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We’re Going To The Super Bowl!

In a mere week and a half, our amazing catering crew are going to pack two vans, four coolers, our 6-foot-long Douglas fir serving board, and around 100 pounds of smoked goodness and head to Minneapolis to cater (along with several other folks) the Official Super Bowl Tailgate Party. It’s the biggest crowd we’ve ever catered, but we feel like all our years of catering have been great training for an event like the Superbowl.

We were thrilled to get an email from a company that organizes the Superbowl village vendors: it was a huge logistical challenge but in typical Smokehaus fashion we rapidly decided to do it and figure out how later. I filled out the application, answered some follow-up questions, and left it on the horizon for the better part of December. To participate, we would need to essentially staff a condensed version of our already-condensed deli in Duluth: sandwich coolers, prep areas, abridged menus, and (most troublingly) a staff who a) could find an affordable place to stay in the Twin Cities for a week during the Superbowl inundation and b) would not leave a hole in the schedule with their absence.

I was in the middle of loosely sorting this out and fielding plenty of interest from all corners of the Smokehaus when we got the congratulatory email, and above all the logistical concerns I knew we were in for a great adventure. About a half an hour after that the second email came in explaining that the first missive was sent by mistake – but congratulations, we were first on the waiting list. Annoyance was mixed with a splash of relief, but every time the Superbowl came up, I felt a little baby kick of rejection.

A few weeks later, Eric was contacted through an old friend from Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives and was asked to participate in a different Superbowl event: as a caterer at the  2018 Players Tailgate Party. This was a BIG deal – 2,000 people – by far our largest headcount, kitty-corner to a major event in Minnesota, with plenty of opportunities to share our smoked fish, charcuterie, and years of food styling trial and error with a brand new group of customers. We once again assumed the formation, said yes, and figured it out. Staffed, condo’d (thanks to a staffer’s parents), prep listed, and fully stoked, we’re going to the Superbowl(!), and once again, we’re in for a great adventure.

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I’ve been tasked once again with telling you how things should be. If you’re a fan of this blog, you’ve probably already seen some of my posts regarding how things should be or how to make things the best that they can be.  The ‘things’ part changes each time I do this column, but you can be assured that it will always be the best ‘things’ or at least the best possible ‘thing’. Although the fact that I say something is the best is fairly meaningless. Don’t let snobs of any stripe tell you how to live your life, but especially don’t let snobs tell you what kind of beer you should like. That is up to you, dear reader.

I wanted to do a basic primer of breweries from our region of the Upper Midwest (kind of skewing North, I guess), but of course it is mainly centered around the styles of beer that I personally enjoy, so don’t take it too seriously. Living in a state (MN) that is at the forefront of the craft beer movement has made life easy, in terms of writing this blog and in cracking cold brews, so… OK. You know that I want to get into some suds. Let’s do.

FULTON- Minneapolis, MN

I know that a lot of my craft-beer snob friends would poo poo me putting Fulton on my ‘tops’ list, but hear me out! Fulton brought an inexpensive, delicious and well crafted lager (Fulton Standard) to the market. A lager that is actually a lager, not an IPA masquerading as one. That was a really big deal for folks like me who had been over-hopped to death for years. There are actually a lot of us out here who enjoy beers that are more nuanced, such as a lager or pilsner because they are of the easy drinking variety and also don’t kill your palate with a pine needle assault. Beer can actually be a friend to food, not just something that you had too much of that necessarily requires you to eat food. Fulton really does the range of what quality beer drinkers expect to a T; enjoy their Standard Lager for a bit of malty refreshment, Fulton Pils for a thirst quenching drink with a flavor that leaves you wanting another sip, and Fulton 300 for that very full flavored hit of mosaic hops that this version of a West Coast IPA delivers in spades.



SUMMIT- St. Paul, MN

Summit is that venerable Minnesota craft brewery of old, so I figured I would be remiss if I didn’t mention them. For many who grew up in Minnesota or Wisconsin, this would be their first foray into ‘good’ beer, before the craft beer explosion had happened and perhaps before that term was even coined. I’m guessing that a lot of people would feel that with the proliferation of breweries (some of them really good) in Minnesota, no ink or digital blips should even be wasted on Summit. I, too, was always pretty unimpressed by their offerings, although for different reasons than my beer-snob friends. Summit’s devotion to all things pale ale (their EPA had to have been one of the most popular beers in the state) had always left me wishing that they would do a good lager or pilsner. Most of the snobs felt as though Summit had gotten too pedestrian in their styles, as they are always seemingly longing for the latest barrel aged, sour or weird peanut butter and jelly beer to come out. Summit never really did a ton of that stuff other than in their taproom, but rather, as a really pretty large player in the craft production brewery world, Summit has always kind of focused on producing the stuff that moves bottles off of the shelf  (with great success).  In the spirit of that, Summit now hits the market with a couple of new pilsners. Keller Pils was a really popular one-off that Summit did  for a couple of summers before it became so popular that it had to go into regular rotation. Keller Pils (which is a cloudy, ‘young’ pils with less filtration) drinks crisp and refreshing with just enough salinity to keep you wanting more. They also sell this for around $15 a 12 pack (cans), which makes it a value for a very high quality beer. Summit has also recently released Dakota Soul,  a Czech style pilsner, noteworthy for using barley sourced from a single farm in North Dakota and in using a new American hop varietal called Loral. This cold-conditioned pilsner is complex but easily drinkable, making it what I would consider a go-to for warmer spring weather (although sub zero temperatures recently did not diminish my enjoyment of it). Summit does a lot of cool collaborations with other breweries (the Unchained series springs to mind) but is also really making a push to master the classic European styles. I’m not a huge fan of a lot of Summit’s other beers, but their English Pale Ale, Great Northern Porter, Oatmeal Stout and Saga beers are well crafted and highly rated by many.

NEW GLARUS- New Glarus, WI

This brewery has to be respected simply due to the absolutely ubiquitous nature of their beer in Wisconsin. It’s almost like you can’t tip over a cow in that state without finding reference to this brewery.  It could be due to the fact that it is only available in Wisconsin, but seriously, there isn’t a liquor store, gas station, bodega, fireworks stand or roadside gift shop in America’s Dairyland that you will not find at least their flagship beer, Spotted Cow. Spotted Cow always gets dogged by the beer snobs; too light, too sweet, and of course, not hoppy enough. Spotted Cow falls into the category of farmhouse ale, which is a cask-conditioned style of beer often referred to as ‘real ale’, aka beer brewed from traditional ingredients (or in a traditional style) and matured by secondary fermentation in the container from which it is dispensed. This is similar to the way homebrewers condition their beer in bottles with no secondary carbon dioxide added. The result in Spotted Cow is a beer that is cloudy, fruity, slightly tart and incredibly malty. Spotted Cow goes great with most food and is hard to beat on a hot summer day. The same goes for their Two Women brew, a smooth yet flavorful lager. New Glarus makes a beer for just about any type of beer lover, and their beers are highly coveted throughout the Great Lakes region and beyond.

UPPER HAND- Escanaba, MI

Michigan’s upper peninsula has proliferated more than a few great breweries and brew pubs in the last few years, and Upper Hand is one of my favorites. Having occasion a couple of times to travel through this breathtakingly beautiful part of the state in 2017, and always loving to drink local, I sampled plenty of the smooth beers made by Upper Hand. It’s pretty amazing to think that in one of the least populace parts of the state of Michigan, beers are being made at such a high level (not to mention high volume). For my taste, Upper Hand nails it on their Pale Ales and Lagers, but they truly have a beer for everyone.

UTEPILS- Minneapolis, MN

Ok, so if you’re from the Twin Cities area (and surely beyond) you no doubt are familiar with how cool NE Minneapolis has become. Great breweries, restaurants, bars… basically a young, party-centric person’s dream. But what about the neighborhoods that are emerging? What about Bryn Mawr ? Just kidding! Bryn Mawr is a beautiful neighborhood directly west of downtown Minneapolis with tons of hiking trails, proximity to lakes and so many other great amenities but is probably not considered cool or emerging at all. Until now! Utepils Brewing is a relatively new player in the Minneapolis beer scene, but one that has garnered an almost cult-like following, especially in the tragically underserved neighborhood of Bryn Mawr. The reason? The beer. Utepils has a strict commitment to doing classic beer styles the way the Europeans did them, and with great success. While a lot of Minnesota breweries that had heretofore been pushing the boundaries of all that is beer are now starting to come back to doing ‘classic’ beers, Utepils has never strayed from what has worked for centuries. I think that’s the reason that I like them so much. It takes guts to go up against major players in the beer world like Ayinger or G. Schneider & Sohn, but to brew beers that actually stand up to the breweries that have been producing these styles for hundreds of years is downright impressive. I’m personally a huge fan of their Pils and Keller Pils styles, but have been geeked to see them succeed with diverse styles such as Altbier or Kolsch. Ewald the Golden (hefeweizen) was their first flagship beer and one that I highly recommend even for those who are not fans of the style. Their version is revelatory; estery, bananna-ey and clovey yet extremely clean at the finish. It makes me want to smash every glass of Blue Moon with an orange wedge on the ground in protest. An even cleaner version can be found in their Kristalweizen, which is essentially a filtered version of Ewald the Golden, producing a crystal clear look and taste. I wouldn’t kid ya, kid. This brewery could be magically transplanted to Bavaria and no one would bat an eye.


I don’t know where you live. Why would I? But one thing is almost certain: whatever corner of the Upper Midwest you hail from there is probably a brewpub or brewery relatively close to you. If you live in any decent sized town here I could almost guarantee that you have one or the other or both. I think that one of the smartest components of the craft beer movement is the tie to local economies. It’s really not a hard sell when you think about it. you drink beer. Beer is produced in your town. Beer is produced by the people that live in your town. Beer is taxed in your town. The people who live in your town that work at the brewery spend money in your town. You spend money at the local brewery/brewpub and a lot of that money it stays in your town. What’s not to love about that process? If you can find a beer you love being produced locally it really behooves you to buy it often. In the city of Duluth, MN where I live, we have Lake Superior Brewing (Minnesota’s oldest craft brewery), Fitger’s Brewhouse,  Bent Paddle , Blacklist and new kids on the block Hoops Brewing to choose from. Just across the border in Superior, WI we have the Thirsty Pagan brewpub as well as the new Earth Rider production brewery and taproom and just up the shore in Two Harbors, MN Castle Danger brewing is gaining a rabid following both locally and statewide. It’s truly a great time to drink beer and to do so locally. Just think about the far reaching impact those beer dollars have so close to home!


So there you have it. My comprehensive guide to drinking the beers of my region that I enjoy. But, no matter where you live, there are bound to be some great suds to enjoy with your buds. Please do so!

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Perfect Party Peanut Mix

A Recipe for (Snacking) Success By Deli Manager Taylor Kline

Peanut and Pretzel Mix: a football Sunday Kline family tradition, which in all reality became a requirement for every Menard’s run. By no means is this a high society party mix. It is a simple mix made for the simple pleasure of all day snacking and its often what we had in our “snack” dry pantry.

The best part about party mixes are that they can be used seasonally or as basic as desired. Think the Holiday season with almond bark-dipped pretzels or for Thanksgiving throw in some roasted pumpkin seeds.  But for snack simplicity, this is what I crave with an ice cold pilsner and the refreshing disappointment of Minnesota professional sports, minus the Lynx.

Basic necessities:

  • Pretzels 1 bag (12 oz) / Stick Pretzels – or tub (32 oz is typically what the Butter Spindles come in)
    Any basic snack-size sticks work great. But when we discovered Butter Spindles, our mix hit the next level of salty, buttery greatness.
  • Dry Roasted Peanuts – 2 containers (they typically come in 14 oz containers).   1 container of dry roasted & 1 container of honey roasted.
  • M & M’s – 1 bag (12 oz) – Regular M & M’s are absolutely fine, but come on, this is indulgent. Go for the peanut, peanut butter, or even the pretzel M & M’s.
  • Rice and/or Wheat Chex Cereal – 1 box of Rice and or 1 box of Wheat
  • -Raisins – 1 bag (10 oz)

The Mix

  • Pour into a large bowl:
    •  Full bag of pretzels ( if you are using the Butter Spindles, use half the tub)
      Each container of peanuts. 
    • Half a bag of M & M’s
    • Half a box of Rice Chex & half box of Wheat Chex
    • Half bag of raisins (if you prefer more raisins to mix ratio, add more.)

Store unused items in cupboard for the next batch.


There is nothing better than snacking the Big Game Day away and enjoying bevs with your friends and family. Enjoy this simple, yet delicious recipe, while watching two teams that Minnesotans dislike in our hometown stadium – No deflated footballs here!


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5 things – What’s New in Mail Order

5 things coming to you from the desk of the Mail Order Director this week. I’ve had an amazing year in 2017 at the Smokehaus. From learning the ropes from my dear colleagues Flo and Mary (and the whole staff really), to being given the autonomy to research and implement new systems and processes to grow this department, to learning that you can have a job that is actually fun, challenging and creative but not all consuming. What a find, I think. I made it through the busy month of December, and now there’s time to breath and dream and scheme (as they say around here) on all the fun things we can do for our amazing customers this year.

For starters – here’s 5 recent additions to our Mail Order website (in case you missed them):

#1 Country Pate (we know it’s not for everyone, but once you try it, you may get hooked) is now offered in 3 sizes: 1/3 pound, 1/2 pound, whole loaf. The 1/3 pound is obviously the cutest, coming in the small container we affectionately call “the casket.”

country pate

#2 We’re working on amping up the grocery items available to ship. Many have asked for them, and more to come. So far, you can purchase our Hausmade Kimchi, Kraut and Crayo. Take your home sandwich-making up 10 notches with these badass items.

crayo sandwich

#3 Cheese and crackers. It’s as simple as that. You can now add Cheese + Crackers to your order for $10. Just need the crackers? You can do that too. And you know you want to add them, because it’s the easiest way to enjoy so many of our products, and the fastest way to get a party started.

cheese and crackers

#4 We have a new section on our website for “Seasonal” items/gift boxes! With our plans to offer new pairings, seasonal offerings, and promotional discounts, you can find all those good things now in the Seasonal section. In case you missed it, right now, we have super awesome Super Bowl snack packs, and a Valentine’s Day box for sweethearts everywhere.

football snacks

#5 And we’ll be working on a great many more things this year! Be on the lookout for Ham Steaks (in case you don’t want the whole 7 pounder), Portioned Porkettas (dinner for 2?), and Atlantic Salmon Boxes including 4 pieces of a single flavor (i.e. we know those purists love the Traditional Style!).

the perfectionist

Please keep eating our food, and staying in touch with us 🙂 We love to hear from you, and we love to feed you.

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Blanket Buds

Besides being incredibly tasty and hand-made with love by our surly team of smokers, our Bison Buddies are versatile. You can eat them on their own, pair them with your favorite spicy mustard or use them as a non-mysterious hot dog meat alternative. But, if you have 9-12 minutes and you want to make some extra special buttery, flaky snacks, we suggest: Blanket Buds. You only need two ingredients plus what ever adventurous dipping sauce you prefer.


Pillsbury™ Butter Flake Crescent Dinner Rolls

A six pack of Bison Buddies


Pre-heat your oven and cut your Bison Buddies into smaller pieces. After prepping your buds, you’re going to follow the Pillsbury™ instructions word-for-word with an additional and easy step of cutting the pre-indented dough into smaller triangles.  Number of buds = number of triangles you’ll need. Six buds should yield around 20 +/- Blanket Buds. It’s up to your math.

Bake the buds and share with friends!


Add cheese. You won’t regret it. Add the cheese.



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5 Things: Plus Bonus Best of 2017


5 Things

  1. We got to feed the new senator! Tina Smith celebrated her first public appearance in Duluth right down the street at Hoops Brewing, and we supplied the snacks! Jeremy and I threw together some adorable little “bites” – gravlax, ham and pimiento, and salmon pate all made appearances. We enjoyed a pint and watched as hundreds of folks piled into the taproom.
  2. Superbowl Madness! We are concocting specials, unique grab-n-go items, fantastic décor, and many an attempted sports pun this month in preparation for the big game (it’s in Minnesota this year, doncha know). Flo has been sending ADORABLE “Stadium Status” newsletters and postcards, and the shop is looking cute enough for ‘Ye. Annemarie is a closeted football fanatic (Go Seahawks), so it’s been pretty fun to watch her squirm as the rest of us in officeland struggle with the terminology.
  3. Budget Task Force has new members, and a bigger whiteboard. We’re rearing to go for 2018. We even created a wish list, with new ovens at the top. Jerry’s going to be BUSY this year, guaranteed.
  4. We sliced cheese on the electric slicer, and life will never be the same. We did this years ago, but the dulling effects and overwhelming prep list shut us down, but we now know that it’s a (nother) goal for 2018 to bring back the fresh-sliced cheese – it is delicious!
  5. Cookbook genesis: we are beginning in earnest to create a Smokehaus cookbook! We’ve amassed tons of recipes, images, stories, and artifacts over the past 20 years, and we’re ready to compile it into some kind of (gorgeous) semblance of order. Stay tuned!

EXTRA 7, Best Of 2017 (According to Mary, General Manager):

  1. New website pictures: with Flo’s styling, Stephen’s photography, and the collective editing of Smokehaus Team Creative, the website looks like a million dollars. Our food deserves it.
  2. Boot in the Barn: a dream come true feast at Hemlock Preserve, this event was smashing. We plan to sell the very special porchetta in upcoming holiday seasons (and for events), and now know the secret behind great limoncello (hint: it’s lemons and time).
  3. T.K.’s (and others’) experiments: from half-sour pickles with chile to cumin slaw to “Tickle Sauce,” there are some truly awesome new things coming down the pike at NWSH. As soon as we have the proper space and plans, customers can expect to jump on the pickle/tickle train, too. In the meantime, Nic’s romesco and Caesar salad may make appearances as soon as this winter.
  4. The big board: we’ve used it several times this year and every time it’s absolutely glorious.
  5. “Goodbye Horses” radio on Spotify.
  6. The Budget Task Force – we are starting to practice open book management and it’s awesome! We already have several ideas for business development, and the energy and ideas during these meetings are genuinely enjoyable.
  7. So many wonderful times at the Restaurant: I haven’t even begun to process the fact that I can’t eat those wings whenever I want, but instead I’m feeling grateful that we had our time together. From the wine list to the INCREDIBLE staff, the restaurant defines a lot about what made 2017 great.