Tracklements: Then to Now
Looking back, it seems that at Tracklements we’ve been trying to “stay the course,” while exploring new but fitting ventures. Starting out in Amherst, MA., as a basement & backyard operation (with the bathtub thrown in on occasion) with a whiff of single-malt fueled encouragement from Duncan Stewart in Ullapool, Scottish Highlands, our “business plan” was, and has been, Just keep at it! But for various reasons, “keeping at it” has a way of taking on a life of its own, with unanticipated twists and turns.
After getting some terrific press notices and developing a sturdy mail order business in the Northeast, our move to Ann Arbor and then into retail was major sea change, but one that made possible developing new products (hot-smoked “kippered” salmon and the home-run miso/mirin/tamari marinade-cured smoked salmon), and new lines such as the “new charcuterie” of lightly seasoned, cured and smoked, gently cooked duck breast and tenderloins (ready to enjoy whole cuts instead of cold cuts). Just this past year we’ve introduced our Amazin’ Braise, ready-to-heat and eat entrees featuring Berkshire pork shoulder and shanks, lamb shanks and duck legs, beef brisket and pork belly. . .
Fall 1992: Our first holiday season, casual production in basement, bathtub and backyard on Blue Hills Road in Amherst, MA.
June 1993: with financing from brother Jim, Scottish-designed smoking kiln arrives and is installed at Redwing Meadow Farm, at Amherst/Sunderland line. Proper production begins, with Malt-whisky cured Highland Smoked Salmon. Hand-rubbed dry cured, sold in unsliced center-cut pieces. Fall 1993 reviewed by Claire Hopley of the Amherst Bulletin, as “the jewel” in a holiday meal. Local Bread&Circus (soon to become Whole Foods) places order.
Early Spring 1994: Leslie Mason goes to NYC with Classic Highland, Thai Spice, Mediterranean Herb and Teriyaki cured smoked salmons, along with her great enthusiasm and winning ways. Within 24 hours our answering machine is filled with messages from Dean & Deluca, Graces MarketPlace, Baluducci’s, and Caviarteria.
April 6, 1994: The New York Times’ Florence Fabricant includes Tracklements in her Food Notes: “lush, Scotch-style salmon…and some trendier varieties—Thai, Mediterranean, Teriyaki” available at Dean & Deluca, and by mail order. Our 800 number is swamped.
May 22, 1994: The Times Sunday Style section observes that “ordering smoked salmon was once as easy as ordering coffee…now it’s as difficult as, well, ordering coffee”—the new types include Mediterranean fennel and Teriyaki.
June, 1994: Diversion Magazine pronounces the smoked salmon from Durham’s Tracklements to be “among the most succulent to pass our lips,” and notes our “unorthodox curing and smoking techniques” that produce the Highland, Thai and Mediterranean varieties of “lightly smoked salmon that literally melts in your mouth.” Physicians at leisure call from around the country.
November 1, 1995: The New York Times’ annual “Best Mail Order Gifts” by Marian Burros recommended “Buttery Thai smoked salmon” with a subtle ginger and lemon grass flavoring over 8 varieties of smoked salmon offered at her tasting party.
March 1996: The Washington Post’s Food Section features First-Class Foods by Mail, highlighting Tracklements’ Thai and Sante Fe seasoned smoked salmons—“delicious, firm and buttery.”
July, 1996: In a somewhat oxymoronic move, Durham’s Tracklements relocates lock, stock and smoking kiln to Ann Arbor, MI, almost 1000 miles from the nearest ocean, where, it turns out vacuum packaging of cold-smoked salmon is currently illegal—but undergoing legislative review!
January, 1997: With legalization of its primary products on the legislative horizon, Tracklements leases a production space in Kerrytown Market & Shops in Ann Arbor, which houses locally acclaimed, independently owned seafood and meat markets, and, as turns out, serves along with the local Farmers Market as a magnet for many of the local foodies. In March, the state legislature approves new smoked fish production and packaging regulations, and we’re up and crawling.
November, 1997: Much to our amazement, The New York Times’ Marian Burros includes our Sampler Gift Pack of Highland, Thai and Mediterranean smoked salmon in her Best Mail Order Gifts of the Holidays.
Spring 1998: Florence Fabricant includes our “Gravlax for the Grill” in her N.Y. Times piece on novel ideas for the grill. Thai-spice cured smoked salmon appears in her piece on new developments in spiced smoked salmon, also in the NY Times.
Holiday 2000: well-known food writer and authority on foods of New York City Ed Levine features our pecan wood smoked salmon in his Millenium New Year’s Feast, in Business Week Magazine.
November 2001: For her annual Holiday Food Gifts piece, Marian Burros’ tasting party picks Tracklements’ Classic Highland Smoked Salmon as the best over six top purveyors, for her 20th year retrospective of favorite holiday food gifts. By phone, Ms. Burros informs us that this is the first unanimous selection ever, and the decision was “no comparison”!
Holiday 2001: Sylvia Rector of the Detroit Free Press gives a rave review for Smoked Salmon from Tracklements.
Spring 2002: Kate Lawson of the Detroit News features our “Donegal” smoked salmon for a St. Patrick’s Day treat (misted with Irish whiskey, smoked over genuine Irish peat), and a relative newcomer to the Tracklements lineup, Miso/Mirin/Tamari marinade-cured and hot smoked. Kate provides a recipe for this with pasta and ginger butter—a consistent winner with our customers.
November 2002: almost embarrassingly, but not quite, Marian Burros of The New York Times features our smoked Gravlax with dill (“Scandinavians would be proud of…”) and the Miso/Mirin/Tamari hot smoked salmon (“The only hot-smoked salmon I’ve ever liked”) complete with large color photo (also pictured, the gigantic prime porterhouse steak from Peter Luger’s Steakhouse!).
2003-2004: New additions to our lineup, occasional and seasonal: hot-smoked trout, kippered salmon with rum-maple glaze, smoked cod, Finnan Haddie, hot-smoked bluefish and Norwegian mackerel; sable, sturgeon and sea scallops for the holidays.
Ryan Beene, who has been a mainstay during holiday rush and Saturday retail at the Smokery is off to university. Margarito Dominguez is on board with his meticulous work in curing and smoking. Samu steps into Ryan’s place for Saturday retail.
Eve, of eve The Restaurant begins whipping up batches of her Brandade using our smoked Icelandic cod, and turning out tarts with brandade and spicey-greens toppings. Smoked cod, trout, haddock tarts and gratins for the holidays.
Our “New Charcuterie” line begins to attract regular aficionados for the lightly seasoned and cured, cold-smoked and gently cooked meats: lamb loin, pork and beef tenderloin, and the year-round favorite Moulard duck breast.
Introduction of “Self-Catering Platters”: ready to serve, fully assembled appetizers, or some assembly required. Smoked salmon and seafood, new charcuterie platters.
Fall of 2004: our friend Mary Beath of Albuquerque, previously known for her designs featured by The Nature Company, The Grand Canyon Conservation Trust, and zoos and aquaria around the country, designs a new logo for Tracklements and a new look for our mail order materials and product brochures.
2005-2006: Tracklements introduces weekly specials of “Amazing Braise”—pork shoulder, duck legs, lamb and pork shanks, beef cheeks, and so forth, along with Terrines and Pates by Brendan McCall.
Spring 2006: Ellen Wizniewski, our mail order go-to girl much beloved by our customers across the country for the past four years, treasured general office manager and great friend, departs to join her husband in Ireland. John Cross begins major redesign of our Website with graphics by Mary Beath. And a Smoked Seafood Cookbook is in the works, under the guiding hand, eye and enthusiasm of Joe Mooney, University of Michigan press.