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“5” Things

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

  3. 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.
  4. 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).
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.

And finally, Happy Halloweekend, ya ghouls!

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5 Things That Happened This Week At NWS

Perhaps you’re a regular reader of this blog, or perhaps this is your first time. Either way, I’ll begin by saying that, by and large, most weeks at NWS end up being very similar—we work the grind. Exciting stuff happens around here so often that the extraordinary ends up feeling pretty ordinary. As such, I usually default to some sort of cheekiness in my introductions to this blog. It livens up the writing process for me. However, I’ve had a realization that some of these seemingly mundane happenings in my workplace might actually be more interesting than I had previously realized, and that maybe I take for granted working one of the coolest jobs I have had/one of the coolest jobs to be had. So, with that, here’s five things that are either pretty rad, or that I’m going to spin into radness, that happened on or around this week.

  1. We got a new POS! For the uninitiated, that’s point-of-sale, not piece of [excrement], though sometimes technology feels like that, doesn’t it? Xevious Stevenson, our awesome Client Success Manager (nabbed that title from his business card, since it seems very fitting, considering the work he put in on our transition day) spent a very full workday installing the system, fielding our plentiful (excessive?) questions, reprogramming the system to our specifications, and cracking jokes alongside us as if he had been a part of our team for years. Transitioning to the new system happened on a very busy Thursday, so we’re grateful to our customers for bearing with us. Our hope is this new system allows us to fully integrate all of our departments seamlessly, to limit the confusion between our several distinct departments we have recently come to know. As a nearly five-year employee, I have been amazed every year by our continuous growth and success. Hard work and commitment to quality appears to pay off, friends.
  2. We have new employees! I’m not sure how shy they are yet, so I’m not going to start dropping names to the masses, but it seems like we’re hiring the cream of the crop. New coworkers are great, because they tend to have very positive outlooks on what a jaded, bitter old soul like me considers tedious work. All jokes asidecough*where’s the joke?*cough—it’s great to have more hands on deck, because the workload has not slowed down for us here at Northern Waters. It’s also always exciting to add to the wall of heights.
  3. We have a tomato surplus! Inventory/ordering/production is a challenging speculative enterprise. Sometimes you’re slotted in a tight barrel of tomato-heavy salads, sauces, and sandwiches, and the next week you realize the weekend crew was totally skunked, and now there’s twelve full racks of tomatoes and nowhere to put half of them. Yes, I just googled surfing slang, and no, there will be no glossary at the back of the book. Anyway, I was very amused by my coworkers’ reactions when the order came in on Monday, doubling our tomato supply. Today, the prep department has been hard at work on a 160-sandwich pickup order, so hopefully that puts a dent in the inventory. And if it doesn’t, I’m crossing my fingers for the return of Meatball Mondays at NWS. Relevant to the topic, here’s a favorite song of mine. The only thing that’s wrong with it is its <2 minute duration.
  4. Olivia sliced a ton of bacon and was pretty excited about it! To be honest, there’s a few people I’ve met in my life who probably dream about slicing and handling this much bacon, so her excitement doesn’t surprise me. This is part of the Sisyphean preparation for the infamous Mail-Order Season, which never really ends, but has vague terminal points in the middle of November and the beginning of January. Back to the bacon—she even provided me with a photograph. Enjoy.
  5. We are on the cusp of two awesome weekends! As I have previously mentioned, this weekend we are heading down to Best of the Wurst, hosted by Sociable Ciderworks. That in itself is pretty cool, but I have no doubts the following weekend is going to top it. On September 29th, at Hoops Brewing and then at Rex Bar, we are throwing a big ol’ public hootenanny to celebrate twenty years of smoking something (mostly fish and meats). There will be free food (provided by us), free beer (provided by us in conjunction  with Hoops), and free music (provided by bands featuring members of our team—curated by myself, Greg the H.R. wizard, and dynamic design duo Jacob and Zac). We’ll be closing the shop’s doors at 4pm, so that all of our employees can party down with you. I didn’t know Eric when he began this business, but just a few moments of interacting him will give you an insight into how proud he is of this little deli.

So, there you have it. Count ‘em up, because you just got six things (and some slick anecdotes) for the price of five. That’s what they call extra value. See you at next week’s five things blog, unless my in-progress exposé on bison pastrami, or the first installation upcoming Practical Guide to Northern Waters Smokehaus series hits the web first, or if you come in and talk to me while I’m working in the deli. Anything is possible if you follow your dreams.

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5 Things- Summer lives in Duluth!

Orange is the new “AAAACK”! 

This past week was a pretty interesting one- we survived Grandma’s marathon and then our city was visited  by a man known as Commander-in-Chief. We also managed to smoke meat and fish, dry-cure salumi and make sandwiches for the hungry masses, so we had that going for us, which is nice. I could tell you the tales of about a million things from this week, but I will just start with 5 things.

1.The President of the United States of America was in Duluth.  That’s right, the POTUS was in town to hold a rally. Someone from Rolling Stone Magazine wrote a rather infamous (at least by Duluth standards) article about the rally, which was beautifully rebutted by our Mayor Emily Larson here. 

 

2. All the Hoopla that you can handle. Our pals over at Hoops Brewing here in Canal Park are already celebrating their 1 year Anniversary! It’s hard to believe, but it is not hard to believe that Hoops has become a brewing institution in our fair city, because Head Brewer and proprieter Dave Hoops is truly at the top of his game. Beer fans from around the region are flocking to Hoops not only because of  the quality of their product, but also the sheer variety that they offer. Hoops has done a great job showing dedication to the classic styles that can be so tricky to nail, but also lots of fun and innovative brews that keep rabid Beerheads coming back for more. Hoop-La is the aptly named event this weekend to celebrate this momentous anniversary. Look for great food, music,  games, and also just a lot of fun to be had. Hoops has been a great partner to Northern Waters Smokehaus for even longer than Hoops Brewing has existed, and we couldn’t be happier for their success. We also really like drinking Keller Pils there after work. Get there!

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3. Lake Avenue Live features tons of Smokehausers. Our neighbors across the hall here in the Dewitt Seitz building, Lake Avenue Cafe, hold a really fun event each year during Grandma’s Marathon known as Lake Avenue Live. They rent a tent, get great live music, and throw a party for those revelers that are not particularly interested in seeing Smashmouth, Sugar Ray or any of the other  improbable acts that grace the multitude of other events that happen here in Canal Park over the course of Marathon Weekend. Ned, Jeremy, Brian and Amy from the Smokehaus were all part of musical acts featured at the event. Even former Smokehaus employee from a million years ago and current ingenue Haley was in on the action with her band Gramma’s Boyfriend. It was fun as hell, and everyone enjoyed a few drinks and some great music. Hopefully this event continues on into infinity.

 

 

4. Smokehaus got Pride. June is National Pride Month, and we at the Smokehaus wanted to do something in recognition of this special yearly event. NWS has decided to launch a fundraising program starting the first week of July and continuing on until Duluth’s Pride event in August. We contacted our friends at Lutheran Social Services to help us decide where this money could be best utilized. LSS clued us in to the excellent Together for Youth program. The purpose of Together for Youth is to affirm the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, allied  and intersectional youth, and to assist them in navigating their way through a world in which their lives are often negated or denigrated. This program really speaks to a growing need in our community, and we are so happy to be contributing to the solution. Our mode of fundraising for this is selling a really cool sticker (see below), designed in-house by our creative team. We love the sticker (we have plans to make a poster of it for our shop as well), and many of us here at the Smokehaus are going to buy one for not only the great cause, but just because it looks so cool. NWS has been an official partner to our local Pride event for many years, but since this year is our 20th anniversary, we thought it would be neat to throw even more support to the GLBTQAI community. We know it’s the right thing to do, and it feels really good to do it.

5. “Now I will believe that there are unicorns…” Remember how we were talking up our new hippie leanings a few weeks ago? We began smoking tempeh and tofu in earnest, changing up recipes, figuring out the best holding methods, and so on. It’s been a really important journey for us in terms of being able to serve a previously under served demographic here at the Smokehaus- Vegans. We had a few fits and starts, ended up scrapping the smoked tempeh idea, but ultimately came out with a smoked tofu product that we are excited about. And what’s more, exciting products lead us to the inspiration for exciting new sandwiches! In the spirit of that, let me introduce to you The Tempest: an absolutely delicious vegan sandwich that features our smoked tofu, house made romesco, tomato, cucumber, basil and cilantro; all housed on a stirato roll. This sandwich has a really nice cheesy texture and flavor from the tofu, and a delicious savory quality from the romesco, while the fresh herbs and veg really punch up the flavor on this instant classic of a sandwich. Vegans, vegetarians and omnivores alike are losing their fool minds about The Tempest. I personally think that it’s one of the best sandwiches we’ve invented in quite some time.

 

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HOLD ON!!!! BONUS THING!!!!!! That’s right! This is technically a 6th Thing! Free of charge!  I would be remiss if I did not add that The Smokehaus’ Cajun Finn Scavenger Hunt is starting next week on Monday, July 2nd. Find the secret magnet location, grab the magnet, and win a sandwich! Since it’s our 20th anniversary this year, we’re giving away 20 sandwiches in 20 different locations all throughout the month of July. It will be a rollicking good time, and you might get fed FOR FREE.

Learn more about this really fun event here. 

 

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1998 – Year One in Smoked Fish History

A damaged ship that Eric inspected! Photo by the fantastic Pete Clure.

Smoked fish has many histories – and ours officially began back in the 90’s.  To celebrate our 20-year anniversary, we have collected stories from all over Northern Waters Smokehaus for every year we’ve been in business. Our deli opened its doors in 2001 and basically hit the ground running. We’ve been selling smoked fish, meats, salumi, and sandwiches out of that little location for so long that some regulars call us an institution (thanks, y’all). However, our company was actually founded in 1998 on separate banks of Lake Superior almost single-handedly by co-owner Eric Goerdt.

Fresh from his experiences in Alaska and Hawaii, Eric had already begun to make his way into the Twin Ports community. He worked for the Coast Guard inspecting ships for safety and had started several key relationships through this work. As a petty officer, he wasn’t required to wear his uniform on inspections. Eric, ever the rebel, would run around ore boats in his civies, scampering from rivet to trivet, cracking jokes and making folks laugh. “The food on those ships is AMAZING,” said Eric when I asked him about those days. “They ate like farmers – piles of gravy, pork chops, pies: they didn’t have that much (pastime) activity, so food was a big deal.”

Eric consequently started selling the sailors smoked fish – a perfect fit for his burgeoning career. By the end of 1998, he had fine-tuned some recipes and had enough of a business plan to get to work, smoking salmon in small batches at a nondescript business center in Superior, WI. His limited equipment meant a lot of cleaning: he had to fully hose down the one cooler he used in between raw and cooked, so he was constantly busy. As he smoked and cleaned, drove and hustled fish at the ports, his local following grew. “I put the fish in a little cooler in the lobby,” he remembered, “with a bucket beside it for the honor system – it worked!” People from all over the Twin Ports began gobbling down the miraculous kippered fish. When the fish was cooling, he would head over to a tiny brew pub, Twin Ports Brewery, to socialize and drink microbrews (Eric knows as much about beer as anyone I’ve ever met, and even had some rough plans to run his own pub until he realized he might miss out on some elements of family life if he was at a bar until the wee hours). It was at TPB that he met even more people – people who would become close friends and customers. The adventure had begun!