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5 Things: June 28th, 2019

So many Things™ this week, so little time to discuss them.

Photo by Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com

Fortunately the Duluth News Tribune covered a big one for us—our beloved General Manager, and 18-year NWS staff member, Mary Tennis, is celebrating her last day being a central figure of Smokehaus life. Read about her next adventure here.

This week, we also had a planning meeting for our cookbook, which is currently in development. Mary has been central to the cookbook work that has gotten us so far, and I am personally grateful that she wants to continue working on the cookbook, because it means we’ll get to hang out, and she has an affinity for writing about food and NWS, which means future NWS cookbook owners are going to have some heartfelt reading in-store for them.

Grandma’s Marathon happened last weekend, and we survived the inundation of out-of-towners another year. We’re even doing pretty well at keeping all of our customer-favorite products in-stock. All of our salumi varieties are set to be available this weekend.

Honestly, none of these Things™ are what I want to write about this week. Maybe it’s the fact that, by the time this is posted, I will be in the midst of an 8-hour drive beginning a week of vacation, or maybe it’s just that, with all the heavy, beginning-of-a-new-chapter kind of stuff happening this week, I wanted to keep the blog nice and fluffy, but here it is—this week’s 5 Things™:

Our current best-sellers, by category (with brief commentary):

This information is based on our previous two weeks of sales. Take everything I say with a grain of salt. In the case of cured meats, several thousand grains of salt.

  1. Bent Hop is a winner. Bent Paddle Brewing Company has become a fine representative of our city’s craft brewing scene, and their Golden IPA is currently leading the beverage sales at our deli. It’s a perfect beer for Duluth summer weather, and by that, I mean it is versatile. Hot, sunny day? Crack open a crisp Bent Hop. Rainy, chilly, windy day? Enjoy that crispness indoors, and stimulate those blood vessels in your skin to a comforting simulacrum of warmth. Likewise, this beer goes well with just about every sandwich on our menu. Cheers to Bent Paddle.
  2. Carr Valley Apple Smoked Cheddar is almost the best selling cheese. Our little goat cheese medallions have outsold it, likely because of the ~$1 price point. The smoked cheddar, out of La Valle, WI, is a close second, which makes sense. It’s hard to punctuate a description of your store to include “smoked meats” and “cheese” without suggesting that the cheeses are also smoked, and beyond that, folks are frequently in the market for a good smoked cheese. The Apple Smoked Cheddar fills that role perfectly.
  3. Our top-selling baked good is Coconut Macaroons. Patricia, our CCO (chief cookie officer) can do no wrong. Somehow, since Patricia joined the team, cookies have become a top-seller in our deli. She even found a way to make coconut macaroons taste good—my own opinion, remember those salt grains. In addition to being sweet, and the perfect blend of chewy and crunchy, these cookies are also gluten free, which opens them up to a wider audience. They’re available for individual purchase, or make a great Box Lunch option.
  4. Big Jims are the current best-seller in meat sticks. They’ve outsold our Royale With Cheese bacon-cheeseburger sticks by a narrow margin, and our Smoked Salmon sticks by a sliiiightly less narrow margin. On top of that, they’re my personal favorite of our snack stick selection. Big Jim Hatch Chiles offer a mild, yet memorable, spice. The asterisk to this best-seller is that our Bison Buddies were out-of-stock the last two weeks. Bison Buddies still might be the one stick to rule them all. Only time will tell.
  5. “All Are Welcome” stickers are the best-seller in our swag selection. I love this because investing in the community is important and this item is about more than just the boundless accumulation of capital. Proceeds from the sale of these stickers go to Together For Youth, an organization that advocates for and provides support to LGBTQ youth in our community. I mean, the stickers look really cool too, but making an impact in the community makes them 100-times cooler in my mind. For more information about Together For Youth, follow this link.
  6. Here’s a bonus thing, which shouldn’t surprise you. Another tricky punctuation bit—should it not surprise you because, historically, I add bonus Things™ all the time, or should the fact itself not be surprising? Perhaps a bit of both. The Cajun Finn is still our number-one seller, selling 710 units in the last two weeks. I have been a part of at least one conversation about creating a specific “Cajun Finn-maker” shift to the deli roster.

Thanks for stopping by this week’s 5 Things™.

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5 Things: February 15th, 2019

For one of the slower weeks we’ve had in recent months, and for a week that I spent mostly off-duty as a Smokehauser, I’ve got a lot more than expected to tell you.

For example—and this isn’t even going to be one of the Things™—I just had the opportunity to proofread the introduction to a mock-up chapter for our cookbook proposal, written by our should-be poet general manager, Mary, and it was beautiful. The chapter is titled “Winter”—which is all the teaser you’re getting, for now—and her introduction, in classic Midwestern form, bundles up, grits its teeth, and takes a long, hard stare at and past the blankness and bleakness, to uncover the poetry of our longest season.

Personally, I’d still rather be hibernating, but Mary may have just sown in me the seeds of a new appreciation, and someday, you might get a chance to read what she’s written.

So what about these Things™, eh?

I hear you on that, friends. This week, the Things™ sort of speak for themselves, and I have some pictures, which are worth ~1,000 words, so I’ve also come to consider what I’m even doing here. Why even bother churning out these nouns and verbs, when a brief title and an image would suffice?

Because I care.

Also not one of the Things™. Just thought you’d like to know. Someone cares—me, specifically—about entertaining you. Which may not be much, but may be just enough.

Here’s a Thing™

We’re getting a new sink. I am not certain whether the events that brought this replacement into effect were exciting and explosive, or if we just took the wise path and replaced it before it snapped off, but I can tell you that this sink was hanging on for dear life, and the replacement is welcome.

And another Thing™–Hint: It is not my hand.

We tried grease pencils as a substitute, we tried mindfulness about taking them out of our pockets, we used string to anchor them to their area of use, and time and time again, we were left with unsatisfactory results. Sharpie permanent markers are pricy little buggers, and yet they remain so important to how our business functions. White sharpie on butcher paper is just so legible (ungh!) and ballpoint pens stab holes in our wrap-jobs like it’s their job. But this time, we think we’ve got it right. We have lighter leashes for our markers. Here’s to saving some money on writing utensils this year!

Sockeye Buddies are now available.

I got to taste one fresh out of the smoker, and they are fantastic.

Mmm…sockeye buddies

They’re made up of our wild-caught Smoked Sockeye Salmon, Smoked Atlantic Salmon, lemon juice, brown sugar, salt, pepper, and coriander, contained within a lamb casing.

The sockeye sticks come as part of a push from our owner, Eric, to stock our shop with more grab&go items that showcase our smoked fish and meats.

Meat sticks are a great way to do that, and are always well-received. Currently, we are rocking beef & pork adobada sticks (Big Jims), bacon-cheeseburger sticks (Royale With Cheese), Sockeye Buddies, and, of course, our classic Bison Buddies.

Sockeye Buddies are $3/stick. Big Jims & Royales are $2/stick. At time of press, Bison Buddies are still being sold by weight, at $25.99/lb, but that will be changing to a per-stick price in the next few weeks.

We want to run too many different specials.

So we’re just going to run them all, in a rotation, specifically on Wednesdays and Thursdays.

Wednesday’s special will rotate between the classic Hot Pastrami sandwich, Smoked Ribs, and a Brisket sandwich.
Thursdays will feature a Hot Porketta sandwich, and will be a flex day for various other specials that we want to try out.

Check out our Twitter & Instagram profiles on those mornings to stay in the loop.

A 5 Things sub-list: my five favorite menu signs

So, Thing™ number five, is another list. I promise the recursion ends here. Flo, our powerhouse of paint, our fountain of font, our doodler-in-chief, has done it again and begun revitalizing our epic sandwich menu. Some love it, some don’t love it, some have a hard time reading it and I’m not going to make any assumptions either way about why that is, but regardless of where you stand on it, you will fall, because it is mounted on a wall and gravity.

What follows is my current favorite five menu boards. These are not necessarily my favorite sides or sandwiches, mind you, but they are all damned fine stacks of bread, meat, vegetables, and/or sauces in their own way.

Come check out the signs yourself. Until the next 5 Things™.