A few miles outside Kingston on Route 28 there’s a cluster of shops that weekenders call Gourmand Alley. Blue Mountain Bistro-to-Go is among them, and there’s a wine store, a wonderful cheese shop, and a fresh pasta market. Recently, Hookline Fish Company added delicious hot-smoked salmon to the line-up.
Skip Card opened Hookline just before Thanksgiving, and reviews so far range from “fantastic” to “awesome.” Skip (officially Loyd Almarion Card III), is from Tacoma, Washington, the son of an avid fisherman (Loyd Almarion Card, Jr., who went by the name Bud, perhaps to avoid having to explain that Loyd had only one L). Skip and his father fished on weekends for wild Chinook salmon that Bud hot-smoked in their backyard.
Card grew up to become a newspaper reporter. After meeting the perfect woman while on assignment in New York, he married her, moved east, and took a job as a copy editor at the New York Post. Weekends, he and his wife and daughter went to their house in Mt. Tremper, where Card installed a backyard smoker like his dad’s.
Which brings us back to the fish. Friends were so impressed with Card’s hot-smoked salmon they told him he should go into business. When late nights at the Post began to outweigh the fun of writing wacky headlines, he did just that.
Nowadays, Card smokes up to 120 pounds of Atlantic salmon each weekend at his Route 28 shop. “It’s farm-raised salmon that’s native to northern waters, and it adapted well to aquaculture,” he says. “It comes filleted and deboned, and I’m very pleased with the results. The flavor is comparable to wild Chinook, rather than Coho or Sockeye, which have less oil in the flesh.”
Card brines the sliced salmon for at least eight hours, then allows it to dry for an hour or so to form a membrane that keeps the fish moist as it’s slowly roasted in the smoker. Card uses west-coast alder, a hardwood that imparts a mild flavor, and which Google tells us was the wood the indigenous people of the Northwestern states used to preserve fish.
Hot-smoked salmon has a deeper flavor than the mild, cold-cured salmon most of us are used to. It’s delicious as party food with cream cheese on thin-sliced pumpernickel, and its firmer texture means it stands up better in recipes, too. Hookline’s premium cuts sell for $24 a pound; tails and cheeks for $15. Go ahead and splurge. As Hookline’s Web site declares: “One bite and you’ll be hooked.”
Hookline Fish Company, 906 Rte. 28 in Kingston, is open Thursday through Saturday.