If you’re sticking to fish for Lent, a steady diet of Hookline Fish Co.’s succulent hot-smoked salmon would make that easy to do. The shop on Rt. 28 in Kingston, Ulster County, has been earning acclaim for its artisanal products since it opened five years ago.
With six cuts to choose from, each from a different part of the wild-farmed fish from the icy waters of the Faroe Islands north of Scotland, there is something for everyone. We tried the decadent belly with a rich sweet savoriness that rivals a better bacon, and the lean, smoky, meaty tail. My favorite was the lively collar, full of character--it’s irregularly shaped compared to the tidy filets--and offers a heady mix of flavor and fat.
As with cuts of meat, prices vary, ranging from $16-42/lb depending on the part of the fish. Other cuts include the Fat Boys, from behind the collar, with thick meaty flesh (owner Skip Card recommends crumbling this into an omelet or creamy pasta sauce--yum!).
Fingerlings are another meaty portion, and relatively economical, from closer to the tail, and the balanced Primo is from the middle of the fish.
Card was formerly an editor for the New York Post and reinvented himself as a fish smoker about five years ago. As an experienced creator of headlines, he runs his business with a sense of humor; a sign in the shop alerts visitors that if he’s not there he’s probably out back smoking.
He grew up in Tacoma,Washington, where smoking fish was a part of life. Later as a fish smoking hobbyist, whose fish won raves from people who tasted it, he decided to leave the newspaper biz behind and smoke full time. He still spends half the week in New York City, doing bookkeeping, other administrative tasks of running a business, and delivering smoked fish to some happy people in his upper west side neighborhood. His business has grown from a one-man operation to now including an assistant smoker and a salesperson.
After trying different sources of salmon from various places through the years, Card settled on the wild-farming operation in the Faroe Islands that he has been working with for the past three years. Their products have no antibiotics or hormones and are raised sustainably, something very important to Card in all aspects of his operation.
He believes that the extra fat in a farm-raised fish gives it a more buttery, richer taste and texture than wild fish, such as that from the Northwest. Atlantic fish gets to him more quickly than Pacific would, too. Thanks to an alliance with Gadaleto’s fish market in New Paltz, Card is able to get his fish quickly from the Bronx after it flies in, so he can smoke it while it's still super fresh. Also, the fish he sources is available 12 months out of the year, rather than seasonally like the wild ones.
Salmon is a great source of protein and vitamins B12 and D. Atlantic salmon has the highest concentration of omega-3 essential fatty acids of any type of salmon. Omega-3s are great for the heart, brain, joints and skin.
Card’s process is to slow smoke the fish over five to six hours over alder shavings, another nod to sustainability and clean eating. Unlike orchard woods like apple or cherry, which often require pesticides, alder grows wild. The mild alderwood smoke also gives the fish the flavor and color he prefers.
“I give it a good blast of smoke early on,” he says. “I get the best results when there’s a big explosion of smoke right at the start of the smoking process.”
And that explosion makes for some incendiary flavors. This locally handcrafted product makes for some of the best smoked salmon you have probably ever tasted.
All the cuts of Hookline Fish Co.’s hot-smoked salmon are available at the retail shop at 906 St. Rt. 28 in Kingston, along with a perfect dill sauce to go with it, salmon chowder and more. It’s nestled next to some other sources of good eating and drinking: La Bella Pasta, KBBK Kombucha, the Wine Hutch, Cheese Louise and Bistro-to-Go.
The storefront is currently open Thursday 1 p.m. to 6 p.m., Friday 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., but will be opening Wednesday, March 28th and open through Easter Sunday, with days of operation expanding to Wednesday through Sunday after that.
You can also find the tasty fish at Sunflower Natural Market, Smokehouse of the Catskills, Migliorelli Farm’s farmstands, Duo Pantry, Emmanuel's Marketplace, Davenport Farms, Cheese Louise, La Bella Pasta, Bistro-to-Go and Olde Hudson. Reach Hookline at 917-771-6648 or Skip@hooklinefish.com