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5 Things: March 8th, 2019

Welcome back, friends.

Glad to see you. The sun is shining where I’m writing, and this week had several discrete events worthy of the title “Thing™.” Let us not tarry long on introductions, but hasten to the investigation of these Things™.


A couple of auspicious visits:

Northern Waters Smokehaus is pretty well accustomed to high-status visits. We’ve had the privilege of appearing on a few national cable network programs in the past decade, and while I’m not going to name-drop, there are a number of well-known individuals with local roots who join the masses and wait in line for our food when they happen into town.

Secretly, many of us behind the counter recognize them and get excited when they stop into the shop, but, consummate professionals that we are, we play it cool.

This week, however, I couldn’t contain myself. I was working my first deli shift in what felt like several weeks, so my filter of professional boundaries was perhaps off-kilter, when I received a call from my dear friend, Flo, in the marketing department. The Pitchfork Music Festival had just announced its line-up, which featured, among other exciting acts, local global music legends, Low.

Flo and I have attended the festival together on more than one occasion, so I was excited to hear that the lineup had been announced, but I was doubly-excited to see none other than a member of Low—and co-creator of our famous Cajun Finn sandwich—waiting for a sandwich from our deli. This individual’s identity will be kept vague, since I didn’t ask permission to tell this story in a public forum, and even beloved artists deserve privacy, but they were quite understanding and played-along generously when I held the phone to my chest and shouted,

“Hey, you’re playing Pitchfork [Music Festival](?),”

and again, slightly louder, when they didn’t hear the first time.

It was a moment that has subsequently been described to me as “very Duluth.” And that is the story of how I finally lost my cool and shouted details about someone’s life to them while on-the-clock.

Listen to my favorite Low record below:


Another visit came from someone who, like it or not, has chosen a path that puts them right in the public eye: the 41st Governor of Minnesota, Tim Walz. Truth be told, I probably would not have known about this had I not chosen to unburden the office’s Wi-Fi, and blog out of the deli.

As I typed away in a corner of our small seating area, Minnesota’s public servant-in-chief enjoyed a sandwich—maybe a salad, I didn’t ask—behind me. It wasn’t until the hunger hit me, and I stepped behind the sandwich line to make myself some lunch, that he revealed himself.

Yes, I participated in an electoral process that prominently featured him, but I did not recognize him less than five feet away from me. Is this a tale of his humility, or of my obliviousness, or of something else altogether? The jury is out. The jury, in fact, has neither been consulted, nor even informed of the known facts.

He thanked us for the delicious food, introduced himself to us, and engaged with a few customers who overheard him. The details get hazy from there. Honestly, I checked out at that point because preparing my lunch was of greater urgency to me at that time.

I’m not going to take any political stances on the company blog, fear not, except that being kind and showing gratitude to service industry employees is good praxis.


A pop-up and a new event:

On Wednesday, we had a pop-up at Bent Paddle Brewing Company’s tap room in the Lincoln Park Craft District. Such pop-ups are pretty old-hat by now. NWS setting up shop for a night at a local tap room wouldn’t be much to write about—rather, I and others have written about it so many times that it seems unfair to count that among the Things™—however, we debuted a new item at this pop-up: The Haus-ki, our very tangential take on the Chicago dog. More about the Haus-ki, and our new Happy Hour, which is when we’ll be selling it, is available here.

The marketing department is all out on a project I’m about to tell you about, so here is a placeholder Haus-ki until I receive pop-up photos.

Some cookbook content fun:

This morning, a handful of the marketing & design staff are taking a break from their typical workday to prepare for a photo-shoot. It should be no secret that we have dreams of releasing a cookbook in the near future, and though we have a wealth of photography related to our business and products, there will never be enough.

This particular photo-shoot pertains to producing a porketta in a backyard smoking apparatus. Today’s tasks are a lot of shoveling, creating the mise en scene for the shoot, and rolling the porketta. Tomorrow, we’ll be enacting and documenting the rest of the process. It’s supposed to snow tomorrow, which could undermine our work, or result in some pretty cool action shots.


A New ‘Wich:

The Spinderella is in full-effect until April 1st! Worth trying at least once, worth double stamps on your sandwich card.


Baker appreciation:

Volumes could and will be written about the impact that our recently-establish Baking Department has had on our business, but I’ll keep it brief:

Jerry’s White Bread, Prince Myshkin Rye, Chorizo-Cheddar-Chive Biscuits, Rosemary Potato Rolls, and Ciabattas have further increased our pride of ownership in the food we make. I’ve always liked the bread we’ve used at NWS, and there are certainly some baked items we’re still buying from outside vendors, but being able to say, “on a hausmade [bread of whatever variety]” feels good, and to top it off, it is high-quality product they’re baking down there.

If you’ve noticed some bright yellow pasty-looking items during your recent forays into our shop, and been confused or intrigued, those are Lucy’s Jamaican Hand-Pies, made with our fresh chorizo, and yes, they are a very delicious, filling, easy to eat (with one hand!) item that you should definitely not pass up.

And, of course, what would a 5 Things™ post be without a shoutout to Patricia, who used up all of the Royale With Cheese trimmings we’ve accumulated—since we began cutting our Buddies to a specific cost rather than selling them by weight—to make savory bacon-cheeseburger snack stick and tomato scones.


Closing thoughts:

We have a new sink! The other one was falling off the wall from years of overuse.

Fresh.

Do I even keep track of my Thing™-count anymore?

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5 Things That Happened This Week

As Summer pushes onward toward its inevitable end, Northern Waters Smokehaus finds itself embroiled in growing pains and the joy of new beginnings. A lot has been happening around here in the past week—continuations of capital improvements, commencements of new bargains, and the laying of plans for special occasions.

Before my preamble becomes too amble-y, let’s get to our five things:

  1. We have a sink upstairs! This may not sound as exciting as I have made it out to be, but it’s a significant step in the renovation of our third-floor office. For some time we have wanted to expand our food prep capabilities, and that dream is well on its way to being a reality. Next week we’re tearing out the carpet, and then it’s Food Safe City in this joint! Aside from the chaos of remodeling a jam-packed office—who can’t enjoy a little chaos from time to time?—the only drawback is that we’re taking a brief pause on mail orders. Mail order will be on hiatus August 6th-9th due to temporary lack of space.
  2. Totes! We have new tote bags for sale and a special deal running throughout the month of August. It totes slipped our minds to let you know earlier, but here it is:
    When you buy a tote, at time of purchase you get 20% off every item you can fit in that tote. Sandwiches, smoked fish, cheese, tube meats, posters, crackers, beverages, olives, slaws—I could go on,but I believe you get the gist—are all 20% off, so long as you can fit them in your tote bag. Please note, you’ll be buying the tote itself at full price, and the sale is limited to one full tote of discounted goods per customer.
  3. Last pop-up of the Summer! Tonight (Friday) we’ll be at Hoops Brewing slinging tacos from 5pm until they’re gone. The tacos will be tasty and the salsas will be fresh.
  4. Business is good…sometimes too good. Thanks to you, our awesome customers, we have been regularly selling out of a bunch of our inventory. This is a double-edged sword, of course, as our business is thriving, sometimes at the expense of our customers being able to get their favorite items. A frozen Berkshire ham that arrives at our store takes two weeks to become the delicious smoked ham in our deli case, and our salumi cures for up to a month.  Ciscos are fantastic when we have them, but I still haven’t quite figured out when they’re in-season. Production doesn’t really ever slow down for us, and we do our best to keep our little deli fully stocked. So shoutout to you, dear customers, for keeping us on our feet, but please bear with us if you ever catch us without your favorite item. If you’re curious, you can check in with us to see if and when we’ll have a particular item in stock.
  5. Bread joys and woes. Our beloved baker, Jerry, has been steadily honing his craft in our kitchen. All of our rye bread is now made in-haus, as well as the rosemary potato rolls upon which we serve our Monday smokers’ choice special. White bread and stiratos are in the works, but not quite ready for mass-production. Baking bread is truly an art-form, and one we are glad to be adding to our establishment. We recently purchased a new (much larger) oven to bake said bread, though it hasn’t been a perfectly smooth ride thus far. There have been a few technical issues with the oven over the past week that have put a hitch in our production. Fortunately, Jerry is a gosh-darn workhorse, and has us stocked on rye and potato rolls for weeks to come.So there you have it. It’s been a pretty exciting ride around these parts. Thanks for bearing with us in the long lines, and for your patience with us during our growth spurt. You, and our love of good food, are the reason we’re here.

    Stay tuned for exciting updates in the near future. Planning for our 20th Anniversary party is ongoing and we’ll be making announcements soon. Unless I decide to write another blog post in the meantime, I’ll see you next week.