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 socialmediapages 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.
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 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).
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!
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.
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.
That’s all for 5 Things™ in 2019! See you next year!
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:
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.
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!
Welcome back to 5 Things™. This week we have a very important announcement: December 16th-18th are the final days of mail order shipping until next year. January 6th, to be precise, is when mail order shipping resumes. The last day to place an order to be shipped is Tuesday, the 17th.
Between writing a company newsletter and continuing to work on the cookbook, I’ve become a bit exhausted of words this week. The rest of this week’s Things™ will be mostly photographs. If there are words describing them, it is because I couldn’t help myself.
Duluth Winter Village.
Participating in the Duluth Winter Village at Glensheen is always a joy.
I got to work at my favorite desk this week. Here’s the view right up against the glass.
And from a few feet back.
Deli Life: Cheesy.
Our deli is stocked to the brim with amazing cheeses, like this trio from Jasper Hill Farms. I eagerly await the next shipment, since setting out a sample of the newly-arrived cheeses for employees to sample is common practice at the Smokehaus.
Carrot Cake Cookies are back!
In case you hadn’t noticed in that last photo—I get it: I’m not a great photographer and there’s a lot of glare/reflection—Patricia’s amazing cookie sandwiches are back in-stock.
Thanks for stopping by 5 Things™! See you next week!
Sandwiches, smoked fish and smoked meats aren’t the only things we do here at Northern Waters Smokehaus: We’re also purveyors of fine cheeses, olives, sweet and savory baked goods, and variations on fermented cabbage—and that’s just the short list.
The holidays are a great time for cheese (though what isn’t?), so this week we’re going all-in on “the adult form of milk.” When I asked TK, the brains and the brawn of our cheese operation, for a list of his five favorite cheeses we’re carrying this holiday season, he went above and beyond with detailed notes on each. What follows is a sort of mind-meld between TK and myself.
Rush Creek Reserve
This time of year, the hyper-regional, hyper-limited release, hyper-delicious Rush Creek Reserve from Uplands Cheese Co. is already on everyone’s mind—and may as well be on everyone’s tables too.
Rush Creek Reserve is made in Dodgeville, Wisconsin. It’s a washed rind, raw cow’s milk cheese that is a late autumn and winter exclusive. Don’t let “raw milk” cheese freak you out—after 60 days of aging, raw milk cheese passes the FDA’s raw milk laws.
In late autumn and leading into winter the cows diet changes from the fresh pastures of summer to the fall and winter hay, making their milk extremely rich and silky.
Rush Creek Reserve is made to show off this change in the cow’s diet. Made in the French & Swiss Alpine-style of Vacherin cheese, Rush Creek Reserve is wrapped in a hand-harvested piece of spruce bark. This helps the cheese keep its shape—due to its runny texture at peak ripeness—as well as adding tannins to its flavor.. The combination of the spruce and rich milk creates a rich custard texture with a very soft, delicate texture and a savory, rich finish.
Rush Creek Reserve is an absolute must at holiday gatherings. Simply cut the top of the rind off and heap spoonfuls onto crackers, charcuterie, or just eat it on its own! This miraculous wheel pairs perfectly with a fruity Beaujolais wine. TK recommends with a glass of La Boutanche Gamay, which is available by the (re-corked) bottle in our deli.
Shepherd’s Way Farmstead cheese is made in Nerstrand, MN by Jodi Ohlsen Read. This Asiago-style cheese is a natural-rind semi-aged sheep’s milk cheese. It’s semi-dense in texture and has an amazing grassy nuttiness to it. This cheese is extremely versatile for cooking: a perfect addition to pasta and TK’s favorite substitute for parmesan in a Caesar salad.
And TK isn’t the only one excited about it.
Friesago is a multiple time award-winning cheese by the ACS (American Cheese Society) in the Farmstead Sheep Cheese category.
Friesago pairs well with wines that have hints of salinity to them. “Salty wines?,” you may be thinking? No, winemakers never add salt to wines, ever. Think of it as a soil composition. Vineyards that are near salty bodies of water or grown in volcanic soil will bring salty notes to the wine. Think Sicilian wines. Grab a hunk of Friesago and a glass of Adrianna Occhipinti’s Sicilian made wine, Tami, sold right here at the Smokehaus.
Sakatah is a Dakota word meaning “Singing Hills”. It’s also the name of the Minnesota State Park between Mankato and Faribault, near Alemar Cheese Co.’s home.
This soft ripened cow’s milk cheese is seasonally made and is a great representation of an artisanal product. Wrapped in a Marquette grape leaf (a cold weather wine grape grafted by the U of M) Alemar is paying homage to the Banon and Le Mothais cheeses of Europe, using cow’s milk rather than goat’s milk.
Sakatah has balanced earthiness, provided by the tannins from the grape leaves, finishing with creamy, peppery notes.
Before serving, let the cheese sit out for 30-minutes to come to room temperature for its aroma and texture to be at its peak—this is a good practice with most soft and creamy cheeses.
Eat this cheese with wine that has a higher acidity, perhaps an unoaked Chardonnay, crisp Riesling—or if you are into ciders, try it with a French Brittany-made cider. La Brun is a delicious natural cider that pairs perfectly with Sakatah. If you’re in our deli and want to snack on a piece of Sakatah, it’s a must-try with the Pullus Pinot Grigio wine, made in Slovenia.
Jasper Hill Farm, in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont, leads the US in artisanal cheese-making while being at the forefront of environmental impact & research of their farms. They are driven to be the standard bearer of quality and innovation in US cheese-making.
Alpha Tolman is a brand new cheese to our deli (and to TK’s knowledge, we are the only shop in Duluth selling Jasper Hill Farm cheese). It is made from raw cow’s milk with 100% of the milk coming from a single herd. This herd happily roams the pasture right onsite at the Jasper Hill Creamery and Cellars.
Alpha Tolman is inspired by French & Swiss cheeses like Appenzeller & Raclette. It has a buttery, fruity & nutty flavor when young, developing a bold, meaty, caramelized onion character as it matures. The texture is dense and pliant, easily portioned and ideal for melting.
The texture, aesthetic, and flavor make Alpha Tolman an ideal choice for fans of Appenzeller (or fondue!). TK strongly recommends pairing Alpha Tolman with Smokehaus ham. Using your oven’s broiler, heap thin cuts of Alpha Tolman onto thick-cut Smokehaus ham until the cheese starts to blister and caramelize. Next take a healthy wad of butter and slowly brown it on your stove top. Drizzle the brown butter all over the ham and cheese then serve (on a roll or on its own). Absolute perfection!
Try pairing Alpha Tolman with a robust ale, such as Hoops #21 Ale (sold here in our deli!) or a Belgium-style farmhouse ale.
Lucky Linda is Redhead Creamery’s clothbound cow’s milk farmstead cheddar. Made in the little town of Brooten in west central Minnesota, this six-plus-month aged cheddar has gained notoriety in its relatively young existence (Redhead’s first wheel of cheese being made in 2014). Each wheel of cheese is aged right under the creamery in their cellars, allowing natural molds to create their ridiculously terroir-driven cheese.
Rustic-looking in style, this clothbound cheddar has notes of bold mushroom, with sharp creaminess, nuttiness, and a balanced lactic finish.
Pairing Lucky Linda with a dry cider is a no-brainer, especially Sociable Cider’s Freewheeler—guess where you can find it. Not a cider person? Try it with Fulton’s Standard Lager. The caramel notes of Lucky Linda and the maltiness of the Standard Lager deliciously compliment each other.
Cheese is a sophisticated addition to whatever snack you’re planning, and can add dimension to many an entree. It’s an easy gift—easier if you have any inclination as to your giftee’s preferred flavor palate. Cheese, the scientific community tells us, is like a drug. These, and many more reasons, are why we’re so excited about our carefully curated lineup of (mostly) local/regional cheeses. We do our best to offer a unique selection of handmade cheeses. This isn’t American Cheese Product: This is the real deal. Every cheese in our inventory has a story—the kind you’ll be glad to share with your friends and loved ones.
Happy Black Friday! We’ll keep this 5 Things™ short and sweet, so you can maximize your flat-screen TV-buying time today.
Duluth is covered in snow! November was a month of coldsnaps and rain, all a tease to the snow-covered winters to which we are accustomed.
The first Big Snow™ of the year began with slush sometime around 6 p.m. on Tuesday (I was inside, and not watching the radar), then accumulated overnight, continuing through the early afternoon on Wednesday.
Waking up Wednesday morning to let my dog outside, watching her hop and sprint around, struggling to pack down the tall snow just enough to do her business, the large snowflakes falling and slowly dancing in a mild breeze like the inside of a snow globe, I experienced one of those rare (for me) Winter moments during which I feel tranquil—not shrugging and squinting against the bitter cold, or cooped up inside longing for the warmth of sunshine. In that moment, with the insulation of a fresh coat of snow and the glow of dawn reflecting off the undamaged ‘flakes, I thought, “this isn’t so bad. I could survive this.”
Where did I go? I got lost for a minute. Back to business.
Alongside a host of great local merchants, NWS will have various swag (T-Shirts, hats, and tote bags), salumi (Salamini, Saucisson Sec and Pepperoni), bento boxes—with Castel Vetrano olives, local cheese, and sliced salumi—and gift cards available.
This marks the beginning of our annual holiday gift card sale: November 30th through December 31st, for every $100 worth of gift cards purchased, receive a ~*bonus*~ $20 gift card.
This offer is only available in-store, at the SBS bash, and the Duluth Winter Village, and does not extend to online gift cards.The $100 can be arranged in any increments, but please don’t ask for 100x$1 gift cards.
Speaking of the Duluth Winter Village—it’s next week.
December 7th & 8th, we’ll be slinging the same wares as Small Business Saturday from a modestly heated shipping crate on the Glensheen Mansion grounds. It’s a lot cuter and cozier than I’m making it sound, and this year the Village will have a glorious lights display, making it all the more magical.
Cross your fingers and your toes for more dreamy snow globe snowfall next weekend.
Mail Order has a busy Monday ahead of them.
Monday kicks off with the packing of 300+ boxes for a single corporate order. The crew will be here bright and early carefully arranging four slabs of assorted Atlantic salmon in each box (which they assembled and lined with insulation on Wednesday of this week) to be shipped ASAP.
All of this will happen whilst they navigate the assorted private orders shipping out the same day, and the incoming Pigs in Space orders.
Which brings us to this week’s final Thing™:
Pigs in Space III (or MMXIX) takes place 24 hours only on C•Y•B•E•R Monday, December 2nd.
Pigs in Space is that special time of year when MN/Midwest shipping for orders between $150 and $350 is free and Continental shipping for like orders is 50% off.
From 00:00:01 to 23:59:59, use the discount code pigsinspace19 to receive free shipping on all eligible MN/Midwest orders and pigsinspacecont19 for 50% off shipping on eligible Continental orders. And we’ll ship them whenever you like.
Mail Order season is suddenly upon us. The third-floor DeWitt-Seitz office is already primed for near-optimal success is preparing hundreds of skillfully packed boxes. You know what? This is my first Thing™ this week. Let’s play it again.
Mail Order season is suddenly upon us.
The third-floor DeWitt-Seitz office is already primed for near-optimal success is preparing hundreds of skillfully packed boxes. Any surface that could possibly be repurposed as a work surface is or soon will be.
Storage space is at an all-time premium—we’ve even rented spaces in Proctor, MN and Superior, WI to keep from overburdening our DeWitt-Seitz location.
We’ve brought in seasonal reinforcements, who will be training in on Sunday the 17th, and making our Mail Order Director, Andy’s life way less stressful. It’s a whole thing.
We’ve updated our shipping policies and providers so that we’ll hopefully be turning a profit (albeit small) on each package shipped, rather than losing a little bit of money on each. For our small, family-owned, community-oriented business, this is great news.
We met with our publisher.
On Tuesday, a cohort of those of us involved in producing the first Northern Waters Smokehaus cookbook took a field trip to the University of Minnesota Press‘s office in Minneapolis. We’re honored and excited to be working with the press, and the feeling seems to be mutual. Icing on the cake: the building in which they’re located has very comfortable conference room chairs.
In the wake of that meeting, we’ve developed a plan to methodically comb through the rest of the recipe testing, while polishing the text into something worthy of telling the story of NWS, DeWitt-Seitz Marketplace, and our beloved City and Lake.
While the cookbook itself won’t be hitting shelves any time soon, it’s been 20+ years coming at this point, and it will be a great accomplishment to kick off the next two decades of NWS.
For the uninitiated: RCR is Uplands Cheese Company’s (Dodgeville, WI) Autumn-exclusive, washed rind, raw cow’s milk cheese made with the rich and silky milk that emerges when the cows’ diets shift from Summer pastures to Fall and Winter hay.
The extremely seasonal, small batch cheese is sold in 12oz wheels ($35/wheel) that are intended to be served at room temperature in a single serving. (No worries if you and yours can’t manage that: Just re-package it in its breathable wrap and tuck it in the coldest part of the fridge.)
Maker Andy Hatch has described the cheese as a “savory custard, [which] exudes a very soft, delicate texture with a savory, rich finish likened to cured meat.”
Each wheel of the cheese is hand-wrapped with spruce bark, then aged 60 days before it is shipped off to distributors. For more information on serving—beyond the obvious: serve it on a fine cracker alongside a sparkling or dry white wine—chat with our deli staff.
You don’t want to miss out on this exceptional cheese, and the rest of the delicious offerings—including my personal favorite, the Shepherd’s Way Sogn Tomme—in our grab’n’go case, this holiday season.
The 127th Annual Sandwich Lab is this Sunday night!
On Sunday night at 7 p.m., the best of the best will be assembling to brush up our sandwich-making skills, pitch new sandwich ideas, and just generally have a good time.
Unlike our most recent Sunday night meeting, we’ll be open full business hours (all the way to 6pm) on Sunday. I didn’t realize that there had been so many until we received this official notice from our HR director, Greg:
The global salmon market is currently in flux—with causes and effects that extend outside of the purview of this particular blog post—and as a substantial importer of salmon, we strive to continue to bring you responsibly and sustainably sourced Atlantic salmon.
North Road provides huge (we’re talking five-pound filets!) , beautifully marbled salmon sourced from sustainable farms off the coasts of Norway and Scotland, and within the Faroe Islands. The smoked product is melt-in-your-mouth tender and has taken especially well to our brown sugar & salt cure, resulting in some of the best smoked salmon I’ve had the pleasure of eating, even by our stringent standards—especially with dill seasoning.
Currently, we’re only smoking it in small batches and selling it in our deli, alongside our other smoked salmon options. Next time you stop in the deli, ask for a sample and see for yourself, or just buy a big ol’ slab and show all your friends and family.
Thanks for tuning in!
NEXT WEEK ON 5 THINGS™: More about mail order season, a follow-up on Sandwich Lab, an in-depth look at our new enormous standing mixer (described to me as “something out of War of the Worlds”), and more!
We’ve got a lot to talk about this week. WordPress’s “readability” analysis is going to hate this post, but I hope you can find some joy while reading it. Brace yourself for an especially long-winded 5 Things™. Take care that your limbs don’t fall asleep.
Sandwich Lab—we won’t stop talking about it, but what is it?
*BUM BUM* IN THE DELICATESSEN SCENE, NEVER SHAKING UP YOUR SANDWICH MENU IS CONSIDERED ESPECIALLY HEINOUS. AT NORTHERN WATERS SMOKEHAUS, THE DEDICATED DELI EMPLOYEES WHO INNOVATE ON THE SANDWICH MENU ARE MEMBERS OF AN ELITE SQUAD KNOWN AS THE SANDWICH LAB. THESE ARE THEIR STORIES.
A place where dreams come true. Every Northern Waters Smokehaus employee gets a free shift meal each shift. This is an essential part of the Smokehaus business model: Well-nourished employees who feel valued are likely to work better. Newcomers are encouraged to familiarize themselves with the entire menu, so that is where their meals usually begin; however, there are dreamers and seekers among us. Eventually, there are those who travel through the looking glass, then down the rabbit hole, often there and back again, discovering obscured and forbidden combinations of flavor, and discerning the likes of which are their favorites. Colloquially, we refer to them as pet sandwiches, which is a very tender way to describe something that you obliterate with your mouth and hands, but that’s beside the point. These Seekers of the New Flavor wear their desire paths until they settle upon the True Recipe, and Sandwich Lab is the place where they may enter their creation in a fateful test against the gauntlet of their co-workers’ palates. And among those entrants, only the most Supreme earn their place upon the Sandwich Menu, some for a short time—more on this in a jiffy!—and some for good.
Having your creation up on the menu at a beloved deli feels good. The current permanent-menu sandwiches that came from this recent NWS tradition are the Cedar’s Secret, the Pork Lion, the Purple Range, the Hardhat, and the Adisalad—a rare salad entry that became the most recent Lab’s only permanent-menu addition.
A place where heretical beliefs are crushed! Sometimes—most often with our toasted sandwiches—steps in the preparation of sandwiches give way to shortcuts discovered in trying times, like the midst of an especially grueling 5-hour Summer rush; or to alternate arrangements of ingredients, like a Cajun Finn where all the vegetable elements are below the Cajun Smoked Salmon (the horror!). Imprecise amounts of condiments can make or break the overall experience of a sandwich. There’s a million-and-one things our sandwich makers have to juggle in their, ultimately and tragically limited, human brains while churning out those stacks of bread, meat, cheese, sauce and veg, and sometimes things just go astray.
Until Sandwich Lab, whereupon these heretical ideals are brought to heel, though not without the opportunity for fair trial. While a select panel of experts prepares its own case in the name of getting us back on course, there is also opportunity to determine if the old way really is the right way. A few examples of changes brought forth by Sandwich Lab include shifting the Big Dipper from a cold sandwich on a square roll, cut in thirds, to a hot sandwich on a hero roll, cut in fourths; and the admittedly very-involved multi-cycle toasting of ingredients—first separately, then stacked together—of the ’06.
A fun time. This blog is really playing up the drama of Sandwich Lab, but ultimately, it’s mostly a lot of laughter and snacking, with some demonstrations going on throughout the time. It’s a paid meeting and it’s only mandatory to those of us embroiled in the sandwich arts.
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s get to these Things™, which will be a mixture of stone cold statistics and subjective observations.
A recap of Sandwich Lab 2019.
The dates of the nine monthlong specials had somewhat arbitrary beginnings and endings, based roughly around the first Monday of each month. For the sake of this retrospective, we’ll just note the month in which each ran. For the sake of your time, I’ll just include brief notes for each sandwich.
Probably my favorite of the sandwich lab specials, and that’s including my own contribution to the cycle. This is a very sauce-driven sandwich, including mayo, mustard and sriracha. While Turkey & Pastrami were the two meat options, the secret third option—Black Pepper & Coriander Atlantic Salmon—also made for a great savory & spicy sandwich.
Before this sandwich entered our lives, I had never really thought of cream cheese as a dipping sauce. After this sandwich, the recipe of which called for “A side of cream cheese, for dippin’,” I now recognize it as such. Smokehaus sandwiches with multiple meats are few and far between, so Turkey & Salami-mix as a double protein was certainly a treat. Hip-hop trio Salt’n’Pepa—after the DJ of which this sandwich was named—also toured this Spring, so the name was an apt tribute, mostly by accident.
So many Smokehaus products lend themselves easily to Bloody Mary construction. Originally, the plan for this sandwich was to have Bison Buddies as the main protein, however, due to prohibitive food costs and fluctuations in bison availability, we settled on our Beef & Pork Summer Sausage and Smoked Pancetta.
The early Sandwich Lab specials received a ton of marketing support (before we realized that it wouldn’t be sustainable in the busy months and dropped the hilarious video/audio clips), and the Bloody Mary got some of the best: breaking mirrors, smoke, and a reference to Stanley Kubrick’s cinematic butchering of The Shining (seriously, read the book).
This sandwich’s downfall was an ongoing struggle with the “bloody mary mixer” sauce, which was often unavailable, due to other prepping priorities. Its upside was its beautiful mess personality.
Michael brought this sandwich from a small coffee shop and deli in Sedona, AZ. Its name comes from the Australian owner, whose voice and accent is stuck in Michael’s head even to this day, whenever he smashes an avocado. The Wallaby marked the Smokehaus’s first-ever inclusion of avocado on the menu, and the sandwich itself was on the low-end of our price range. Additionally, it was a vegan sandwich, which is still new territory to a lot of our customer base—hence our recommended inclusion (for a slight upcharge) of Smoked Pancetta.
Our sincere apologies if associating the proud people of Australia with wallabies is at all insensitive. The name played into a Rocko’s Modern Life marketing sub-theme, and we thought it was cute.
The marketing of this sandwich was a bit erratic. The name comes from one of Sebastian’s nicknames, his suggested marketing notes were to include cats, because he loves cats, and it’s a great sandwich that elides the best parts of a handful of our other fish sandwiches—the Cajun Finn, the Sitka Sushi, and the Great Summer Caper—into one sleek package. All things considered, the Sebu-chan was available at the beginning of our busy Summer season, and it was a fish sandwich, [WHICH HAS PROVEN TO BE A SUCCESSFUL MODEL ON ITS OWN], so it sold quite a few units, and we received no bad reviews. I’d call this Sandwich Lab Special a success.
Another entry in the line of successful fish sandwiches that emerged from Sandwich Lab. In terms of percentage of units sold (the category we’ll be using to rate an aspect of the sandwich’s success in a later Thing™) the Schtick was on-par with the rest of the sandwiches, but in terms of how many it actually sold, this one is the winner.
The average (mean) number of units sold overall was 119.222222222, and the Schtick sold 229 units during its tenure. These numbers don’t account for factors such as how slow or fast business was at the time, but they’re still interesting enough to note. The next largest seller of individual units was the Wagner, at 133 sandwiches sold.
Harrison, its creator, is a proponent of bombastic flavor profiles, and this sandwich is no exception. Between pepperoncinis, lemon pepper, and cornichon pickles, this sandwich has a lot of flavor going on.
Jacob accurately assessed our need for a Smoked Lake Trout sandwich, and offered up this NWS spin on a New England Lobster Roll. The hurdle this sandwich had to struggle with was a general shortage of Lake Trout during the month of August. Fortunately, this delicious Lake Trout Salad and Smoked Pancetta sandwich (on our haus-baked Pullman white bread) only sold a modest amount of units—enough that it was worth the effort invested, but was still able to stay within the demand for it.
We took a break from Sandwich Lab specials, in hopes of finding the best local apples for the final sandwich.
Read about last year’s permanent menu addition: The Adisalad.
October is a much better time for apples. By waiting until this month, we were able to a.) get amazing Cortland apples from Washburn, WI (the remainder of which Patricia has been using in apple hand pies. So yum!) and b.) run my sandwich during my favorite month. While I consider this sandwich the Greatest of All Time, hence the name, others did not share my fervor. Points against this sandwich: neither Smoked Andouille (toasted, to boot), chèvre, nor apples are a regular part of our sandwich line. Additionally, the construction of this sandwich is rather involved—the andouille required several cycles in the oven to achieve perfect toastiness.
All things considered, I’ll still be bringing in my own apples and making this sandwich all the time.
Monthlong specials are tough.
Between training the workforce, developing marketing ideas, putting marketing ideas into practice, sourcing ingredients not ordinarily found at NWS, perfecting sauce recipes, keeping new ingredients in-stock, cultivating demand among our customers, and Flo creating detailed and accurate individual signs(!), a lot of resources went into these specials, which deserved more time to shine than we could practically allot them.
This is just to say, the upcoming Sandwich Lab probably won’t turn out the same way. We’re leaving our options open, and making no promises.
These are the actual numbers.
Your blogger is neither a statistics- nor a mathematics-oriented individual, but I have access to one particular set of data which offers a small insight into the relative success of each sandwich: percentage of units sold. Basically, during the Special’s time on the menu, how many were sold versus how many sandwiches/salads were sold overall. Since I don’t have access to the whole year’s data at this time, I won’t be “sharing my work.” You’re just going to have to trust me. Early results seem to be skewed to the nearest percent, while later results are slightly more accurate.
The Breakfast Club: 56 sold / 1%
The Wagner: 132 sold / 3%
The Spinderella: 128 sold / 2%
The Bloody Mary: 117 sold / 2%
The Wallaby: 86 sold / 1%
The Sebu-chan: 110 sold / 1.5%
The Fish Schtick: 229 sold / 1.7%
The Lake Trout Situation: 92 sold / 0.96%
The G.O.A.T.: 100 sold / 1.46%
We find this percentage useful in determining the relative success of the sandwich since each one had a slightly different price (making total sales less useful) and we have definite slow and busy seasons, in which our overall sandwich sales drop and increase drastically. A “fun” “game” you can play with the numbers I’ve given you is to calculate how many sandwiches/salads we sold in a given month. I’ll leave that up to you, and move on, because I’m finishing up this blog on my day off and want to wrap things up.
Sandwich Lab is coming soon.
At our November 3rd All-Staff Meeting, we determined that the next Sandwich Lab will take place on Sunday, November 17th at 7pm. Goals for this Lab: get new employees and veterans on the same page for our entire huge sandwich menu, perhaps find a couple new sandwiches for the board, and begin development of the sandwich whose naming rights we put up for auction on behalf of Friends of the Boundary Waters.Yes, an individual has earned the right to name an as-of-yet-undeveloped smoked fish sandwich, which will be available in our deli during Spring 2020.
I don’t always ask for feedback…
…but when I do, I make a big deal out of it.
If you’ve had any/all of our 2019 Sandwich Lab specials, and you have any critiques/complaints/compliments that you’d like to share with us, or if you think that any of the specials deserves a victory lap or a slot on our permanent menu, shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
I can’t make any promises about what we’ll do with the information (though if I want to quote you in any future media, I will 100% ask your permission).
Diet season is over. Between the leftover Halloween candy all but the most popular houses are holding onto, and the numerous impending holiday feasts you’ll attend, there’s going to be a lot to eat about these next few months. If you live in the cold North like we do, you can choose to view it as a matter of pragmatism: adding an extra layer of insulation to survive the harsh Winter.
Clearly food is on my mind, so it is convenient that I write for a deli’s blog. Today, I’ll tell you about some new food (and beverage) items at the Smokehaus, and if I run out of new foods to talk about, I’ll just wing it the rest of the way.
One more reminder, before we get into the juicy selection of Things™ that await: We’re in the midst of our MN Early Bird mail order sale:
Order now for the holidays and enjoy 15% off any order heading to Minnesota! Smoked turkey, ham, porketta, salmon, and more.
Enter code earlybird19 at checkout and specify when you would like your order to arrive in the order notes. You can use this code on as many individual transactions as you see fit.
This offer is effective through November 14th, 2019. Some boring restrictions may apply.
Since we began carrying beer, wine, cider, and hard seltzer earlier this year, Fulton’s Lonely Blonde has been a customer favorite. But seasons change, and beer menus do too, so once we run out o our stock of Lonely Blonde*, we’ll begin serving Fulton’s Standard Lager, a very sessionable all-malt lager that clocks in at a respectable 4.5% abv and is a perfect fit for the colder part of the year.
Smoked Molasses Cookies.
The newest addition to our lineup of baked goods is a hot topic in this increasingly colder season. Patricia has been talking about smoked molasses cookies since she started working at our deli, and the dream has finally come true. Made with a 50/50 blend of haus-smoked and unsmoked butter, and the perfect amount of haus-smoked molasses, these cookies are a great follow-up to any of our sandwiches, but to me they sound (err…taste?) like a great follow-up to a straightforward sandwich, like the Cold Turkey or Gorilla. They will be regularly available for $2 in the deli, on their own or in a Box Lunch.
Thanksgiving Dinner Pasties.
On Wednesday, I caught Patricia in the middle of baking off a huge tray of bread cubes. When I asked why prep had her making croutons, she gave me the best news I’d received all week, which you can likely guess from the preceding emboldened text: these bread cubes will become stuffing. That stuffing will be combined with Smoked Turkey Breast, gravy, craisins, and root vegetables to form ~*THANKSGIVING DINNER PASTIES*~
Be the first* to know when they’re available. Keep your eyes on our socialmediapages.
Grab Thanksgiving Dinner by the crust and enjoy!
*After Patricia, whomever is working with Patricia, and whomever is available to post the news to our social media feed.
Our All-Staff Meeting is this Sunday at 6pm, and Sandwich Lab is just around the corner.
This seems like it should be two Things™, but it’s happening as one. On Sunday, November 3rd, we’ll be closing our doors at 5 p.m.—just a little bit earlier than usual—for an All-Staff Meeting. Please forgive us in advance if you were planning on stopping into our deli between 5 and 6 p.m. on your way out of town. (Perhaps you could just skip town an hour earlier to beat our closing time. It’s cold and snowing here now—there’s nothing for you anymore.)
And just a few short weeks after, many of us Smokehausers will meet for our annual Sandwich Lab.
Sandwich Lab is an event that emerged a few years back to calibrate our evolving/rotating cast of sandwich makers, to ensure that we’re making sandwiches consistently, and of the utmost quality. The Summer rush is not the ideal scenario in which to learn the subtle art of NWS sandwich-making, and yet that is when so many among us must cut their teeth.
Sandwich Lab also offers us an opportunity to share our favorite personal sandwiches, to have them graded and analyzed (and ideally enjoyed). Last year’s Sandwich Lab featured so many good candidates that we released them as monthly specials, beginning with the Breakfast Club, and ending with the G.O.A.T., which saw its last official day on the menu yesterday.
Who knows what will happen this year(?), but however it goes, it always ends up being fun.
In conjunction with our new-and-improved Happy Hour, we’ve added Smokehaus Sliders to the menu. Monday through Friday 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., 16oz cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon and Hamm’s are $2, and all other craft brews are $1-off.
The sliders feature half-portions of your favorite NWS meats, and butter, on a cute little slider bun, and are available for $3 (or two for $5). HOWEVER, if you can’t make it in between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m., you can still get sliders all day at the low, low cost of $3 for one/$6 for two.
They’re the perfect size for kids of all ages, and those who want to try a variety of our products without breaking belt loops or billfolds.
Thanks for stopping by 5 Things™. We at the Smokehaus hope you have a good rest of your day and stay hydrated. We love you forever.
October has, thus far, been a whirlwind of activity in Duluth and the DeWitt-Seitz Marketplace. The first three weeks of the month held several conventions and conferences—including the Catalyst Content Festival and Duluth’s first-ever cosplay/comic-convention, DuluCon—which brought new and enthusiastic crowds of out-of-towners to our deli each week.
This week we got our reprieve. The lunch rushes were slower, and there was an abundance of time to deep clean the deli.
A cookbook photo shoot.
Smoked fish was on the menu at this shoot, which included smoked salmon and whitefish, green curry lake trout, lake trout chowder, king salmon candy confit, several smoked fish spreads, and more, beautifully plated on colorful kids plates.
You may already be familiar with our photographic style through our various social media platforms, our blog, and our catalog, but we still have a few tricks up our sleeves, and we’re excited for you to see them.
Who’d have guessed(?)—inclement weather.
It’s roughly that time of year, when Canal Park, and furthermore the DeWitt-Seitz Marketplace, locks horns once again with the Big Lake. Canal Park all but closed down, any attempts to repair the destroyed Lakewalk were undone, and a handful of our staff, alongside the ever hardworking Oneida crew, fought the ceaseless tide in our basement with brooms and squeegies.
After last year’s flooding, we took a long, hard look at our drainage systems, and last year’s long, hard look paid off, as the drains in our kitchen put in work as well. One day, Nature will reclaim it all, but until then, we’re grateful for the folks in the trenches.
The Early Bird Sale began on our website.
October 24th through November 14th, you’ll receive 15% off every cart before shipping costs are applied. Yes, that is 15% off of virtually everything we sell online, all for the low, low cost of typing earlybird19into the coupon code box. The offer cannot be combined with other coupons, but the code is reusable for the duration of the sale.
Patricia made smoked molasses cookies!
Since she began working with us, Patricia has been talking about making smoked molasses cookies, and it has finally come to fruition. After one very controversialbatch, which some deemed delicious, and others far too smoky—it broke your blogger’s heart to criticize Patricia’s work for the first time—she has locked in that perfect balance of rich sweetness and smokiness in her latest batch. They’re available in our deli for $2 per cookie, and are an option for your box lunches.
When she’s not hard at work supplying all of our cookies—chocolate chip, ginger, coconut macaroons, carrot cake & cream cheese sandwiches, and now smoked molasses—Patricia still knocks out just shy of a dozen pasties each week, toasty cheddar crackers, and the occasional experiment. What a gem!
We held it down at Duluth Pack’s Ladies Night.
Flo prepared a grip of All-Season fillet platters for the 6th Annual Ladies Night event, and Jacob covered the event, which featured Wild State Cider, a raffle, and plenty of interaction with locals who had somehow never known our deli was right next door. All-in-all, Jacob deemed it one heck of a party and a success for our business.
In conclusion if you have been holding out on a trip to NWS because of the long lines and chaos, there’s no time like the present to stop in. Things should be calm until mid-November, when the holiday fun starts. This is also the last weekend to try the G.O.A.T., our first smoked andouille sandwich, and final 2019 Sandwich Lab special, which leaves our menu November 1st.