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Smoked and Tasty yields unlikely pairings

From smoked fish and duck to macarons and carrot cake

Smoked smelt and beer: a pairing made in Russia
Smoked smelt and beer: a pairing made in Russia

Wander into any American grocery store, and you’ll have no trouble identifying dozens, if not hundreds of snack foods that pair well with beer. But I would bet you can’t find any trace of one of the most favorite beer pairings in Russia: smoked smelt.

Place

Smoked and Tasty

138 West Grand Avenue, Escondido

Smelt, better known in Saint Petersburg by the name koryushka, is a small, slender fish — about the length and width of a strip of bacon — with aromatic flesh said to be cucumber scented. When smoked, cured, otherwise dried, strips of this flesh become the perfect foil for the crisp bitterness of beer.

A new smoked meats shop and bakery for Escondido

Or so it was explained to me by the Russian proprietors of Smoked and Tasty. The small group of émigrés recently opened this business together on Grand Avenue, in Escondido’s historic downtown. Included among the assortment of smoked fish, poultry, and bacon sitting within the shop’s glass counter are dozens of whole smelt, ready to eat at $13 a pound.

Chocolate cake pops and a hazelnut cake

I took them up on the idea, taking a few fish home to snack on with an IPA. If there’s a trick to stripping the meat from the fish, I haven’t mastered it yet. However, though I struggled to peel the thin ribbons of flesh cleanly away from the bone in the manner described to me, I can very much vouch for the pairing’s success. I could even make sense of that cucumber comparison, though more so the fish resembled a lightly brined salmon jerky, with a resounding umami base note that lingered pleasantly on the lips, and truly did set up a near perfect sip of beer.

Cold smoked salmon on a bagel

As pairings go, I would call it less unusual than the two genres of foodstuffs sold by Smoked and Tasty. Because, in addition to the litany of smoked items, the shop offers an assortment of gorgeously presented baked goods, ranging from chocolate cake pops and macaron cookies, to an artfully rendered hazelnut cake that looks like a dome built with bonbons rather than bricks. During my visit, I enjoyed a more decadent than usual slice of carrot cake.

A slice of carrot cake from Smoked and Tasty

The presence of cake seems to have more to do with the talents and interests of the friends behind Smoked and Tasty than any cultural linkage. In fact, the smelt would be the only emphatically Russian offering. The majority of the items sold simply take well to various smoking techniques.

A smoked fish board made at home, featuring smoked black cod, smoked smelt, and hot smoked salmon from Smoked and Tasty

At the top of the list would be salmon, which you may find cold or hot smoked for $12 to $18 per pound. Cold smoked salmon glistens like sushi, and is what you might put on a morning bagel with cream cheese (in fact, I ordered such a bagel here for $8.99). Hot smoked salmon flakes like the cooked fish — I took some of this home to make my own smoked fish charcuterie board.

Other smoked fish options include eel, escolar, and my personal favorite, black cod. This white fish may be best known these days for parting into large, silky, buttery flakes when cooked with a miso glaze in sushi restaurants. However, other may recognize black cod by a different name, sable. Smoked sable has a long tradition in Jewish gourmet shops of New York City, most notably Russ & Daughters. I liked it even better than the salmon.

It only opened this summer, and I get the sense Smoked and Tasty is just getting started. They’re still working out a daily sandwich menu, and supplementing business with catering orders. I watched a few $34 whole smoked ducks go out the door, and noted the shop is accepting Thanksgiving pre-orders for a smoked turkey until November 21.

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Smoked smelt and beer: a pairing made in Russia
Smoked smelt and beer: a pairing made in Russia

Wander into any American grocery store, and you’ll have no trouble identifying dozens, if not hundreds of snack foods that pair well with beer. But I would bet you can’t find any trace of one of the most favorite beer pairings in Russia: smoked smelt.

Place

Smoked and Tasty

138 West Grand Avenue, Escondido

Smelt, better known in Saint Petersburg by the name koryushka, is a small, slender fish — about the length and width of a strip of bacon — with aromatic flesh said to be cucumber scented. When smoked, cured, otherwise dried, strips of this flesh become the perfect foil for the crisp bitterness of beer.

A new smoked meats shop and bakery for Escondido

Or so it was explained to me by the Russian proprietors of Smoked and Tasty. The small group of émigrés recently opened this business together on Grand Avenue, in Escondido’s historic downtown. Included among the assortment of smoked fish, poultry, and bacon sitting within the shop’s glass counter are dozens of whole smelt, ready to eat at $13 a pound.

Chocolate cake pops and a hazelnut cake

I took them up on the idea, taking a few fish home to snack on with an IPA. If there’s a trick to stripping the meat from the fish, I haven’t mastered it yet. However, though I struggled to peel the thin ribbons of flesh cleanly away from the bone in the manner described to me, I can very much vouch for the pairing’s success. I could even make sense of that cucumber comparison, though more so the fish resembled a lightly brined salmon jerky, with a resounding umami base note that lingered pleasantly on the lips, and truly did set up a near perfect sip of beer.

Cold smoked salmon on a bagel

As pairings go, I would call it less unusual than the two genres of foodstuffs sold by Smoked and Tasty. Because, in addition to the litany of smoked items, the shop offers an assortment of gorgeously presented baked goods, ranging from chocolate cake pops and macaron cookies, to an artfully rendered hazelnut cake that looks like a dome built with bonbons rather than bricks. During my visit, I enjoyed a more decadent than usual slice of carrot cake.

A slice of carrot cake from Smoked and Tasty

The presence of cake seems to have more to do with the talents and interests of the friends behind Smoked and Tasty than any cultural linkage. In fact, the smelt would be the only emphatically Russian offering. The majority of the items sold simply take well to various smoking techniques.

A smoked fish board made at home, featuring smoked black cod, smoked smelt, and hot smoked salmon from Smoked and Tasty

At the top of the list would be salmon, which you may find cold or hot smoked for $12 to $18 per pound. Cold smoked salmon glistens like sushi, and is what you might put on a morning bagel with cream cheese (in fact, I ordered such a bagel here for $8.99). Hot smoked salmon flakes like the cooked fish — I took some of this home to make my own smoked fish charcuterie board.

Other smoked fish options include eel, escolar, and my personal favorite, black cod. This white fish may be best known these days for parting into large, silky, buttery flakes when cooked with a miso glaze in sushi restaurants. However, other may recognize black cod by a different name, sable. Smoked sable has a long tradition in Jewish gourmet shops of New York City, most notably Russ & Daughters. I liked it even better than the salmon.

It only opened this summer, and I get the sense Smoked and Tasty is just getting started. They’re still working out a daily sandwich menu, and supplementing business with catering orders. I watched a few $34 whole smoked ducks go out the door, and noted the shop is accepting Thanksgiving pre-orders for a smoked turkey until November 21.

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