Posted on

5 Things: May 31st, 2019

This week on 5 Things™, we delve into the surprising success of a new side, the never-ending fluctuations of our deli’s interior, the timely return of a classic piece of NWS swag (and what NWS swag can do for you), some comings-and-goings, and previews of what’s to come from our Sandwich Lab and our shop in-general.

Kale caesar salad.

You likely already have an inkling that NWS is good at smoking fish and other meats. You probably also know that we’ve garnered some acclaim for our sandwiches. You might even know that we have a smartly curated selection of olives and local cheeses. You might not know that we regularly introduce new side options to our menu. While some of them hide behind the sandwich line and signs on our menu board, we’ve begun displaying others in the deli case, next to our smoked meat selection.

It has paid off. Not only do our sides taste great, they are also aesthetically pleasing. Being able to see them (and buy them in whatever weight quantity you choose) helps sell them—meaning you’ll continue to see them. To that end, we’ll continue stocking the meat case with our tried-and-true and latest sides, as well as pasties and pre-sliced/pre-packaged meats.

This week we tested a roasted kale caesar salad, and sold it all within the day. Which pleases me, because the salad is good, and I want it to stick around. Don’t believe me? Try it.

Sass aside, if you ask, you can definitely try it.

A shortened wall.

If you’ve been following us for the last half-decade, you’ll have an idea what I mean when I say the shop is always in flux. For example, when I started at NWS, our workspace was literally half the size it is now, and the line ran the opposite direction. Working at NWS is at times reminiscent of a game of Tetris or Jenga—constant rotation and reconfiguration and treacherous pulling and replacing.

The wall between our seating area and the sandwich line is an important boundary. Watching us work really isn’t the best use of anyone’s time—many of us are self-conscious individuals, who work less efficiently when observed, and you don’t really want to be watched while you eat, do you?

Joking aside, the barrier does have one glaring limitation—it is very tall. When it was first installed, I called it the “Wilson Wall.”

So Oneida, ahead of schedule (thank your local Oneida employee for their steadfast work immediately), cut down a segment of the wall and moved the counter top down with it. This means patrons and staff under 5’7″ will finally be able to make eye contact and just generally communicate when handing out and picking up orders.

As with many small changes we make to our workspace, the benefits may not be immediately obvious—force of habit has made me place orders on the higher segment of counter even with the lowered counter in place—but over the Summer, this will undoubtedly result in a smoother interface when picking up your food.

With the impending arrival of beer and wine, there is more reconfiguration to come. Nothing too world shattering, though you might notice some different stainless steel and glass making its way into the shop over the next month or so.

Kenspeckle Letterpress shirts went to print.

These shirts are great. They showcase the brilliant, meticulous, and clever work of local printmaking legend Rick Allen, whose studio (the aforementioned Kenspeckle Letterpress) is located on the second floor of the DeWitt-Seitz Marketplace, and for whose dedication to the Split-finger Fastball variant of the Clubhaus sandwich we are forever grateful.

On Thursday, our friends at On The Limit, let us know that they had begun printing the shirts. That means that, soon enough, these shirts will be available in all sizes, on softer, more breathable cotton.

Speaking of NWS swag: If you’re spotted (or if you politely point out to us) wearing our gear/carrying our totes/etc., you’ll get 10% off your order. Every. Single. Time.

The Wallaby leaves us.

Our first-ever avocado sandwich, which came to us via our annual Sandwich Lab, is entering its last weekend.

If you haven’t yet tried this avocado, lemon pepper, balsamic, locally-sourced ramps, and tomato sandwich, on our hausmade Prince Myshkin Rye, this weekend is your last chance. If you’re feeling a bit more carnivorous, try it with crispy smoked pancetta.

When the Wallaby leaves us, another Sandwich Lab special takes its place: The Sebu-Chan.

The name comes from a nickname for its creator, Sebastian, and the sandwich is a playful variation on the classic salmon & cream cheese sandwich.

The Sebu-Chan—gravlax, scallion cream cheese, tomato, cucumber, onion, lettuce, cilantro and sriracha on a hausmade ciabatta—will be available Monday, June 3rd through Sunday, June 30th.

A few things I’m looking forward to at NWS.

I tried to fit a few different Things™ in this slot, but came up short each time. So, in lieu of anything better, here’s a short list of things that I’m looking forward to in my own personal life at Northern Waters Smokehaus, that might also be interesting to you:

  • The Cookbook. It’s happening, and though the public will have to wait some time before it is in their hands, a good deal of my near future is set to be entangled with the text.
  • Another Hemlock Preserve event. The first time I was involved with a Smokehaus event at Hemlock Preserve—the charming barn on the edge of Jay Cooke State Park in Esko, MN—I played music for five hours, essentially nonstop. It was a strange feat that I don’t know I could repeat. I’m not sure how involved I will be with the event, but I will certainly have some words to write about it as it draws nearer. The event is still in development, but based on previous experience, it will happen toward the end of Summer, feature an awesome menu, good music, and an optional party bus to get to and from the location.
  • Grilling NWS brats & sausages. Our Maple Breakfast Sausage is my favorite sausage, period, but that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m not sure whether the Beer Brat (made with Grain Belt Premium), Apple Brat or Classic German Brat is my top choice for the grill, but I will say that white onion (raw, grilled, or sautéed), NWS Kimchi and Sauerkraut are great toppings respectively. We’ve got Jalapeño Bacon Brats and Italian Sausage too, for those seeking a bit more bite in their brat. Tucked away in a corner, these products often go unnoticed. The time to grill is nigh. Don’t sleep on these sausages.
  • Honorable mention to our Smoked Ribs. They’re back in stock, available weekly as our Monday special, and great for any BYO grilling events or potlucks. Or just as any ol’ meal. $10.99/lb in 2 lb racks or half-racks for these beauties is a steal!
  • Northern Waters Catering. Though we’ve been at the catering business quite a while, this year we’ve really decided to get our act together, putting in a lot of creative work, developing an extensive menu that showcases our best abilities and depth, making an Instagram profile specifically for our catering department, and putting Hannah’s capable hands in charge of the operation.
    I love catering events because they showcase different shades of NWS not found in the deli, both in terms of food served and the service offered. It’s a bit more refined, and less of a grind. It’s a breath of fresh air, reminiscent of a childhood field trip, traveling to an offsite location and not making six to eight sandwiches per ten minute increment. And the catering pay rate is great for the staff. My Nintendo Switch isn’t paying for its own games, so I am into that.
  • More Sandwich Lab specials. With fun official and working titles like Jacob’s Lake Trout Situation, The Perfect Fall Sandwich, and The Fish Stick, they’ve clearly got a lot to offer the imagination, and it’ll be a satisfying mystery to resolve once you can finally taste them. And honestly, the ads our marketing team has been creating for them get more fun every month.

Well, I think I’ve said quite enough. Happy Friday, or whichever day you might be reading this.

Posted on

5 Things: February 8th, 2019

UPDATE: CAKE PHOTOS ADDED!!

We’re in the middle of the cruelest month of the year—in terms of weather—but February is a notoriously sweet month as well. Rather than focus on harsh weather, let’s focus on the sugar.

The Sugar Plum Gift Box!

In conjunction with our DeWitt-Seitz Marketplace neighbors, Hepzibah’s Sweet Shoppe, we have assembled an extra-sweet treat for two: The Sugar Plum gift box features dark chocolate malted milk balls & sugar plums from Hepzibah’s, and we supply a stick of salamini, Rosemary Croccantini crackers, and a jar of Fabbri Amarena cherries. All of this comes with a NWS tote bag in which to carry your picnic.

#cute

Make it sweet!

Want to do something special for someone sweet leading up to V-Day? Spread some kindness to someone whom you love, like, or want to show some serious appreciation by sending them a sandwich through our delivery department, and for an extra $2 we’ll Make it Sweet—with a handwritten card and some Swedish Fish tied to the order.
Not to be confused with the “Hey, Sweetie!” gift box.

Patricia’s cookies (and more)!

It might just be my coworkers and I buying all of them (because they are so good), but Patricia’s cookies are continually flying off the shelves.

So far, she has blessed us with carrot cake cookie sandwiches with honey cream cheese, the quadruple-ginger cookies (pictured below), and gluten-free coconut macaroons.

Quadruple-ginger cookies

And this morning, she surprised us again. When I began opening the shop this morning, Patricia was nowhere to be found. Admittedly, I did not put forth much effort to find her. Then, after I disappeared for a minute, I returned and there she was.

I didn’t notice the donuts at first. A few minutes passed before my eyes wandered to the cake pan just a few feet away.

Unexpected Friday special by Patricia

“Patricia, did you make those donuts?”
“Yes.”
“Where?”
“At my house.”
“Why?”
“I thought it might be good to make a Donut Cuban sandwich with the pulled pork.”

Thank you, Patricia, for all you do.

Here’s another surprise by Patricia, available for the first time today:

Ham & Swiss Puff Pastries

Pine Cones & Royale With Cheese!

There’s not much need to pack our deli-cases full of unsliced meats in the Winter. We prefer to focus on sandwich specials and prepared items that highlight our products, so that when the grocery sales pick back up, folks know exactly which smoked meats they want and have some ideas for what to do with them.

But an empty-ish case isn’t great to look at. Our solution? Come up with some “easy” items that customers can pick up and snack on with minimal effort.

When the phrase “meat cone” started getting thrown around, I was thoroughly perplexed, but now I’ve seen the light. In adorable cones made of pine, we’ve assembled little personal charcuterie boards, with salumi, pork loin, Castel Vetrano olives, cheese, and assorted smoked meats (dealer’s choice). It’s sort of like a Salami Basket for one. They’re available in our deli for $8.

Is Somethin’

We’re also on a snack stick kick. Bison Buddies have consistently been a bestseller. If I had a nickel for every time I crushed a customer’s soul by letting them know we’d sold the last Bison Buddies of the day, I would be floating around on a mid-range pontoon boat, drinking cheap sparkling white wine and working one day a week, just to keep a little structure in my life. But here we are.

Last weekend the smokers made Big Jim Buddies—beef and pork adobada sticks made with New Mexican Big Jim chiles. They sold out over the weekend, but the smokers are already making more.

After the Big Jims, there were some early experiments with Sockeye Buddies, which need a bit more tweaking, but will be coming to a Northern Waters Smokehaus near you very soon.

The most recent installment in the Snack Stick Saga is the Royale With Cheese: ground beef, bacon & melted cheese in a lamb casing. If you get the reference, you get the reference, but I think these ingredients speak for themselves. They’re currently in-stock, and we plan on keeping them coming. Never again, we hope, will you have to suffer a NWS shopping experience without Buddies.

Sam’s last day…

This last one’s a tad bittersweet: Our former shop manager, Samantha (or Sam, or Salm, if you have caught the pun on her Dickie’s work shirt) is finally parting ways with us to follow the next great adventure in her life. Sam had been splitting her years between Scagway, Alaska and Duluth, Minnesota for as long as I’ve been at the Smokehaus, then took on the position of front-of-house manager at our briefly lived but beloved Northern Waters Restaurant, before stepping in as our shop manager here at NWS.

Sam is, among other things, hilarious, compassionate, driven, and highly-intelligent, and although I’m going to let her keep her life plans to reveal for herself, I am convinced she’s going to thrive in this next adventure.

Her successor, Leif is thoroughly trained-in and shares all the above qualities, but that’s enough about Leif in this post about Sam.

Sam, if you’re reading this, don’t forget to come visit us from time to time, and bring Brewster.

Sweet, sweet Brewster

To offset the bitter in this bittersweet cocktail, and accentuate the sweet, Mary got an ice cream cake from DQ to honor the occasion. The cake photo is coming. We won’t leave you hanging.

There you have it. I’m sending you all warm & fuzzy vibes from this 5 Things post. Until next week…
One more photograph of the bacon-cheeseburger buddies we’ve affectionately dubbed “Royale With Cheese”