Posted on

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.

Posted on

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!

Posted on

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!

Posted on

5 Things: January 31st, 2020

Here we are, already one-twelfth of the way through 2020. It’s going by so quickly. Let’s not tarry: Here’s a snapshot of our week:

Eric’s been out of town (and will be for a bit longer).

Beyond being a great boss/leader/guru, Eric is a family man. While he’s been down in Iowa, helping out with family things, we’ve been doing our best to just hold it together. Eric, if you’re reading this, we miss you!

In his element; in his favorite shirt.

We’re rearranging our sandwich menu.

The sandwich menu is verging on out of control—and we’re adding eight sandwiches to it within the next two months, including six next week. With that in-mind, our amazing illustrator and creative director, Flo, has been out of the (extremely distracting) office all week, re-hand-painting (and color-coding) a large portion of the menu.

The Smokehaus wouldn’t be the same without Flo’s amazing eye for food-styling, design and illustration. Thank you, Flo, for everything you do!

A few Flo fishes

Hannah and Andy have been emptying out the 3rd-floor office.

All the walls on the left hand side (pictured below) are coming down, and being replaced with more cooler space—and maybe a desk for Andy—while the rest of us cram into the new office space, at least until the renovation is complete and equilibrium is attainable.

Here’s a short pictorial tribute to this office:

Walkie-talkie codenames.

Apologies to everyone else who has to live with us in the DeWitt-Seitz Marketplace—we are the weirdos walking around the building with walkie-talkies, making up codenames like “Cougar,” “Meltdown!,” “1225,” and “Hot Snake,” to communicate with each other while we transition between office spaces.

If you run into us in a crowded elevator, it’s okay to look away and pretend we’re not there. We understand.

Codename: Leify Greenz

Sub-list: What I would bring to the game day celebration.

Maybe you love the sport and maybe you just love the food—Either way, enjoying time with friends and family is never a bad thing. You’re spending your time on a deli and smokehouse’s blog, so you likely have a decent handle on setting up a snack table, but you might be looking for something special (or easy—or both) to take your game day snack table to the next level. Well, we’ve got options.

My recommendations, based on what we currently have in-stock:

All-Season Fillet

Let’s face it: smoked salmon is what we’re known for. The All-Season is our ultimate party favor—all the flavors so no-one feels left out; easy to prep (we’ve even got card with helpful instructions in our deli); food for fingers, forks, or your favorite crackers. One fillet is probably enough for everyone at the party to get a chance to enjoy it.

Salumi

Thin-sliced dry-cured meat—packs a lot of flavor into each bite and goes a long way. Right now we have Salamini, Saucisson Sec, and Spanish-style Chorizo in spades.

Snack Sticks

Whether you keep them full-length or cut them up into itty-bits, these snack sticks are guaranteed to please, for any palate—Bison Buddies have a little bit of kick, Big Jims remind me of ground beef and taco seasoning browning on the stovetop, Royale With Cheese are a bacon-cheeseburger in a stick, and Smoked Salmon Sticks are made with delicious sockeye salmon and tied together with buttery goodness.

The Usual Suspects

Two delicious hausmade cheese spreads and an exquisite salmon spread—just dip in your knife or cracker, then place immediately in mouth.

Cheese Spread

Honestly, our entire cheese selection is a fairly safe bet, but this spreadable cheddar is guaranteed to appeal to everyone.


That’s all for now! See you next week. If you’re still itching for more NWS content to imbibe, check out this week’s series of Sandwich Lab blogs.

Posted on

5 Things: January 24th, 2020

It’s my favorite time of year to be at work. I’m happy to see the business battling sales records all Summer long, and there is a certain excitement that comes with the furious tide of December mail order days, but I prefer taking life a bit slower.

The post-holidays Winter to early Spring segment of the year is the time when we try new things, be they grab & go items, like cookies, pasta salads, and condiments, or new smoked meat and fish products for our deli cases. Right now, our fish, meat, and grab & go cases are fully-stocked with goodies.

It’s also the time for larger projects, and planning for the aforementioned projects: A break from the routine, and, of course, time for a few more breaths between each movement.

Here’s a few things that happened this week.

Megan cleaned and organized the deep freeze.

No one asked, “Hey, Megan—would you like to clean the deep freeze?” In fact, it was Megan who asked, “Hey, is it cool if I clean the deep freeze?”

Four hours later, it went from a chaotic state—which, for my anxiety’s sake, I don’t have a photo of—to this nice, organized area in which I will still always irrationally fear becoming trapped.

This is much better.

Thank you, Megan!

Work began on our new office.

The plan is to knock down a few walls in our current third floor office, so we can fit another large walk-in cooler in our collective space, leaving only enough room for the mail order office and workstations.

Meanwhile, Rosewater Music has moved their operation to a new location, and we’re taking over that space—conveniently also on the third floor of the DeWitt-Seitz building—to accommodate our creative team, managers, and anyone else who would be displaced.

More details and photos will be coming in the next handful of weeks.

We finally have jerky.

This business may be in its third decade of life, but we haven’t run out of ideas yet.

Jerky is an often-requested item at our deli, and with the success of other take & eat items like our host of snack sticks, and Patricia’s various baked goods, Eric decided it was time to give the people what they wanted.

We’re currently offering three varieties of Smoked Jerky—Umami Tsunami Bison Jerky, Maple Bourbon Bison Jerky, and Sockeye Salmon Jerky—with plans of new varieties to come.

Learn more about our Smoked Jerky here.

Soba Noodle Salad.

Patricia came up with this delicious new use for our Teriyaki Smoked Tofu, which is now available out of our deli meat case for $8.50/lb.

I could say some more about it, or you could just read the list of ingredients:

The savvy cook will know what to do with this list better than I, but if you’d like to skip all the steps of smoking tofu, preparing the noodles, chopping and grating the ingredients, and more, just stop in and try it.

Patricia is working on a few other pasta salads at the moment, and always up to something new in the bakery. We’ll do our best to inform you as each of these new offerings occurs.

Sandwich Lab Specials return!

This is the preview to the preview: Next week we’ll be announcing the FOUR NEW SANDWICHES coming to our menu from the November 2019 Sandwich Lab.

And two sandwiches from last year’s cycle of monthlong Sandwich Lab Specials join the permanent menu: The Wagner and The Sebu-Chan. Each selected based on their successful sales numbers, as well as their popularity amongst our staff, who voted these the top two.

On top of all that, come March, we’ll be offering two new sandwiches: an as-of-yet unnamed smoked fish sandwich in development, and The Pack Lunch, our sandwich collaboration with our friendly neighbors at Duluth Pack.

2020 is going to be a big year for new options at the Smokehaus.


After all that I’ve said about this being a slow time of year, the news broke to me this morning that there will be two hockey tournaments in town this weekend, so gear up for a busy handful of days in Canal Park.

See you next week, with a bunch of new Product Features, and at least five more Things™.

Posted on

5 Things: Product Features

Our marketing team has big plans for this new year and new decade, and among them is a goal to spotlight each of our various products on the blog. We hope you’ll enjoy deeper insights into our products—what makes them special and how best to enjoy them.

This week, we’ll direct you toward some of those product features we already have in circulation, beginning with the most recent.

Snack Sticks

From Bison Buddies to Smoked Salmon Buddies, the people love our snack sticks. At full stock, we’re pushing four varieties of these ideal grab-and-go snacks, but we’ve got plans to grow that list.

Eventually, the creative bug will hit Eric and the production team, and we’ll have new snack sticks joining the team, but until then, the above post has everything you need to know (and perhaps some question-fodder for things you want to know) about our sticks.

Natural Wines

The wine list in this blog is a bit out-of-date, given the new-ness of adult beverages in our deli (just barely over half a year), but in the above feature, you’ll find pertinent information about how and why we select our wine offerings. Natural wine is the key—organically and/or biodynamically produced wines with no added sulfites.

If last year is any indicator, you can expect a new line of seasonally-influenced wine choices every few months.

The Fish Basket

The fish basket isn’t all that complicated: your choice of Smokehaus fish in a basket with crackers and cream cheese.

It’s a winning combination, and one of the quickest items prepared by our deli staff—usually your fish basket is ready to serve by the time you’re finished paying for it. However, there are some clever workarounds and customization options that can help you get the fish basket (or smoked lake trout sandwich) of your dreams. Read the above feature to find out more.

Patricia’s Bakery

Patricia, once hired, quickly ascended into the role of baker-extraordinaire. Her sandwich-line skills are admirable (anyone who has enjoyed our Spring Roll sandwich has Patricia to thank), but once she began bringing in cookies, pastries and quick-breads, it was determined that her talents were misplaced.

We thought we had it good when longtime Smokehauser Jerry began making select batches of bread*—now all of the rye, white bread and ciabattas—but with Patricia joining the baking team, we’re now in the awesome position of having artisanal bread baked in-Haus, as well as amazing cookies, pasties, pizzas, scones, and much more available to us every day.

Check out the bakery blog, but really, just check out our selection of baked goods next time you’re in the deli, and ask anyone who’s working if you want to know more about any of the options: we have opinions, we have favorites, we will talk your ears off about which cookie to choose for any occasion.

*Jerry, I know you don’t read this blog, but I miss your rosemary potato rolls and cheddar-chive-chorizo biscuits.

The Adisalad

The Adisalad has been on the menu for just over a year. This ultra-flavorful vegan or pescatarian salad (‘kraut or kimchi, respectively) is the brainchild of Adison—dishwasher, baker, intellectual—who sought a healthier way to refuel at work, without sacrificing flavor. He brought it to Sandwich Lab, and it was so universally commended that we added it to the menu full-time.

We love carbs and fat—they’re our bread and butter—but they’re not always an option. With fresh greens, cabbage, our Haus pickled vegetable medley (daikon radish, carrot, garlic, onion, jalapeño, and more, with an exciting blend of spices), fresh cucumber slices, chopped Marcona almonds, and your choice of kimchi or sauerkraut, the Adisalad packs a punch of flavor and eating it feels like you’re doing your body a favor.


The Next Feature

Next Tuesday (1/21), we’ll have a lot to say in a feature of our newest deli case offering—smoked jerky! This week we snuck two awesome flavors of bison jerky into our meat case, and next week we’ll be adding sockeye salmon jerky to the mix. And that’s just the beginning.

Next 5 Things™, well, we’ll see—Patricia’s been up to a bunch of kitchen mischief with puff pastry dough and Country Pâté, we have impending remodeling of our office and storage spaces, we’ve got a tough-to-find(-in-Minnesota) cheese in our grab-and-go case, and our deli hours will be changing temporarily in February—that blog could go anywhere.

Until then, we love you forever.

Posted on

5 Things In The 2020 Hygge Gift Box

We could all use a bit more hygge in our lives. Hygge is a useful, if tricky to translate, Danish term describing “a quality of coziness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being,” and it’s the central principle guiding our midwinter gift box.

At NWS, we believe that feeling of contentment and well-being can be found by reveling in the good things that surround us in our Northern home. We also believe that, in this workaday world, sometimes embracing hygge requires a little inspiration—just the gentlest push. That’s why we’ve curated this year’s box of local goodness aimed at providing you and your loved ones with the means for a cozy evening in.

This weeks 5 Things will take a closer look at exactly what makes up the 2020 edition of the Hygge Gift Box!

NWS Traditional Smoked Atlantic Salmon

Our Traditional Smoked Atlantic Salmon is buttery, sweet, and smoky. To many in our loyal customer-base, this smoked salmon is the taste of Northern Waters Smokehaus, and they’ll make a pit-stop in Duluth on their way North (or South) just to procure a piece. The centerpiece of every Hygge Gift Box is a half-pound slab of this delicious smoked fish.

Local Midwestern Cheese

Cheese is literally calming—it’s been scientifically proven! Beyond that, cheese just tastes good. We choose our cheeses with love and care, and you’ll feel it. Each Hygge Gift Box comes with a selection of one of our favorite regional cheeses, just like we sell in our deli.

Snooty Fox Tea

Nothing evokes “comfortable conviviality and … well-being” quite like tea. Local tea artisans Snooty Fox Tea Shop have provided us with an assortment of their most calming and convivial tea blends. Each Hygge Gift Box contains seven sachets of Gold Spice Rooibos, Boreal Forest Herbal Blend, or Sauna Steamer Black Blend. Enjoy life like you enjoy tea—sip by sip.

Epicurean Cutting Board

Epicurean produces top-quality cutting boards and kitchenware right out of our neck-of-the-woods. Our friends at the Epicurean Factory Outlet in Superior, WI provided the perfect utility tool for your curated hygge experience: A compact walnut woodgrain cutting board. This beautifully-crafted walnut board is the perfect size for a mini charcuterie platter featuring your smoked salmon and local cheese, and it will ingratiate itself as a favorite piece of kitchenware.

Blue Heron Trading Co. Dish Towel

For the final contribution from our local friends, we just walked down the hall to the Blue Heron Trading Company. This beloved kitchen store is not just our #1 source for replacement vegetable peelers and fantastic $1 cups of coffee, but also provided the final touch to your hygge experience—a hand towel! Whether you use it as a table-cover under your charcuterie platter, use it for clean-up, or both, this Blue Heron-branded towel will serve you well for years to come.

(Bonus Thing: Raincoast Crisps from Patricia’s Pantry)

A bonus for purposes of this blog’s allocated number of Things™, our resident baker savant Patricia has crafted these wonderful crackers especially for the Hygge Gift Box. Blending nuts, seeds, and dehydrated fruits with herbs and just a touch of brown sugar, the Raincoast Crisps are the ideal compliment to the included smoked salmon, cheese, and tea, and, with their nutritious ingredients-list, are virtually guilt-free snacking.


The Hygge Gift Box is now available exclusively online! Each box is tastefully assembled per order.

Posted on

5 Customer Favorites

Another lap ’round the sun is complete! To start off this blogging year, we’re going to linger a while longer in the previous year, looking at our all-around bestselling items—which to some might be quite obvious. To avoid clinging too dearly to the past, I will then attempt to work a preview of what to expect in the upcoming year into each section.

#1 — The Cajun Finn

No question here. Whether by sheer virtue of its flavor, or the potency of word-of-mouth advertising, this sandwich sells roughly as many units as the bottom half of the sandwich menu combined (a point for W.o.M.), and has repeat—and three-peat, and onward—customers (a major point for V.o.F.).

Fish sandwiches are among our most popular items overall, and come Spring of 2020, we’ll have a new one making a stop on our menu. Last year, for the Friends of the Boundary Waters Fundraiser, we auctioned off future naming rights for a limited-run fish sandwich to be featured on our menu.

So, right now, it’s in development and unnamed, but it’s highly likely to be a hit. A percentage of proceeds from each sandwich sold will be donated to Friends of the Boundary Waters efforts to protect one of Minnesota’s greatest natural treasures. With that in mind, perhaps all of the Cajun Fanns* could work together and turn the Untitled Fish Sandwich into our new bestseller. Delicious activism.

The Cajun Finn sold just under 15,000 units in 2019.

*Came up with this one on the spot, and now it’s canon. Y’all are henceforth Cajun Fanns.

#2 — Chips

Chips are a highly visible, relatively inexpensive side dish, and a great companion to a sandwich. Do you ever just mess around and throw chips right on your sandwich? I sure do.

The future of chips at NWS is exciting. At the end of 2019, a few boxes of new chips showed up at our proverbial doorstep for sampling. I can tell you from first- and secondhand experience that we Smokehausers enjoyed the new chips, and one particular flavor enjoyed a short run in our deli (perhaps with a longer stay to come). Beyond that, we’ve begun making moves to develop our own line of NWS chips. Ah, future goals—so uncertain, but so exciting.

#3 — Bison Buddies

The original Smokehaus snack stick reigns supreme. Bison Buddies are sweetly smoky, with a gentle kick of heat to the back of the tongue (a little less gentle if they spend some time on a skillet), and convenient to purchase and enjoy.

Bison is the better version of beef: leaner, more nutritious—high in protein, Omega-3 fatty acids, iron, and zinc—and, in most cases, raised without antibiotics and hormones.

Though our Bison Pastrami is now only made intermittently in small batches, the Great American Mammal still has its presence in our deli in the form of these snack sticks, and Corned Bison, one of our sandwich line meat options (and the superior choice for The ’06 sandwich).

The Pack Lunch—the launch item of an upcoming collaboration with our neighbors Duluth Pack—is a Corned Bison sandwich with a daring-yet-dependable cohort of flavors to enhance it. Stay tuned for more details about this exciting collaboration.

#4 — Big Jims/Royale With Cheese

Bison may be the better version of beef, but these beef sticks are not something you want to ignore.

The Big Jims (named after the Hatch Chiles that give them their distinct flavor) are my favorite snack sticks we currently offer.

Royale(s) With Cheese are our bacon cheeseburger-themed snack sticks. They’re replete with the flavors of beef and bacon (obviously), onion, pickle juice, and cheese (again, quite obviously).

Despite each of these snack sticks spending only slightly more than six months in our deli, the numbers don’t lie: they share the spotlight with heavy-hitters like the Cajun Finn and Traditional Atlantic Salmon, which had a full Sun Cycle to earn their place on this list. In their half-year of availability, each sold around 9,000 units. That positions them to outsell even the legendary Cajun Finn, if given a whole year.

Which is why I’m delighted to announce that Bison Jerky and Turkey Jerky should be hitting the shelves soon, with plans to experiment with other varieties after the initial launch.

Jerky has been a glaring omission in our deli for long enough, and given the recent success of our line of snack sticks—Smoked Salmon Buddies didn’t make Top 5/6 bestsellers, but they’re up there, and the smokers just finished a new batch!—Eric spent some time with his home smoker developing jerky recipes. Our social media pages are great places to stay updated on the launch of these new items.

#5 — Traditional Atlantic Salmon

Smoked fish is the reason we’re here, so it makes a lot of sense that it occupies a third of this list.

smoked atlantic salmon traditional style

Our Traditional Smoked Atlantic Salmon has a short and sweet ingredients list: Atlantic salmon, salt, and brown sugar. Alongside our signature kippering technique of smoking, which through a gradual increase of temperature throughout the process, forms a pellicle that locks in moisture, this simple combination of ingredients lets the delicious, buttery taste and tender consistency of Atlantic salmon shine through.

Uncertain quite how to tie in this final preview, the blogger proceeds as follows:

Last year’s monthly Sandwich Lab specials were a fun diversion, with varying levels of popularity and success. This year, we want to let the winners have a bit more time to shine.

In November of 2019, we came together yet again, sharing our pet sandwiches for peer review. Four have been selected to represent a new era of the NWS sandwich menu, and they will all join the menu together, for a handful of months. In addition, the overall favorites from last year’s cycle of monthlong specials—The Sebu-Chan and The Wagner—will be joining the menu full-time.

We know what you’re thinking: How will we fit seven-ish new sandwiches on that already packed board?

We’re working on it.

Posted on

My Favorite Things™ (December 27th, 2019)

Here it is.

The final 5 Things™ of the year.

We’re going to do something special this time around.

But first, I’m going to mess around with the headings for a bit.

Okay, that’s enough.

Here are My Favorite Things™ that happened this year at NWS. I took a deep dive, noting the moments in this blog that sparked the most joy in me, then tried to whittle it down to five, but was unable. What can I say? I’m a sentimental person. Hopefully, uncut as it is, this list gives you a hint at the sort of year we’ve had at the Smokehaus.

The Adisalad joined our menu.

The Adisalad is New Year’s resolution food: Haus kimchi or sauerkraut, a delicious assortment of pickled vegetables, with fresh cucumber slices, and chopped Marcona almonds over mixed greens and thin-sliced cabbage.

The salad joined the menu in January, and quickly became my lunch break of choice for somewhere around three months—after which I began transposing it into sandwich form, because carbs are great. Among its other noteworthy attributes are its position on our menu as a middle ground between the Ensaladita and the two-meals-in-one-package NWS Salad (in both size and price) and its status as vegan-friendly option (choosing ‘kraut over kimchi).

New Sticks.

When they’re in-stock, Bison Buddies are one of our top-selling items. Eric and the Smokers (not Eric’s band name, but could be) caught wise to this trend and whipped up an assortment of new snack sticks—with future plans to develop more—to please our constituents in search of something quick, easy, and flavorful. The current selection (at full capacity) features Big Jim Hatch Chile beef sticks, Royale With Cheese bacon-cheeseburger sticks, and Smoked Sockeye Salmon Buddies alongside the Bison Buddies. Everyone loves snack sticks!

Smoked Sockeye Sticks aka Salmon Buddies

Patricia made donuts and brought them in to share.

Working at NWS in the Patricia era has been a joy for a handful of reasons—new and exciting cookies, cheddar crackers, pasties, and samples of each new item as they emerge—but the day she brought in a tray of cake donuts she’d made that morning was a favorite of mine. Yes, our dear Patricia just whipped up some cake donuts in her kitchen on a whim.

Patricia’s initial plan was to try a donut Cuban sandwich with our Minnesota Pulled Pork. Though I do not know whether she succeeded in that goal, I do recall making a Northern Donut—yes: a donut with scallion cream cheese and smoked Atlantic salmon. It was not good enough for the menu (and would’ve been far better with our Atlantic salmon gravlax), but I’m not going to lie and say I didn’t enjoy it.

The Sandwich Lab Series.

I can’t believe it took me this long to get to this Thing™. Sandwich Lab (our annual pedantic and artistic gathering in the pursuit of sandwich excellence) easily got a nod in over 50% of the blog content this year. For good reason, too. Last year’s Lab had so many high-quality offerings that we elected to feature them all (in roughly one-month intervals) on the menu.

Since a great deal has already been said about these sandwiches, here’s a list of their names and their ingredients to sate you. And of course you can always follow that hyperlink I just provided if you care to read more.

  • The Breakfast Club – Bagel, scallion cream cheese, smoked turkey, smoked pancetta (crispy), red onion, cilantro.
  • The Wagner – Hero roll, mayo, mustard, smoked turkey or smoked pastrami (unofficial 3rd option: black pepper and coriander salmon), quick pickles, cilantro, sriracha.
  • The Spinderella – Hero roll, mayo, mustard, dill pickle, smoked turkey, salami, red onion, cilantro. Side of scallion cream cheese, for dippin’.
  • The Bloody Mary – Johnson’s Bakery kaiser roll, green olives, chopped dill pickle, summer sausage, smoked pancetta, cheddar cheese, Haus bloody mary mix, tomato, red onion, cilantro.
  • The Wallaby – Haus-baked Prince Myshkin Rye, smashed avocado, lemon pepper, tomato, basil, balsamic vinegar.
  • The Sebu-chan – Haus-baked ciabatta, scallion cream cheese, gravlax, cucumber, tomato, red onion, cilantro, sriracha, lettuce.
  • The Fish Schtick – Haus-baked ciabatta, mayo, lemon pepper, traditional Atlantic salmon, Cornichon pickles, tomato, red onion, lettuce.
  • The Lake Trout Situation – Haus-baked pullman white bread (buttered and toasted), smoked lake trout salad, smoked pancetta crumbles, cilantro. Served open-faced—our take on a New England lobster roll.
  • The G.O.A.T. – Lake Superior Bakehouse bagel, chèvre, crispy sliced smoked andouille, sliced Cortland apple, lettuce.

This porketta photo shoot.

Right around the time we began working in earnest on the cookbook, our creative team had the bright idea of trying to capture the heart of backyard smoking. This behind-the-scenes look at that shoot was one of my favorite Things™ largely because of the captions, but in no small part due to Greg’s rustic charm and bright attire.

This workplace drama.

Posing by porkettas isn’t the only thing Greg-with-two-Gs is good for. He and Leif have had an ongoing struggle for office dominance that has provided high-quality entertainment to anyone who might tune in.

An update:

This corrupted image of Smoked Ribs and Beans.

What better way to commemorate this delicious though short-lived daily special than this odd photograph? Designers, take note: You can now easily extract the exact color palette of our Smoked Ribs free of charge.

Working on the NWS Cookbook.

Bubbling below the surface of everything else going on this year—the strategic expansion and retraction of our menu, the addition of beer and wine (and cider, and alcoholic seltzer) to our deli, all of the new baked goods, and changes in leadership roles—has been a lot of work on the first-ever Northern Waters Smokehaus cookbook.

While there’s still quite a bit of work ahead of us, and the anticipated release date falls somewhere no sooner than Summer 2021, these past ten months of work on the book have been an exciting, sometimes nerve-wracking, ultimately very fulfilling ride.

These new faces.

The new folks who have joined our team have been pretty alright this year.

That’s all for 5 Things™ in 2019! See you next year!

Posted on

5 Things About NWS Mail Order in 2019

The Holiday Mail Order season at Northern Waters Smokehaus has officially come to a close! Writing this summary post, it seems like barely a heartbeat has passed, but to the dedicated seasonal and All-Season staff working long hours—the M.O. workdays often extended from as early as 5 a.m. to as late as midnight, divided between a few shifts of amorphous length—it must feel like the conclusion to an epic journey.

Much has changed for us in the previous year of the department. In the late Spring, Andy took over as mail order director. In the Summer and Fall months, we designated cut-off days for the various holiday shipping schedules, solidified communication channels between the mail order department and the production team (aka the smokehouse), re-assessed our shipping rates and carriers to accurately reflect the material cost of shipping throughout the nation, and, for basically the first time in the department’s history, are now not losing money on the cost of shipping.

All of these changes have helped our small-scale operation provide exquisite smoked fish, meats, and other treats to an enormous amount of people this season, and to do so in a profitable manner: huge news for any small business!

This week, we’ll look at a few data points—I’d guess about five—that might provide some insight into the season and what it entails.

Ten (plus one) people.

Andy, six other year-round NWS employees, three seasonal laborers, and former M.O. director, Annemarie—also former author of this blog—taking care of outreach for corporate orders remotely: That’s the size of the crew who spent the last month and some change packaging and shipping out several literal tons of product to as close as Southern Minnesota and as far as Hawaii.

One month, one week.

That’s the length of the “season” as we measured it this year. Mail order happens, to varying degrees, year round at NWS, but for the sake of this blog post (and our own internal reckoning), the holiday shipping season began on November 11th and ended on December 18th, with the cutoff for orders shipped in 2019 on December 16th.

One thousand seven hundred sixty three.

That is how many individual boxes were shipped during the official season. 1,576 orders taken in-store, over the phone, or online, with an additional 187 through Goldbelly. Though it is never quite so cut-and-dried, that works out to just under 180 boxes per mail order staff member during this short stint.

A look at the most popular items.

While researching this tidbit, or, more accurately, asking Flo to help me uncover these statistics, the initial report was mistakenly only for the final week of the season. Upon second inspection, with proper dates in-place, we got a nearly identical list. Since I’ve mentioned both of them, I’ll provide both. Here’s the top sellers for the final week of 2019 mail order, followed by the top sellers the whole season:

And overall:

Clearly, our smoked fish is the overall winner of the season, which is not a huge surprise, given how popular it, and fish sandwiches, are in our deli.

Peak dates.

I’ll spare you the very boring-looking graph, but five days stood out (with steep peaks) for orders placed—a perfect number for the overarching theme of this blog. The significance of these dates may be partially arbitrary, but I’ll try to wager a guess as to why each day was so successful. What follows is a blend of fact and intuition:

  • 11/18 – This date reeks to me of “final day to place orders that will arrive before Thanksgiving” territory.
  • 11/29 – This was Black Friday, right? All of the calendars in the room are flipped to December, so I cannot be bothered to verify this claim.
  • 12/2 – Cyber Monday, also known ’round these parts as Pigs in Space, a day when many folks are compelled by deals to shop online. Our particular variety of deal is free (or reduced) shipping on orders between $150 and $350 placed on this day.
  • 12/9 – I have barely the slightest clue as to the significance of this date. Shot in the dark: Folks want their food available for the holidays, early enough that there is no concern about it arriving on time, but not so early as to be on its last legs of freshness when served.
  • 12/15 – The penultimate day to place orders for shipping in 2019.

Sincerest thanks for reading this week, and for whatever part you may have played in our Holiday Mail Order Season! Shipping resumes January 6th, 2020!