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5 Things: November 15th, 2019

Mail Order season is suddenly upon us. The third-floor DeWitt-Seitz office is already primed for near-optimal success is preparing hundreds of skillfully packed boxes. You know what? This is my first Thing™ this week. Let’s play it again.

Mail Order season is suddenly upon us.

The third-floor DeWitt-Seitz office is already primed for near-optimal success is preparing hundreds of skillfully packed boxes. Any surface that could possibly be repurposed as a work surface is or soon will be.

Storage space is at an all-time premium—we’ve even rented spaces in Proctor, MN and Superior, WI to keep from overburdening our DeWitt-Seitz location.

We’ve brought in seasonal reinforcements, who will be training in on Sunday the 17th, and making our Mail Order Director, Andy’s life way less stressful. It’s a whole thing.

We’ve updated our shipping policies and providers so that we’ll hopefully be turning a profit (albeit small) on each package shipped, rather than losing a little bit of money on each. For our small, family-owned, community-oriented business, this is great news.

We met with our publisher.

On Tuesday, a cohort of those of us involved in producing the first Northern Waters Smokehaus cookbook took a field trip to the University of Minnesota Press‘s office in Minneapolis. We’re honored and excited to be working with the press, and the feeling seems to be mutual. Icing on the cake: the building in which they’re located has very comfortable conference room chairs.

In the wake of that meeting, we’ve developed a plan to methodically comb through the rest of the recipe testing, while polishing the text into something worthy of telling the story of NWS, DeWitt-Seitz Marketplace, and our beloved City and Lake.

While the cookbook itself won’t be hitting shelves any time soon, it’s been 20+ years coming at this point, and it will be a great accomplishment to kick off the next two decades of NWS.

Rush Creek Reserve has returned.

For the uninitiated: RCR is Uplands Cheese Company’s (Dodgeville, WI) Autumn-exclusive, washed rind, raw cow’s milk cheese made with the rich and silky milk that emerges when the cows’ diets shift from Summer pastures to Fall and Winter hay.

The extremely seasonal, small batch cheese is sold in 12oz wheels ($35/wheel) that are intended to be served at room temperature in a single serving. (No worries if you and yours can’t manage that: Just re-package it in its breathable wrap and tuck it in the coldest part of the fridge.)

Maker Andy Hatch has described the cheese as a “savory custard, [which] exudes a very soft, delicate texture with a savory, rich finish likened to cured meat.”

Each wheel of the cheese is hand-wrapped with spruce bark, then aged 60 days before it is shipped off to distributors. For more information on serving—beyond the obvious: serve it on a fine cracker alongside a sparkling or dry white wine—chat with our deli staff.

You don’t want to miss out on this exceptional cheese, and the rest of the delicious offerings—including my personal favorite, the Shepherd’s Way Sogn Tomme—in our grab’n’go case, this holiday season.

The 127th Annual Sandwich Lab is this Sunday night!

On Sunday night at 7 p.m., the best of the best will be assembling to brush up our sandwich-making skills, pitch new sandwich ideas, and just generally have a good time.

Unlike our most recent Sunday night meeting, we’ll be open full business hours (all the way to 6pm) on Sunday. I didn’t realize that there had been so many until we received this official notice from our HR director, Greg:

We’ve smoked a few batches of North Road salmon.

The global salmon market is currently in flux—with causes and effects that extend outside of the purview of this particular blog post—and as a substantial importer of salmon, we strive to continue to bring you responsibly and sustainably sourced Atlantic salmon.

North Road provides huge (we’re talking five-pound filets!) , beautifully marbled salmon sourced from sustainable farms off the coasts of Norway and Scotland, and within the Faroe Islands. The smoked product is melt-in-your-mouth tender and has taken especially well to our brown sugar & salt cure, resulting in some of the best smoked salmon I’ve had the pleasure of eating, even by our stringent standards—especially with dill seasoning.

Currently, we’re only smoking it in small batches and selling it in our deli, alongside our other smoked salmon options. Next time you stop in the deli, ask for a sample and see for yourself, or just buy a big ol’ slab and show all your friends and family.

Thanks for tuning in!

NEXT WEEK ON 5 THINGS™: More about mail order season, a follow-up on Sandwich Lab, an in-depth look at our new enormous standing mixer (described to me as “something out of War of the Worlds”), and more!

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5 Takeaways From This Year’s Sandwich Lab Cycle

We’ve got a lot to talk about this week. WordPress’s “readability” analysis is going to hate this post, but I hope you can find some joy while reading it. Brace yourself for an especially long-winded 5 Things™. Take care that your limbs don’t fall asleep.

Sandwich Lab—we won’t stop talking about it, but what is it?

  • *BUM BUM* 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.
  • A place where dreams come true. Every Northern Waters Smokehaus employee gets a free shift meal each shift. This is an essential part of the Smokehaus business model: Well-nourished employees who feel valued are likely to work better. Newcomers are encouraged to familiarize themselves with the entire menu, so that is where their meals usually begin; however, there are dreamers and seekers among us. Eventually, there are those who travel through the looking glass, then down the rabbit hole, often there and back again, discovering obscured and forbidden combinations of flavor, and discerning the likes of which are their favorites. Colloquially, we refer to them as pet sandwiches, which is a very tender way to describe something that you obliterate with your mouth and hands, but that’s beside the point. These Seekers of the New Flavor wear their desire paths until they settle upon the True Recipe, and Sandwich Lab is the place where they may enter their creation in a fateful test against the gauntlet of their co-workers’ palates. And among those entrants, only the most Supreme earn their place upon the Sandwich Menu, some for a short time—more on this in a jiffy!—and some for good.

    Having your creation up on the menu at a beloved deli feels good. The current permanent-menu sandwiches that came from this recent NWS tradition are the Cedar’s Secret, the Pork Lion, the Purple Range, the Hardhat, and the Adisalad—a rare salad entry that became the most recent Lab’s only permanent-menu addition.
  • A place where heretical beliefs are crushed! Sometimes—most often with our toasted sandwiches—steps in the preparation of sandwiches give way to shortcuts discovered in trying times, like the midst of an especially grueling 5-hour Summer rush; or to alternate arrangements of ingredients, like a Cajun Finn where all the vegetable elements are below the Cajun Smoked Salmon (the horror!). Imprecise amounts of condiments can make or break the overall experience of a sandwich. There’s a million-and-one things our sandwich makers have to juggle in their, ultimately and tragically limited, human brains while churning out those stacks of bread, meat, cheese, sauce and veg, and sometimes things just go astray.

    Until Sandwich Lab, whereupon these heretical ideals are brought to heel, though not without the opportunity for fair trial. While a select panel of experts prepares its own case in the name of getting us back on course, there is also opportunity to determine if the old way really is the right way. A few examples of changes brought forth by Sandwich Lab include shifting the Big Dipper from a cold sandwich on a square roll, cut in thirds, to a hot sandwich on a hero roll, cut in fourths; and the admittedly very-involved multi-cycle toasting of ingredients—first separately, then stacked together—of the ’06.
  • A fun time. This blog is really playing up the drama of Sandwich Lab, but ultimately, it’s mostly a lot of laughter and snacking, with some demonstrations going on throughout the time. It’s a paid meeting and it’s only mandatory to those of us embroiled in the sandwich arts.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s get to these Things™, which will be a mixture of stone cold statistics and subjective observations.

A recap of Sandwich Lab 2019.

The dates of the nine monthlong specials had somewhat arbitrary beginnings and endings, based roughly around the first Monday of each month. For the sake of this retrospective, we’ll just note the month in which each ran. For the sake of your time, I’ll just include brief notes for each sandwich.

January—The Breakfast Club

Turkey & Pancetta roughly equals a club sandwich. Bagel & cream cheese roughly equals breakfast sandwich. This sandwich is not groundbreaking, but it sure tastes good.

The blog post announcing this sandwich was fun to write, and almost entirely synthesized from material Wesley, the sandwich’s creator, wrote down for me.

Later Sandwich Lab announcements began to follow a semi-consistent format.

February—The Wagner

Probably my favorite of the sandwich lab specials, and that’s including my own contribution to the cycle. This is a very sauce-driven sandwich, including mayo, mustard and sriracha. While Turkey & Pastrami were the two meat options, the secret third option—Black Pepper & Coriander Atlantic Salmon—also made for a great savory & spicy sandwich.

March—The Spinderella

Before this sandwich entered our lives, I had never really thought of cream cheese as a dipping sauce. After this sandwich, the recipe of which called for “A side of cream cheese, for dippin’,” I now recognize it as such. Smokehaus sandwiches with multiple meats are few and far between, so Turkey & Salami-mix as a double protein was certainly a treat. Hip-hop trio Salt’n’Pepa—after the DJ of which this sandwich was named—also toured this Spring, so the name was an apt tribute, mostly by accident.

April—The Bloody Mary

So many Smokehaus products lend themselves easily to Bloody Mary construction. Originally, the plan for this sandwich was to have Bison Buddies as the main protein, however, due to prohibitive food costs and fluctuations in bison availability, we settled on our Beef & Pork Summer Sausage and Smoked Pancetta.

The early Sandwich Lab specials received a ton of marketing support (before we realized that it wouldn’t be sustainable in the busy months and dropped the hilarious video/audio clips), and the Bloody Mary got some of the best: breaking mirrors, smoke, and a reference to Stanley Kubrick’s cinematic butchering of The Shining (seriously, read the book).

This sandwich’s downfall was an ongoing struggle with the “bloody mary mixer” sauce, which was often unavailable, due to other prepping priorities. Its upside was its beautiful mess personality.

May—The Wallaby

Michael brought this sandwich from a small coffee shop and deli in Sedona, AZ. Its name comes from the Australian owner, whose voice and accent is stuck in Michael’s head even to this day, whenever he smashes an avocado. The Wallaby marked the Smokehaus’s first-ever inclusion of avocado on the menu, and the sandwich itself was on the low-end of our price range. Additionally, it was a vegan sandwich, which is still new territory to a lot of our customer base—hence our recommended inclusion (for a slight upcharge) of Smoked Pancetta.

Our sincere apologies if associating the proud people of Australia with wallabies is at all insensitive. The name played into a Rocko’s Modern Life marketing sub-theme, and we thought it was cute.

June—The Sebu-chan

The marketing of this sandwich was a bit erratic. The name comes from one of Sebastian’s nicknames, his suggested marketing notes were to include cats, because he loves cats, and it’s a great sandwich that elides the best parts of a handful of our other fish sandwiches—the Cajun Finn, the Sitka Sushi, and the Great Summer Caper—into one sleek package. All things considered, the Sebu-chan was available at the beginning of our busy Summer season, and it was a fish sandwich, [WHICH HAS PROVEN TO BE A SUCCESSFUL MODEL ON ITS OWN], so it sold quite a few units, and we received no bad reviews. I’d call this Sandwich Lab Special a success.

July—The Fish Schtick

Another entry in the line of successful fish sandwiches that emerged from Sandwich Lab. In terms of percentage of units sold (the category we’ll be using to rate an aspect of the sandwich’s success in a later Thing™) the Schtick was on-par with the rest of the sandwiches, but in terms of how many it actually sold, this one is the winner.

The average (mean) number of units sold overall was 119.222222222, and the Schtick sold 229 units during its tenure. These numbers don’t account for factors such as how slow or fast business was at the time, but they’re still interesting enough to note. The next largest seller of individual units was the Wagner, at 133 sandwiches sold.

Harrison, its creator, is a proponent of bombastic flavor profiles, and this sandwich is no exception. Between pepperoncinis, lemon pepper, and cornichon pickles, this sandwich has a lot of flavor going on.

August—The Lake Trout Situation

Jacob accurately assessed our need for a Smoked Lake Trout sandwich, and offered up this NWS spin on a New England Lobster Roll. The hurdle this sandwich had to struggle with was a general shortage of Lake Trout during the month of August. Fortunately, this delicious Lake Trout Salad and Smoked Pancetta sandwich (on our haus-baked Pullman white bread) only sold a modest amount of units—enough that it was worth the effort invested, but was still able to stay within the demand for it.

September—NO SPECIAL

We took a break from Sandwich Lab specials, in hopes of finding the best local apples for the final sandwich.

Read about last year’s permanent menu addition: The Adisalad.

October—The G.O.A.T.

October is a much better time for apples. By waiting until this month, we were able to a.) get amazing Cortland apples from Washburn, WI (the remainder of which Patricia has been using in apple hand pies. So yum!) and b.) run my sandwich during my favorite month. While I consider this sandwich the Greatest of All Time, hence the name, others did not share my fervor. Points against this sandwich: neither Smoked Andouille (toasted, to boot), chèvre, nor apples are a regular part of our sandwich line. Additionally, the construction of this sandwich is rather involved—the andouille required several cycles in the oven to achieve perfect toastiness.

All things considered, I’ll still be bringing in my own apples and making this sandwich all the time.

Monthlong specials are tough.

Between training the workforce, developing marketing ideas, putting marketing ideas into practice, sourcing ingredients not ordinarily found at NWS, perfecting sauce recipes, keeping new ingredients in-stock, cultivating demand among our customers, and Flo creating detailed and accurate individual signs(!), a lot of resources went into these specials, which deserved more time to shine than we could practically allot them.

This is just to say, the upcoming Sandwich Lab probably won’t turn out the same way. We’re leaving our options open, and making no promises.

These are the actual numbers.

Your blogger is neither a statistics- nor a mathematics-oriented individual, but I have access to one particular set of data which offers a small insight into the relative success of each sandwich: percentage of units sold. Basically, during the Special’s time on the menu, how many were sold versus how many sandwiches/salads were sold overall. Since I don’t have access to the whole year’s data at this time, I won’t be “sharing my work.” You’re just going to have to trust me. Early results seem to be skewed to the nearest percent, while later results are slightly more accurate.

The Breakfast Club: 56 sold / 1%

The Wagner: 132 sold / 3%

The Spinderella: 128 sold / 2%

The Bloody Mary: 117 sold / 2%

The Wallaby: 86 sold / 1%

The Sebu-chan: 110 sold / 1.5%

The Fish Schtick: 229 sold / 1.7%

The Lake Trout Situation: 92 sold / 0.96%

The G.O.A.T.: 100 sold / 1.46%

We find this percentage useful in determining the relative success of the sandwich since each one had a slightly different price (making total sales less useful) and we have definite slow and busy seasons, in which our overall sandwich sales drop and increase drastically. A “fun” “game” you can play with the numbers I’ve given you is to calculate how many sandwiches/salads we sold in a given month. I’ll leave that up to you, and move on, because I’m finishing up this blog on my day off and want to wrap things up.

Sandwich Lab is coming soon.

At our November 3rd All-Staff Meeting, we determined that the next Sandwich Lab will take place on Sunday, November 17th at 7pm. Goals for this Lab: get new employees and veterans on the same page for our entire huge sandwich menu, perhaps find a couple new sandwiches for the board, and begin development of the sandwich whose naming rights we put up for auction on behalf of Friends of the Boundary Waters. Yes, an individual has earned the right to name an as-of-yet-undeveloped smoked fish sandwich, which will be available in our deli during Spring 2020.

I don’t always ask for feedback…

…but when I do, I make a big deal out of it.

If you’ve had any/all of our 2019 Sandwich Lab specials, and you have any critiques/complaints/compliments that you’d like to share with us, or if you think that any of the specials deserves a victory lap or a slot on our permanent menu, shoot me an email at ned@nwsmokehaus.com

I can’t make any promises about what we’ll do with the information (though if I want to quote you in any future media, I will 100% ask your permission).

Thanks for reading. See you next week.

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5 Things: November 1st, 2019

Diet season is over. Between the leftover Halloween candy all but the most popular houses are holding onto, and the numerous impending holiday feasts you’ll attend, there’s going to be a lot to eat about these next few months. If you live in the cold North like we do, you can choose to view it as a matter of pragmatism: adding an extra layer of insulation to survive the harsh Winter.

Clearly food is on my mind, so it is convenient that I write for a deli’s blog. Today, I’ll tell you about some new food (and beverage) items at the Smokehaus, and if I run out of new foods to talk about, I’ll just wing it the rest of the way.

One more reminder, before we get into the juicy selection of Things™ that await: We’re in the midst of our MN Early Bird mail order sale:

Order now for the holidays and enjoy 15% off any order heading to Minnesota! Smoked turkey, ham, porketta, salmon, and more.

Enter code earlybird19 at checkout and specify when you would like your order to arrive in the order notes. You can use this code on as many individual transactions as you see fit.

This offer is effective through November 14th, 2019. Some boring restrictions may apply.

Learn more about the MN Early Bird sale.

A new beer joins the roster.

Since we began carrying beer, wine, cider, and hard seltzer earlier this year, Fulton’s Lonely Blonde has been a customer favorite. But seasons change, and beer menus do too, so once we run out o our stock of Lonely Blonde*, we’ll begin serving Fulton’s Standard Lager, a very sessionable all-malt lager that clocks in at a respectable 4.5% abv and is a perfect fit for the colder part of the year.

Smoked Molasses Cookies.

The newest addition to our lineup of baked goods is a hot topic in this increasingly colder season. Patricia has been talking about smoked molasses cookies since she started working at our deli, and the dream has finally come true. Made with a 50/50 blend of haus-smoked and unsmoked butter, and the perfect amount of haus-smoked molasses, these cookies are a great follow-up to any of our sandwiches, but to me they sound (err…taste?) like a great follow-up to a straightforward sandwich, like the Cold Turkey or Gorilla. They will be regularly available for $2 in the deli, on their own or in a Box Lunch.

Thanksgiving Dinner Pasties.

On Wednesday, I caught Patricia in the middle of baking off a huge tray of bread cubes. When I asked why prep had her making croutons, she gave me the best news I’d received all week, which you can likely guess from the preceding emboldened text: these bread cubes will become stuffing. That stuffing will be combined with Smoked Turkey Breast, gravy, craisins, and root vegetables to form ~*THANKSGIVING DINNER PASTIES*~

Be the first* to know when they’re available. Keep your eyes on our social media pages.

Grab Thanksgiving Dinner by the crust and enjoy!

*After Patricia, whomever is working with Patricia, and whomever is available to post the news to our social media feed.

Our All-Staff Meeting is this Sunday at 6pm, and Sandwich Lab is just around the corner.

This seems like it should be two Things™, but it’s happening as one. On Sunday, November 3rd, we’ll be closing our doors at 5 p.m.—just a little bit earlier than usual—for an All-Staff Meeting. Please forgive us in advance if you were planning on stopping into our deli between 5 and 6 p.m. on your way out of town. (Perhaps you could just skip town an hour earlier to beat our closing time. It’s cold and snowing here now—there’s nothing for you anymore.)

And just a few short weeks after, many of us Smokehausers will meet for our annual Sandwich Lab.

Sandwich Lab is an event that emerged a few years back to calibrate our evolving/rotating cast of sandwich makers, to ensure that we’re making sandwiches consistently, and of the utmost quality. The Summer rush is not the ideal scenario in which to learn the subtle art of NWS sandwich-making, and yet that is when so many among us must cut their teeth.

Sandwich Lab also offers us an opportunity to share our favorite personal sandwiches, to have them graded and analyzed (and ideally enjoyed). Last year’s Sandwich Lab featured so many good candidates that we released them as monthly specials, beginning with the Breakfast Club, and ending with the G.O.A.T., which saw its last official day on the menu yesterday.

Who knows what will happen this year(?), but however it goes, it always ends up being fun.

ACTUAL SANDWICH LAB FOOTAGE

ALL-DAY SLIDERS!

In conjunction with our new-and-improved Happy Hour, we’ve added Smokehaus Sliders to the menu. Monday through Friday 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., 16oz cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon and Hamm’s are $2, and all other craft brews are $1-off.

The sliders feature half-portions of your favorite NWS meats, and butter, on a cute little slider bun, and are available for $3 (or two for $5). HOWEVER, if you can’t make it in between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m., you can still get sliders all day at the low, low cost of $3 for one/$6 for two.

They’re the perfect size for kids of all ages, and those who want to try a variety of our products without breaking belt loops or billfolds.


Thanks for stopping by 5 Things™. We at the Smokehaus hope you have a good rest of your day and stay hydrated. We love you forever.