I learned several things this past weekend. 1) A box of wine contains FOUR bottles; 2) my iPhone hates toilets; and 3) I actually do like lox! My friend Nick invited a bunch of us up to the Catskills for a celebration of his 30th birthday. It was a weekend filled with drinking, dancing, games, and most importantly, a visit to the "Eel Man."
If you're wondering who the "Eel Man" (a.k.a. Ray Turner) is, he's exactly what you think. For a business without a website or even permanent hours, Ray has managed to make quite a name for himself. He's been featured on PBS and National Geographic's Filthy Riches, and most importantly, Bourdain profiled him for the Travel Channel. Luckily for us, Ray's place, the Delaware Delicatessen Smoke House, was just a short stroll down the road, so we made sure to stop by.
Walking down the road, we spotted a giant (fenced in) emu. We figured that must be a good sign because obviously. Once we arrived at his tiny storefront, it was instantly clear that this man was passionate about one thing and one thing only: smoking foods. Besides a few locally made mustards and preserves, the only things available for purchase were smoked meat, smoked seafood, and smoked cheeses. Specifically, a huge slab of bacon, shrimp, trout, salmon, gouda, and provolone. We had to return the following day for the eels. Of course, we got some of everything (except for the bacon since New York law prohibits him cutting the slab?).
We hauled back our wares and made a spread Russ & Daughters would be envious of. Finally, after years of being the only Jew alive who doesn't enjoy lox, I realized that everyone but Ray must be making it wrong. Because let me tell you, that was some damn good smoked salmon.
If you find yourself near Route 17 in Hancock, NY, be sure to ignore all of your instincts to run and continue down the dirt road lined with wooden signs saying "eels" and "smoked fish." You won't be sorry!