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5 Takeaways From This Year’s Sandwich Lab Cycle

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.

January—The Breakfast Club

Turkey & Pancetta roughly equals a club sandwich. Bagel & cream cheese roughly equals breakfast sandwich. This sandwich is not groundbreaking, but it sure tastes good.

The blog post announcing this sandwich was fun to write, and almost entirely synthesized from material Wesley, the sandwich’s creator, wrote down for me.

Later Sandwich Lab announcements began to follow a semi-consistent format.

February—The Wagner

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.

March—The Spinderella

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.

April—The Bloody Mary

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.

May—The Wallaby

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.

June—The Sebu-chan

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.

July—The Fish Schtick

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.

August—The Lake Trout Situation

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.

September—NO SPECIAL

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—The G.O.A.T.

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 ned@nwsmokehaus.com

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).

Thanks for reading. See you next week.

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5 Things: November 1st, 2019

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.

Learn more about the MN Early Bird sale.

A new beer joins the roster.

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 social media pages.

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.

ACTUAL SANDWICH LAB FOOTAGE

ALL-DAY SLIDERS!

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.

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5 Things: October 4th, 2019

This week has been one of triumph, of heartbreak, of new beginnings.

To get the heartbreak out of the way, I misinformed our readers last week, this Monday was not the return of D&D to the Smokehaus. I know you are all super invested in this, so I’m sorry for playing with your emotions like that.

Please accept this photo of assorted battle miniatures as an apology—

And some ketchup exploded in our dry storage. It fell, for unknown reasons, although there is some speculation that our former General Manager Mary’s visit—which eerily coincided with the fall and resulting explosion of the ketchup—dredged up feelings of abandonment from the DeWitt-Seitz ghost.

Messy as it was, it wasn’t an entirely bad occurrence—it inspired a deep clean of the affected area, which was probably due. A good deep-clean is rarely a bad idea.

Now on to the triumph and new beginnings!

We’ve come to the last leg of our 2019 Sandwich Lab Journey! The G.O.A.T. debuted on Wednesday, October 2nd. We’ve sold a grip of them already. For more words on this, check out the announcement post.

We also launched our Fall Wine List. Read more about our new wine offerings here. As someone who most often buys bottles of wine based on the aesthetic value of their labels, I would probably buy at least three of these. In the flavor category, however, these are all winners. TK is dedicated to bringing a unique selection of fine natural wines to the Smokehaus each season, so dedicated grapeheads (that’s what they’re called, right?) should take note.

Who made this salad? Whose salad is this?

Next Monday (10/7), we officially launch our New & Improved Happy Hour. Monday through Friday, from 4-7pm, we’re offering $2 Pabst Blue Ribbons and $1-off any craft brews, ciders, and adult-seltzers. Technically, you can grab a happy hour drink at those prices today, we’re just waiting until Monday, October 7th to go crazy on the cross-platform promotion.

Patricia made spicy cheddar crackers using Gochugaru chile flakes, a component of our kimchi recipe that offers a warm spice with fruity and smoky tones—The Smoky Tones is also the name of our in-Haus vocal jazz group, coming eventually to an orchestra hall near you. The heat of these crackers has a slow onset, with a lingering mild burn on the back of the tongue. Patricia is still cranking out plain cheddar crackers for our Study Buddy gift box, but has also been experimenting with bacon cheddar crackers, and now these. If you haven’t yet, give our haus-baked crackers a taste. As long as they keep flying off the shelves, we’ll presumably get more variations on the classic recipe.

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SANDWICH LAB: The G.O.A.T.

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:


The greatest season has arrived, and we’ve got a great Fall sandwich for you: creamy chèvre, smoky and peppery toasted andouille sausage, crispy local apple slices, and lettuce, on a toasted Lake Superior Bakehouse bagel.

Pitched at the Sandwich Lab without a name, it first became known as the Perfect Fall Sandwich. Realizing that was a mouthful to say for a sandwich that should be enjoyed in small, thoughtful, well-chewed bites, it evolved into the G.O.A.T. (the Greatest of All Time. At what? Try it and tell us!). One grandiose name for another, this time a cheesy pun.

This final installment in the 2019 Sandwich Lab series comes to you courtesy of its creator: uh…me! I could go on about the sandwich’s origin story, weaving an epic tale of my frequent lunch-break searches for the Fruit of Knowledge itself (thank you, Canal Park Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, for your un-dipped apples), describing the culinary ballet of this food parcel’s individual components, but I don’t want anyone to overthink it.

To say it’s a good Fall sandwich would be an understatement.

Try it today (10/2) through the end of the month in our deli, via pickup, or delivered for $9.50+tax, and earn an extra punch on your Sandwich Lover Extraordinaire card.

This concludes the 2019 cycle of Sandwich Lab Specials.


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.
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5 Fish Sandwiches That Are Making Waves——5 Things: 9/20/19)

This week has been quite a ride, with Eric and a handful of others attending the Fortune Fish and Gourmet Expo on Monday, bringing back a whole heck of a lot of chocolate “samples,” which made a great Tuesday morning “breakfast”; a ton of huge delivery and pickup orders throughout the week (on Thursday, they made 130 box lunches by 11am in the basement); and a number of us took sick days this week—hopefully the days off do the trick and the illness ends there—so we were playing with a smaller team this week. And the ride isn’t over. This weekend, we’ll be catering the wedding of a beloved former coworker. Who says all the fun has to stay in Summer?

Last week, I mentioned that five of the top seven bestselling sandwiches at our deli are fish sandwiches, and since I’m approaching this week’s blog somewhat fatigued from making dozens of each of those fish sandwiches respectively this workweek, I have opted to tell you a little bit about each of them, in no particular order.

The Cajun Finn

The sandwich: Haus-baked ciabatta roll, scallion cream cheese, Cajun Smoked Atlantic Salmon, pepperoncini, roasted red pepper, lettuce.

There is not much to say about the Cajun Finn that hasn’t already been said. As a sandwich that easily outpaces the combined sales of half of the other sandwiches on our menu, it doesn’t really need any further advertising. I mean, our marketing department still occasionally invests some time into telling you about it—heck, I’m doing it right now—but the rolling snowball that became an avalanche that is this sandwich became that way primarily through word-of-mouth, both literally, and via its generous inclusion in peoples’ blog posts and social media chatter. A large percentage of our online reviews contain its name, sometimes even the negative reviews leave space for a caveat about the Cajun Finn being our saving grace (apologies to those reviewers for whatever happened to go wrong—likely our wait time on a busy day—but we’re glad you enjoyed the sandwich nonetheless).

The Cajun Finn is available as a sandwich kit.

The Sitka Sushi

The sandwich: Hero roll, wasabi mayo, sriracha, sliced cabbage, cucumber, gravlax, pickled ginger, cilantro, sesame oil & rice vinegar.

The Sitka Sushi: my first favorite Smokehaus sandwich and number-one recommendation. The name and contents are a nod to Eric’s time in Sitka, Alaska. Formerly, we made it with ginger- and lemon-cured Alaskan Sockeye gravlax, which was deeply flavorful, but a little tough and unwieldy. Recently we have switched over to a softer, more buttery, traditional Scandinavian style of gravlax, made with Atlantic salmon, but the sandwich still packs a punch.

Imagine a rich musical chord, composed of interwoven consonances (cabbage and gravlax, bread and oil, cucumber) and dissonances (wasabi mayo and sriracha, cilantro and pickled ginger), rolled from the bass up the highest note, then sustained, with hidden, aleatoric melodies discovering themselves and chiming out all the while. Then, transpose that chord into a flavor pallet, and imagine every bite—thoroughly savored—as a new re-rolling of that chord.

That’s how the Sitka Sushi hits.

The Slammin’ Gordon

The sandwich: Naan, Smoked Salmon Pâté, diced tomatoes & cucumbers, cilantro, lettuce, olive oil & rice vinegar.

When I began working at Northern Waters Smokehaus, there was a sandwich called the Salmon Garden. Within days (it seemed), the sign for that sandwich had two vowels scribbled over, and became the Salmon Gordon. A few months passed, and then we had the Slammin’ Gordon on our hands, and everyone just pretended like nothing happened. Here ends the very incomplete, abridged history of the sandwich formerly known as the Salmon Garden.

Smoked Salmon Pâté is delightful, due in part to the blend of our haus Salmon seasonings—dill, cajun, black pepper & coriander—working as a team to bring you this flavor, which is rounded out with garlic, lemon juice and horseradish. So if you spread it on our most decadent bread option—not only is the naan incredibly soft and pillowy, but also quite buttery—something good is bound to happen. The veggies and greens give enough of a nod to health-consciousness that it doesn’t just feel like dessert.

The Northern Bagel

The sandwich: Lake Superior Bakehouse bagel, scallion cream cheese, Traditional Smoked Atlantic Salmon or gravlax.

This sandwich is great because it its simplicity of form belies its complexity of flavor. Lake Superior Bakehouse Bagels are so good you could probably just take a bite out of an uncut, un-toasted one and have a decent time. Add to that the sweetness and pungency of Traditional Smoked Atlantic Salmon, or buttery, spice-infused gravlax, and round it off with the earthy umami of scallion cream cheese, and your mouth and olfactory system have some serious flavors to sort out. Furthermore, it reads as a breakfast sandwich, eats like lunch, and isn’t half bad at the end of the day either.

The Northern Bagel is also available as a Sandwich Kit.

The Great Summer Caper

The sandwich: Lake Superior Bakehouse bagel, scallion cream cheese, capers, Black Pepper & Coriander Smoked Atlantic Salmon, red onion, tomato, lettuce.

I have to say—delicious as this sandwich is, I still remain skeptical of it. For starters, it’s a very seasonal name, and yet—it persists on our board, due to sales. Secondly, it is a very tall stack of ingredients, which are very delicious together, but once stacked and cut in half, like to fall over—which is fine if presentation is unimportant, but ultimately a challenge in the middle of a rush. Still, this is a fantastic stack of ingredients. It’s the mature version of the Northern Bagel.

A final note:

Tomorrow (Saturday, September 21st) at the Friends of the Boundary Waters Fundraiser, they’ll be auctioning off a special NWS prize: the rights to name a new smoked salmon sandwich on our menu, which will run through Spring 2020. I can’t wait to see Fishy McFishface on the menu.

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5 Things: August 23rd, 2019

Summer isn’t over yet, but the morning air is crisper, and the pace of life is slowing down. The tall ships have come and gone, the flood of students is just beginning to trickle into town. Walking past our deli, it may not always appear this way, but life is on the calmer side, at least for a few weeks.

But that doesn’t mean life at the Smokehaus is any less interesting.

We have new faces in the deli.

Faces.

For those keeping score, over the past few weeks we’ve steadily mentioned that we’re hiring, and as a result, we already have a handful of new staff training in. I’d caution the world to be patient with and/or kind to them, since they are new and the pace of our little deli can be overwhelming, but they’re already performing like seasoned veterans.

Labor Day Mail Order Sale.

Labor Daybor

Beginning August 26th, we’re running a mail order special: 20% off your cart (online only) when you enter the discount code bluecollar. The sale runs through Labor Day (9/2). However, if you want your food to arrive in time for Labor Day weekend celebrations, place your order by Tuesday, August 27th—those orders will be shipped on Wednesday (8/28) and arrive by Friday (8/30). Otherwise, you can schedule your shipping date for whenever you’d like. Pro-tip: this is the best mail order sale of the year, so if you know exactly what you want to order for Fall and Winter holidays, this is a good time to do it.

Speaking of Mail Order, here’s our updated holiday shipping schedule.

Bookmark this page as an easy reference when ordering for holidays, and you’ll be guaranteed to get your orders at the perfect interval for gifting or entertaining. Become the master of your own destiny; know for yourself exactly when to place orders, and when to have them shipped for best results.

Monday night D&D returns to The Midnight Axe.

Images unrelated.

The Summer season of our unofficial office Dungeons and Dragons crew is coming to a close with a short adventure tying us back into our ongoing campaign, right before our DM heads on an extended vacation, leaving us to fend for ourselves.

This Summer, we set our main campaign to the side, in order to focus on a handful of smaller, unconnected adventures. Not only did this allow each of us to test out a number of character ideas, and novel settings, but it also gave us time to miss our main characters, as distance does indeed make the heart grow fonder.

“The Midnight Axe” is the name—generated by rolling percentile dice against a chart of fantasy party names—of our primary party. When we’re not embroiled in a scavenger hunt for a cache of money embezzled long ago from the treasury of the Manhattan-esque city of Waterdeep, and avoiding/averting the frequent pitfalls of gangs whose rivalry we earned incidentally, we’re just trying to earn a mostly-honest living running a tavern called The Malt Solstice. However, some way or another, we’ve gained some notoriety as adventurers—and it’s drawn some public interest.

In our session on Monday, Harrison (our Dungeon Master) presented each of us with three characters (shout out to Harrison for developing fifteen character concepts in a single weekend) who are looking, for one reason or another, to join our ranks. This coming session, we’ll be embarking on a mission with our chosen secondary characters to discover their strengths, and how they’ll fit into our adventuring party. Perhaps they’ll join us on the front lines, perhaps they’ll stick around headquarters and craft potions nonstop, perhaps they’ll alternate between venturing into the Undermountain (where our campaign has us heading) and providing security at the Malt Solstice. Only time will tell.

Character biographies forthcoming.

Patricia’s corner.

Let’s get personal.

Let’s get one thing straight: Any week that there are not five immediately obvious other Things™ to talk about, Patricia is going to get a nod. Ever since she moved to full-time baking, we’ve become accustomed to carrying an assortment of cookies—chocolate chip, ginger, peanut butter curry, carrot cake cookie sandwiches with honey cream cheese, coconut macaroons (which are gluten-free*), and most recently chocolate walnut flourless cookies (also gluten-free**)—pasties, cheddar crackers, savory scones, and even personal pizzas. This week’s pizza featured smoked bacon, blackberries, and chèvre, and her pizza sauce, in general, is composed of the odds-and-ends bits of tomato from the morning’s prep.

That’s honestly one of the best things about Patricia’s approach to baking for NWS—by utilizing more parts of the foods we use, we generate substantially less waste as a business, which improves our model of sustainability (not to mention profitability) overall, and in the process, we end up with these delicious, fan-favorite items in our deli

*/**: It’s worth noting that these are not baked in a completely gluten-free environment. In terms of ingredients, they are entirely gluten-free, but those at serious risk should be aware of the chance of cross-contamination.

I got to observe production of Country Pâté.

Observe.

Compiling recipes for the cookbook is great fun, but not without its challenges. In addition to needing to massively scale down some recipes—we’re operating under the assumption you’ll never need to make one-hundred pounds of Smoked Whitefish at home—other recipes in our own workbooks lack, well, instruction.

Country pâté, for example, is just a list of ingredients, which our skilled production crew understands how to massage—eh, grind—into the savory loaves we all love. Brandt happened to catch me during a fresh air break yesterday to let me know he was making it.

Seeing that static list of ingredients—browned bacon and onion; Berkshire liver, pork and back fat; brandy; cure; rosemary and thyme; etc.—ground once and then half again (to achieve the preferred inconsistent consistency), mixed with what could reasonably pass as TLC, and packaged to chill overnight before being packed into loaf pans and slow-cooked, was enlightening, and proof that someone needs to write down those steps, because there’s a lot of them. If not for our own benefit, certainly for the book.

Once again, I’d like to give a public shout-out to the smokers for the sheer volume of high-quality product they consistently churn out.

I’ve done it again. Yesterday, I stared at my week’s notes and wondered, “which five Things™ am I going to write about? Are there five Things™ that may intrigue or inspire our readership(?),” and here I am, writing Thing™ six-and-a-half. I hope you’re happy.

We hope to see you in our deli this weekend—whether you wait in line, or skip the line via pickup —or your name and address in our delivery system. If you’re going to be near Canal Park/Downtown, make sure you bring ear protection, because the Tribute Fest will be rocking hard.

Stay tuned in the next handful of weeks for some new sandwich options—including your blogger’s own contribution to the Sandwich Lab specials—and exciting collaborations.

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NWS HAS A NEW LOYALTY PROGRAM!

Good news, everyone! We’ve finally depleted our inventory of sandwich cards, which means we’ve rolled out our NEW LOYALTY PROGRAM! One free sandwich/salad per ten sandwiches/salads was a pretty sweet deal, but we wanted to shake things up, so we devised a new system to give you more rewards, more frequently.

Introducing the Sandwich Lover Extraordinaire card:

The former sandwich card worked as follows: Each sandwich/salad you purchase earned you one stamp on the card.* Ten stamps earned you one free sandwich/salad.

The new program works as follows: Twenty-one little fish; eighteen red, three blue. Each sandwich/salad you purchase earns you one hole punched red fish. Every six punches along the way, you earn earn the rights to a new prize, which can be redeemed immediately, or at your leisure. When you redeem your reward, we’ll punch a hole in the respective blue fish.

Once you have purchased 18 sandwiches/salads, you’ll have earned all three perks along the way. Maybe you used them as you got them, maybe you redeem all three at once after purchasing that eighteenth sandwich/salad. Maybe you redeem all three at once the next time you come in, or maybe you redeem them individually the next three times you come in. It’s entirely up to you.

We will still honor completed “old” sandwich cards!

If you have filled out a ten-stamped sandwich card during the course of our previous loyalty program, you still get that free sandwich—and the stamps of any incomplete sandwich cards are transferrable to the new loyalty card.

So, what are the prizes?!

After six punches: One free snack stick (“buddy”), based on availability. Whether it’s a Big Jim hatch chile beef stick, a Royale With Cheese bacon-cheeseburger stick, a Smokehaus classic Bison Buddy, or a Smoked Salmon Buddy, you’re in for a treat.

After twelve punches: One free sandwich/salad. We’ve got a handful of options.

After eighteen punches: One free half-pound chunk of Smoked Atlantic Salmon—traditional, cajun, dill, or black pepper & coriander.

Why are you waiting? Start a Sandwich Lover Extraordinaire card today and begin reaping the rewards!

*Sandwich Lab specials—such as the Lake Trout Situation we’re currently running—earn you two punches per unit purchased.

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5 Things: August 9th, 2019

There’s a whole bunch of things going on at the tip of Lake Superior this weekend. Before I get into discussing the week and weekend to come, I’d like to remind you that our pickup and delivery services are a great way to skip the line (except August 11th through 13th), and that Cajun-seasoned cheese curds are back in-stock in our grab & go case.

The Festival of Sail arrives this weekend. The tall ships and an enormous rubber duck will begin showing up today, and will remain in our harbor through Tuesday, August 13th. The Festival officially kicks off on Sunday morning, with a grand parade from 9-11 a.m. In previous years, the draw of this event has effectively doubled the population of our city. And that’s not the only festival taking place this weekend. Friday and Saturday, the 31st annual Bayfront Blues Festival will take up residence in—you guessed it—Bayfront Festival Park. The Blues Fest draws around twenty thousand attendees each year, and consistently features high-caliber blues artists from around the world.

Another Sandwich Lab creation debuted in our deli. The Lake Trout Situation is Jacob’s homage to the classic New England lobster roll and the Jersey Shore. Featuring a smoky, sweet lake trout salad, sliced red cabbage, and wasabi mayo atop a slice of buttery, toasted white bread, this sandwich is served open-faced (for hotdog-style consumption) and garnished with cilantro and crispy smoked pancetta crumbles. It’s available for $10+tax in our deli & via delivery.

The Scavenger Hunt continues. The first week, a participant found the magnet within hours—next to the Observation Park dog park. This week, it was found on the second day—on the back of a sign at the Duluth Farmer’s Market. With three weeks to go, and 7 superfluous clues written so far, I have something special planned for next week, so stay on your toes. The next clue comes out on Monday, August 12th. Follow us on our social media pages and check out the rules here to participate.

Patricia is at it again! This time with vegetarian tofu pasties, in addition to her standard array of cookies, crackers, and pasties. Our baking department, which also boasts two skilled breadmakers in Jerry and Adison (whom I don’t praise enough on this blog, as they have supplied all of our rye, white bread, and ciabatta needs through the Summer), have developed a brilliant selection of high-quality hausmade breads and sweets. I don’t ever want to go back to a world before the Smokehaus had dedicated bakers on-staff.

Did someone say “party?”

We’re having a fish fry! The summer season is hardly coming to a close, but we’re already starting to say goodbye to the seasonal hands on deck, and a handful of other coworkers/friends leaving for school, adventures in new cities, and at least one dream job opportunity. So we’re taking an evening to celebrate, this Sunday, with a small gathering for our staff. Fried whitefish, smoked chicken wings, coleslaw, and crinkle-cut fries are on the menu, and my mouth is already watering two days in advance. Hopefully, the Sunday closing staff will be able to make it out of Canal Park! The deli will be open normal hours—10 a.m. to 6 p.m.—on Sunday.


Now that you’ve read this week’s 5 Things™, go out and have a good rest of your day.

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SANDWICH LAB: The Lake Trout Situation

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:


Jacob’s Lake Trout Situation

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.

Meticulously choreographed.

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.
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5 Things: July 19th, 2019

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.