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The Lowly Anchovy: Customers Finally Take the Bait

The Count of Merkur Cristo

B&B's Emperor of Emojis
To all Chefs and Cooks:

Are there any Fresh Anchovy lovers are there (like me)?

Well, this NY Times article is just for you. :thumbsup:

"The Lowly Anchovy: Customers Finally Take the Bait"

Fried anchovies.


By Jeff Gordinier - 17 April 2012

"When Renae and Neill Holland began selling fried anchovies almost a year ago at Smorgasburg, the Brooklyn food fiesta, they weren’t sure what to expect.

The married couple had come up with a clever name for “our little anchovy dream,” as Ms. Holland called it: Bon Chovie. They had started a Web site. They had gone on quests through Chinatown and Little Italy, looking for a supplier of the fresh anchovies that they longed to encase in seasoned bread crumbs. But when they were invited to bring their oily-fish fantasy to Smorgasburg, they hadn’t yet given it a test run with paying customers.

Nevertheless, on their first day in business they plowed through 22 pounds of fish. “And that was in two hours,” Ms. Holland recalled. “We completely sold out of everything. And we were shocked. We honestly did not think it would be as big of a hit as it ended up being.”

Then again, a quick glance at menus across New York City might have given them an abundance of clues. In recent years anchovies have multiplied and triumphed as street food, as health food and as umami-dense stripes on the flag of fine dining.

Ask Seamus Mullen, the chef at Tertulia in the West Village, who gives the fish a glowing spotlight both at the restaurant and in “Seamus Mullen’s Hero Food,” his new cookbook focusing on ingredients (like almonds, fresh greens and stone fruit) that he celebrates as agents of both flavor and nutrition.
In his view, anchovies are rich with both omega-3 fatty acids and a taste that is powerful enough to transform and elevate what would otherwise be a simple plate of cheese and toast. “I always like to think of them as little guys with big voices,” he said. “They really do pack a wallop.” Curiously, it is a wallop that still gives a fair number of Americans a shudder.

Mr. Mullen understands. He was about 13 when he suffered through an anchovy-topped pizza on a family trip to Montreal. “It was absolutely disgusting,” he said. “It was hideous. And that’s probably the experience that 99 percent of Americans have had with anchovies.”

His perspective did a 180-degree turn four years later, when he spent time in Spain as an exchange student. His host family heralded his arrival by placing a can of anchovies in front of him. “I was like, ‘What’s going on here?’ ” Mr. Mullen, now 37, recalled. “Anchovies were the thing we joked about as kids. In Spain, it was completely the opposite. In Spain they were revered as this delicacy.”

Mr. Mullen fell in love with those Spanish fish (and, later in life, would come to see them as a crucial element in his continuing struggle to alleviate the pain of rheumatoid arthritis). And he has since endeavored to bring about the same reaction at Tertulia with his tosta matrimonio, which couples two kinds of anchovies in a satiny bed of sheep’s-milk cheese.

When diners resist, servers gently nudge them to succumb. “We’ve turned so many people on to anchovies,” Mr. Mullen said. “Ninety-nine percent of these people will say, ‘Oh, my God, I never knew anchovies could be so good.’ ”

That transformation has been under way for at least a decade now. Ever since the tapas craze took hold in the 1990s, many Americans have experienced a shift in the sense memory that is summoned up whenever someone utters the word anchovy.

If the old mental image — hyper-salty (and sometimes rancid) pellets of (canned), microboned fish strewn on top of a pizza — was the one that caused armies of schoolchildren to wrinkle their noses, that reflex began to fade away in 1999 or so.

For many, the old no-anchovies flinch was replaced by a new fondness for boquerones, the elegantly pale, cured and marinated version that can be found all over Spain and other sunny parts of the Mediterranean rim.

Boquerones, also known as white anchovies, have very little to do with pizza, but everything to do with excellent olive oil, fresh herbs, warm potatoes and toasted bread. Or, in the case of Sorella, on the Lower East Side, hazelnuts and flatbread drizzled with an Italian salsa verde. The appetizer of Ligurian anchovies was a slow seller when Emma Hearst, the chef, opened the restaurant in 2008, but by now you can spot it at nearly every table.

“That’s actually my favorite dish at Sorella,” she said. “I think it’s the most flavorful bite ever.”
Ms. Hearst still encounters customers who resist it, although she is not sure why. “I always tell people, ‘Just put it in your mouth,’ ” she said. “ ‘What’s the worst that can happen? You’re not going to die. You’re either going to like it or you’re not.’ ”

Many chefs fall passionately into the like column, which is a core reason you come across anchovies on so many menus and in cookbooks like April Bloomfield’s new “A Girl and Her Pig.” Simply put, chefs want to cook with them.

“Some people find them too fishy, too intense, but that’s the best thing about them,” said Ms. Bloomfield, who conjured up a $4 parsley-anchovy toast that operates as a quick-snack counterpoint to cocktails at the John Dory Oyster Bar, on the ground floor of the Ace Hotel.

“Parsley and anchovies, that’s up there with onions and thyme,” she said. “It’s like the perfect match.”
As is the eternal alchemy of fish and a deep fryer. By now Bon Chovie has expanded to the Brooklyn Flea, as well as Smorgasburg, and it’s not uncommon for Team Holland to crisp up 80 pounds of anchovies in a single weekend. If anyone clings to preconceived notions of what an anchovy is supposed to be, just a glance usually cures that.

“It looks like a French fry, which I think makes it a lot easier to stomach,” Ms. Holland said. “I tell them it’s a French fry with a tail.”

The Lowly Anchovy - Customers Finally Take The Bait

"Bon Appétit...Celebrating the Chef in You!!! CBJ

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They look like whitebait, an absolute favourite of mine. I'll order them pretty much any time I see them on a menu, can't get enough of the little things!
Those look delicious.

I love small fish. They say it's an acquired taste, but I grew up by the sea and acquired the taste young.

They're tasty, they're good for you (depending on how they're cooked), they're a more sustainable fishery, and they're cheap. Can't beat that.

Thanks for sharing.
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