Growing up and enjoying the Sunday ritual of eating bagels and Nova salmon and fish in his family’s favorite restaurants, Ron Goodman, co-owner of Ivy City Smokehouse, recently named Washington’s “best new seafood market” by the Washingtonian in its “Best of 2016” issue, developed a love of good food and a deep curiosity for its preparation.

Jesus Bercian (left) and Ron Goodman with their smoked salmon

Jesus Bercian (left) and Ron Goodman with their smoked salmon

Goodman graduated from the Culinary Institute of America in 1972. For the next five years, he worked for various French chefs in the DC area, then opening his own restaurant, along with his brother, in downtown DC in 1977.

But fish never left the Goodman brothers, and in the early 1980s they began smoking fish in a small smoker in the restaurant and taking the results around to chefs in the area for their professional opinions. The reaction: a unanimous “Yes, we would buy this if it were available.”

Smoking is an ancient art of preserving and flavoring food with wood smoke that has been used throughout history for all manner of meat, fowl and fish, as well as sausages, cheese, nuts and even eggs.

Barbara Rolek, an expert in Eastern European food, writes, “Smoked fish is a popular component of the Eastern European diet. What began as a means to an end—a way of preserving fish since refrigeration was pretty sketchy if not nonexistent back in the day—turned into a love affair and a culinary sensation. Smoked salmon was introduced into western Europe, the United States and other parts of the world by Jewish immigrants from Russia and Poland.”

Throughout the 19th century, Germans and Scandinavians brought their curing traditions and predilections with them to America. Beginning in 1835, some opened smokehouses in the Northeast, concentrating on the more-available salmon from Nova Scotia. Fish smokehouses, especially in the Great Lakes region of the United States, were a dime a dozen in the early part of the 20th century.

No longer needed for preservation purposes alone, fish came to be smoked for the unique taste and flavor imparted by the smoking process. The choice of wood for smoking has an important influence on the flavor—hard woods are the best, with hickory the most popular in the US.

Back to Goodman: in 1984, he opened his first smoked fish company with a partner in the Kensington, Maryland, area. A teenager named Jesus Bercian began working for him. Bercian had a very keen eye for learning the process of smoking. Goodman eventually sold his shares to his partner, and Bercian stayed on to work his way up to become the production manager and smoke master.

Ivy City Smokehouse's gravlax, which is available at Chef José Andrés' Beefsteak

Ivy City Smokehouse’s gravlax, which is available at Chef José Andrés’ Beefsteak

In 2012, Goodman and his new partner Greg Casten bought the business back from Goodman’s original partner, and Bercian, now a seasoned craftsman, came back as part of the deal. Their goal in establishing Ivy City Smokehouse and the accompanying restaurant, The Tavern at Ivy City Smokehouse, is to make their incredibly fresh fish, which their fishmonger sources from parent company wholesale seafood distributor ProFish, available to individuals, and, in the process, to turn even novices into smoked fish aficionados.

Though smoked salmon is the most popular smoked fish in the United States, other smoked fish can include mackerel, trout and whitefish. Ivy City Smokehouse currently offers cold-smoked salmons, including Nova and Norwegian, pastrami-style smoked salmon, traditional gravlax, hot-smoked salmon (kippered and peppered), smoked trout, smoked bluefish, smoked whitefish and whitefish salad. It also has its interpretation of a Pacific Northwest Native American delicacy called Indian Candy. Made of smoked salmon with a jerky-like texture, but moister, flakier, more supple and less chewy, it is quickly becoming a local nutritional favorite, especially for fitness enthusiasts as a post-workout protein and omega-3 boost.

Ivy City Smokehouse offerings are Metro K kosher-certified, and OU certification is in the works. Products are currently offered on site at the smokehouse and tavern, Bethesda Bagels, Glen’s Garden Market, Rodman’s and José Andrés’ Beefsteak. The company also ships nationwide.

Goodman says, “We all work together at the Ivy City Smokehouse to bring the best smoked fish our years of dedication and knowledge can produce. We hope it becomes a memorable part of our customers’ Sunday bagel-and-Nova ritual.”

Ron Goodman’s tips for selecting and serving smoked fish:
• When buying smoked fish, make sure it looks fresh, not dry around the edges.
• Plan on serving at least two slices of smoked fish per person.
• Tightly wrap and store smoked fish in the refrigerator for up to three days.
• Before serving, arrange slices of smoked fish on your serving platter, cover with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes so the rich natural flavors of the fish can come out.
• Great garnish or accompaniments for smoked fish are lemon wedges, sour cream, capers, caviar, finely chopped cucumbers, dill, chives, tomatoes and red onions. Melon slices are delicious, too.

Ivy City Smokehouse, 202-529-3300, 1356 Okie Street NE, Washington, DC. The Tavern at Ivy City Smokehouse hours: Tuesday–Thursday 11 am–12 am, Friday–Saturday 11 am–1 am, Sunday 11 am–10 pm. The Tavern is not kosher. Ivy City Smokehouse products are Metro K kosher.

Top photo: An assortment of Ivy City Smokehouse offerings (All photos courtesy of Ivy City Smokehouse)