Sure, the creamy yet slightly salty bluefish and salmon pâtés made by North Fork Smoked Fish Co. stand on their own, but a bit of marketing might be what elevates these treats from afternoon snack to delicacy status.
After all, calling them “fish dips” just wouldn’t sound as good as the French word for spread.
“I changed the name to pâté and sold twice as much,” said North Fork Smoked Fish Co. owner and smoker-in-chief, Phil Karlin III.
Formerly only available at farmers markets, online and at select retail locations, Karlin will now sell his savory creations at a new Greenport location. In addition to pâtés, you will find offerings like bluefish patties, fatty cuts of smoked salmon fillet as well as fresh fish from Alice’s Fish Market at the First Street store. North Fork Smoked Fish will continue to be available at Alice’s as well.
The business, which had been embroiled in controversy over permitted use of the building, received the green light from the Greenport Zoning Board of Appeals in April.
During a recent visit North Fork Smoked Fish Co. was selling its tasty bluefish, salmon, trout and swordfish pâtés in 8 oz. containers. Taramosalata, a caviar spread, was also available.
To make the dips, Karlin takes smoked fish and adds light mayonnaise, red onion, spices, and sometimes lime zest.
The result is a flavor that pairs well with plain crackers and crisp bottle of a Long Island white wine, which you can bring to the store until the business secures a beer and wine permit. Plans are in the works to offer hot burgers and pâté sandwiches to-go on the weekends, as well.
Karlin tries to source as much local product as he can. The exception is the salmon, which is imported from a deepwater farm in Norway (he declined to name the producer to avoid having a competitor pursue his vendor.)
The fish is flown to Boston and then trucked to Greenport.
“That stuff comes to me sushi grade,” he said. “It’s a very high-grade, very fatty salmon.”
A self-taught smoker, Karlin said it takes between three and 12 hours to smoke the fish. Each variety requires a different type of wood, including oak, hickory and apple.
“My smoking [method] keeps everything moist,” Karlin said. “It’s almost like it’s poached.”
Customer David Air of Orient, who stopped in for a piece of smoked salmon fillet to serve as an appetizer for guests, agreed with that assessment.
“It was moist and not over-smoked,” Air said. “Sometimes [smoked salmon] can be bitter and acrid. This is aromatic without being harsh. And I spend a lot of time fussing over food.”
Karlin, a commercial fisherman by trade whose father Phil Karlin Jr. was a lobsterman, noted the business came out of economic necessity due to dwindling job prospects.
He started smoking fish after running a response vessel following the BP oil spill in 2010.
“The economy was awful and there really were no good jobs,” he said. “So I started smoking fish to sell at green markets to make a little money for myself.”
He hopes to bring back things like smoked fish and eel, which he said were once nearly dietary staples on eastern Long Island.
“Years ago, everyone smoked fish,” he said. “Everyone had a wooden smokehouse behind their house. It’s kind of an East End tradition.”
North Fork Smoked Fish Co., located at 414 Front Street, will be open seven days a week from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. Call them at (631) 333-2227.
Expect a grand opening on July 28.