This week has been one of triumph, of heartbreak, of new beginnings.
To get the heartbreak out of the way, I misinformed our readers last week, this Monday was not the return of D&D to the Smokehaus. I know you are all super invested in this, so I’m sorry for playing with your emotions like that.
Please accept this photo of assorted battle miniatures as an apology—
And some ketchup exploded in our dry storage. It fell, for unknown reasons, although there is some speculation that our former General Manager Mary’s visit—which eerily coincided with the fall and resulting explosion of the ketchup—dredged up feelings of abandonment from the DeWitt-Seitz ghost.
Messy as it was, it wasn’t an entirely bad occurrence—it inspired a deep clean of the affected area, which was probably due. A good deep-clean is rarely a bad idea.
Now on to the triumph and new beginnings!
We’ve come to the last leg of our 2019 Sandwich Lab Journey! The G.O.A.T. debuted on Wednesday, October 2nd. We’ve sold a grip of them already. For more words on this, check out the announcement post.
We also launched our Fall Wine List. Read more about our new wine offerings here. As someone who most often buys bottles of wine based on the aesthetic value of their labels, I would probably buy at least three of these. In the flavor category, however, these are all winners. TK is dedicated to bringing a unique selection of fine natural wines to the Smokehaus each season, so dedicated grapeheads (that’s what they’re called, right?) should take note.
Next Monday (10/7), we officially launch our New & Improved Happy Hour. Monday through Friday, from 4-7pm, we’re offering $2 Pabst Blue Ribbons and $1-off any craft brews, ciders, and adult-seltzers. Technically, you can grab a happy hour drink at those prices today, we’re just waiting until Monday, October 7th to go crazy on the cross-platform promotion.
Patricia made spicy cheddar crackers using Gochugaru chile flakes, a component of our kimchi recipe that offers a warm spice with fruity and smoky tones—The Smoky Tones is also the name of our in-Haus vocal jazz group, coming eventually to an orchestra hall near you. The heat of these crackers has a slow onset, with a lingering mild burn on the back of the tongue. Patricia is still cranking out plain cheddar crackers for our Study Buddy gift box, but has also been experimenting with bacon cheddar crackers, and now these. If you haven’t yet, give our haus-baked crackers a taste. As long as they keep flying off the shelves, we’ll presumably get more variations on the classic recipe.
This may be an unpopular opinion, but I’m ready for September to step aside and make way for October: the best time of the year. There’s a whole lot of good things coming to Northern Waters Smokehaus in October. Let’s take a look, shall we?
The G.O.A.T. arrives on October 2nd. Yes, next Wednesday you’ll be able to feast upon this toasted bagel, dressed in creamy chèvre, toasted Smoked Andouille Sausage slices, local apple slices, and crispy lettuce for $9.50+tax. Catch me eating The G.O.A.T. during every one of my lunch breaks.
Enjoy these photographs of The G.O.A.T.
Next week, our new wine list hits the deli. Keep your eyes on our social media platforms for updates and product profiles.
Are you a creative, yet unpretentious eater? Or a college student on a budget with a knack for maximizing flavor? Do you enjoy zhuzhing-up a grocery store frozen pizza with special ingredients; instant ramen, with a little bit of extra love from the produce section? So do we. And we’re glad to work at a place like Northern Waters Smokehaus, where there’s plenty of potently flavorful ingredients to bring to our home kitchens.
That’s why we’re launching #NWSMadeItFancy — the hashtag dedicated to documenting your culinary ingenuity under the influence of Northern Waters Smokehaus. Playing the game is simple: grab some NWS ingredients, find creative uses for them in your favorite “un-fancy” foods—frozen pizza, instant ramen, macaroni and cheese, instant stuffing, cornbread mix, you name it—document it, and share it with the aforementioned hashtag, and…profit?
We’ll be keeping an eye on the hashtag and sharing our favorites. Join in with our staff and followers to create a whole lot of fun community content, featuring your favorite items from our deli. Will you be famous? No promises. Will you make our followers feel happy and inspired? It’s probable!
Glensheen gave us a ton of basil! Imagine a literal ton of basil. That would be a very large pile of basil. Back to business: At the end of the season, the folks at Glensheen have a ton of produce and not much to do with it, so they donate it to the community. Basil tastes great, but it doesn’t exactly feed people, so it isn’t high on the priority list for the handful of local organizations feeding the marginalized populations of our community. We’re grateful to make use of this windfall, and look forward to providing you with the finest Glensheen-tinged Italiensks, Silence of the Lambwiches—that’s how you pluralize it: you’re welcome—and Spring Rolls.
There’s a ton of otherexciting Things™ coming up this Autumn at NWS, but I need to hold onto some content for future 5 Thingses—there’s another useful pluralization for you. So I’ll leave you with the best news I’ve heard all week—Our DM is returning from vacation, and D&D starts again this Monday! Back to Waterdeep, and into the Undermountain—home of the Mad Mage—we go. Will we return? Who could know? Prepare yourselves for session-recaps for which you never asked, and tidbits of the hijinks of the Midnight Axe, which will have doubled its ranks. That sounds like easily double the hijinks.
Before my words become quiet and meaningless As wind in dry grass
This is the way the blog ends Not with a bang but a whimper
This week has been quite a ride, with Eric and a handful of others attending the Fortune Fish and Gourmet Expo on Monday, bringing back a whole heck of a lot of chocolate “samples,” which made a great Tuesday morning “breakfast”; a ton of huge delivery and pickup orders throughout the week (on Thursday, they made 130 box lunches by 11am in the basement); and a number of us took sick days this week—hopefully the days off do the trick and the illness ends there—so we were playing with a smaller team this week. And the ride isn’t over. This weekend, we’ll be catering the wedding of a beloved former coworker. Who says all the fun has to stay in Summer?
Last week, I mentioned that five of the top seven bestselling sandwiches at our deli are fish sandwiches, and since I’m approaching this week’s blog somewhat fatigued from making dozens of each of those fish sandwiches respectively this workweek, I have opted to tell you a little bit about each of them, in no particular order.
The Cajun Finn
The sandwich: Haus-baked ciabatta roll, scallion cream cheese, Cajun Smoked Atlantic Salmon, pepperoncini, roasted red pepper, lettuce.
There is not much to say about the Cajun Finn that hasn’t already been said. As a sandwich that easily outpaces the combined sales of half of the other sandwiches on our menu, it doesn’t really need any further advertising. I mean, our marketing department still occasionally invests some time into telling you about it—heck, I’m doing it right now—but the rolling snowball that became an avalanche that is this sandwich became that way primarily through word-of-mouth, both literally, and via its generous inclusion in peoples’ blog posts and social media chatter. A large percentage of our online reviews contain its name, sometimes even the negative reviews leave space for a caveat about the Cajun Finn being our saving grace (apologies to those reviewers for whatever happened to go wrong—likely our wait time on a busy day—but we’re glad you enjoyed the sandwich nonetheless).
The Sitka Sushi: my first favorite Smokehaus sandwich and number-one recommendation. The name and contents are a nod to Eric’s time in Sitka, Alaska. Formerly, we made it with ginger- and lemon-cured Alaskan Sockeye gravlax, which was deeply flavorful, but a little tough and unwieldy. Recently we have switched over to a softer, more buttery, traditional Scandinavian style of gravlax, made with Atlantic salmon, but the sandwich still packs a punch.
Imagine a rich musical chord, composed of interwoven consonances (cabbage and gravlax, bread and oil, cucumber) and dissonances (wasabi mayo and sriracha, cilantro and pickled ginger), rolled from the bass up the highest note, then sustained, with hidden, aleatoric melodies discovering themselves and chiming out all the while. Then, transpose that chord into a flavor pallet, and imagine every bite—thoroughly savored—as a new re-rolling of that chord.
When I began working at Northern Waters Smokehaus, there was a sandwich called the Salmon Garden. Within days (it seemed), the sign for that sandwich had two vowels scribbled over, and became the Salmon Gordon. A few months passed, and then we had the Slammin’ Gordon on our hands, and everyone just pretended like nothing happened. Here ends the very incomplete, abridged history of the sandwich formerly known as the Salmon Garden.
Smoked Salmon Pâté is delightful, due in part to the blend of our haus Salmon seasonings—dill, cajun, black pepper & coriander—working as a team to bring you this flavor, which is rounded out with garlic, lemon juice and horseradish. So if you spread it on our most decadent bread option—not only is the naan incredibly soft and pillowy, but also quite buttery—something good is bound to happen. The veggies and greens give enough of a nod to health-consciousness that it doesn’t just feel like dessert.
The Northern Bagel
The sandwich: Lake Superior Bakehouse bagel, scallion cream cheese, Traditional Smoked Atlantic Salmon or gravlax.
This sandwich is great because it its simplicity of form belies its complexity of flavor. Lake Superior Bakehouse Bagels are so good you could probably just take a bite out of an uncut, un-toasted one and have a decent time. Add to that the sweetness and pungency of Traditional Smoked Atlantic Salmon, or buttery, spice-infused gravlax, and round it off with the earthy umami of scallion cream cheese, and your mouth and olfactory system have some serious flavors to sort out. Furthermore, it reads as a breakfast sandwich, eats like lunch, and isn’t half bad at the end of the day either.
The sandwich: Lake Superior Bakehouse bagel, scallion cream cheese, capers, Black Pepper & Coriander Smoked Atlantic Salmon, red onion, tomato, lettuce.
I have to say—delicious as this sandwich is, I still remain skeptical of it. For starters, it’s a very seasonal name, and yet—it persists on our board, due to sales. Secondly, it is a very tall stack of ingredients, which are very delicious together, but once stacked and cut in half, like to fall over—which is fine if presentation is unimportant, but ultimately a challenge in the middle of a rush. Still, this is a fantastic stack of ingredients. It’s the mature version of the Northern Bagel.
Happy Friday the 13th, everyone. Duluth has been either raining or cold and dreary all week, and it shows no signs of letting up. EatingWell magazine dropped by for a follow-up photo shoot for an interview with Eric, and caught some iconic Duluth weather—a little bit of Mother Nature’s drama to frame our products. And this weekend we’re heading down to the Metro area to showcase our wares for Classic Provisions.
School is back in session! Duluth’s semi-permanent student population has entrenched itself, just as the final pushes of midweek tourism have come to a close. In honor of the students, and as an easy solution for the parents and guardians still hoping to send love and support, we’ve come up with the Study Buddy gift box. Fuel those late night night study sessions with a six-pack of select snack sticks, hausmade cheddar crackers, and haus-seasoned cheese curds.
The first week of September was supposed to see the launch of our final Sandwich Lab 2019 special, the G.O.A.T., but we’ve decided to push it back until the end of September to improve our options for locally-sourced apples. The G.O.A.T. is toasted strips of Smoked Andouille Sausage, creamy chèvre, apple slices, and lettuce, on a toasted Lake Superior Bakehouse bagel.
We have a cute merchandise area in our deli. This isn’t necessarily new, but it just might be newsworthy. Our storefront changes all the time, and our inedible swag often goes unnoticed. For those without the luxury of seeing the merch stand in-person, here’s our growing merch page on our website.
5 of our top 7 best-selling sandwiches are fish sandwiches. The official ranking, at the time of writing is:
#1 Cajun Finn #2 Cold Turkey #3 Northern Bagel #4 Sitka Sushi #5 Great Summer Caper #6 Pastrami Mommy #7 Slammin’ Gordon
This probably merits a closer look, for an in-depth analysis of our fish sandwiches next week.
Summer isn’t over yet, but the morning air is crisper, and the pace of life is slowing down. The tall ships have come and gone, the flood of students is just beginning to trickle into town. Walking past our deli, it may not always appear this way, but life is on the calmer side, at least for a few weeks.
But that doesn’t mean life at the Smokehaus is any less interesting.
We have new faces in the deli.
For those keeping score, over the past few weeks we’ve steadily mentioned that we’re hiring, and as a result, we already have a handful of new staff training in. I’d caution the world to be patient with and/or kind to them, since they are new and the pace of our little deli can be overwhelming, but they’re already performing like seasoned veterans.
Labor Day Mail Order Sale.
Beginning August 26th, we’re running a mail order special: 20% off your cart (online only) when you enter the discount code bluecollar. The sale runs through Labor Day (9/2). However, if you want your food to arrive in time for Labor Day weekend celebrations, place your order by Tuesday, August 27th—those orders will be shipped on Wednesday (8/28) and arrive by Friday (8/30). Otherwise, you can schedule your shipping date for whenever you’d like. Pro-tip: this is the best mail order sale of the year, so if you know exactly what you want to order for Fall and Winter holidays, this is a good time to do it.
Bookmark this page as an easy reference when ordering for holidays, and you’ll be guaranteed to get your orders at the perfect interval for gifting or entertaining. Become the master of your own destiny; know for yourself exactly when to place orders, and when to have them shipped for best results.
Monday night D&D returns to The Midnight Axe.
The Summer season of our unofficial office Dungeons and Dragons crew is coming to a close with a short adventure tying us back into our ongoing campaign, right before our DM heads on an extended vacation, leaving us to fend for ourselves.
This Summer, we set our main campaign to the side, in order to focus on a handful of smaller, unconnected adventures. Not only did this allow each of us to test out a number of character ideas, and novel settings, but it also gave us time to miss our main characters, as distance does indeed make the heart grow fonder.
“The Midnight Axe” is the name—generated by rolling percentile dice against a chart of fantasy party names—of our primary party. When we’re not embroiled in a scavenger hunt for a cache of money embezzled long ago from the treasury of the Manhattan-esque city of Waterdeep, and avoiding/averting the frequent pitfalls of gangs whose rivalry we earned incidentally, we’re just trying to earn a mostly-honest living running a tavern called The Malt Solstice. However, some way or another, we’ve gained some notoriety as adventurers—and it’s drawn some public interest.
In our session on Monday, Harrison (our Dungeon Master) presented each of us with three characters (shout out to Harrison for developing fifteen character concepts in a single weekend) who are looking, for one reason or another, to join our ranks. This coming session, we’ll be embarking on a mission with our chosen secondary characters to discover their strengths, and how they’ll fit into our adventuring party. Perhaps they’ll join us on the front lines, perhaps they’ll stick around headquarters and craft potions nonstop, perhaps they’ll alternate between venturing into the Undermountain (where our campaign has us heading) and providing security at the Malt Solstice. Only time will tell.
Character biographies forthcoming.
Let’s get one thing straight: Any week that there are not five immediately obvious other Things™ to talk about, Patricia is going to get a nod. Ever since she moved to full-time baking, we’ve become accustomed to carrying an assortment of cookies—chocolate chip, ginger, peanut butter curry, carrot cake cookie sandwiches with honey cream cheese, coconut macaroons (which are gluten-free*), and most recently chocolate walnut flourless cookies (also gluten-free**)—pasties, cheddar crackers, savory scones, and even personal pizzas. This week’s pizza featured smoked bacon, blackberries, and chèvre, and her pizza sauce, in general, is composed of the odds-and-ends bits of tomato from the morning’s prep.
That’s honestly one of the best things about Patricia’s approach to baking for NWS—by utilizing more parts of the foods we use, we generate substantially less waste as a business, which improves our model of sustainability (not to mention profitability) overall, and in the process, we end up with these delicious, fan-favorite items in our deli
*/**: It’s worth noting that these are not baked in a completely gluten-free environment. In terms of ingredients, they are entirely gluten-free, but those at serious risk should be aware of the chance of cross-contamination.
I got to observe production of Country Pâté.
Compiling recipes for the cookbook is great fun, but not without its challenges. In addition to needing to massively scale down some recipes—we’re operating under the assumption you’ll never need to make one-hundred pounds of Smoked Whitefish at home—other recipes in our own workbooks lack, well, instruction.
Country pâté, for example, is just a list of ingredients, which our skilled production crew understands how to massage—eh, grind—into the savory loaves we all love. Brandt happened to catch me during a fresh air break yesterday to let me know he was making it.
Seeing that static list of ingredients—browned bacon and onion; Berkshire liver, pork and back fat; brandy; cure; rosemary and thyme; etc.—ground once and then half again (to achieve the preferred inconsistent consistency), mixed with what could reasonably pass as TLC, and packaged to chill overnight before being packed into loaf pans and slow-cooked, was enlightening, and proof that someone needs to write down those steps, because there’s a lot of them. If not for our own benefit, certainly for the book.
Once again, I’d like to give a public shout-out to the smokers for the sheer volume of high-quality product they consistently churn out.
I’ve done it again. Yesterday, I stared at my week’s notes and wondered, “which five Things™ am I going to write about? Are there five Things™ that may intrigue or inspire our readership(?),” and here I am, writing Thing™ six-and-a-half. I hope you’re happy.
We hope to see you in our deli this weekend—whether you wait in line, or skip the line via pickup —or your name and address in our delivery system. If you’re going to be near Canal Park/Downtown, make sure you bring ear protection, because the Tribute Fest will be rocking hard.
Stay tuned in the next handful of weeks for some new sandwich options—including your blogger’s own contribution to the Sandwich Lab specials—and exciting collaborations.
There’s a whole bunch of things going on at the tip of Lake Superior this weekend. Before I get into discussing the week and weekend to come, I’d like to remind you that our pickup and delivery services are a great way to skip the line (except August 11th through 13th), and that Cajun-seasoned cheese curds are back in-stock in our grab & go case.
The Festival of Sail arrives this weekend. The tall ships and an enormous rubber duck will begin showing up today, and will remain in our harbor through Tuesday, August 13th. The Festival officially kicks off on Sunday morning, with a grand parade from 9-11 a.m. In previous years, the draw of this event has effectively doubled the population of our city. And that’s not the only festival taking place this weekend. Friday and Saturday, the 31st annual Bayfront Blues Festival will take up residence in—you guessed it—Bayfront Festival Park. The Blues Fest draws around twenty thousand attendees each year, and consistently features high-caliber blues artists from around the world.
Another Sandwich Lab creation debuted in our deli. The Lake Trout Situation is Jacob’s homage to the classic New England lobster roll and the Jersey Shore. Featuring a smoky, sweet lake trout salad, sliced red cabbage, and wasabi mayo atop a slice of buttery, toasted white bread, this sandwich is served open-faced (for hotdog-style consumption) and garnished with cilantro and crispy smoked pancetta crumbles. It’s available for $10+tax in our deli & via delivery.
The Scavenger Hunt continues. The first week, a participant found the magnet within hours—next to the Observation Park dog park. This week, it was found on the second day—on the back of a sign at the Duluth Farmer’s Market. With three weeks to go, and 7 superfluous clues written so far, I have something special planned for next week, so stay on your toes. The next clue comes out on Monday, August 12th. Follow us on our socialmediapages and check out the rules here to participate.
Patricia is at it again! This time with vegetarian tofu pasties, in addition to her standard array of cookies, crackers, and pasties. Our baking department, which also boasts two skilled breadmakers in Jerry and Adison (whom I don’t praise enough on this blog, as they have supplied all of our rye, white bread, and ciabatta needs through the Summer), have developed a brilliant selection of high-quality hausmade breads and sweets. I don’t ever want to go back to a world before the Smokehaus had dedicated bakers on-staff.
We’re having a fish fry! The summer season is hardly coming to a close, but we’re already starting to say goodbye to the seasonal hands on deck, and a handful of other coworkers/friends leaving for school, adventures in new cities, and at least one dream job opportunity. So we’re taking an evening to celebrate, this Sunday, with a small gathering for our staff. Fried whitefish, smoked chicken wings, coleslaw, and crinkle-cut fries are on the menu, and my mouth is already watering two days in advance. Hopefully, the Sunday closing staff will be able to make it out of Canal Park! The deli will be open normal hours—10 a.m. to 6 p.m.—on Sunday.
Now that you’ve read this week’s 5 Things™, go out and have a good rest of your day.
We had a big weekend (7/19-7/21), and we didn’t run out of anything we planned on having in-stock.
That’s all. We have evidently found our stride. As always, if you’d like to ensure we have what you’re looking for, give us a call before you stop in @ (218)724-7307. You can even place a pick-up order, then skip the line when you arrive.
The D&D Summer Season.
While our epic, levels one-through-twenty—for the uninitiated, that is all the levels—campaign is on hold through the summer, it doesn’t mean we haven’t been rolling dice and speaking in funny voices. With new characters and varying levels of seriousness, we have taken to a ghostly sea as a cohort of debt collectors-become-zombie-hunters, taken up arms as an elite unit of kobolds to punish another group of kobolds for their crimes against the Dragon Queen, Tiamat—namely stealing magical artifacts from the Queen’s hoard—by stealing powerful magical artifacts from the Queen’s hoard, and a handful of other brief adventures to come, before we return to our dubious heroes’ adventures in Waterdeep.
Good cheese weekend.
Taylor, our resident cheese connoisseur, announced at our morning meeting that this is a great weekend for cheese lovers at the Smokehaus. Primarily, it’s the Comté (or Gruyère de Comté) that just arrived at our deli. The flavor of this semi-soft, unpasteurized cow’s milk cheese from the Franche-Comté region of France is heavily influenced by the natural pastures and strenuous guidelines for a cheese to carry the name.
My personal favorite cheese that we’ve ever carried, Shepherd’s Way’s Sogn Tomme, will also be a regular fixture in our grab and go case until at least the end of summer. It’s a buttery and crumbly sheep’s milk cheese, with a slightly higher fat content, and it is too good for mere words when drizzled with local honey and decorated with a blueberry, if that sounds good, but slightly lacking, put that combo on top of a cracker and add a bite of smoked salmon to the mix.
A number of other great cheeses are in-stock as well, including Marieke Young Gouda and Carr Valley Apple Smoked Cheddar.
Our current cheese selection has even me, a lactose intolerant individual, drooling.
All Pints North this weekend.
More than 120 MN breweries gather at this enormous Bayfront Festival Park gathering each year, and attendees make their way through the offerings two ounces at a time. Lovers of beer travel hundreds of miles to attend this event (which is listed on the website as “Sold Out”), so expect a busy weekend in Canal Park and downtown, with ancillary events at local breweries and restaurants all weekend.
In honor of All Pints North, and our newly minted selection of adult beverages, Eric Goerdt himself will be slinging beers on our patio today (Friday) from noon until sometime after noon—weather permitting—to try to cater to the influx of beer enthusiasts and test out the viability of “refilling” beverages on the deck. Hopefully no one has to wait in a summer Smokehaus line just to grab another beer.
Next week on 5 Things™: It’s August! Whoa! Where did the summer go?
We’re in the dog days of summer—or we might not be—and life at NWS is heating up. Our first Thing™ offers an option for cooling down:
We’ve got White Claw!
I still haven’t tried it*, but this low-calorie, gluten-free, slightly boozy seltzer water has become iconic of Summer 2019. One-hundred percent of planned beach expeditions I have attended this year have featured a cooler half full of White Claw cans. It’s reported to be refreshing and taste quite good. I may or may not have “liked” a meme featuring a can of Hidden Valley Ranch White Claw this morning on the ‘Gram.
We received our first shipment of Grapefruit White Claw this week. Lightly-flavored effervescent beverages (affectionately known as “day beers”) are a longtime staple of life at NWS—a former deli manager once challenged herself to drink twelve cans of LaCroix in a shift, and the grapefruit and lime varieties of Topo Chico sparkling water have become a fast favorite for staff and patrons alike—so it follows quite naturally that our early forays into hard beverages would include what I am now exclusively calling “nighttime day beers” in my head.
*By the time this blog is posted, I may have consumed at least one can of White Claw.**
**Leif and I drank our first nighttime day beers together on the patio after work.
Heirloom tomato season is in full effect!
Every July, we purchase a beautiful bounty of locally-grown heirloom tomatoes from Hammarlund Nursery in Esko, MN. Ken Hammarlund himself brings us dozens of pounds of these delectable tomatoes in weekly increments when the season is in full-swing.
These ‘matos are not only exceptional on the palate, but also come in beautiful colors—bright greens, yellows, and purples, and swirls of all three—so they are remarkably pleasant to prep for the day.
If you’ve ever been on-the-fence about sandwiches with tomatoes, July into the first few weeks of August is a great time to try them.
Waiting for your order on the patio is easier than ever!
We love our small storefront and our home in DeWitt-Seitz Marketplace, but it’s not without its shortcomings. The hallway we share with Lake Avenue Café can become crowded whenever the sandwich queue is even a little backed up.
“Stick around. We’ll call your name when your food is ready,” was essentially the script. Those who wanted to establish themselves at a table on the patio were also given the annoying task of periodically sending an emissary inside to check on the status of their food.
But this has all changed now that we have added a public address system to our patio. We’ll default to calling out names un-amplified in the deli, but if no one comes running, we’ll double-down on the PA.
Grab that spot outside, catch some extra rays of sunshine, experience a bit of leisure while we make your order.
A little bit of Smokehaus lore.
Research and development for our first cookbook has provided a wellspring of insights into the growth of the Smokehaus. A bunch of these tidbits will make their way into the pages of the book, and some of them are going to pop into the 5 Things™ blog now and again.
During a rapid-fire meeting Tuesday morning on our patio, the topic of our salmon seasonings came up. Dill is a no-brainer when it comes to salmon, and a blend of black pepper and coriander bears a strong resemblance to another popular preparation of meat, but what of cajun seasoning?
Our cajun-seasoned smoked Atlantic salmon is a fairly popular item of its own, but unless you arrived at this web address accidentally and have no idea how you got here or how to navigate away from this page, you have probably heard of the Cajun Finn. The sandwich that outsells half of the rest of our menu. 40% of the sentence “I’ll have a Cajun Finn,” which is sometimes 40% of all words said by an individual ordering as part of a group.
Cajun-seasoned smoked salmon, it turns out, was an experiment with a current trend that ended up wildly successful.
Paraphrasing Eric: “People were putting cajun seasoning on everything, so we tried the same thing with smoked salmon, and people loved it.”
That’s a pretty wild innovation to just stumble into, and serendipitous. Who knows where the Smokehaus would be without the cult success of the Cajun Finn? I like to imagine the excellent quality of our food would have carried us to similar heights, but it’s impossible to say.
Two new product features on our blog!
They put me to work this week—alongside work on the cookbook, a handful of press releases, and some updates of our online swag descriptions, I also whipped up a couple of posts about our selection of natural wines with suggested food pairings, and an often overlooked menu item, the fish basket. Since you’re already here, think about checking them out.
5 Things™ is back from vacation. I had the best steak of my life (please pound your steaks thin and marinate them overnight before you ever consider cooking them), my very first experience with escargot, watched a Chicago-sized storm cloud travel over Chicago from a balcony at the epicenter of the cloudburst, and even got a wicked sunburn at a crowded beach, but didn’t manage to churn out a blog. Hopefully you just went about your lives and didn’t miss it too much.
Here’s a handful of things that I’ve learned about life at NWS since I’ve returned.
Andy has stepped into his role as Mail Order director.
I already knew about this one, but you may not have. Shipping our hand-crafted products around the nation is part of the foundation of our business, but the department has been without a leader for a couple months. In practice, perhaps you didn’t even notice, due to our staff’s ability to fill in the gaps.
We interviewed several candidates within our existing staff, and selected Andy to guide the future of this department. Training in as the director of this massive endeavor—December is one of our most profitable months, and that is in large part due to mail order—is no small, short, or easy task, so we wish Andy the best.
Tyler has evolved into his delivery/pickup assistant manager-form.
Tyler, who once told me he didn’t want any responsibility beyond being a good dishwasher—I’m paraphrasing—has now taken on more responsibility, seemingly of his own accord.
The delivery/pickup department, which has been going through its own evolution lately—simultaneously contracting its in-haus delivery hours and range, and expanding its hours and range through third-party delivery services Food Dudes and Bite Squad—welcomes Tyler’s affable leadership.
The Fish Schtick.
“Sandwich Lab” may be one of the most-oft repeated phrases in my blogging life. This month’s Sandwich Lab special (temporary addition to the sandwich menu) is a curious sandwich called the Fish Schtick.
Assembled on a haus ciabatta roll, it is composed of Traditional Smoked Atlantic Salmon, tomato, cornichon pickle, lettuce, mayo, and lemon pepper. It has a bright, complex, yet cohesive harmony of flavors tied together by the smoky goodness of our salmon.
The Fish Schtick accounts for about 2% of our sandwich sales during its time on the menu, which is nothing to shake a schtick at.
The months ahead will feature a Lake Superior Lake Trout-salad sandwich, and a smoked Andouille sausage, chevre, and green apple sandwich. Stay hungry, because all of these Sandwich Lab specials get you two stamps on your sandwich card. Now that’s value!
We have the hardest working production crew in town!
Okay, this may not be strictly true—I didn’t do any research—but hear me out: I checked in with our team of roughly five smokers about their life in the basement, and found out that they’ve been putting in hours—working double shifts, sometimes triples, and the occasional overnight—but that was only after some prying on my part.
Their first answer to my inquiry about life in the basement: “It’s pretty chill!”
How’s that for a winning attitude? This is the energy we need to take with us into the rest of 2019.
We had a span of 11 days that would have blown my mind when I started at NWS.
And I was on vacation the whole time.
When I began working at our humble deli, there was tangible excitement any time our daily sales were above $5,000. I’m pretty sure $9,000 in sales would have merited a pizza party, popping Champagne corks (or vigorously-shaken LaCroix cans), and maybe even some light screaming.
While I was out of town, our average daily sales were closing in on $10,000, even on days that we closed early, due to holidays and our Sunday hours. For eleven days.
So many Things™ this week, so little time to discuss them.
Fortunately the Duluth News Tribune covered a big one for us—our beloved General Manager, and 18-year NWS staff member, Mary Tennis, is celebrating her last day being a central figure of Smokehaus life. Read about her next adventure here.
This week, we also had a planning meeting for our cookbook, which is currently in development. Mary has been central to the cookbook work that has gotten us so far, and I am personally grateful that she wants to continue working on the cookbook, because it means we’ll get to hang out, and she has an affinity for writing about food and NWS, which means future NWS cookbook owners are going to have some heartfelt reading in-store for them.
Grandma’s Marathon happened last weekend, and we survived the inundation of out-of-towners another year. We’re even doing pretty well at keeping all of our customer-favorite products in-stock. All of our salumi varieties are set to be available this weekend.
Honestly, none of these Things™ are what I want to write about this week. Maybe it’s the fact that, by the time this is posted, I will be in the midst of an 8-hour drive beginning a week of vacation, or maybe it’s just that, with all the heavy, beginning-of-a-new-chapter kind of stuff happening this week, I wanted to keep the blog nice and fluffy, but here it is—this week’s 5 Things™:
Our current best-sellers, by category (with brief commentary):
This information is based on our previous two weeks of sales. Take everything I say with a grain of salt. In the case of cured meats, several thousand grains of salt.
Bent Hop is a winner.Bent Paddle Brewing Company has become a fine representative of our city’s craft brewing scene, and their Golden IPA is currently leading the beverage sales at our deli. It’s a perfect beer for Duluth summer weather, and by that, I mean it is versatile. Hot, sunny day? Crack open a crisp Bent Hop. Rainy, chilly, windy day? Enjoy that crispness indoors, and stimulate those blood vessels in your skin to a comforting simulacrum of warmth. Likewise, this beer goes well with just about every sandwich on our menu. Cheers to Bent Paddle.
Carr Valley Apple Smoked Cheddar is almost the best selling cheese. Our little goat cheese medallions have outsold it, likely because of the ~$1 price point. The smoked cheddar, out of La Valle, WI, is a close second, which makes sense. It’s hard to punctuate a description of your store to include “smoked meats” and “cheese” without suggesting that the cheeses are also smoked, and beyond that, folks are frequently in the market for a good smoked cheese. The Apple Smoked Cheddar fills that role perfectly.
Our top-selling baked good is Coconut Macaroons. Patricia, our CCO (chief cookie officer) can do no wrong. Somehow, since Patricia joined the team, cookies have become a top-seller in our deli. She even found a way to make coconut macaroons taste good—my own opinion, remember those salt grains. In addition to being sweet, and the perfect blend of chewy and crunchy, these cookies are also gluten free, which opens them up to a wider audience. They’re available for individual purchase, or make a great Box Lunch option.
Big Jims are the current best-seller in meat sticks. They’ve outsold our Royale With Cheese bacon-cheeseburger sticks by a narrow margin, and our Smoked Salmon sticks by a sliiiightly less narrow margin. On top of that, they’re my personal favorite of our snack stick selection. Big Jim Hatch Chiles offer a mild, yet memorable, spice. The asterisk to this best-seller is that our Bison Buddies were out-of-stock the last two weeks. Bison Buddies still might be the one stick to rule them all. Only time will tell.
“All Are Welcome” stickers are the best-seller in our swag selection. I love this because investing in the community is important and this item is about more than just the boundless accumulation of capital. Proceeds from the sale of these stickers go to Together For Youth, an organization that advocates for and provides support to LGBTQ youth in our community. I mean, the stickers look really cool too, but making an impact in the community makes them 100-times cooler in my mind. For more information about Together For Youth, follow this link.
Here’s a bonus thing, which shouldn’t surprise you. Another tricky punctuation bit—should it not surprise you because, historically, I add bonus Things™ all the time, or should the fact itself not be surprising? Perhaps a bit of both. The Cajun Finn is still our number-one seller, selling 710 units in the last two weeks. I have been a part of at least one conversation about creating a specific “Cajun Finn-maker” shift to the deli roster.