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:
Like a flavor flash-mob, this sandwich is incoming to shake up your everyday life.
A minute ago the Smoked Lake Superior Lake Trout was hanging around some lemons and scallions, having an impassioned conversation; but the crispy Smoked Pancetta, wasabi mayo, cucumbers, cilantro and thin-sliced cabbage were just scrolling on their phones, minding their business. Next thing you know, the buttered, toasted, white bread shows up, and suddenly the courtyard (where I imagine this is all happening) comes alive, and onlookers are astounded as these seemingly separate entities come together in a meticulously choreographed song-and-dance.
Yes, it has been choreographed, and meticulously. Abs are out and fists are pumping. This Situation of a sandwich required extensive development, but has turned into something quite special. Inspired by the Jersey Shore and classic New England Lobster rolls, with that particular NWS flair, this just might be the smoked lake trout sandwich we’ve been waiting our whole lives for.
Try it during the month of August, and receive not only a scintillating gustatory experience, but two stamps on your sandwich card. This is the cutting-edge of Smokehaus sandwiches. The Lake Trout Situation costs $10 + tax.
WHAT IS SANDWICH LAB?
AT NORTHERN WATERS SMOKEHAUS, OUR WORK IS PLAYING WITH FOOD. THAT MEANS SOMETIMES, IN THE LINE OF DUTY, WE STUMBLE UPON AN AMAZING COMBINATION OF INGREDIENTS THAT EVOLVES OVER SEVERAL SHIFT-MEALS INTO A NOTEWORTHY NEW SANDWICH. OTHER TIMES WE UNCOVER A MORE EFFICIENT WAY TO BUILD A SANDWICH, OR WE SWAP AN INGREDIENT ON A CURRENT MENU ITEM. SANDWICH LAB IS AN ANNUAL GATHERING OF OUR STAFF TO REFINE OUR SANDWICH-LINE SKILLS, TO COME TO AGREEMENT ON ANY CONTROVERSIES, AND—THE BEST PART—TO INTRODUCE OUR PET SANDWICHES TO THE GREATER SMOKEHAUS COMMUNITY.
NOTABLE SANDWICH LAB FINDINGS FROM PREVIOUS YEARS INCLUDE THE CEDARS’S SECRET, THE PURPLE RANGE, THE PHOEBE, AND THE PORK LION. LAST YEAR’S SANDWICH LAB HAD SO MANY GOOD SANDWICHES THAT WE COULDN’T DECIDE ON JUST ONE OR TWO TO ADD TO THE MENU, SO WE DECIDED TO GIVE THEM ALL A CHANCE TO SHINE, AS MONTH-LONG SPECIALS.
We’re in the dog days of summer—or we might not be—and life at NWS is heating up. Our first Thing™ offers an option for cooling down:
We’ve got White Claw!
I still haven’t tried it*, but this low-calorie, gluten-free, slightly boozy seltzer water has become iconic of Summer 2019. One-hundred percent of planned beach expeditions I have attended this year have featured a cooler half full of White Claw cans. It’s reported to be refreshing and taste quite good. I may or may not have “liked” a meme featuring a can of Hidden Valley Ranch White Claw this morning on the ‘Gram.
We received our first shipment of Grapefruit White Claw this week. Lightly-flavored effervescent beverages (affectionately known as “day beers”) are a longtime staple of life at NWS—a former deli manager once challenged herself to drink twelve cans of LaCroix in a shift, and the grapefruit and lime varieties of Topo Chico sparkling water have become a fast favorite for staff and patrons alike—so it follows quite naturally that our early forays into hard beverages would include what I am now exclusively calling “nighttime day beers” in my head.
*By the time this blog is posted, I may have consumed at least one can of White Claw.**
**Leif and I drank our first nighttime day beers together on the patio after work.
Heirloom tomato season is in full effect!
Every July, we purchase a beautiful bounty of locally-grown heirloom tomatoes from Hammarlund Nursery in Esko, MN. Ken Hammarlund himself brings us dozens of pounds of these delectable tomatoes in weekly increments when the season is in full-swing.
These ‘matos are not only exceptional on the palate, but also come in beautiful colors—bright greens, yellows, and purples, and swirls of all three—so they are remarkably pleasant to prep for the day.
If you’ve ever been on-the-fence about sandwiches with tomatoes, July into the first few weeks of August is a great time to try them.
Waiting for your order on the patio is easier than ever!
We love our small storefront and our home in DeWitt-Seitz Marketplace, but it’s not without its shortcomings. The hallway we share with Lake Avenue Café can become crowded whenever the sandwich queue is even a little backed up.
“Stick around. We’ll call your name when your food is ready,” was essentially the script. Those who wanted to establish themselves at a table on the patio were also given the annoying task of periodically sending an emissary inside to check on the status of their food.
But this has all changed now that we have added a public address system to our patio. We’ll default to calling out names un-amplified in the deli, but if no one comes running, we’ll double-down on the PA.
Grab that spot outside, catch some extra rays of sunshine, experience a bit of leisure while we make your order.
A little bit of Smokehaus lore.
Research and development for our first cookbook has provided a wellspring of insights into the growth of the Smokehaus. A bunch of these tidbits will make their way into the pages of the book, and some of them are going to pop into the 5 Things™ blog now and again.
During a rapid-fire meeting Tuesday morning on our patio, the topic of our salmon seasonings came up. Dill is a no-brainer when it comes to salmon, and a blend of black pepper and coriander bears a strong resemblance to another popular preparation of meat, but what of cajun seasoning?
Our cajun-seasoned smoked Atlantic salmon is a fairly popular item of its own, but unless you arrived at this web address accidentally and have no idea how you got here or how to navigate away from this page, you have probably heard of the Cajun Finn. The sandwich that outsells half of the rest of our menu. 40% of the sentence “I’ll have a Cajun Finn,” which is sometimes 40% of all words said by an individual ordering as part of a group.
Cajun-seasoned smoked salmon, it turns out, was an experiment with a current trend that ended up wildly successful.
Paraphrasing Eric: “People were putting cajun seasoning on everything, so we tried the same thing with smoked salmon, and people loved it.”
That’s a pretty wild innovation to just stumble into, and serendipitous. Who knows where the Smokehaus would be without the cult success of the Cajun Finn? I like to imagine the excellent quality of our food would have carried us to similar heights, but it’s impossible to say.
Two new product features on our blog!
They put me to work this week—alongside work on the cookbook, a handful of press releases, and some updates of our online swag descriptions, I also whipped up a couple of posts about our selection of natural wines with suggested food pairings, and an often overlooked menu item, the fish basket. Since you’re already here, think about checking them out.
Last Friday, I sure tried to post a 5 Things™ blog. I came in a half-hour early for my deli shift, sat down to post it, and saw nothing but this:
What can you do?
So I kept my laptop open and in-sight all day, on our in-haus WiFi, and my own personal mobile hotspot, and even Lake Avenue Café’s WiFi (thanks, Lake Ave!).
To no avail.
So I headed home, and gave it a shot on my own WiFi.
I gave up on periodically pressing ‘Publish’ at 6pm, and resigned myself to enjoying my weekend, blog be damned.
If you are reading this, this 5 Things™ blog was successfully posted.
This week we had many meetings!
Sunday night, we had a long overdue ALL STAFF MEETING in which we discussed the impending Summer rush, our future in offering beer & wine, plans for our patio, and much more. Afterward, pizza and carbonated beverages were consumed.
Then on Monday night, those of us who will be in a position to sell the aforementioned beer & wine attended a scintillating alcohol service training.
After the alcohol service training, the D&D group entered the Pit of Blood and Fortune in a battle royale that thrust us into direct combat against each other, and ended up imprisoned by an Illithid in the service of a Beholder. That seemed like an adequately depressing place to end after learning the harsh potential consequences of alcohol over-service, so we’ll see what happens next week.
How about some exciting news?
Smoked ribs are back in stock!
Just in time for Memorial Day weekend and the commencement of grilling season! Ribs sell for $10.99/lb in whole (~2 lb) and half racks.
Today we have have racks coming fresh out of the smoker, which really is the best way to have any smoked meats. Place your pickup order over the phone on ChowNow for $9 half racks and $16 whole racks. All the convenience of skipping the deli line, with a little bit of savings on the sale as well. This fresh-smoked rib special will be happening through Monday (Memorial Day) or until we run out.
We don’t talk about our ribs that much, outside of pop-ups, so consider this our way-too-late Smoked Ribs Product Launch™. Starting on Memorial Day, smoked ribs will be our Monday special.
Kenspeckle Letterpress shirts are returning soon!
Our classic shirts, long only in-stock in the sizes nobody was looking for, are returning soon, in all sizes! Designed by master printmaker Rick Allen at Kenspeckle Letterpress, these shirts are one of our oldest pieces of inedible brand merchandise, and we’re looking forward to restocking them. Now in softer, more breathable cotton!
We took our last trip out to Hemlock Preserve!
Not our last trip ever, of course. Just the final installation of our extended/postponed/multiply rescheduled catering photo shoot series.
This particular trip featured two charming friends of NWS in a mock breakfast-picnic-slash-Jay-Cooke-hike scenario.
When we present the final product of these photo shoots, you’re getting the cream of the crop—maybe 15-25 photographs—but a ton of work goes into finding those perfect couple dozen images. Here’s a tribute to all the surprisingly hard work that goes into making dozens of artful plates of food, transporting them between multiple buildings (rain or shine), finding the best light, positioning the plates, capturing their best angles, and so on, and so forth:
Northern Waters Catering news!
Our Northern Waters Catering menu has been in development for the past several months, and I’ve finally begun to put the first draft that hit my desk last week into a solid second draft. It’s only a (brief) matter of time until the menu will be in your hands. While the menu is full of our favorite and most requested dishes, it is not exhaustive of our capabilities.
And now, the crowning segment of this blog.
I am pleased to announce:
Hannah/Northern Waters Catering got a new cooler! It is not only quite stylish and large, but also has wheels and evidently a ruler etched into it! You’ll likely spot it any time we are out around the town, and on our patio this Summer.T
We’re at the halfway point of Sandwich Lab specials!
The Breakfast Club, The Wagner, The Spinderella, The Bloody Mary, and now The Wallaby comprise the first wave of our Sandwich Lab specials.
Sandwich Lab is an annual meeting where we brush up on our sandwich making skills and have the opportunity to share our favorite personal sandwich creations for review by the staff and potential inclusion on the menu. And it is typically a lot of fun. Last year, there were too many good entries to pick just one or two, so we decided to run ten of them as monthlong specials, and add one (the Adisalad) to our permanent menu.
We’ve begun keeping a running tally of our Sandwich Lab specials and how they’ve sold against total sandwiches sold during their tenure.
How many Sandwich Lab creations have you tried? Which was your favorite? Do you have any advice for escaping the clutches of a mind flayer? Let us know in the comments.
If the title seems a bit esoteric, don’t worry too much. You have a couple of options: a.) type “explosive cyclogenesis” into your search engine of choice (step a2.) profit), or b.) wait for me to tell you it’s the technical terminology for the so-called “bomb cyclone” ravaging the Midwest.
If you’re still with me, I must confess that the extremely low barometric pressure is affecting my ability to weave the goings-on around the Smokehaus into an interesting narrative roughly describing the week.
Instead of reaching, I’ve decided to share some suggestions with you, based on my own personal experience and taste. Do with these suggestions what you will.
Have a ginger ale with your Slammin’ Gordon.
The Slammin’ Gordon is a fantastic sandwich as presented on the menu, but I rarely make one for myself without adding some pickled ginger. It is sweet and spicy, and it plays very well with the just about everything else in the sandwich, especially the diced cucumber and the horseradish in the salmon pâté.
However, all of our sandwiches are perfect the way they are, so if you’re a purist, why not try a beverage pairing that hits all the same notes? On the sweeter end, we offer Sprecher’s Ginger Ale in our deli. For something spicier, you could check out the selection down the hall from our deli at Blue Heron Trading Company.
The Italiensk pairs exceedingly well with Lemon LaCroix.
Unless you are vegetarian, vegan, or specifically tell me “anything but pork,” I will recommend the Italiensk to you. It always makes my short list of favorite sandwiches when prompted, and it goes well with just about any of our sides.
However, my preferred way to eat an Italiensk is alongside a lemon bubbly water. The sandwich itself is something of a paradox to me: There is enough food there to constitute a full meal, both in variety of ingredients and total caloric value of those ingredients, but it is so delicious and easy to scarf down quickly that eating it on its own leaves me wanting something. My greedy stomach yells at me to stuff more food into it, which sometimes ends up being the case—original kettle chips are my go-to in those moments—but my wise mind knows the truth: I just want to spend more time with my Italiensk.
Queue lemon bubbly water, which serves as a crisp and refreshing interlude between every bite, singing in tight two-part harmony with the basil near the top of the sandwich, and most importantly, extending the quality time I get to spend with one of my favorite Smokehaus sandwiches.
If you’re feeling bold, ask us for a single extra basil leaf on the side, tear it up with your bare hands, and put the basil confetti in your bubbly water. The benefits are twofold: an extra aromatic zip in your drink, and your hands will smell like basil, which is a great way to smell.
The Pork Lion makes me crave cola.
The Pork Lion is still a relatively young sandwich at NWS. It’s a hero roll with smoked pork loin, tomato, cumin slaw, lettuce, cilantro, mayo and red pepper flakes.
I’m no expert on cola flavoring, but I’m fairly certain at least two of the above flavors are present to some degree in most cola recipes.
Don’t overthink it, just try it. We usually have Coca-Cola and Diet Coke on hand.
The Motherlover deserves some extra love.
Arguably our most basic sandwich—white bread, mayo, lettuce, protein—the Motherlover begs for personal experimentation. It is almost the BYO sandwich we will never put on our menu.
For marginal price increases per ingredient, you can add whatever the heck you want to this sandwich, and it’s probably going to taste good, but my personal favorite addition involves bending the rules of what is considered right and proper by the majority of parents and guardians: You get to play with your food.
Here’s the trick: purchase the sandwich and a bag of kettle chips (whatever your favorite flavor is). When you get them, remove the top piece of bread and move the lettuce to the side. Place whatever amount of the chips you find appealing on top of the protein—I usually use about a third of the bag. Replace the lettuce and the bread and smush the newly reformed sandwich together.
Really enjoy the crunching of the chips under your might. It’s part of the experience. Then continue to enjoy the crunch and flavor enhancement in every bite.
This one comes with a special caveat—don’t enjoy them at the same time.
I’m trying to help you optimize your brain function here. Salmon is brain food. The Northern Bagel is a great way to start your day, a perfect pick-me-up for lunch, and even good in the evening. If you’re trying to kick your brain function into gear, enjoy it with a tall glass of hydrogen-dioxide.
Give your body a half-hour to begin processing all those awesome fatty acids—I am not a nutritionist, so this is more of a loose guideline than any sort of educated instruction—and cleanse your palate of the lingering smoked salmon and scallion taste, then crack open the cold press (which is available all around Duluth, but conveniently in our deli) and sip it slowly.
When the cold press hits you, every light will shine a bit brighter and the words and thoughts and feelings flowing through you may cause an overwhelming urge to finally finish your novel. Do that, or at least channel that exuberance into whatever the rest of your day holds. The fatty acids from the salmon have your back.
If you prefer a gentler caffeine buzz, and a flavor that pairs better with scallion cream cheese and smoked salmon, try one of our Honest Tea options. We carry lemon black tea and green tea.
Don’t forget to drink that glass of water.
One Thing™ that happened this week.
In preparation for our Summer and Fall catering seasons, we’re working with our longtime friend Sue Watt at Hemlock Preserve to market what we believe is a perfect venue for a Smokehaus-catered soirée—the aforementioned Hemlock Preserve.
On Monday morning, Hannah, Flo and I traveled out to Esko to visit Sue, pick through some linens and table settings, absorb some stories about the renovations going on throughout the property (including the new log cabins, the raised-platform yurts, and the eclectic decorations), and scout photo opportunities.
We had a great time, and are looking forward to our upcoming photo shoots. Here are some of my favorite smartphone camera photos in the meantime.
On Monday, April 1st, we cut our menu down to just the Cajun Finn. It is our most popular sandwich by a wide margin, so we figured we’d do everyone a favor and eliminate the paralysis that comes from too many good option. Streamlining our sandwich menu received mixed reviews on our social media.
By popular request, we brought everything back. After just one day, we realized that sandwich menu diversity has always been a core part of our identity (at least since we started serving sandwiches, several million minutes before I began working here), and we restored the menu to its full glory, with a new sandwich, to boot——
We added The Bloody Mary to our sandwich menu. Usually all it takes is saying “Bloody Mary sandwich” and people salivate and groan with desire, but for anyone unconvinced, allow me to describe the process by which we make it:
It starts with a Kaiser roll from Johnson’s Bakery. For those of you who have spent any time in Duluth and have not checked out Johnson’s Bakery: Why not? They have a fantastic assortment of baked goods, including my favorite donuts and quick breads in the area, and NWS uses their rolls for several specials—BBQ Brisket on Wednesdays, Hot Pastrami occasionally on Wednesdays, Hot Porketta on Thursdays, and the Kaiser roll for our MN Pulled Pork on Fridays—and now for our April Sandwich Lab special.
We top the bottom slice of the roll with sliced green olives and dill pickle, then lay a slice of cheddar cheese on each side of the roll. We toast this for a couple of minutes alongside some smoked pancetta. It all gets nice and hot and crispy. Once it’s toasted, we throw four thick slices of beef and pork summer sausage over the melted cheese, olives, and pickles, then cover that with the pancetta. The pancetta is doused in a hausmade spicy tomato Bloody Mary sauce, then we finish it off with a cold slice of tomato, thin-cut red onion and a cilantro garnish.
The Bloody Mary costs $12.50+tax. Try it this weekend on our patio with a liquid Bloody Mary from Lake Avenue Café, if you’re feeling extra saucy.
Like all of our Sandwich Lab specials, this sandwich is only available for a month. It comes off the menu on May 6th. It also earns you two stamps on your punch card, if you’re into that sort of thing.
We are popping up all over town. We’re taking our small catering game to the next level with regular pop-ups at some of our favorite local watering holes. Our tentative (but nearing on fixed) monthly pop-up schedule looks something like this:
First Wednesday of the month: Bent Paddle Brewing Co. Taproom 5-8 p.m.
First Friday of the month: Hoops Brewing Company 5-8 p.m.
Next Friday, April 12th, we’re making a special appearance at the Cedar Lounge from 4-7 p.m.
(Tonight we’ll be at Hoops from 5-8 p.m.)
What we’re serving is bound to change at some point, but for now we’re really vibing on smoked chicken wings, sauced to order with maple sambal, soy ginger, or buffalo, and served with a delicious hausmade bleu cheese dipping sauce.
Our resident pickler/fermenter, TK, threw together some spicy zucchini kimchi for these pop-ups as well, and we keep a grip of smoked sockeye buddies and an assortment of our latest baked goods on hand.
Patricia is just rude. I kid, of course, but she keeps making all of these cookies that make me want to spend all my money. It bears repeating that all of our cookies are available as Box Lunch options.
Her latest creation is a savory potato chip cookie sandwich with a sweet date filling.
She’s been making pasties with ingredients from our daily specials as well. So far, she’s made MN Pulled Pork and Maple Breakfast Sausage and Gravy (like finger-food biscuits and gravy) varieties. Look for them in our deli this weekend, and ask around if you don’t see any.
I’ll see you back here for more Things™ next week. Same Thing™ time, same Thing™ place.
Over the past year, we at Northern Waters Smokehaus have taken a serious look at our history and our present business model, as a way to plan for our future success.
At the beginning, we were just a small smoked fish shop somewhere in Superior, WI. After a great deal of hand-wringing, Eric gave in and came up with a few new options to satiate the customers who craved something more. Eventually the demand for something new built up again and Eric yielded, as he did again and again, and finally arrived at something beginning to look like the diverse lineup of products we offer. Frankly, it has gotten out of hand.
Before I get too far ahead of myself, we will still be offering a wide assortment of smoked fish & meats, cheese, olives, etc.
Sandwiches were originally just a marketing ploy. A chunk of baguette, cut and butter-spackled, is a perfect vessel upon which to sample out a few slices of saucisson sec. But, as the old saying goes, if you give a customer a sample sandwich, they’re going to want a sandwich menu.
And just like the smoked meats, the demand grew and grew, and so did the menu.
Offering a dazzlingly wide variety of options on our sandwich menu eventually became a point of pride. Silly protein-related puns turned into top-down designs of new sandwiches. Sometimes an employee would slap together a few random ingredients, obsess about it, start calling it a particular name over and over until it forcibly caught on. Sandwiches even came to folks in dreams, which is a sentence I never imagined I’d be able to write in a professional setting.
So we put them on the menu, gave them glorious painstakingly crafted signage, memorized how to make them, recommended them and observed people’s reactions to the clever names…then sighed as they ordered—yet again—the Cajun Finn sandwich.
The Cajun Finn: Scallion cream cheese, cajun-seasoned smoked Atlantic salmon, pepperoncinis, roasted red peppers, and lettuce on a ciabatta roll. Sure, it’s good. It may even be great. Heck, it’s probably exceptional. But every time?
In its nearly two decades of existence, the Cajun Finn has earned a cult-like following, and has become nearly synonymous with the name Northern Waters Smokehaus.
We’ve listened to the people, and are giving them what they want. So, without further ado, effective today, we are truncating our sandwich menu, and only offering the Cajun Finn. In the wise words of one employee, “choice is really just a burden.”
Gone are the days of struggling to find a spot on the sandwich line to make a Hedonist, a Sitka Sushi, or a Northern Bagel. Gone are the days of the right-hand sandwich maker joking, “time to ride ‘the Finn Train,'” because, from here on out, it’s all Finn Train all day.
We hope to see you soon for a sandwich. Try the Cajun Finn! It’s the only option.
This week, though still classically slow-season Smokehaus, was full of excitement.
1- For starters, we launched our first official NWS Happy Hour, which runs Mondays through Thursdays from 5-7pm and features our new Chicago-ish Haus-ki Dog. Happy Hour specials and hours may change seasonally, but we’re excited about our current lineup.
2- Many of our employees have skills and backstories worth highlighting, if only there were enough hours in the day to interview and write about all of them. But we’re making a start. In honor of her swift and popularly-heralded rise to NWS excellence through phenomenal baked goods, we published a profile of new deli employee & baker, Patricia.
3- Our cookbook dreams are coming to fruition. While specific details aren’t yet available, we’ve been producing a ton of content. Our vision is intact, we’ve already produced a mock-up of an entire chapter, and last weekend we took care of one how-to photo shoot about porketta.
Enjoy some behind-the-scenes photos while you wait for the finished product.
4- Tonight (March 15th) we’ll be popped-up at Hoops Brewing, selling smoked chicken wings, sauced to order with a variety of Northern Waters Restaurant sauces—maple sambal, soy ginger, and hausmade buffalo, to be specific. NWR may no longer exist with us on the Material Plane, but its legacy survives through the Smokehaus.
As far as I know, smoked chicken wings are a rarity in the Twin Ports, not to mention our particular variety, which are brined, “dried” to help form the crispy outer layer, kippered, then hit with a lot of smoke to finish them off.
5- I know the weather comes up frequently, but the battle between dwindling Winter and impending Spring rages on, and alongside the standard freezing rain, we also had a day of one of my favorite weather phenomena: creepy, heavy fog. Inevitably, we’ll get a blizzard in mid-April, but for now, it appears the thaw is on its way.
Here are some more photos by Jacob in our media department, in lieu of pretty words. See you here again next week.
Glad to see you. The sun is shining where I’m writing, and this week had several discrete events worthy of the title “Thing™.” Let us not tarry long on introductions, but hasten to the investigation of these Things™.
A couple of auspicious visits:
Northern Waters Smokehaus is pretty well accustomed to high-status visits. We’ve had the privilege of appearing on a few national cablenetwork programs in the past decade, and while I’m not going to name-drop, there are a number of well-known individuals with local roots who join the masses and wait in line for our food when they happen into town.
Secretly, many of us behind the counter recognize them and get excited when they stop into the shop, but, consummate professionals that we are, we play it cool.
This week, however, I couldn’t contain myself. I was working my first deli shift in what felt like several weeks, so my filter of professional boundaries was perhaps off-kilter, when I received a call from my dear friend, Flo, in the marketing department. The Pitchfork Music Festival had just announced its line-up, which featured, among other exciting acts, local global music legends, Low.
Flo and I have attended the festival together on more than one occasion, so I was excited to hear that the lineup had been announced, but I was doubly-excited to see none other than a member of Low—and co-creator of our famous Cajun Finn sandwich—waiting for a sandwich from our deli. This individual’s identity will be kept vague, since I didn’t ask permission to tell this story in a public forum, and even beloved artists deserve privacy, but they were quite understanding and played-along generously when I held the phone to my chest and shouted,
“Hey, you’re playing Pitchfork [Music Festival](?),”
and again, slightly louder, when they didn’t hear the first time.
It was a moment that has subsequently been described to me as “very Duluth.” And that is the story of how I finally lost my cool and shouted details about someone’s life to them while on-the-clock.
Listen to my favorite Low record below:
Another visit came from someone who, like it or not, has chosen a path that puts them right in the public eye: the 41st Governor of Minnesota, Tim Walz. Truth be told, I probably would not have known about this had I not chosen to unburden the office’s Wi-Fi, and blog out of the deli.
As I typed away in a corner of our small seating area, Minnesota’s public servant-in-chief enjoyed a sandwich—maybe a salad, I didn’t ask—behind me. It wasn’t until the hunger hit me, and I stepped behind the sandwich line to make myself some lunch, that he revealed himself.
Yes, I participated in an electoral process that prominently featured him, but I did not recognize him less than five feet away from me. Is this a tale of his humility, or of my obliviousness, or of something else altogether? The jury is out. The jury, in fact, has neither been consulted, nor even informed of the known facts.
He thanked us for the delicious food, introduced himself to us, and engaged with a few customers who overheard him. The details get hazy from there. Honestly, I checked out at that point because preparing my lunch was of greater urgency to me at that time.
I’m not going to take any political stances on the company blog, fear not, except that being kind and showing gratitude to service industry employees is good praxis.
A pop-up and a new event:
On Wednesday, we had a pop-up at Bent Paddle Brewing Company’s tap room in the Lincoln Park Craft District. Such pop-ups are pretty old-hat by now. NWS setting up shop for a night at a local tap room wouldn’t be much to write about—rather, I and others have written about it so many times that it seems unfair to count that among the Things™—however, we debuted a new item at this pop-up: The Haus-ki, our very tangential take on the Chicago dog. More about the Haus-ki, and our new Happy Hour, which is when we’ll be selling it, is available here.
Some cookbook content fun:
This morning, a handful of the marketing & design staff are taking a break from their typical workday to prepare for a photo-shoot. It should be no secret that we have dreams of releasing a cookbook in the near future, and though we have a wealth of photography related to our business and products, there will never be enough.
This particular photo-shoot pertains to producing a porketta in a backyard smoking apparatus. Today’s tasks are a lot of shoveling, creating the mise en scene for the shoot, and rolling the porketta. Tomorrow, we’ll be enacting and documenting the rest of the process. It’s supposed to snow tomorrow, which could undermine our work, or result in some pretty cool action shots.
Volumes could and will be written about the impact that our recently-establish Baking Department has had on our business, but I’ll keep it brief:
Jerry’s White Bread, Prince Myshkin Rye, Chorizo-Cheddar-Chive Biscuits, Rosemary Potato Rolls, and Ciabattas have further increased our pride of ownership in the food we make. I’ve always liked the bread we’ve used at NWS, and there are certainly some baked items we’re still buying from outside vendors, but being able to say, “on a hausmade [bread of whatever variety]” feels good, and to top it off, it is high-quality product they’re baking down there.
If you’ve noticed some bright yellow pasty-looking items during your recent forays into our shop, and been confused or intrigued, those are Lucy’s Jamaican Hand-Pies, made with our fresh chorizo, and yes, they are a very delicious, filling, easy to eat (with one hand!) item that you should definitely not pass up.
And, of course, what would a 5 Things™ post be without a shoutout to Patricia, who used up all of the Royale With Cheese trimmings we’ve accumulated—since we began cutting our Buddies to a specific cost rather than selling them by weight—to make savory bacon-cheeseburger snack stick and tomato scones.
We have a new sink! The other one was falling off the wall from years of overuse.
Catering at Northern Waters Smokehaus comes in many forms—as simple as an All-Season Atlantic Salmon Fillet on a platter with an assortment of crackers, a pop-up at your venue slinging an item or two tailored to the theme of your event, or enough pulled pork and slaw to feed a small army; or, depending on your needs, as complex as a fully-staffed overnight company retreats or weddings in conjunction with our partner Hemlock Preserve.
We believe that food has the potential to bring people together and define memories, so our catering service is aimed at those who value delicious, high-quality food and want it to be a part of the collective memory of their event. We use the same thoughtfully-sourced ingredients as you’d find in our deli, and whenever possible we use seasonal and regional produce.
Our service is highly customizable, and from the get-go we will work closely with you, giving you detailed quotes along the way. While we have a number of tried-and-true standard and favorite menus at our fingertips, your input is welcome and encouraged. We love the challenge of crafting an impactful menu based on our customer’s vision.
In 2018, we had the honor of catering the annual gala at the Glensheen mansion. The theme was “Secret Garden: Unlocked,” an allusion to an early 20th-century English children’s novel. The menu—which featured English hand pies with lamb, peas, mint, and potatoes; watercress finger-sandwiches with Devon butter on hausmade pullman white bread; gravlax and scallion cream cheese atop rye crisps; Stilton puffs with pancetta and candied walnuts; cucumber cups with fresh pea soup, crème fraîche, cured herring roe, and pea shoots; a selection of cheese with paired fruits and preserves; and a number of desserts, including lavender macaroons and raspberry trifle pies—was meticulously planned and strategically executed to guarantee that each bite could be enjoyed at peak flavor and freshness.
Sue Watt, from Hemlock Preserve, went above and beyond with gorgeous serviceware and memorable decorations. A favorite unexpected decoration was the moss-covered remains of a swinging-bench frame, found in an eroded section of a friend’s lakefront property. The piece suggested such nostalgia and history, it wove itself right into the fabric of the magical, overgrown English garden theme.
Even if you’re not working with a Glensheen mansion-sized budget, you don’t have to miss out on the variety and quality we can offer.
For smaller events, we have short menu of favorite platters, organized and priced around your estimated headcount, available for delivery or in-store pickup. Within this menu we are able to adjust items to accommodate dietary restrictions and specific preferences. For most catering orders that don’t require staffing or extensive planning, we ask for 24-hours’ notice. The more time we have to plan for it, the better.
For events that require minimal staffing, using our pre-planned menus with minimal deviations, a couple weeks to a month of advance notice should suffice. Think rounding out the food offerings at your company holiday party, or a pop-up bratwurst stand at your show.
For larger events and events with large staff & travel requirements, 6 months to a year is ideal. Typically, we try to meet face-to-face with you as soon as possible to ensure a mutual personal connection, with time for several meetings and correspondences along the way. Don’t limit your thinking to food and service alone, alongside Hemlock Preserve, we can take care of the venue, flowers, decorations, and settings too.
Ultimately, however, the best part about working with us for catering is our staff. We’re an eclectic and eccentric bunch of skilled folks who know that work doesn’t necessarily have to feel like work if you have fun doing it. On on top of all that, we all believe in the importance of the work we do, and we know how to throw a good party. Catering is a chance to show off our skills and abilities that aren’t necessarily apparent in the day-to-day work around the deli.
Catering is nothing new to us, but it is always exciting. Join in on the excitement. See how we can help you make your event a hit.
For catering inquiries, call (218)724-7307 and ask for Hannah, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Welcome back. We’re gathered here to address some things. There are more than five this week, since I realized halfway into a drive to Chicago that I hadn’t yet drafted the 5 Things™ post last Friday.
Fall hours! For those who have not yet stopped in for a late-evening sandwich to be met with closed doors, we have moved to our Winter hours: 10am-8pm Monday through Saturday, still 10am-6pm Sunday.
Our “library” is up and running! What is more important: Knowledge or Imagination? I don’t have a conclusive answer, but here at Northern Waters Smokehaus we be
lieve in a combination of both. Our recipes and business practices are rooted in tradition, but cultivated by that special something that only we, as individuals, can bring to the table. I’m supposed to be talking about a bookshelf here. Bookshelves are exciting enough, easy enough to understand their purpose, but the worlds they can contain are infinite and wonderful and complicated and complex. I think, in a way, that Northern Waters Smokehaus is like a well-stocked bookcase. I’m losing track of this metaphor. Here are some photographs.
Coach visited us! John, aka Coach, a gosh-darn Smokehaus legend, came into town for a friend’s wedding, and we had the joy of serving him and his our Hot Pastrami special. In addition to years of dedicated service and top-notch joking, Coach was also an early tester of our mail order Sandwich Kit initiative after his time at NWS. Thanks for being you, Coach.
We placed an order for 3,000 boxes! Mail Order season is a wild world, and it is almost upon us. To the uninitiated, three thousand boxes likely sounds like a lot. It turns out, the uninitiated are absolutely correct, as it doesn’t take a genius to recognize the masochism to which we subject ourselves each winter. Our boxes come from All Boxes Direct, and are additionally packaged with recycled denim insulation (we add a Jean Jacket to every order).
The Hygge Collection is available! I took a semester of Norwegian in college, but I still struggle with the pronunciation of this word. Fortunately, I’m a pretty good Googler, so I found out the word is Danish and denotes a sense of coziness and comfortable conviviality with feelings of contentment and well-being. This collaborative Dewitt-Seitz Marketplace picnic basket—featuring products from NWS, Hepzibah’s Sweet Shoppe, Blue Heron Trading Company, and Amazing Grace Bakery & Café—might bring a little hygge to you or someone you hold dear.
We’re getting another slicer! It’s no secret that a huge part of our business’s success is our mail order market, but we’re not just slinging whole hams, porkettas, and turkey breasts. Previously, a good portion of the M.O. department’s days would be spent on one or both of the slicers downstairs, but now they will never have to leave the comfort of their very hygge office—even to slice their meats.
The afternoons & evenings have slowed down (temporarily)! Obviously we’re grateful that our business experiences a bunch of endlessly busy days, but from time to time it is enjoyable for those of us on the ground floor to have some shifts to unwind, mess around and convince the restaurant across the hall to deep fry a couple of maple sage turkey & cottage bacon Monte Cristos, tell stories, share favorite music, and give curious customers a little extra attention. It might surprise you, but many humans seek personal enrichment and rewarding experiences, even on the clock. Smokehausers are artists, intellectuals, parents, activists, comedians, scientists, and just genuinely good people, and during the slow season, we have the opportunity to cultivate our own personalities within the context of our workplace.
Sandwich Lab is coming up soon! I’ll write more about this in a future post, but plans are already being laid and sandwich experiments are being refined for our new tradition, the Sandwich Lab, in which we re-learn and re-analyze our techniques, pitch and vote on new potential menu items, and eat a lot of food, and which will be held this year on November 6th. We’ll be closing the shop a little early that day, so we have some space to innovate.
That’s all for this week. I hope none of you lost sleep last week over the missed post. I had sustained no debilitating injuries that kept me from writing, just a bunch of gigs in a row that distracted my simple mind. I’m 99.9% sure I’ll be back here with more Things™ next week, same-ish time.
Oh, and about that Monte Cristo: We made it on our haus-made white bread with swiss and cheddar cheese, and they covered it with French toast batter and graham cracker crumbles before they fried it. We enjoyed it, at their request, with our crayo. The marketing meeting notes inform me our delicious crayo—delicious is an understatement, by the way—will be part of an upcoming mail-order special, so stay tuned for more updates about that.