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My Favorite Things™ (December 27th, 2019)

Here it is.

The final 5 Things™ of the year.

We’re going to do something special this time around.

But first, I’m going to mess around with the headings for a bit.

Okay, that’s enough.

Here are My Favorite Things™ that happened this year at NWS. I took a deep dive, noting the moments in this blog that sparked the most joy in me, then tried to whittle it down to five, but was unable. What can I say? I’m a sentimental person. Hopefully, uncut as it is, this list gives you a hint at the sort of year we’ve had at the Smokehaus.

The Adisalad joined our menu.

The Adisalad is New Year’s resolution food: Haus kimchi or sauerkraut, a delicious assortment of pickled vegetables, with fresh cucumber slices, and chopped Marcona almonds over mixed greens and thin-sliced cabbage.

The salad joined the menu in January, and quickly became my lunch break of choice for somewhere around three months—after which I began transposing it into sandwich form, because carbs are great. Among its other noteworthy attributes are its position on our menu as a middle ground between the Ensaladita and the two-meals-in-one-package NWS Salad (in both size and price) and its status as vegan-friendly option (choosing ‘kraut over kimchi).

New Sticks.

When they’re in-stock, Bison Buddies are one of our top-selling items. Eric and the Smokers (not Eric’s band name, but could be) caught wise to this trend and whipped up an assortment of new snack sticks—with future plans to develop more—to please our constituents in search of something quick, easy, and flavorful. The current selection (at full capacity) features Big Jim Hatch Chile beef sticks, Royale With Cheese bacon-cheeseburger sticks, and Smoked Sockeye Salmon Buddies alongside the Bison Buddies. Everyone loves snack sticks!

Smoked Sockeye Sticks aka Salmon Buddies

Patricia made donuts and brought them in to share.

Working at NWS in the Patricia era has been a joy for a handful of reasons—new and exciting cookies, cheddar crackers, pasties, and samples of each new item as they emerge—but the day she brought in a tray of cake donuts she’d made that morning was a favorite of mine. Yes, our dear Patricia just whipped up some cake donuts in her kitchen on a whim.

Patricia’s initial plan was to try a donut Cuban sandwich with our Minnesota Pulled Pork. Though I do not know whether she succeeded in that goal, I do recall making a Northern Donut—yes: a donut with scallion cream cheese and smoked Atlantic salmon. It was not good enough for the menu (and would’ve been far better with our Atlantic salmon gravlax), but I’m not going to lie and say I didn’t enjoy it.

The Sandwich Lab Series.

I can’t believe it took me this long to get to this Thing™. Sandwich Lab (our annual pedantic and artistic gathering in the pursuit of sandwich excellence) easily got a nod in over 50% of the blog content this year. For good reason, too. Last year’s Lab had so many high-quality offerings that we elected to feature them all (in roughly one-month intervals) on the menu.

Since a great deal has already been said about these sandwiches, here’s a list of their names and their ingredients to sate you. And of course you can always follow that hyperlink I just provided if you care to read more.

  • The Breakfast Club – Bagel, scallion cream cheese, smoked turkey, smoked pancetta (crispy), red onion, cilantro.
  • The Wagner – Hero roll, mayo, mustard, smoked turkey or smoked pastrami (unofficial 3rd option: black pepper and coriander salmon), quick pickles, cilantro, sriracha.
  • The Spinderella – Hero roll, mayo, mustard, dill pickle, smoked turkey, salami, red onion, cilantro. Side of scallion cream cheese, for dippin’.
  • The Bloody Mary – Johnson’s Bakery kaiser roll, green olives, chopped dill pickle, summer sausage, smoked pancetta, cheddar cheese, Haus bloody mary mix, tomato, red onion, cilantro.
  • The Wallaby – Haus-baked Prince Myshkin Rye, smashed avocado, lemon pepper, tomato, basil, balsamic vinegar.
  • The Sebu-chan – Haus-baked ciabatta, scallion cream cheese, gravlax, cucumber, tomato, red onion, cilantro, sriracha, lettuce.
  • The Fish Schtick – Haus-baked ciabatta, mayo, lemon pepper, traditional Atlantic salmon, Cornichon pickles, tomato, red onion, lettuce.
  • The Lake Trout Situation – Haus-baked pullman white bread (buttered and toasted), smoked lake trout salad, smoked pancetta crumbles, cilantro. Served open-faced—our take on a New England lobster roll.
  • The G.O.A.T. – Lake Superior Bakehouse bagel, chèvre, crispy sliced smoked andouille, sliced Cortland apple, lettuce.

This porketta photo shoot.

Right around the time we began working in earnest on the cookbook, our creative team had the bright idea of trying to capture the heart of backyard smoking. This behind-the-scenes look at that shoot was one of my favorite Things™ largely because of the captions, but in no small part due to Greg’s rustic charm and bright attire.

This workplace drama.

Posing by porkettas isn’t the only thing Greg-with-two-Gs is good for. He and Leif have had an ongoing struggle for office dominance that has provided high-quality entertainment to anyone who might tune in.

An update:

This corrupted image of Smoked Ribs and Beans.

What better way to commemorate this delicious though short-lived daily special than this odd photograph? Designers, take note: You can now easily extract the exact color palette of our Smoked Ribs free of charge.

Working on the NWS Cookbook.

Bubbling below the surface of everything else going on this year—the strategic expansion and retraction of our menu, the addition of beer and wine (and cider, and alcoholic seltzer) to our deli, all of the new baked goods, and changes in leadership roles—has been a lot of work on the first-ever Northern Waters Smokehaus cookbook.

While there’s still quite a bit of work ahead of us, and the anticipated release date falls somewhere no sooner than Summer 2021, these past ten months of work on the book have been an exciting, sometimes nerve-wracking, ultimately very fulfilling ride.

These new faces.

The new folks who have joined our team have been pretty alright this year.

That’s all for 5 Things™ in 2019! See you next year!

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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”