, the driving force behind Sherry Herring, New York’s outpost has “no Sherry and no herring.”
This is because Ansky is still waiting for her travel documents to enter the United States – and the herring is still aging at a Dutch processor who patiently absorbs brine and flavors to meet Ansky’s approval.
Ansky is a food celebrity in Israel, where she has written six cookbooks (one of which was translated into English). For decades, she was a food columnist for the daily Maariv. But in 2011, she hit a writing block. It was at that time that her daughter, Michal Ansky, herself a food journalist, opened the farmers market in the port of Tel Aviv, which quickly became a magnet for tourists, foodies and hipsters. Sherry Ansky decided to set up a sandwich shop there that contained herring.
Ansky has had a long-running love affair with herring, the salted or pickled fish that is an integral part of Ashkenazi cuisine. When she was 6 years old, she went to synagogue with her father.
“Someone made a kiddush and brought me a plate filled with lekach [honey cake], bullet and lots of herring, ”she told The Jewish Week. “I ate one piece, then another, until I was done with it all. I believe there is a moment where you understand the power of candy. For me, it happened with herring.”
Ansky’s store, which offers herring and other fish sandwiches, was an instant success. Shortly after opening the sandwich bar, she walked into the farmers market to find a queue winding through it and out the door.
“I fainted and ran away,” she recalls. “I asked the people to go away! I can not do that.”
Even those who are not normally fans of herring may find it hard not to be taken by Ansky’s herring sandwich. It is a carefully constructed work consisting of a fresh baguette, cut in half and sprinkled with sour cream and French butter, seasoned with hot pepper, seeds and juice from a tomato, onion and scallion and finished with salted herring.
Food celebrity Phil Rosenthal visited the port of Tel Aviv for his Netflix show “Somebody Feed Phil” and declared that Ansky’s herring sandwich was “one of the best sandwiches I’ve ever had in my stupid life.”
“The taste is accurate,” Ansky said. “In the end, I feel like I’ve been working on this sandwich all my life until the moment I needed it.”
During the pandemic, Ansky sent his son-in-law and business partner, Eyal Amir, to New York to explore a place for the first of what they hope will be more Sherry Herring stores. They chose the Upper West Side, Amir said, “because it is a Jewish neighborhood where our penetration into the market will be easiest.” Their eatery, Amir said, is built on the culture of appetizing shops in New York, including Russ & Daughters on the Lower East Side and Barney Greengrass less than a mile away.
Like the Tel Aviv sandwich bar, the Manhattan store offers a selection of smoked fish sandwiches: tuna from a smokehouse in the Hamptons, wild-caught Alaskan sockeye salmon, mackerel from, according to Amir, “the wild waters off Spain.”
So why no herring? Because there’s herring and then there’s Sherry’s herring. During his scouting projects, Amir brought back samples of all the herring he could pick up in the five boroughs of New York City. No one met the approval of Ansky’s picky palate. So she flew to Holland and worked on a fishery there to pick the best herring – creamy with a soft bite – and to create the brine that would give her the flavor she was after.
“We kept experimenting until we reached the right taste in July,” Amir said. They then had to submit the recipe and process to the FDA for approval. They started production last month. But the herring, Amir said, “needs 11 weeks in our unique brine to reach the taste, colors and aroma we want.”
So the herring comes, in a first shipment of 15,000 fillets, in December. Will that be enough? That, Amir said, “depends on how much New Yorkers like it.”
Sherry Herring is located at 245 W. 72nd St., between West End Avenue and Broadway.
– The post Israeli noshery Sherry Herring opens in NYC – with ‘no Sherry and no herring’ first appeared on the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.