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5 Things: May 31st, 2019

This week on 5 Things™, we delve into the surprising success of a new side, the never-ending fluctuations of our deli’s interior, the timely return of a classic piece of NWS swag (and what NWS swag can do for you), some comings-and-goings, and previews of what’s to come from our Sandwich Lab and our shop in-general.

Kale caesar salad.

You likely already have an inkling that NWS is good at smoking fish and other meats. You probably also know that we’ve garnered some acclaim for our sandwiches. You might even know that we have a smartly curated selection of olives and local cheeses. You might not know that we regularly introduce new side options to our menu. While some of them hide behind the sandwich line and signs on our menu board, we’ve begun displaying others in the deli case, next to our smoked meat selection.

It has paid off. Not only do our sides taste great, they are also aesthetically pleasing. Being able to see them (and buy them in whatever weight quantity you choose) helps sell them—meaning you’ll continue to see them. To that end, we’ll continue stocking the meat case with our tried-and-true and latest sides, as well as pasties and pre-sliced/pre-packaged meats.

This week we tested a roasted kale caesar salad, and sold it all within the day. Which pleases me, because the salad is good, and I want it to stick around. Don’t believe me? Try it.

Sass aside, if you ask, you can definitely try it.

A shortened wall.

If you’ve been following us for the last half-decade, you’ll have an idea what I mean when I say the shop is always in flux. For example, when I started at NWS, our workspace was literally half the size it is now, and the line ran the opposite direction. Working at NWS is at times reminiscent of a game of Tetris or Jenga—constant rotation and reconfiguration and treacherous pulling and replacing.

The wall between our seating area and the sandwich line is an important boundary. Watching us work really isn’t the best use of anyone’s time—many of us are self-conscious individuals, who work less efficiently when observed, and you don’t really want to be watched while you eat, do you?

Joking aside, the barrier does have one glaring limitation—it is very tall. When it was first installed, I called it the “Wilson Wall.”

So Oneida, ahead of schedule (thank your local Oneida employee for their steadfast work immediately), cut down a segment of the wall and moved the counter top down with it. This means patrons and staff under 5’7″ will finally be able to make eye contact and just generally communicate when handing out and picking up orders.

As with many small changes we make to our workspace, the benefits may not be immediately obvious—force of habit has made me place orders on the higher segment of counter even with the lowered counter in place—but over the Summer, this will undoubtedly result in a smoother interface when picking up your food.

With the impending arrival of beer and wine, there is more reconfiguration to come. Nothing too world shattering, though you might notice some different stainless steel and glass making its way into the shop over the next month or so.

Kenspeckle Letterpress shirts went to print.

These shirts are great. They showcase the brilliant, meticulous, and clever work of local printmaking legend Rick Allen, whose studio (the aforementioned Kenspeckle Letterpress) is located on the second floor of the DeWitt-Seitz Marketplace, and for whose dedication to the Split-finger Fastball variant of the Clubhaus sandwich we are forever grateful.

On Thursday, our friends at On The Limit, let us know that they had begun printing the shirts. That means that, soon enough, these shirts will be available in all sizes, on softer, more breathable cotton.

Speaking of NWS swag: If you’re spotted (or if you politely point out to us) wearing our gear/carrying our totes/etc., you’ll get 10% off your order. Every. Single. Time.

The Wallaby leaves us.

Our first-ever avocado sandwich, which came to us via our annual Sandwich Lab, is entering its last weekend.

If you haven’t yet tried this avocado, lemon pepper, balsamic, locally-sourced ramps, and tomato sandwich, on our hausmade Prince Myshkin Rye, this weekend is your last chance. If you’re feeling a bit more carnivorous, try it with crispy smoked pancetta.

When the Wallaby leaves us, another Sandwich Lab special takes its place: The Sebu-Chan.

The name comes from a nickname for its creator, Sebastian, and the sandwich is a playful variation on the classic salmon & cream cheese sandwich.

The Sebu-Chan—gravlax, scallion cream cheese, tomato, cucumber, onion, lettuce, cilantro and sriracha on a hausmade ciabatta—will be available Monday, June 3rd through Sunday, June 30th.

A few things I’m looking forward to at NWS.

I tried to fit a few different Things™ in this slot, but came up short each time. So, in lieu of anything better, here’s a short list of things that I’m looking forward to in my own personal life at Northern Waters Smokehaus, that might also be interesting to you:

  • The Cookbook. It’s happening, and though the public will have to wait some time before it is in their hands, a good deal of my near future is set to be entangled with the text.
  • Another Hemlock Preserve event. The first time I was involved with a Smokehaus event at Hemlock Preserve—the charming barn on the edge of Jay Cooke State Park in Esko, MN—I played music for five hours, essentially nonstop. It was a strange feat that I don’t know I could repeat. I’m not sure how involved I will be with the event, but I will certainly have some words to write about it as it draws nearer. The event is still in development, but based on previous experience, it will happen toward the end of Summer, feature an awesome menu, good music, and an optional party bus to get to and from the location.
  • Grilling NWS brats & sausages. Our Maple Breakfast Sausage is my favorite sausage, period, but that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m not sure whether the Beer Brat (made with Grain Belt Premium), Apple Brat or Classic German Brat is my top choice for the grill, but I will say that white onion (raw, grilled, or sautéed), NWS Kimchi and Sauerkraut are great toppings respectively. We’ve got Jalapeño Bacon Brats and Italian Sausage too, for those seeking a bit more bite in their brat. Tucked away in a corner, these products often go unnoticed. The time to grill is nigh. Don’t sleep on these sausages.
  • Honorable mention to our Smoked Ribs. They’re back in stock, available weekly as our Monday special, and great for any BYO grilling events or potlucks. Or just as any ol’ meal. $10.99/lb in 2 lb racks or half-racks for these beauties is a steal!
  • Northern Waters Catering. Though we’ve been at the catering business quite a while, this year we’ve really decided to get our act together, putting in a lot of creative work, developing an extensive menu that showcases our best abilities and depth, making an Instagram profile specifically for our catering department, and putting Hannah’s capable hands in charge of the operation.
    I love catering events because they showcase different shades of NWS not found in the deli, both in terms of food served and the service offered. It’s a bit more refined, and less of a grind. It’s a breath of fresh air, reminiscent of a childhood field trip, traveling to an offsite location and not making six to eight sandwiches per ten minute increment. And the catering pay rate is great for the staff. My Nintendo Switch isn’t paying for its own games, so I am into that.
  • More Sandwich Lab specials. With fun official and working titles like Jacob’s Lake Trout Situation, The Perfect Fall Sandwich, and The Fish Stick, they’ve clearly got a lot to offer the imagination, and it’ll be a satisfying mystery to resolve once you can finally taste them. And honestly, the ads our marketing team has been creating for them get more fun every month.

Well, I think I’ve said quite enough. Happy Friday, or whichever day you might be reading this.

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“5” Things: May 24th 2019

Last Friday, I sure tried to post a 5 Things™ blog. I came in a half-hour early for my deli shift, sat down to post it, and saw nothing but this:

What can you do?

So I kept my laptop open and in-sight all day, on our in-haus WiFi, and my own personal mobile hotspot, and even Lake Avenue Café’s WiFi (thanks, Lake Ave!).

To no avail.

So I headed home, and gave it a shot on my own WiFi.

I gave up on periodically pressing ‘Publish’ at 6pm, and resigned myself to enjoying my weekend, blog be damned.

If you are reading this, this 5 Things™ blog was successfully posted.

This week we had many meetings!

Sunday night, we had a long overdue ALL STAFF MEETING in which we discussed the impending Summer rush, our future in offering beer & wine, plans for our patio, and much more. Afterward, pizza and carbonated beverages were consumed.

Then on Monday night, those of us who will be in a position to sell the aforementioned beer & wine attended a scintillating alcohol service training.

After the alcohol service training, the D&D group entered the Pit of Blood and Fortune in a battle royale that thrust us into direct combat against each other, and ended up imprisoned by an Illithid in the service of a Beholder. That seemed like an adequately depressing place to end after learning the harsh potential consequences of alcohol over-service, so we’ll see what happens next week.

How about some exciting news?

Smoked ribs are back in stock!

Just in time for Memorial Day weekend and the commencement of grilling season! Ribs sell for $10.99/lb in whole (~2 lb) and half racks.

Perfectly seasoned and smoky.

Today we have have racks coming fresh out of the smoker, which really is the best way to have any smoked meats. Place your pickup order over the phone on ChowNow for $9 half racks and $16 whole racks. All the convenience of skipping the deli line, with a little bit of savings on the sale as well. This fresh-smoked rib special will be happening through Monday (Memorial Day) or until we run out.

Order online here

We don’t talk about our ribs that much, outside of pop-ups, so consider this our way-too-late Smoked Ribs Product Launch™. Starting on Memorial Day, smoked ribs will be our Monday special.

Ribs and kimchi is a haus favorite!

Kenspeckle Letterpress shirts are returning soon!

Our classic shirts, long only in-stock in the sizes nobody was looking for, are returning soon, in all sizes! Designed by master printmaker Rick Allen at Kenspeckle Letterpress, these shirts are one of our oldest pieces of inedible brand merchandise, and we’re looking forward to restocking them. Now in softer, more breathable cotton!

Spicy Tales of Charcuterie!


We took our last trip out to Hemlock Preserve!

Not our last trip ever, of course. Just the final installation of our extended/postponed/multiply rescheduled catering photo shoot series.

This particular trip featured two charming friends of NWS in a mock breakfast-picnic-slash-Jay-Cooke-hike scenario.

When we present the final product of these photo shoots, you’re getting the cream of the crop—maybe 15-25 photographs—but a ton of work goes into finding those perfect couple dozen images. Here’s a tribute to all the surprisingly hard work that goes into making dozens of artful plates of food, transporting them between multiple buildings (rain or shine), finding the best light, positioning the plates, capturing their best angles, and so on, and so forth:

Northern Waters Catering news!

Our Northern Waters Catering menu has been in development for the past several months, and I’ve finally begun to put the first draft that hit my desk last week into a solid second draft. It’s only a (brief) matter of time until the menu will be in your hands. While the menu is full of our favorite and most requested dishes, it is not exhaustive of our capabilities.

And now, the crowning segment of this blog.

I am pleased to announce:

So pleased!

Hannah/Northern Waters Catering got a new cooler! It is not only quite stylish and large, but also has wheels and evidently a ruler etched into it! You’ll likely spot it any time we are out around the town, and on our patio this Summer.T

We’re at the halfway point of Sandwich Lab specials!

The Breakfast Club, The Wagner, The Spinderella, The Bloody Mary, and now The Wallaby comprise the first wave of our Sandwich Lab specials.

Sandwich Lab is an annual meeting where we brush up on our sandwich making skills and have the opportunity to share our favorite personal sandwich creations for review by the staff and potential inclusion on the menu. And it is typically a lot of fun. Last year, there were too many good entries to pick just one or two, so we decided to run ten of them as monthlong specials, and add one (the Adisalad) to our permanent menu.

The Adisalad

We’ve begun keeping a running tally of our Sandwich Lab specials and how they’ve sold against total sandwiches sold during their tenure.

Hannah is 66.5% certain that these statistics will factor into future Sandwich Lab discussions.

How many Sandwich Lab creations have you tried? Which was your favorite? Do you have any advice for escaping the clutches of a mind flayer? Let us know in the comments.

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5 Things: May 10th, 2019

The Wallaby.

Avocado has finally arrived at Northern Waters Smokehaus, for a limited time, on a brand new sandwich called The Wallaby—haus-baked Prince Myshkin rye topped with half an avocado, tomato, lemon pepper, balsamic reduction and locally-sourced ramps.

Flo makes great signs

While supplies last, you can add avocado to any sandwich for an additional $2.30. Clubhaus with avocado? Yum. Pork Loin D-Luxx with avocado? Decadent. Hedonist with avocado? I wouldn’t, but you do you.

The Wallaby is available in our deli and via delivery for $6+tax (or $9+tax with crispy smoked pancetta) through June 3rd, and like all Sandwich Lab specials, earns you two stamps on your sandwich card.

Homegrown Music Festival came to a close.

The eight day-long local music festival is hard to avoid, if you’re living in Duluth. Thousands of individuals attend shows throughout the week. Hundreds of local artists and supporters of the arts take part in putting it on. Dozens of local businesses participate in some capacity, whether they’re a full-fledged venue, hosting a concurrent unofficial show, or offering sales & specials to participating artists. Typically there is some variety of controversy in the news (link pig head).

Photo by Leif Hinkel

Among our staff, I count (at least) eight people who played some type of role in the week. Flo painted the Chicken Shack (HGMF HQ) mural; the Prøve Gallery (co-operated by our own Flo & TK, among others) was a venue for one of the shows; between Jacob, Cedar, Tyler, Brian, Leif, and myself, we touted at least eight performances throughout the week, official or otherwise.

Look at this picture Emily took of the Latelys

And now that it’s over, I hope everyone has taken a few nights to stay in and get some sleep. I know I needed it.

Ribwiches and chocolate chip bacon cookies.

We love to snack here. It’s where we find many of our best ideas. It’s how we test recipes in development. All opinions are considered, and anyone who wants to contribute gets a taste.

I’d be lying if I said this wasn’t a major perk of the job.

On Wednesday, Patricia left behind a stack of chocolate chip bacon cookies after an early baking shift. Since she joined our team, we’ve grown accustomed to finding new varieties of cookies waiting for us on a weekly basis. It’s a new territory that we’re happy to be exploring.

*not actually a photo of the bacon cookies pictured.

Wednesday in the deli featured a smoked rib special in the deli, with baked beans on the side. This special did not come as a sandwich, but we’re an odd bunch, so a handful of us made rib&beanwiches—on white bread with butter, and on Johnson’s Bakery rolls without butter. The rib special was a surprise to those of us working in the deli, but not an unwelcome one. It is, however, a great teaser to an upcoming (circa-Memorial Day) never-frozen smoked rib sale. Keep your eyes and your tastebuds peeled for that announcement.

It snowed.

And then the sleet began to pack itself onto vertical surfaces. Really what did we expect? The bit about April showers and May flowers rarely applies in Duluth. Sometimes there are still ice cubes in Lake Superior come June.

Snowball and snowperson enthusiasts had a lot to be excited about. The rest of us, not so much.

The snow doesn’t bother Tyler Much

We almost went back to Hemlock Preserve.

Then the weather happened. While Hemlock Preserve is a lovely place all through the year, we’re trying to catch it on a sunny day full of bustling foliage and flora—and not tear apart the wet ground with our idle steps. Here’s a gallery of some smartphone camera-quality photos I took during one of our recent excursions.

Hemlock Preserve is a magical place full of beautifully curated vignettes of landscaping and design that is best observed in person, but still photographs charmingly. Everywhere your eyes may fall, there is something that begs a closer look.

We’re looking forward to catering events in this space during the Summer and Fall (exciting announcements forthcoming!). If you can’t wait, get in contact with our Catering Captain, Hannah ((218)724-7307 and ask for Hannah, or e-mail catering@nwsmokehaus.com) and book your own event!

One more Thing™ before you go.

We just stocked the deli with Salamini, Spanish-style Chorizo, and Saucisson Sec. As far as dry-cured salted meats go, this is about as fresh as it gets. For those who prefer salumi on the softer side, this weekend is a great time to grab some. If you’re in a hurry and want to bypass the line, place your order for pick-up.

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Cheese Wiz: Cabrie

Cabrie from Montchevre in Preston, WI

Montchevre Cabrie cheese, a goat milk Brie Cheese, has a rind made of a white penicillium often referred to as “fleurie.” The white velvet-like exterior protects a soft, oozing, and creamy inside that has a smooth and delicate taste. Like many soft-ripened cheeses, the taste and flavor profile evolves through an aging process called “lipolise.” The cheese will develop stronger earthy accents and becomes softer and creamier as it slowly ages from the outside in. The perfect cheese to serve as part of a cheese board or as an appetizer.

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SANDWICH LAB: The Wallaby

IN THE DELICATESSEN SCENE, NEVER SHAKING UP YOUR SANDWICH MENU IS CONSIDERED ESPECIALLY HEINOUS. AT NORTHERN WATERS SMOKEHAUS, THE DEDICATED DELI EMPLOYEES WHO INNOVATE ON THE SANDWICH MENU ARE MEMBERS OF AN ELITE SQUAD KNOWN AS THE SANDWICH LAB. THESE ARE THEIR STORIES:


Modern life can be so monotonous. You wake up, probably earlier or later than you intended to; you make yourself the same cup of coffee, or exchange your hard-earned coin and sidelong glances with a glazed-eyed barista to order your same ol’ cup of coffee; you go to work; maybe you catch a happy hour with some acquaintances with whom you’re not sure where you stand, maybe with some close friends with whom you share your day’s gripes; you go home; you think briefly about working on your novel, but then decide you’re not in the right headspace today (just like yesterday, and probably like tomorrow); you fall asleep watching your soaps; you awaken in a cold sweat, for a moment not remembering where you are, then realize you’re in the recliner; you barely find the strength to pull yourself to bed, maybe you didn’t even change your clothes.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Life is full of surprising beauty. Life itself could easily be defined as a propensity for change and growth. Life…uh…finds a way. Life can be a hoot, if you choose to see it that way.

Seize opportunities to try something new, like the Wallaby. It’s the Smokehaus’s first-ever avocado sandwich, brought to us by Michael, our coworker who is allergic to avocados. I’ll let that sink in.

Michael brought us the Wallaby because he correctly identified that our customers have been wanting avocado on the line for a while, thought we could increase our vegan-friendly options, and because a sandwich quite a bit like it was the best-selling sandwich at Creekside Coffee in Sedona, AZ, while he worked there. When he makes it, he can recall the owner explaining the sandwich step-by-step in their Australian accent, hence the name.

And speaking of making it, here’s what you can expect when you order the Wallaby. Haus-baked Prince Myshkin rye bread, sliced avocado, juicy tomato slices, locally-sourced ramps, lemon pepper, and a balsamic reduction. It’s a sandwich you’d expect, sure, but if you really attend to it—notice the song & dance of the flavors and textures, relish in the tomato juice dripping down your hands and forearms, imagine the love with which it was made—it could be transcendent.

The Wallaby is available in our deli and via delivery from May 6th through June 3rd for $6 + tax (or $9 + tax with crispy smoked pancetta).


WHAT IS SANDWICH LAB?
AT NORTHERN WATERS SMOKEHAUS, OUR WORK IS PLAYING WITH FOOD. THAT MEANS SOMETIMES, IN THE LINE OF DUTY, WE STUMBLE UPON AN AMAZING COMBINATION OF INGREDIENTS THAT EVOLVES OVER SEVERAL SHIFT-MEALS INTO A NOTEWORTHY NEW SANDWICH. OTHER TIMES WE UNCOVER A MORE EFFICIENT WAY TO BUILD A SANDWICH, OR WE SWAP AN INGREDIENT ON A CURRENT MENU ITEM. SANDWICH LAB IS AN ANNUAL GATHERING OF OUR STAFF TO REFINE OUR SANDWICH-LINE SKILLS, TO COME TO AGREEMENT ON ANY CONTROVERSIES, AND—THE BEST PART—TO INTRODUCE OUR PET SANDWICHES TO THE GREATER SMOKEHAUS COMMUNITY.
NOTABLE SANDWICH LAB FINDINGS FROM PREVIOUS YEARS INCLUDE THE CEDARS’S SECRET, THE PURPLE RANGE, THE PHOEBE, AND THE PORK LION. LAST YEAR’S SANDWICH LAB HAD SO MANY GOOD SANDWICHES THAT WE COULDN’T DECIDE ON JUST ONE OR TWO TO ADD TO THE MENU, SO WE DECIDED TO GIVE THEM ALL A CHANCE TO SHINE, AS MONTH-LONG SPECIALS.
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5 Things: May 3rd, 2019

It’s a big week in town: Homegrown Music Festival is in full-effect.

But this isn’t a music blog, so let’s stay on-track.

A changing of the guard.

We’re going to bloody miss this one.

Another month has gone by, and that means it’s time for a new Sandwich Lab special. On Monday, May 6th, the warm, buttery aroma and savory goodness of the Bloody Mary is leaving our deli to make way for our first ever avocado sandwich, the Wallaby.

Enjoy some different angles of the Wallaby.

Framed with our haus-baked Prince Myshkin rye, the Wallaby also features fresh tomato slices, ramps, lemon pepper, and a balsamic reduction.

Ironically brought to our collective attention by Michael, who is allergic to avocados, the sandwich is inspired by the best-selling sandwich at Creekside Coffee in Sedona, AZ, where he worked for a time.

The Wallaby’s run will span from May 6th to June 3rd.

Beer and wine.

If all goes as planned—which seems to be the case—come Summer, we’ll be licensed to serve beer and wine. This is big news for us. As a company forever growing in our hearts, expanding our business to accommodate such a popular commodity can only be a good thing. While nothing is set in stone, the conversation has revolved around a curated selection of beer in cans and boxed wines.

We hope you’ll join us on our patio this Summer and enjoy an appropriate amount of buzz with your sandwich.

We packaged 150 lbs of smoked bacon.

In individual pounds, to boot!

An online food retail service—which I’m not going to name, since I believe there is an amount of surprise/secrecy implied—has selected our smoked bacon to be a part of its monthly subscription box that may or may not be called “The Best of the Best.” We’re honored that our bacon has been recognized as such, just as we’re stoked every time anyone tells us (or their friends) that one of our offerings is their favorite.

Lamb taco pasties.

Tuesday’s tacos were in a class of their own. Taylor whipped up some Lamb Birria—an adobo sauce originating in Jalisco, Mexico, traditionally served in a soup form, but adopted as a style of taco—which we served on corn soft-shells with pickled red onion, cotija cheese, cilantro, and salsa verde. This savory and mildly spicy delight blends guajillo chiles, ancho chiles, garlic, cinnamon, Mexican oregano and bay leaf, and slow-cooks all those flavors into tender shredded lamb shank.

Patricia, never missing a beat, apportioned some of the special for a limited run of pasties.

Yes, imagine all of the above ingredients packaged together inside a folded and rolled masa pastry, available to be heated in our deli, or taken home and prepared on your own time.

If you love or even casually enjoy stuffed pastries, check our meat case when you stop in for the latest pasty selection.

Workplace drama.

Work. I don’t know who invented work, but I’d like to have a word with them. It typically makes up anywhere from a quarter to just over a third of the hours in the day—unless I’m really out of touch with whom is reading this blog—and oftentimes you’re seeing the same rotation of people when you work. It’s sort of like a family. Needless to say, things can get a bit tense, and even blow up, as they did in this case.

When I sat down at Leif’s desk—which is my favorite place to write the 5 Things™ blog, due not only to the fantastic natural light and eclectic decorations, but equally to the risk of needing to move all of my mess when Leif needs to write a schedule or print a sign—I was appalled, though not surprised to find this remnant of an interpersonal clash.

I’m gone one day and this happens.

Please remember that every person you meet and each of your coworkers is following their own personal path, and struggling with all of their own issues which are not only valid, but also impossible to fully comprehend unless that person is you, and even then those struggles may not be fully comprehensible. Look for the goodness in others and be a mirror to reflect back that goodness. And lay off the demerits.

Bonus Things™.

Mother’s Day is coming up soon and we have a great Mother’s Day Box at a nice price. It features our Smoked Sockeye Salmon and Hausmade Boursin Cheese.


Happy Homegrown.

Bruno says, “Happy Homegrown from Hemlock Preserve!”