I have been mulling over the concept of a “Practical Guide to the Smokehaus” for a few months now. The task is daunting. It requires a vastness and depth of focus that could end up too vague or underdeveloped, and a precision of information that could lead us to conclusions that are not necessarily earned—a bunch of disconnected data gathered from anecdotes and opinions, leaving everyone wondering “why should I care about this?” As the weaver of this web, I find the task of creating a concise and comprehensive guide to your Northern Waters Smokehaus experience beyond my present resources and abilities. So, a thought occurred to me: I could save myself a great deal of concern over quality of output, I could generate a steady stream of content in digestible morsels, I could use this marketing-based writing as a means to connect with my co-workers and fellow human-beings; I could make it a weekly column, and I could get real answers to a variety of frequently asked questions from my esteemed colleagues. What follows is my first attempt:
“What goes well with this?” “Could you make a sample platter with the best stuff?” “What should I get?”
These are but a few of the daunting questions my co-workers and I engage with every day in the deli. I usually default to asking customers what they tend to like, then customizing my recommendations based on their response and my knowledge of our products. This doesn’t always work out. I am human and sometimes my preferences don’t line up with the customer’s. Sometimes the customer just wants someone else to do the thinking for them (which is very valid, and to which I often relate). And sometimes it is best just to judge by taste.
Today’s topic: The ideal sample-platter. (Note: complex sample platters at Northern Waters Smokehaus will still be made primarily at our employees’ discretion, but you are always welcome to sample individual finished products.)
“What would be on your ideal sample platter?” This is the question I asked my co-workers. Given the time and resources to prepare an inspiring combination of flavors or a greatest hits-style spread to share with our customers, what end result would we see, by each deli employee.
Leif — “Pork loin Squealy Dan samples. No, wait. That sounds like a lot of work. I don’t want everyone to come in expecting me to have those prepared,” At this time, I assured him that this is just a thought-experiment, and that he wouldn’t be required to make these, though we discuss whether to make them as sandwiches that are then slivered into samples, individually assembled/toasted open-face sandwich bites, or topped saltine crackers. We also discuss deep-fried saltine crackers—unrelated. “Oh, and I changed my mind: They’d be porketta Squealy Dans.”
Michael — Michael had just finished telling me about why salmon tails are his favorite product we carry, when I sprung this second question on him: “Tails, pancetta, a mix of the salumi, and a Jerry bread [Jerry bakes several of our breads in-haus],” Which kind of Jerry bread? “Definitely the rye.”
Hyland — “Saucisson sec with slices of pear or apple or cucumber. And a really nutty Brie.” Cele: You’re a really nutty brie. “Your mom’s a really nutty Brie,” Cele: No she’s not. She’s a really nutty T—. “I’d also put out castel vetrano olives.”
Cele — “Olivada, chèvre, pork loin, salamini, cajun salmon and black pepper salmon,” Any crackers? “Yea. Ritz. Because we’re fancy.”
Lucy — “Probably ham, pepperoni, saucisson, traditional [salmon] and bread.” Lucy grew up around Northern Waters Smokehaus food, and offered that the glue of this hypothetical sample platter is nostalgia for her childhood. She didn’t say that exactly. I am just trying to paraphrase her poetically.
Jacob — As I described my task, a light brightened behind Jacob’s eyes: “I already know what I’d make. ‘Lutheran Sushi’ — Is that offensive?” For those who don’t already know, Lutheran Sushi is a term which I am not going to research the origin of at this moment, but which I have come to understand as sliced meat, spackled with a binding condiment and wrapped around a pickle spear. When pressed on his preferred variety, he replied, “Pork loin, for sure. With mayo.”
Sam — “Hedonist bites. Saltine crackers spread with a bite of country pâté, a dab of mayo and mustard, a slice of onion, and a cornichon pickle slice. They’re great for tipping people who are on the fence about country pâté or the hedonist.”
In the spirit of not making my co-workers bear the entire burden of producing content, I’ll give my take on the week’s subject at the end:
Ned — “I sure hope we continue carrying our Sogn Tomme cheese,” This is my inner-monologue. “I had no idea what it was before we started selling it,” It’s a fatty, crumbly sheep’s milk cheese. “But I sure enjoyed the time I served it with smoked Alaskan King Salmon and blueberries, drizzled in honey, atop Carr’s water crackers.” This inner monologue is extrapolated from my frenzied mental short-hand.
From here on out, y’all can expect these practical guides on a variety of subjects, returning to some topics (like this) to eventually document all of my co-workers’ suggestions, and musing on new ideas as they occur. Hopefully, you’ll receive sagely advice from myself and my co-workers to guide you through your NWS experience, inspire you to try something new, or enhance your old favorites.