Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The Herring Are Here! The Herring Are Here!

Who is Anne Altman, you ask? Well, that's a complex question indeed, folks. I've been scratching my head about it for years. I think I'm going to have to get back to you on that one. What I can tell you in the meantime is that, as I'm sure you're well aware, I'm always jazzing up my already completely red hot, totally hip n' happenin' life with a little activity I like to call, "Things I've Never Done Before." So, in the spirit of TINDB, today I checked off a thing I've never done before by doing just that thing: Eating a traditional Dutch bar staple, a raw new herring with a glass of gin.

Called Hollandse Nieuwe Haring Scheveningen, the tiny fish treat is traditionally accompanied with a Dutch gin called Genever. Granted, I really wanted to go with my office Dutchman for this experience (yes, I really do work with a Dutch guy. Isn't that weird?) so he could show me the ropes, but he couldn't make it. So a combination of me being really curious to try it and part dare (he didn't think I'd have the nerve to go by myself and dangle a dead fish over my head--that's how they eat it in Holland),
I made it a point to get to the last day of the Herring Festival at the Oyster Bar in Grand Central. Specifically, the saloon. And you know what? It was fantastic.
The gin was smooth and mellow (as opposed to my Dad's butane, Bombay Sapphire)
and the fish--unlike that jarred pickled silvery gnarly stuff that my dad loves-- tasted right from the North sea, salty and sweet at the same time. The gin came in a small little tulip flute (in the picture it appears larger) and the herring came with chopped onions, parsely, chopped egg and a wedge of lemon.

I did hang the fish upside down for the first bite, like the real deal do, but then I got self conscious. Why, you ask?
How about this creepy guy:

who suddenly sat at the end of the bar and began staring at me. The small, handsome and dignified bartender, in his 70's with an accent I couldn't place, asked what he wanted to drink and he said, "Uh, just a glass of water, is that ok?" Then he went to town on the fuckin' peanuts while he sat with his back to the restroom wall and scanned the joint, focusing on me. After I gave him a half dozen dirty looks, he put on his sunglasses. That's when I picked up my fork and knife for the last bite. A-hole. Put a dent in my experience, this perv.

At one point after staring for a few minutes at the floor, I noticed he was gone, his glass of water half empty. He had been sitting in front of a poster that I wanted, a herring advertisement featuring cute picture of a Dutch girl grinning with a headless fish hanging by the tail by her fingertips. I inquired of the poster with Alex, the bartender, and soon our conversation turned to talking shit about the asshole who ordered water, ate the peanuts, and didn't tip. "Just water, is that ok?" said the jerk. Yeah, it's okay, asshole, if you're going to tip. Alex dumped his glass, went back to making drinks, and a few minutes later the dude reappeared. He kept leering at me, eating more peanuts with no drink. I know the phrase, "Take a picture it'll last longer" is meant to be said to the starer, not the staree, but I'm the one who took out my camera in full view and snapped a picture of him. Alex asked, "Do you want something else?" And the dude goes, "No, I'm just waiting for a train." Then he left.

The moral of this story? Make sure to take advantage of Herring Season! You have one more day until next year. Do something you've never done before! Unless that something it's taking up space at a bar, eating the peanuts, using the bathroom, wearing sunglasses inside and leering at women without spending a few bucks. That stuff's not free, you jerk. Who raised you, anyway? Ah, nevermind. I really don't want to know. Herring! Herring! Herring! Herring!

1 comment:

Just Dave said...

You might want to change your name and move to Finland as I bet that guy was CIA to the core.