Herring are about to stage their own version of Spring Awakening. Schools of tiny fish (seen here) congregate this time every year in the slowly warming Nordic and Dutch waters, chill, and essentially OD on plankton. According to Edible Manhattan, it’s at this point herring undergo a major change akin to the freshman fifteen, with “their little oily bodies becoming up to 16 percent fat.” It’s also at this moment the fishing industries of several dozen countries go into maximum overdrive and start netting the hell out of the fish. In Holland, Flag Day is called Vlaggetjesdag; the holiday is celebrated by a lot of raw herring eating in the streets.
Nieuwe maatjes (meaning Spring virginal) and Hollandse Nieuwe seasons are short; nonetheless some of that sweet Herring Central action spills over to the city on an annual basis. The easiest way to try them is to buy them retail: starting June 9, when the New Catch Holland shipment arrives, buy the short-seasoned fish at Russ & Daughters. They've been doing this whole new herring thing for a while, and most of the time the transaction goes like this: people walk into the shop and pay for fish. Some, however, open the pack then and there and sample a few fillets in a very particular Dutch way: eater tilts head back, opens mouth like harbour seal, chews a bit, and gulps. Like sword swallowing, but with fish instead of blades.
Edible Manhattan has more herring news: The Grand Central Oyster Bar will hold their annual herring blowout on June 9, and the fish will be served six ways to Sunday for a few weeks after that. Aquavit will hold their annual Herring Week from June 15-21; part of this includes an all-you-can-eat buffet option. In the middle of all this, on June 17 the restaurant’s chef Ulrika Bengtsson will team up with Russ & Daughters at the Roger Smith Hotel for a one-night-only, $30 aquavit and herringpalooza. Reserve tickets by emailing Russ & Daughters here.