Black Seed Is Bringing Back The ‘Appetizing Stores’ Of 19th-Century European Jews
Appetizing is having a moment. First, Russ & Daughters gets its own museum show at the Center for Jewish History. Now, hip bagel chain Black Seed is opening its own appetizing shop at Manhattan’s Chelsea Market.
Black Seed Appetizing is part of Chelsea Local, a new section of the tourist-thronged market; the lower-level Local is apparently targeted to New Yorkers themselves. The Forward caught up with Black Seed co-founder Noah Bernamoff about the past, and future, of appetizing.
I walk into Chelsea Market, I’m not from New York, and I’ve never heard of appetizing. What is it?
It’s the 19th-century European tradition of smoked and cured seafood, dairy products, preserves and fermented baked goods that New Yorkers have maintained and popularized since the major European immigrations of the past century.
With the new space, how are you trying to make appetizing modern – or how are you sticking with that long tradition?
Like with our approach to bagel baking, we’re maintaining old traditions and finding new ways to communicate them to the modern customer. Much of the new appetizing specific items on our menu are completely classic and very much in line with the great appetizing stalwarts like Russ & Daughters, Zabar’s and Barney Greengrass, such as our smoked fish and herring selections.
What is changing, though, are the typical appetizing salads and spreads, where we’re leveraging our culinary resources to execute items like black truffle, lobster tarragon, bottarga, furikake and halvah schmears, smoked bluefish spread, lox and dill spread (with actual chunks of lox), and our mayo-free smoked whitefish salad. We’re also expounding on the tinned fish and seafood trend, which has a place in traditional appetizing shops, but perhaps not with as much focus on sustainable sourcing and variety of producers as we will have.
Did you tweak any recipes or provisions as a nod to the market’s very heavy tourist traffic?
No. While the market has strong tourist traffic, it is still a food market that services the local community and, at our core, we’re still a neighborhood bagel shop, so our goal is to attract tourists by being that neighborhood place designed to appeal to local tastebuds – i.e., the “when in Rome” maxim under which most tourists operate. It’s also important to note that the lower level of the market is branded as the Chelsea Local, a marketplace for our neighbors to do their everyday grocery shopping.
You’ve talked about sourcing and sustainability as a priority. How does that play out at Black Seed Appetizing?
We work closely with Catsmo Smokehouse in the Catskills and their affiliate Solex Fine Foods. They produce a number of the salmon products we serve including our proprietary smoked salmon and beet-cured lox products — sustainably-raised and never frozen — as well as distribute to us all of our dairy and eggs which are sourced from local farmers in upstate NY and Lancaster PA. We also work with Pearl Street Caviar who distribute a very limited selection of sustainably raised caviars.
Are there personal food memories from anyone involved that have shaped the new offerings?
This shop is less about our personal memories and more about the place appetizing has and could have in the modern culinary landscape.
What should I order?
I’d order some schmears and some bagels and rip and dip your way through some of the great new flavors.