Hey, if Negroni Week can become a legitimate event in this town, why not Seattle Herring Week? Mononymic distiller Lexi of the Scandinavian-focused Old Ballard Liquor Co. has launched a crusade to kindle a deeper love of herring in this town. Not via distilling.
When Lexi and chef Jason Harris launched the Tumbleswede Nordic popup at her distillery in April, she knew she wanted to include a few traditional dishes that use herring.
Lexi recalls netting for herring when she was growing up. Today it's different: "I couldn’t believe in this town we couldn't find any stupid herring fillets; everything was pickled or smoked or salted."
This quest for fresh herring fillets proved more complex than Lexi anticipated. (The Stranger's account of her search and the reasons behind the oily fish's domestic scarcity could make for the world's most compelling herring-based screenplay.)
The upshot: Seattle Herring Week, wherein a handful of restaurants around town will have fresh herring dishes on their menus through June 14, or until they run out of herring. The Facebook page has updates, but this is an eclectic group, and it's not limited to Ballard. The list includes Anchovies and Olives, Schooner Exact, Chippy's, Palace Kitchen, the Walrus and the Carpenter, Sushi Kappo Tamura, Little Uncle, Pair, and grocer Scandinavian Specialties (plus Sogno di Vino and Marina Market in Poulsbo).
For those of us who have experienced our herring in mostly pickled, smoked, or creamed form, dishes like Little Uncle's Thai take on herring should be a fairly new experience. Bruce Schactler of the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, who ended up being Lexi's source for herring, describes it as "very mild; it's almost like eating trout."
His goal intertwines with Lexi's here: Create more of a market for fresh herring in Seattle. If that happens, if customers sign on to the taste, herring's ecological role, and the health benefits of oily fish, more of the herring exported to Japan could stick around and show up on local menus.
If nothing else, it's another manifestation of this town's deep interest in food and where it comes from. And another reason I love living here.