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An Important Announcement About the Future of Northern Waters Smokehaus

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.

cajun finn

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.”

This is it.

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.

Our updated sandwich menu

We hope to see you soon for a sandwich. Try the Cajun Finn! It’s the only option.

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Patricia’s Baked Goods

It’s in our motto—we’re always smoking something—but we’re not just a one-trick pony, and lately, it seems like something is always getting baked.

We have several bakers on staff—which I wouldn’t have been able to say a year ago*—but today we’re showcasing one of our recent hires, Patricia. If you’ve been reading the 5 Things™ blog the past few weeks, there have been several mentions of her work at the Smokehaus. It’s making waves.

Carrot cake cream cheese cookies, peanut butter curry cookies, triple ginger cookies. Ugh.

Patricia has been baking off-and-on for the last fifteen years. At nineteen, she attended a six-month intensive baking course at the Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts in Vancouver, British Columbia, which she described as, “pretty old-school. A lot of old French men yelling at me.” Eventually, she and her brother opened Elfvin’s Bakery, a wholesale bakery in Grand Marais, which they owned and operated for three years before selling it to new owners who rebranded it as the Gunflint Baking Company.

Stack these decadent cookie sandwiches high.

After a move to Duluth and several years of living it up on our end of the North Shore, she arrived at our deli, and immediately brightened it up with her easygoing and upbeat personality—and her baked goods.

Triple- (sometimes quadruple-) ginger cookies.

In addition to cookies, she’s also been heating things up with a variety of savory pastries, including scones using the end-pieces (see: repurposed “waste,” a very exciting for our sustainability-oriented hearts and minds) of the snack sticks that we have begun cutting to exact sizes—Smoked Salmon Buddy & Scallion Cream Cheese Scones and Royale With Cheese Scones, by way of example—and rotating meat & cheese combo puff pastries. At press time, she is plotting Pastrami, Swiss & Red Onion Pastries for tomorrow. Croissants, she informed me, are coming soon, as well as crackers. The anticipation is real.

Sweet peanut butter cookies with a complex chord of curry.

Patricia is brimming with ideas of new pastries and sweet treats to debut in the shop, and we’re grateful for it. As her coworkers, we are the first line of defense in testing these treats for proverbial “poison.” It’s not much, but it’s honest (and delicious) work.

The savory pastries make for a quick and easy light lunch. Non-sandwiched cookies are also an option with your Box Lunch. Enjoy a few more photos of her work. Perhaps stop in and enjoy a few examples of her work in-person.

Scones by Patricia, Cheddar Chive Chorizo Biscuits by Jerry.
This one looks like a map. I like that.
Helpful diagram.

*My baker comment might be taken as fighting words amongst our talented staff. Surely, we have many talented bakers among our coworkers, but only recently have we utilized their talents in a large-scale commercial sense.

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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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A New Bearing: Smokehaus Smoked Atlantic Salmon and True North

a piece of smoked Atlanitc salmon cut into slices on a wooden board

By Fiona O’Halloran-Johnson, NWSH Sustainability Chief and smoked Atlantic Salmon lover

Here at the Smokehaus we go through a lot of fish, specifically smoked Atlantic salmon. It goes on our sandwiches both at the deli and the restaurant, on catering platters, it’s shipped straight to your door, or goes home in your bag on your way out of Duluth.

For many years we have been committed to providing you with delicious smoked fish and smoked meats, while adhering to sustainable practices throughout the business – from composting to bike delivery. We have been working on creating programs to decrease our overall waste and impact here at home, but that’s not enough. We have a responsibility to know about our meat and fish, not just the process of how we make it so tasty, but where it comes from.

We are one of the largest buyers of Atlantic salmon in the United States. Yes, our humble little shop buys more Atlantic salmon than restaurants in New York, or huge resorts in California. With this, we have felt a responsibility to look for a sustainable source of salmon that could keep up with our high demands. Prior to the switch, we have been getting Atlantic salmon off the coast of Chile.  While there were many positive attributes to this salmon, simply the length of travel was enough for us to realize we needed a more sustainable source.

We began to look for an option closer to home, but we were not willing to compromise our commitment to sustainable aquatic farming. There is so much that can go wrong when farming fish, from assuring water is not permanently polluted, to making sure the fish are not carrying disease, such as sea lice, that can be transferred to the native populations of aquatic life. We also wanted product that was not full of chemicals, dyes and hormones. We had set our standards pretty high.

And then we found True North.

We are thrilled to announce that we are now selling  Smoked Atlantic Salmon made from True North Salmon Company, a family owned company based out of New Brunswick, Canada. This is exciting for us because we have been concerned about our environmental impact on aquatic life for some time now.   

True North is certified to the Best Aquaculture Practices and the British Retail Consortium Global Standard for Food Safety.

True North is the quintessential sustainable fish farm.

True North uses ocean pens, but rotates crops regularly and uses a fallowing system to ensure that the water and ocean floor rest in between crops. They also stock their salmon in pens at a rate of less than 2% percent of the volume of the pen, which means these salmon have plenty of room to swim around freely and develop healthy muscle tissues naturally.  Their fish also grow on a natural cycle, with no growth hormones, taking two years for the fish to make it to market.

True North is committed to finding fish food that is made sustainably. They use fish meal and oil that are byproducts of fish that is harvested for human consumption, maintaining equilibrium in the local aquatic life. True North has decreased its carbon footprint by using fuel-efficient trucks, and driving a little slower to reduce their carbon emissions when transporting their fish. With their commitment to preserving fresh water they also have a water recycling and filtration system at their freshwater hatcheries. They have also invested in shipping boxes that are made from 100% recycled material.

We are excited about our new Atlantic salmon provider, and we’re excited about taking another big step towards consuming smoked Atlantic  salmon responsibly so we can keep making all your delicious snacks for years to come.

For more information, please peruse:

True North Atlantic Salmon

BAP