Slabs of smoked salmon (and we don’t mean lox)
A weekly notebook about dining options during the Covid-19 shutdown, with a focus on quality and ease of pickup and delivery. Remember, the people serving up the food are part of the front line; keep it in mind when tipping.
Smoked salmon from Whole Foods and Urban Hearth
When most folks think about smoked salmon they think of lox, the thin, slightly translucent strips that crown waves of cream cheese – pockmarked by capers, ideally – atop freshly toasted halves of New York-style bagels. While this is satiating, you haven’t fully appreciated the oily, rich goodness of smoked salmon until you’ve dug in to a meatier smoked salmon cut, a fillet or streak. Seafood departments at Whole Foods (on Beacon Street and at Fresh Pond, among other locales) have what they call “hothouse salmon,” individual 4- to 6-ounce servings of super lean, smoked fillets. The slow-cooked strips come in a flavors such as cajun or maple glazed, but the basic traditional hothouse with no seasoning is, for my tastebuds, the best. The individual servings make for a great appetizer or lunch centerpiece if accompanied by a small side salad, sautéed spinach or a few wedges of Jarlsberg cheese with some honey mustard to dip into. The chunks of fish flake away effortlessly with a fork. When it’s gone, you’ll rue there isn’t more.
For a less smoky but equally pleasing and more basic smoked fillet, Urban Hearth from time to time offers an 8-ounce portion among the sides and sweets of its family meal takeout menu. It’s more succulent than the Whole Food version, and pulls from the skin satisfyingly in neat, bite-sized chunks. Erin Miller and her crew dress it up with a pickled relish. They also make great soups, and Erin’s buttermilk biscuit is something holy and rare in its own right; make sure to get it with the maple butter. One of these fillets, a biscuit and a family-sized serving of soup is a warm, easy winter night meal. Pickup at the Hearth is pretty streamlined and safe, and all foods are prepared ready to serve.
Urban Hearth (2263 Massachusetts Ave., North Cambridge)
Tom Meek is a writer living in Cambridge. His reviews, essays, short stories and articles have appeared in the WBUR ARTery, The Boston Phoenix, The Boston Globe, The Rumpus, The Charleston City Paper and SLAB literary journal. Tom is also a member of the Boston Society of Film Critics and rides his bike everywhere.