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Northern Comfort – A Barn Dinner with Northern Waters Smokehaus

On July 22, 2017, we welcome you to another Smokehaus/Hemlock Preserve collaboration at the barn in Esko.

We can’t help but reminisce.

It’s August 2015, a heady day amid a heady summer, and I am slogging through piles of prep in the Smokehouse. There are smokers, dishwashers, managers, prep people, and miscellaneous fishermen who need their fish custom-smoked endlessly pouring in and out of the long oblong space, slipping on the moist bricks of the kitchen floor and talking as loud as they can in order to be heard above the clamber of our industrial fans and Daft Punk. Fresh smoke is in the air from a recent truck (a large, rolling cart that has little shelves to load perforated racks for smoking) of smoked pork shoulder, which is cooling magnificently in the center of the room, a white-handled Dexter knife placed on the top rack beside a chunk that has been hacked off and savored. I’m “supervising” cornbread: Eric’s recipe, which includes lovely fresh corn off the cob and lovelier butter and cream, needs to be backed in batches and served while still warm to guests 45 miles and 2 hours away. We have heirloom tomatoes to delicately dismantle, Octo-Vin (fresh and unashamedly from the pages of the Momofuku cookbook) to make, herbs to pick, pasta salad to season, servers to wrangle, and the almighty “gather” list to attend to. I’ve got an empty stomach, a torn t-shirt and filthy apron, and it’s about time to load up.
On the way to Esko, just as we crest Thompson Hill, I get a frantic call from my partner in crime, April. She can’t account for the Octo-Vin – and neither can I, so I scramble to the back of my Volvo as my husband continues speeding towards our destination, and I’m digging through towels and warm (read:hot) cast iron skillets of cornbread and adorable menu cards that Flo magically whipped up and I touch a mystery Cambro, extract it from its nesting place – and voila! – our not-so-secret sauce. “Good news,” I tell April over the Volvo’s failing muffler, “I found the Octo-Vin.” “We need ice!” April laughs. We’re pretty used to these situations – we kind of live for them.
There’s a little cloud of dust as we turn down the dirt road toward Hemlock Preserve, obscuring the brambly ditch weeds and meandering path for a few minutes, but we make the turn toward Sue Watt’s estate and everything becomes clear. Two straight rows of pale pebbles guides our tire, a manicured strip of hyperactive green grass down the center. Our kitchen – a ten-by-ten foot tent that we use during farmers markets along with a propane-powered set of turkey fryers and a few folding tables smartly lined with Epicurean cutting boards – is pretty much ready for action and we pull up to unload. I leave the Volvo empty handed in order to get the lay of the land and walk toward the barn.
The barn – white, stately, adorned with Rhododendrons – I haven’t seen it for a few months, when it was closed off for the season. Now it is in full blossom. It is elegant and country, mismatched and perfectly appointed, it is the Henri Matisse of barns – it is natural but it is secretly, expertly organized. Every nook and cranny is a still life. The sunlight is somehow captured in the vaulted holiness of the barn’s wooden ceiling arches, and I get the feeling I am smelling hay from pre-war Minnesota. There is twinkling from the silverware and creaking from the floorboards. Ned has started to tune up his guitar and starts playing a Pavement song gently to himself. This is perfect. I think this to myself, but I’m saying it out loud, and everyone else is saying it too.
The food that follows has no choice – it is also perfect, as are the guests, the drinks, the wacky chauffeur, the soft ice cream, the distant lightening. This place is like that – inexplicably, effortlessly glorious. The day’s preparations, anxieties, arguments and oversights have vanished into the evening, drifting down the meadow into the St. Louis River Valley with the embers of our bonfire, soaked up and overturned by our guests and their laughter.
We invite you to join us once again to Hemlock Preserve. Dinner will be served – fried chicken and fixings – as well as drinks and dessert. We figure we all deserve a little Northern Comfort.

Hemlock Preserve barn with table by Sue Watt, dinner by Northern Waters Smokehaus, and menu cards by Flo.

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Top Five Boursin Recipe Ideas

boursin jars

Boursin is a versatile, flavorful, creamy addition to many meals. We started making Boursin at Northern Waters Smokehaus on a whim and it has now become one of our most popular cheese case items. Over the years, we’ve learned to concoct some simple dishes with our Boursin, adding an herbal, lemony lift to veggies and meats alike. Our Mother’s Day Gift Box is a favorite – the combination of smoked Sockeye salmon, crispy crackers, and fluffy cheese is an elegant, binge-worthy snack. Here are the top 5 Boursin recipe ideas (so far) for you. For more exact recipes, email creative [@] nwsmokehaus.com and we’ll do our best to get you cooking with Boursin to mathematical perfection!

Five time-tested, Smokehaus-approved recipe ideas for our Boursin:

#5: Boursin and Endive Bites

Belgian endive is almost always available at the grocery store, even here in the Great White North. These delicate little torpedoes of green are crisp, sweet, and very slightly bitter – a perfect foil for creamy, citric, floral Boursin. Simply trim the endive ends and gently separate the leaves. You will find a delicate little shovel – a great conduit for many mediums, and excellent for a dollop of Boursin. Use a teaspoon to smear the Boursin or get fancy and pipe it (with a pastry bag or clipped plastic one – up to you). We garnish ours with jolly little Sweetie Drops, or pickled Peruvian peppers, but feel free to use your own favorite garnish – paprika, parsley, anything pickled – or go au naturale and let the bite speak for itself.

#4: Steak and Boursin

What can we say? Compound butter + grilled beef = heaven on earth. Useful on any cut, but especially the fatty, interesting ones, like New York strip, Boursin will be the equivalent of a Valentino gown on Sophia Loren: it will cling to it in all the right places. Salt and pepper your steak, let it get to room temperature, cook it over or under hot flame for your desired temperature, let it rest for 5 minutes, dollop with a Tablespoon of Boursin, and let rest for at least another 5 minutes. Devour, with or without starch to sop up the resulting incredible juices.

#3 Chicken and Boursin Surprise

The real surprise here is that this doesn’t exist at every fast-casual American eatery on the planet. This is a simple yet luxurious meal that is quick to construct, satisfying, and actually makes great leftovers for sandwiches. Pound chicken breasts to a ½ inch thickness, spread an even layer of Boursin approximately ¼ inch thick,  and add a layer of cured muscle meat, like prosciutto, jamon serrano, or copa (if you live near the Smokehaus deli or are a member of our Smokehaus of the Month Club, we recommend asking for our Speck or Lonzino). Roll the cutlets into wheels, secure with toothpicks, sprinkle with salt and pepper, dredge in flour, and fry in good oil until golden and cooked through (165 degrees). Great with buttered, Parmiganno’d pasta, roasted asparagus, or sliced after cooling and served on a leafy green salad.

#2 Boursin Toast

Inspired by a local business that boldly decided to exclusively offer coffee and toast (we miss you, JPH!), we salute the simplicity of a crusty, magnificent slab of Duluth sourdough stuffed into the nearest (and most accommodating) toaster, grilled to pedal-to-the-metal blackish-brownish, and smeared with enough Boursin that it qualifies as a “barge.” Extra points for those who first slather their toast with butter, but enough Boursin will certainly do the trick. Top with sun-ripened tomatoes, crumbled bacon or pancetta, a raisin smiley face (probably gross, but pretty kitschy, no?), or nothing at all.

#1 Boursin and Smoked Turkey Sandwiches

At the risk of redundancy, we here at the Smokehaus are really into sandwiches. We live sandwiches from the moment we flick on our meat case lights and start cutting cucumbers in the morning to the end of the day when Jerry ushers out the last stray customer with a flourish of his vest and stamp on their sandwich card. We fully realize that many would place a steak at #1 on this list, especially considering that a lowly turkey sandwich had secured the top ranking. But we are not many. We are sandwich people. Our original intent for Boursin was on a turkey sandwich, but we quickly realized the delicious nature of said sandwich would backfire and we would have to hire a whole separate person in the summers to exclusively make Boursin to keep up with demand. So here is the catalyst for the hundreds of cute little medicine jars of Boursin we sell, revealed at last, The Green Meanie: buy or make some naan (we use Stonefire, and it’s really good), and warm it in the oven. Slather liberally with Boursin. Aim the point of your naan to the left to orient the sandwich. In a vertical line down the center, place an even row of cucumber slices, basil leaves, pickled jalapenos, and as much smoked turkey as you like (but don’t get crazy, you need to roll this up). Starting at the wide end, roll the sandwich, tucking stray ingredients as you go. Slice in half and savor a Smokehaus secret.

 

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The Art of Gift Giving

Let’s face it, not everyone is good at giving gifts. Remember that Seinfeld episode? The one where Jerry gives Elaine 182 dollars to her snarky response, but then weeps when given a beautiful wooden bench she asked for, complete with a Yeats-quoted card (from Kramer, of all people).  Now, there’s the art of gift giving.

“Think where man’s glory most begins and ends and say my glory was I had such a friend.” – Yeats

At the Smokehaus, we appreciate fine and thoughtful things, and pairing certain items together for special gift boxes throughout the year brings us great joy. We know many of our mail order customers have been to the Canal Park deli on a special trip to Duluth. They have fond memories of being in our small shop, of traipsing around the Northland for summer fun and whimsy, all coupled with the mouth-watering goodness that filled their bellies and their memories. And perhaps, you’ve thought about how to bring the feelings of the Smokehaus into your own dining room.

We do understand giving the gift of specialty food mailed right to your door is a luxury, and that’s why we send the freshest product, handle and package each item with care and respect, and are sure to email or call you with any questions about your order or desired delivery time. (We even accept custom gift box orders.) We hope you feel giddy when you receive these special boxes of smoked delicacies. And we hope you will send a gift box to a friend someday, or a mother, for a special occasion, or to share together over beers on the deck, recounting all the hilarity and inside jokes from that last trip up the shore.

Gift Boxes Courtesy of the Smokehaus

Order Mother’s Day Gift Boxes by Wednesday, May 10th to ensure delivery before Mother’s Day.

Order Father’s Day Gift Boxes by Wednesday, June 14th, to ensure delivery before Father’s Day.

Order Northern Bagel Sandwich Kits anytime for that special someone, or special people. The Northern Bagel has been featured on our menu since 2001.

How many times have you been to the Canal Park deli? Who did you come with? Leave comments above.

Cheers, friends! And Happy Gift Giving!