With Labor Day behind us, we welcome a new and exciting season for all. It was a busy summer for us at Russ & Daughters. Our first annual Russ & Daughters Herring Festival in June was a great success. If you missed the event, you can read Oliver Sacks’ fabulous “Talk of Town” piece in The New Yorker and make sure to come to the festival next year (date tba). Also in June, the Russ & Daughters website was named an “Official Honoree” at the 2009 Webby Awards. Our extended store hours — 8:00 am – 8:00 pm Monday through Friday — have kept our doors open earlier and later each weekday. The Food Network filmed in the shop for part of the season premiere of their new competition show, Chef vs. City. Their chefs’ challenge was to attempt to slice smoked salmon and fillet a whitefish as masterfully as we can. (Spoiler alert: there’s no comparison.) The rest of the summer saw upkeep and renovations around the store, and on top of that, we had to navigate city bureaucracy to fix a hole in the street that caved in after so much rain. Once the monsoon season lifted, we closed the shop for one day and headed to the country for our Annual Staff Picnic.
For those of us celebrating the Jewish holidays, September literally marks the start of a new year. Preparations for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are already well under way at Russ & Daughters. For some, the tradition of waiting in line to pick up holiday food from Russ & Daughters is a ritual just as important as listening to the blowing of the shofar or Kol Nidre. I was recently talking to State Senator Dan Squadron, a Russ & Daughters regular when he’s not in Albany, when he told me that I would be seeing him for the holidays. Knowing how little time he has — especially after surviving this most “interesting” year in our State legislature — I reminded Dan that he could place an advance order for Yom Kippur and pick it up when he liked. The senator looked at me with mild shock. “But I love waiting in the line! It’s my favorite New York tradition, and it wouldn’t be the holidays without coming here,” he replied emphatically.
Indeed, the holidays are a very special — even magical — time at Russ & Daughters. Inside or spilled out onto the street, customers strike up conversations, jokes and even romances (the line at Russ & Daughters is apparently a well known singles spot), and everyone gets hungry with one glance at the appetizing counter. Our staff engages in a fast paced choreography of slicing, weighing, wrapping, kibbitzing, and running up and down the narrow workspace all the while dancing around one another. Numbers are called, arms mightily waving tickets are thrust in the air, and gleeful cries of “Bingo!” can even be heard. And you never know what might happen. Last year, we hosted a surprise klezmer concert in front of the store, and our very own Alina Sheffi was cajoled into standing up on an empty herring bucket to sing “Rozhinkes mit Mandlen” in Yiddish. Upon learning that it was her birthday, the crowd serenaded her back with a joyful “Happy Birthday.”
But if our busy lives leave us little time or interest in waiting in line with the rest of New York inside a store with 1914 dimensions, don’t worry! And if you don’t live here, don’t worry either! Rosh Hashanah orders can be shipped nationwide, picked up, or delivered throughout the city. Yom Kippur orders can be picked up or shipped. Spots fill up quickly, so we encourage everyone (yes, even if you’re on “the list” and have been ordering for 40 years) to place your orders as soon as possible. Check out our special Rosh Hashanah menu, which includes favorites such as our salmon and whitefish gefilte fish (named “One of the best things we ate in 2008” by Time Out NY Magazine). For Yom Kippur orders, browse through our online shop, as appetizing is the perfect food for breaking the fast.. Holiday orders must be placed over the phone and some holiday rules apply.
From the Russ family and the whole team at Russ & Daughters, to you and yours; may the fall of 2009, or the eve of 5770, be peaceful, prosperous and delicious!
— Niki Russ Federman