The classic bagel and salmon sandwich at Russ & Daughters in New York City

After turning 100 this year Russ & Daughters in New York City is the stuff of legend. The Lower East Side’s “appetizing” specialists have served generation after generation of New Yorkers (and many tourists) the best sausages, cream cheeses and salads that have become synonymous with Jewish cuisine in America. One of the most popular orders is also one of the dishes that New York City is famous for: A bagel with cream cheese and smoked salmon. Known on the Russ & Daughters menu as “The classic“This humble sandwich tells the story of a family’s commitment to doing things the old-fashioned way.

Fourth generation owners, appetizing experts and cousins Niki Russ Federman and Joshua Russ Tupper Define your mission at Russ and Daughters as “Connecting people with the purest, most traditional experience”. Federman puts it simply like this: “We strive to uphold the ideal“To that end, they work with suppliers who are just as fanatical as the right things, be it a dairy, a fish smokehouse, or even a knife sharpener. Often times, these partners are other family businesses with several generations have a long history in the business.

Your dedication to the details has clearly paid off. The store usually sells 150-200 classic sandwiches plus 100-150 pounds of hand-cut salmon on a busy day. In addition to the 100-year-old business, in which people are always waiting for their appetizing solution, Tupper and Federman also manage their recently opened full-service restaurant, in which the city buzzes with their familiar offers.

Eater NY’s Marguerite Preston puts Russ & Daughters in context:

“Russ & Daughters is basically the standard that all other bagels and salmon go for. The store is such a real New York place. It hasn’t changed much in 100 years, and it seems like the people in it don’t have it either. If that doesn’t tell you how good it is, it will watch the guys cut the fish into those perfectly thin slices. Just ordering the sandwich will make you feel like a real New Yorker. “

Below are the elements of The Classic at Russ & Daughters:

1. The bagel

Russ & Daughters uses Brooklyn bagels The baghole. Federman and Tupper have landed on their hand-rolled bagels, which are noticeably smaller than what some people expect from a bagel. Federman and Tupper explain this master of the bagel craft Phil Romanzi makes bagels according to your specifications; not that too much instruction is needed. “There are very few decent and truly traditional New York bagels out there, and Phil really is the torchbearer,” says Federman. “We clicked because we know what a real New York bagel tastes like – it makes a perfect New York bagel – and we didn’t want to succumb to the pressure of mass diluting the bagels.”

2. The salmon

While the conditions “lox” and “smoked salmon” are often used synonymously, Russ & Daughters still use the original definitions. “Lox” refers to salmon belly salmon that has been pickled and cured with salt and never smoked. Federman explains, “The term ‘bagel and salmon’ started with belly salmon. It’s so salty that the cream cheese is needed to reduce the salt content.” When customers order salmon, the counters turn to the customer to make sure they don’t prefer to order smoked salmon. And since there are eight different smoked salmon, the process of choosing a wine is similar to trying to find the perfect match for what the customer is looking for. The most commonly ordered salmon for The Classic is Gaspe Nova salmon. This cold smoked North Atlantic salmon has a “mild smokiness”. It’s also one of the wettest salmon on offer in the store, with a “melt-in-the-mouth quality, butter,” says Tupper.

Russ & Daughters works with smokers (some of which have worked together for generations) to bring customers the highest quality salmon they can. This doesn’t exactly match Russ & Daughters’ specifications, rather Tupper and Federman are constantly evaluating and criticizing the quality of the salmon they buy. Tupper explains, “Our smokehouse specifications are about what we see. We don’t tell them how long to smoke the salmon, which woods to use. We say, ‘Oh, this is smokier than it used to be. What has changed.” ? ‘We tell them the end product we are looking for. “There are many variables in the smoking process, and Tupper and Federman can spot errors or inconsistencies.” Sometimes it is under- or over-cured, or soaked too long, or smoked too long, or something is wrong with the wood. We have very close relationships with our smokehouse, “says Tupper. Federman adds,” We can refuse anything we don’t love. “

3. The cream cheese

Russ & Daughters sources its cream cheese from a California dairy that makes natural cream cheese the old-fashioned way. Since the dairy does not use gums or preservatives, the texture and taste is a little different from the serial version on the shelves of grocery stores. “It has a little bit of tang,” says Federman. She also notes that since it is a natural product, there is greater variability: “Depending on the time of year, it can be much wetter or much drier.” The shop is known for its extraordinary variety made by mixing components like chopped green onion, salmon, and even caviar into this all-natural cream cheese. The Classic is traditionally served with simple cream cheese.

4. The gathering

One of the most famous features of the shop is that long counter behind the showcases. Federman describes the reality of working in the long, narrow space as “a dance where everyone knows what the movements are”. She adds, “You must be light-footed with grace and speed.” There is no organizational principle behind the counter. Instead, cutting machines need to be efficient with their movements and be very aware of their surroundings as everyone has an extremely sharp knife in their hand. There is only one hard and fast rule: no cutting for left-handers because it is too dangerous in a small space. Even Tupperware had to learn to cut with his right hand.

While a variety of bagels are on offer, these are the most commonly ordered plain and everything. Starting in 2009 (relatively recently in the 100-year history of Russ & Daughters), customers can have their bagels roasted. According to Tupper, around half of its customers order their toasted bagels (“not locals”). While it seems harmless, toasting was a revolutionary change in the store. The change “threw a wrench in the system” but because they found the right toaster, “the wrench wasn’t a five-minute wrench; it’s a one-and-a-half-minute wrench.” Still, the toasting process slows the assembly process and requires a different choreography behind it the counter.

Next, add the cream cheese to the bagel. Tupper says even the amounts have been thought through. “Every sandwich we make is made the way we think it tastes good and is best presented. Too much salmon screws up the taste, just like too much cream cheese.”

The store takes cutting very seriously, starting with the knife They use. You buy wholesale 10-12 inch long, 1 inch thick cutting knives for about $ 20 each. Then the knives are sent to knife sharpeners Ambrosi cutlerywhere the knives are ground to 0.75 “to 0.25” thick. The angle is 15 degrees – versus an angle of 30 to 45 degrees on many chef’s knives – and the resulting knife is slightly flexible and difficult to keep sharp. Once the knife becomes too thin and flexible after repeated honing in the store, it becomes too difficult to control and needs to be replaced. Knives in the store are usually replaced after six to eight months. “I’ve always dreamed of having a nice knife,” says Tupper, “but it just doesn’t make any sense.”

Federman is not kidding when she describes slicing salmon as “meditative”. She explains the process: “Much of it is spatial relationships and angles. Your eyes need to be everywhere and nowhere while your hand makes a delicate movement. No fish is exactly the same, every time you pick up the fish, you have to fresh yourself get to know. “The cutting machines cut away from the body of the salmon, a reversal of how many people instinctively approach fish.

Since every slicer behind the counter works with every fish, they have to adapt to what the person in front of them did. “It’s something we drill into everyone,” says Federman. “You have to think about what you are passing on to the next person because they will pick up where you left off.” ON perfect slice Runs the entire side of the salmon and is of even thinness. “What you are going for is super easy, but just getting there is difficult,” says Tupper.

Customers in the shop can also add Tomatoes, capersand or Onions. There’s one topping that Tupper and Federman say is never on sale in their store: lemon. “We want you to taste the deliciousness of the fish and the acidity of the lemon to wipe it out,” says Tupper. About the way people order their classics, Tupper adds, “It’s a very personal thing. It’s like asking how to get your coffee.”

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