Question: What fish on a dish can inspire feelings of nostalgia and novelty?
The 2015 Bergen County Herring Festival, set for the tomorrow night — that’s Saturday, December 5 — at Congregation Netivot Shalom in Teaneck is sure to stir up sentimentality about the glistening, bony fish. After all, it’s a kiddush staple of yesteryear, and there also is culinary curiosity about newfangled versions, such as herrings bathed in wasabi, Tex-Mex, dill, or fresh garlic sauce — to name just some.
Nostalgia and curiosity aside, one thing is sure: With a dizzying array of mouth-watering herrings to sample and snack on, and an array of premium vodkas and single-malt scotches to chase down the tidbits, the festival, which is a fundraiser to benefit the Orthodox synagogue, as well as the Friends of the IDF, is going to be an evening of food and fun, said Rabbi Nathaniel Helfgot of Netivot Shalom.
“It’s really a wonderful event that brings together people in Bergen County, and from outside our area,” Rabbi Helfgot said. “They come for an enjoyable evening that not only benefits the shul, but also the Friends of the IDF.”
Rabbi Helfgot confessed that he is looking forward to sampling classic schmaltz herring and the debut of kippered herring, a festival first.
This year’s Bergen County Herring Festival marks the fourth such event — it is held every two years — and since its inception in 2009, it has grown in scope and popularity, Jonathan Shore, Noah Rothblatt and Barry Herzog said. The trio, all shul members, are the festival’s organizers.
“We don’t want to do it every year, because we like to keep it a novelty,” Mr. Rothblatt said. “But when we do have the festival, reservations fill quickly.”
The Bergen County Herring Festival grew out of a typical Shabbat kiddush, which Mr. Shore helped set up each week. He started bringing in a variety of herrings he found when he worked on the Lower East Side. The festival itself was born after he and his friends learned about an upscale herring tasting at a Manhattan penthouse by appetizing icon Russ and Daughters. With that inspiration — and their love of all things herring — they figured why not create a chichi herring event in Bergen County?
“I think a lot of peasant food has become very trendy,” Mr. Shore said.
“There are a lot of herring lovers in the Jewish community,” Mr. Herzog added.
The festival also has given several vendors a venue to show up and show off their prized pickled, creamed and marinated victuals.
Stuart Kahan, co-owner of Ma’adan in Teaneck, said he plans to bring nearly 100 pounds of herring, including varieties in dill sauce, Tex-Mex, wasabi, garlic sauce, Swedish matjes with scallions, Swedish matjes with peppercorn, spicy, and at least two new mystery flavors revealed at the event. “This is not your grandfather’s herring,” he quipped.
But if you really do want your grandfather’s herring, it will be there, too, at the old-school table.
There also will be smoked salmon and roes, breads, olives, potatoes, beets, and hard-boiled eggs in the traditional Finlandian style.
Two other vendors will join Ma’adan — The Pickle Guys of New York City, who will bring matjes in wine sauce, matjes, spicy schmaltz and regular schmaltz — and Raskin’s Fish of Brooklyn.
“Herring is having a revolution,” Raskin’s owner, Shlomo Raskin, said. He plans to bring some of the most popular of the 30 flavors that his company creates to Teaneck.
“These days, herring is being enjoyed by hipsters, women, and children,” he said. “In the old days, you had to eat it at shul because your wife didn’t let you bring it home. But now, herring is like the new sushi. It’s hip, funky, and hot.”