For Love Of Herring: Why We Do Alaska Herring Week

The fabulous buffet line at the Midsommar Smörgåsbord at the Swedish Club for Alaska Herring Week 2017! Photo by Zachary D. Lyons.

So far this Alaska Herring Week, I have eaten 54 different herring dishes at 43 different establishments. Yes, I am the extreme, because, as Alaska Herring Week event coordinator, it is my job. But I also love it. Every dish is different. Seriously. Every chef has come at this from a different angle, so each of the 70+ dishes across 54 places (two grocers are selling to-go preparations) is unique.

Indeed, herring is a globally-eaten fish, and we have Alaska Herring Week dishes representing cultures from all over the world to prove it, including China, England, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Morocco, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Thailand, Vietnam and all over the US, from New England to New Orleans to the Pacific Northwest, and more. But nowhere did we see so much joy over the return of herring to our local plates than at the Swedish Club during Friday, June 23rd’s Midsommar Smörgåsbord.

A full house for the Midsommar Smörgåsbord at the Swedish Club for Alaska Herring Week 2017! Photo by Zachary D. Lyons.

The Swedish Club was packed on Friday for the feast, and while the menu featured other traditional Swedish fare, Alaska herring was the star of the show. But you had to be there to truly understand why. See, herring is the centerpiece of a traditional Midsommar Smörgåsbord. It is integral to the Swedish culture. It is, for Swedish expats, a taste of home. Unfortunately, herring has been just as unavailable to the Swedish Club for their Midsommar Smörgåsbord as it has been for everyone else in Seattle. This was the first time in years that their solstice feast feautred it. All night, we had one person after another come up to we organizers of Alaska Herring Week and thank us profusely, talk about their family’s history of fishing, about their boats and their pickling plants. They waxed poetic about their favorite places to get herring in Sweden, Denmark and Germany, about childhood memories and more. They came and shook our hands, and they gave us a rousing ovation. It was a delicious feast, but it was more so a moving experience. Putting herring back on their plates was not about sustainability or economic development to them. It was about history, about culture. It was about home. Alaska herring on their Midsommar Smörgåsbord brought them home. And that is why we do Alaska Herring Week.


Don’t Miss Tumble Swede, From Old Ballard Liquor Company, At Ballard Seafood Fest & Bite Of Seattle!


Traditional Swedish Pickled Herrings Bord from Old Ballard Liquor Co.!

Tumble Swede is the Scandinavian restaurant popup side project of the Old Ballard Liquor Co. They’re bringing Scandinavian street food to Seattle this summer with booths at both Ballard Seafood Fest, July 9 & 10, and the Bite of Seattle, July 15-17. Serving up a variety of sandwiches and hot foods, the two Pacific herring specialties are a must-try. A Danish sandwich featuring coriander pickled herring and apple salad with a beet crème fraiche, or Lexi’s own take on a classic street food, smoked-then-fried herring served with mashed potatoes and cucumber vinaigrette. It may not feel like summer, but these herringlicious dishes are sure to warm your body and your soul!