By Benjamin Gottesman, Arts & Culture Editor
One stifling summer day in nineteenth-century Philadelphia, soda vendor Robert McCay Green ran out of ice. Desperate to find a cooling agent for his sugary drinks, Green dropped a scoop of vanilla ice cream into his soda, hoping that the frozen dessert would keep the soda cold and refreshing. Instead, Green discovered that the drink took on a completely new flavor, and the ice cream float was born.
Some things should not work, but they do anyway. Dropping rich, creamy ice cream into fizzy root beer should not produce a delectable treat superior to the sum of its parts. But as Green learned on that sweltering day in Philly, sometimes the best results come from the strangest of combinations. To find the modern version of this culinary phenomenon, one need only venture to Sherry Herring, a small, unassuming operation in the heart of the Upper West Side.
Founded in 2011 by Sherry Ansky, Sherry Herring has become a staple of Tel Aviv’s culturally confused cuisine (that’s a compliment). Recently, Ansky opened up shop in Manhattan, bringing her elevated herring sandwiches to those of us still in the Diaspora.
A herring sandwich should not work; when I was first introduced to the concept, I was offended on behalf of sandwiches everywhere. Then I tried one and discovered that they’re really, really good. It starts with a baguette so fresh you would think it was still baking. Then comes a healthy serving of melting butter, perfectly cured herring, a dollop of sour cream, finely diced chiles, and sliced scallions. To top it all off, a cherry tomato is squeezed over the sandwich. It’s a bizarre combination, but it’s wonderfully delicious. The freshness of the ingredients is unparalleled, and the ingenuity and boldness of the flavor profiles really hit home.
Sherry Herring draws all crowds. From devout Jews searching for a taste of the past to hipsters hopping aboard the latest trend, Sherry Herring is the perfect meeting spot for the Upper West Side’s various contingencies. In trying times such as these, nothing quite unites the world like a really tasty sandwich.
What happens when a French baguette meets Dutch Herring? What happens when an idea originating in Tel Aviv ends up thriving in Manhattan? What happens when a dish inspired by the food our ancestors ate in Europe is served in the style of modern America? What happens when you take a chance on something that by no indication should succeed but may just come through for you anyway?
The answer, at least at Sherry Herring, is one really good sandwich.