Lou’s Fish gets ink in national magazineLast summer, Brian Zapolski, the owner of Lou’s Fish House in Two Harbors, was called and told to send some of his smoked fish to Martha Stewart and her chefs so they could try it out and see how good it was. A writer and photographer from her magazine then came to visit.
Last summer, Brian Zapolski, the owner of Lou’s Fish House in Two Harbors, was called and told to send some of his smoked fish to Martha Stewart and her chefs so they could try it out and see how good it was. A writer and photographer from her magazine then came to visit.
It’s been good news ever since.
Apparently the 50 pounds he sent was impressive and it’s now being touted in the latest issue of the magazine Martha Stewart Living.
“I know I have a good product because people tell me,” Zapolski said. He works with a crew of three and has been smoking fish for 35 years. He bought the store in 2006. Longtime owner Lou Sjoberg died in 2003.
Matthew Hranek, the author of the article “Reel Flavor,” which appears in the July issue highlighting places in all 50 states, wrote: “I preferred his fish to everything else I tried in the area. There is the subtle taste of salt paired with sweetness and smoke, yet not a single flavor overpowers the fish. His whitefish and ciscoes are moist and succulent. The herring are spectacular – they’re like giant, briny, smoky sardines. The lake trout, brined in a sugar cure, have a delightful sweetness.”
He said when he boarded his flight back to New York, he had 20 pounds of smoked fish with him and within a couple of days it was devoured by his family and friends.
Zapolski said his success can be based on secret recipes and how he smokes to develop a certain flavor. He wasn’t giving any secrets away, especially in a national magazine.
“I’ve been improving all along,” he said about his success smoking fish.
The store sells about 600 pounds of products a week, which includes more than fish. He also sells jerky, spreads and cheeses. The recent help from Martha Stewart should also help business.
Jennifer Aaronson, the editorial director for food and entertaining for Martha Stewart Living, said the trick for good smoked fish is not having it overly smoky or dry.
She said smoked fish is a common thing to eat in New York and Lou’s stacks up against the best on the East Coast with its balance and texture.
Aaronson wasn’t sure if Stewart actually tried the fish, but she said she does “love” smoked fish, so it certainly isn’t out of the question. Stewart was traveling this week and was unavailable for comment.
The store has received phone calls from across the country since the issue came out. The store does ship via FedEx and UPS. Zapolski said there are plans to sell the fish at Whole Foods stores in the Twin Cities area later this year.
Zapolski said he has thought about changing the name to something different, like “Brian’s Fish Shack,” but he thought it would confuse people so he stuck with Lou’s.
This isn’t the first time Lou’s Fish has received national recognition. Before Zapolski bought it, National Geographic did a piece on the store, he said. Zapolski never spoke with Stewart but was certain she tasted the fish to be given such high recognition.
Aaronson said they did the profile on Lou’s because it’s done the old way and the fish is taken in a sustainable way. “We really honor those old ways,” Aaronson said.
As for what he does to get the word out about his fish: “What I tell everybody. If they like the fish, tell a friend.”
Zapolski didn’t have much advice for those who smoke their fish at home. He said smokers usually differ from one another, especially the smaller ones people use at home. He told Hranek he doesn’t use wood chips, preferring to get flavor out of brines and hard maple woods.