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5 Ways We Save On Waste

Improving sustainability and reducing food waste should be a goal of any restaurant (or deli), and with the proper planning and creative thinking, isn’t terribly difficult to accomplish.

In your home kitchen, you’ve surely found that certain undesirable or inedible parts of food—carcasses, stems, papery vegetable skins, et cetera—make some of the best broths and stocks, and the burnt bits clinging to the pan are the basis of the most flavorful sauces. And of course organic material properly handled eventually yields nutrient-rich soil. One can extrapolate this philosophy to many areas of food production and life in general.

We need to move away from the idea that the unaesthetic, or not immediately necessary, parts of food are bad, or “waste,” or in some capacity destined for the trash. Today, let’s look at the ways we at NWS make the most of our food production. We’re not a perfect example of sustainability and optimization in food production, but we’re always looking for ways to innovate and improve.

Crostini/Croutons.

Bread—it’s gotta be fresh, right? For a sandwich, we wholeheartedly agree with you. That’s why we methodically cycle through frozen loaves of our haus-baked Pullman rye and white bread loaves, and bake off hero rolls and haus-baked ciabattas steadily throughout the day.

But sometimes there’s a slow few days, or too many heroes and ciabattas for a slow evening. Sometimes the closers like to bring a few rolls home, but relying on that just isn’t sufficient.

The solution was simple—throw them into freezer-ready bags, and let them dry out in the deep freeze. The moisture-sapped bread, though somewhat tedious to cut through, is primed for making crostini and croutons. 

Cut them to the appropriate size and shape, spread them out in a single layer on a sheet pan, dress them with olive oil, garlic powder, coarse salt, and dry thyme. Bake at 350°F for 10-15 minutes (know thine oven!) rotating the pan once at the halfway mark. Guess what: You’ve got crostini (or croutons!)

Smoked Salmon Pâté.

We could make our smoked salmon pâté exclusively with whole pieces of smoked salmon. That would be fine—in fact, it would be good. It would also mean we’d need to order and process twice as much fish.

Somewhere along the line we found an elegant solution to this problem. We prep Cajun, Traditional, and Black Pepper & Coriander smoked salmon daily for our sandwich line. Only the finest slices of that smoked salmon end up in sandwich portions.

(An adjacent category is the salmon that, during the kippering process, just becomes overwhelmingly moist and practically falls off the skin. This salmon is great for eating, but doesn’t look as nice as a gift, or on a platter, or as we’re placing it on the scale to weigh it.)

This is more for ease of use on our end of things than it is for the customers receiving the sandwiches. It all tastes roughly the same, and some would even argue that the seasoned belly-fat scraps taste a little bit better. 

That’s why they end up in the pâté. The “scraps” of “waste” from prep are oily and have a steeper ratio of seasoning to meat, and most importantly, they’re not going in the garbage. Additionally, we have the flexibility of making smoked salmon pâté on a daily basis (if need be) without needing to take salmon out of our fish case.

By the way, our debut cookbook, which is currently in development, will feature a recipe for making NWS Smoked Salmon Pâté from a single chunk of Traditional Smoked Atlantic Salmon, so you can take matters into your own hands!

Snack Stick Ends.

The main problem with selling our non-fish snack sticks (Bison Buddies, Big Jims, and Royales With Cheese) by unit price ($3/per, $2/per, and $2/per respectively) is the need to make those units a consistent side. This means we cut about 1/2” off of each stick. These ends get vacuum sealed and tossed in the deep freeze. To combat this mountain of cured meat nubs, we’ve implemented a handful of plans. 

1.) When we have cheese curds, we package cheese curds and meat nubs and sell them out of the Grab & Go case. 

2.) Sometimes we just package meat nubs with each other and sell them out of the Grab & Go case. 

3.) Frequently, Patricia will have an awesome pasty idea that utilizes some of the meat nubs, and I bet you can guess where we sell them.

4.) And, of course, they make great fodder for sample platters in the deli. 

Dip Sauce.

The zesty three-pepper sauce we serve alongside our Big Dipper sandwich is not only delicious—it is also very clever. Preservative liquids may not make the tastiest beverages, but they’re basically water, salt (sometimes sugar), vinegar, and seasonings, so they can easily be repurposed. 

Our Royale With Cheese snack sticks include pickle juice in the recipe to emulate the pickle slices on a bacon-cheeseburger. The dip sauce contains a sacred/secret ratio of the following—liquid from the roasted red pepper can, liquid from the pepperoncini (pickled sweet yellow peppers) tub, and a healthy dose of sriracha.

Sure, it’s easy enough to just dump such things down the drain, but next time you’re thinking about dumping your kimchi juice, or pickle juice, or what have you, down the drain—think again. There’s seasoning potential with which to experiment.

Fish Skin Dog Treats.

The skin of your smoked fish is not garbage. We used to compost them, but recently we’ve had a change of heart. Pets love fish skins—certain mushers in the area have even come to us asking for fish skins to feed their sled dogs.

However, keeping those skins around in our cooler is poor management of space. Again, the solution is simple: Bake them. You can do this quite easily with your own leftover fish skins.

Preheat your oven to 350°F. Scrape the excess fat and meat off of the fish skins and place them on a baking sheet in a single layer, scale side up. Bake them for 10 minutes, rotating the pan at the halfway point.

After they cool, you’ve got some shelf-stable snacks for your pets. They break into smaller, bite-sized pieces easily, and animals love them.

If your animals have plenty of treats, or if you’re living in an animal-free zone and still want to make the most of your fish skins, just salt them (with coarse sea salt) right out of the oven, while they’re still hot. Now, instead of animal treats, you’ve got a nice little salty snack, or salad topping, or whatever you might want to do with a crispy, salty fish skin.


How do you save on waste in your kitchen? We’d love to know. Leave some love in the comments.

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Product Feature: The Cheese Case

Cheese: The adult form of milk. Whether you’re a casual dabbler in cheese consumption or a hardcore tyrosemiophiliac, to many the olfactory thrill of cheese is irresistible. Though the 500-ish varieties recognized by the International Dairy Federation (and as many as 1,000 by other reckonings) share a common identity, the breadth and vastness of different flavors, textures, and uses of cheeses is challenging to conceptualize succinctly, but I’ll give it a shot. Cheese has personality.

We believe in the power of cheese. In earlier days of NWS, what we now call the Grab & Go Case was known as the Cheese Case. As long as we’ve been operating out of the DeWitt-Seitz Marketplace, we’ve been selling cheese alongside our charcuterie. And not just any cheese.

We believe in small farms and small batches—that terroir is as important as the style of cheese you’re purchasing. If we’re going to sell you cheese, it had better be a unique, curated selection of the finest regional cheeses available.

The real story of cheese at the Smokehaus isn’t just the individual varieties we carry—those (with a few exceptions) are always rotating—but the cheesemakers themselves.

Here’s what you can expect while browsing the cheese in our Grab & Go case.

Our favorite cheesemakers

Shepherd’s Way Farms Nerstrand, MN

Shepherd’s Way Farms’ mission statement elegantly expresses why they’re the kind of company we like to keep:

“At Shepherd’s Way Farms, we believe there is a way to live that combines hard work, creativity, respect for the land and animals, and a focus on family and friends. We believe the small family-based farm still has a place in our society. Everything we do, everything we make, is in pursuit of this goal.”

And the flavor of their farmstead sheep cheeses seals the deal.

From Shepherd’s Way, we regularly carry Hidden Falls and the 2017 1st place Farmstead Sheep Milk American Cheese Society winner, Friesago. From time to time, we get shipments of Shepherd’s Hope and Morcella. Learn more about those cheeses here.

Carr Valley Cheese La Valle, WI

Family-owned Carr Valley Cheese Company has been making high-quality Wisconsin cheeses the old fashioned way for over one-hundred years. Their cheeses are flavorful and accessible, and Sid Cook, their head cheesemaker, is one of the most decorated Master Cheesemakers in North America.

From Carr Valley, we regularly carry the mixed sheep & goat cheese Mobay, and their popular Apple Smoked Cheddar. Learn more about their cheese here.

Redhead CreameryBrooten, MN

Alise Sjostrom (the nominal redhead of the creamery) details the saga of her journey to exquisite cheesemaking in the About Us section of the company’s website (seriously, go read it), but the SparkNotes are as follows:

Making delicious, distinctive, small-batch handmade cheeses was Alise’s destiny.

Our typical Redhead Creamery array includes Lucky Linda Clothbound Cheddar, Little Lucy Brie, and North Fork Whiskey Washed Munster. Learn more about Redhead’s cheeses here.

Jasper Hill FarmGreensboro, VT

Okay, so Jasper Hill Farm doesn’t quite fit the bill of regionally-located cheesemakers, since Vermont is half a country away from us, but sometimes the exception proves the rule, and furthermore, to the New England region, they are a regional cheesemaker.

We’re losing focus of the task at hand.

Here’s a little blurb from their website that breaks down what they’re all about.

Jasper Hill is a working dairy farm with an on-site creamery in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont. An underground aging facility maximizes the potential of cheeses made by the creamery, as well as those made by other local producers. Leftover whey from the cheesemaking process is fed to heritage breed pigs, roaming the woodlands beyond the cows’ pasture.

Jasper Hill cheeses are a recent addition to our deli offerings. While our Jasper Hill selections may vary, we’re especially fond of their Alpha Tolman and Willoughby washed-rind cheese. Learn more about Jasper Hill’s cheese here.

Alemar Cheese CompanyMankato, MN

Alemar Cheese Company are small batch makers of French-inspired soft-ripened and fresh cheeses.

Of Minnesotan-by-way-of-California cheesemaker Keith Adams’s meteoric rise to success, their website has to offer this anecdote:

Two years into production, he entered Bent River in the nation’s largest cheese competition, the American Cheese Society competition, and came in third place for cow’s milk Camembert-style cheese, prompting food critic Dara Moskowitz-Grumdahl to write: “It’s like starting to throw javelins one day, and coming home with an Olympic bronze two years later; it’s unheard of.”

Alemar easily occupies the largest piece of real estate in our Grab & Go case. Staples include their Bent River Camembert and Blue Earth Brie. Regular visitors to the case include the Surly Bender-washed rind Good Thunder, and grape leave-wrapped Sakatah. Alemar’s newcomer St. james Tomme is also looking to be a regular fixture in our deli. Learn more about Alemar’s cheese here.

Caves of FaribaultFaribault, MN

Cave-aged cheese! There’s something a little spooky, a little mysterious, and pretty awesome about the thought. Making use of the MN corn belt region’s natural sandstone gives this cheese a distinctive character.

Our standard CoF offerings are St. Pete’s Select bleu cheese and Fini sharp cheddar. Learn more about Caves of Faribault’s cheese offerings here.

A few others you can always expect

White cheddar

Whether it’s Milton Creamery’s Prairie Breeze or Sartori Montamoré, we love a good sharp white cheddar, especially those with nice citrusy undertones.

Goat cheese

Montechevre Goat Cheese Medallions, or as we like to call them, Goat2Go are a quick, cheap and easy dose of goat cheese goodness, which is why we always keep a few boxes on-hand. Various other goat cheese offerings come and go with the seasons, and half of the aforementioned Mobay (a customer favorite) is goat cheese.

Aged (yellow) cheddar

In addition to Caves of Faribault’s Fini, we really like Widmer’s 2-Year Cheddar. If we’re not carrying some variety of aged yellow cheddar, something has gone wrong. Ensue panicking.

Widmer’s Brick cheddar spread

Spreadable cheddar cheese—sounds way less classy than the experience entails. This sharp and smoky blend of Brick cheese and white cheddar will please refined palates, but is accessible enough to make everyone in the family happy. The best way to eat it is on a nice buttery cracker, but don’t limit yourself. This stuff is versatile.

Hausmade cheese

More accurately hausmade cheese spreads, but it’s too late for splitting hairs. We’re already here.

NWS Boursin

Cream cheese, butter, lemon zest, and fresh handpicked herbs. This smooth and creamy cheese spread might be tempting to eat by the spoonful, though we recommend it alongside crackers and salmon (or juicy, medium-rare steak medallions). This hausmade cheese is a staple of our catering offerings and the sample platters we put out during business hours.

NWS Pimento

This rich and mildly-spicy cheddar cheese, peppers, and mayonnaise spread makes a mean ham & cheese sandwich, or an excellent dip. Set this out at your family gathering or game day celebration and watch it quickly disappear.

Scallion Cream Cheese

We don’t keep this one in the Grab & Go case, but we can whip up a 4 oz, 8 oz, or 16 oz container of it for you in a jiffy! This cream cheese is the foundation of many of our most popular sandwiches, including the Cajun Finn, Northern Bagel, Great Summer Caper, and the vegetarian Fuzzy Bunny. Smooth and mouthwateringly savory.


Are you still with us? This has been merely a cursory look at our cheese options, with just a little bit of our cheese-buying philosophy, but we hope it has piqued your interest.

Where you get your cheese is important. Happy, well-treated animals yield better milk, and thoughtful, passionately-made cheeses beat out mass-produced cheese product any day.

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5 Things: February 14th, 2020

Welcome back to 5 Things™! We have so much to tell you about.

Everyone is sick, injured, or on vacation.

Business slows down in the post-holiday winter season. This makes it an excellent time for our staff to plan vacations, and most who do have no trouble getting that time-off approved.

But what happens during all those overlapping vacations when the remaining folks start dropping due to midwinter illness and injuries?

This is the photo I use when I’m not sure what kind of photo I should use.

Apparently, we handle it just fine. The 3rd-floor office-dwellers swoop in to run deliveries. The delivery and deli staff chip in to make sure prep is complete on time. The sandwich makers flip that switch that turns them from sandwich-making humans into sandwich-making machines.

This is a public shoutout to our staff, who rock even in the most barebones arrangements!

Turkey jerky is now available.

We’re at the height of our experimentation phase, and I’m loving it. The latest in our line of jerky is made with Ferndale Farms turkey, seasoned with Tamari soy sauce, maple syrup, and Sambal Oelek. It’s simple in execution, but has great complexity in its flavor.

It’s just a little bit sweet at first, with a growing heat that gently lights up your whole mouth, and while that is setting, the smoky flavor and the inimitable taste of turkey set in—it’s a comparable experience to the pleasure of eating the Cedar’s Secret sandwich. It’s just tough enough to trigger your carnivorous tearing and gnawing instincts, but easily chewed.

But as much as I have to say about it, you’re just going to have to find out for yourself.

The smoked Ferndale Farms turkey jerky is available for $16/half-pound in our deli. Why price it by the half-pound? Because a half-pound goes a long way!

Smoked salmon jerky is a success!

People are loving our sockeye jerky. Even during this slower time of the year, the batches we make are selling out at a steady pace, and we’ve received glowing reviews from the folks who have sampled and/or purchased it. Do yourself a favor and—at the very least—ask us for a sample next time you’re in. We’re steadily upgrading our jerky production equipment as we go, so it now comes in larger, more even strips, but here’s some eye candy of the early sockeye jerky.

Our sockeye jerky is seasoned with fresh ginger, fresh garlic, lemon juice, Tamari soy sauce, Sambal Oelek chili paste and Shio Koji. Yum.

Smoked sockeye jerky is available in our deli for $20/half pound.

NWS smoked fish coming to Coastal Seafoods!

Twin Cities and Metro Area folks, this news is directed right at you: Coastal Seafoods, in Minneapolis and St. Paul, will be carrying a selection of our Smoked Atlantic Salmon—Traditional, Dill, Black Pepper & Coriander, and All-Season Fillets!

Our excitement over this is two-fold: First, we’re happy to extend our influence to the Twin Cities, and second, we’re really into what Coastal Seafoods is doing.

There’s probably a few more folds and facets to our excitement—including the Minneapolis location’s proximity to United Noodles, another of our favorite food markets—but let’s not go overboard.

If you’re reading this blog on the day it was published, definitely call either location to check on availability, but it should be in stock as of this weekend.

Lola, the hibiscus, is thriving!

Lola—who was only recently named—joined the cast of DeWitt-Seitz marketplace characters in Summer 2018, flowering beautifully on our patio seating area. After that, however, all bets were off: Duluth’s climate is not ideal for hibiscus, hardy as they are.

We all rooted for Lola as she continued to struggle through the following year-and-some-change, but it wasn’t until Flo began rigorous, regimented care of our dear hibiscus—naming her in the process—that she truly began to thrive.

Now Lola is spritzed with water three times a week, and has a prime sunlight location in our office, which will only improve in our new office.


Happy Valentine’s Day! We love you forever!

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5 Things: All Things Traditional

All of February, we’re running a 10%-off mail order sale on all Smoked Traditional Atlantic Salmon products, including A Hygge Box.

Instead of regaling the release of four new sandwiches, and the return of two sandwiches, or blathering about the ongoing emptying of our office, we’ll let this week be a self-guided tour. Follow the links to explore the world of Smoked Traditional Atlantic Salmon—an item that consistently hangs at the top of our bestsellers list.


In other news: Yesterday, your friendly neighborhood blogger had his first bite of The Pack Lunch—the premier sandwich of our upcoming collaborative relationship with our own friendly neighbors at Duluth Pack—and it is really good! Haus rye, with horseradish mayo, a quarter-pound of Corned Bison, cornichon pickles, red onion, maple syrup, and lettuce comprise this perfect trailside sandwich, which will be launched alongside an awesome new Duluth Pack-designed Smokehaus tote bag. Expect a launch date sometime shortly after the ides of March.

In similar fashion, an as-of-yet unnamed smoked fish sandwich will be arriving around the same time. A lovely supporter of the Boundary Waters won the naming rights in the Friends of the Boundary Waters auction last year. We can’t wait to see what sort of name they come up with!