Herring is eaten around the world but it long ago disappeared from American menus, although the mild-tasting fish is similar to trout, and loaded with nutrients. Reintroducing herring is the goal of Seattle restaurateurs during next month’s Northwest Herring Week. The event began with just eight chefs three years ago, and the numbers has nearly doubled from last year.
I think we’re going to cut it off at 60. I believe there are 8 different James Beard Award winners taking part with their restaurants. So it’s turning out to be quite the high profile thing. That’s good when you’re trying to recreate a market.”
Bruce Schactler of Kodiak is Food Aid Director for the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute. He helps to coordinate the weeklong event as part of the Alaska Herring Development Project.
“ASMI is a significant sponsor so we’ve been able to add new people to help and some infrastructure to get product around to people. So we’ve gone over to the east side, on the Bellevue side of the lake and I think as far north as Woodinville.”
Five thousand pounds of herring fillets are provided by North Pacific Seafood, from the recent Togiak fishery. North Pacific is the only Alaska processor that is producing a filleted product.
“We share the product as they need it and we ship them samples and they are all very pleased with what they see. We hope at some point I’m hoping we’ll hit a critical mass and we’ll have people who say put me on the list, contact me next March and we will give you an order.”
Alaska’s herring catches are valued primarily for the female roe; the fish also is used as bait, but much of it is turned into fish meal. At Herring Week, the fish is transformed into all kinds of amazing dishes.
It was all absolutely wonderful. Everything from fritters to pickled and cured products to grilled and everything in between.
Schactler says he’s hopeful that Herring Week will expand further along the west coast and eastward to Chicago or beyond.
Northwest Herring Week runs from June 19 to the 25th.