Saturday, September 18, 2010

Feasting on Alaska

Alaska is all about fresh seafood, game meat and huge vegetables.  During my recent vacation to the USA's 49th state, I was treated to so much wonderful food I thought I would share the experience with you.

Denali ~ Mt. McKinley
I'll start by saying that if you haven't been to Alaska it should be on your list of places to go.  For natural beauty and wildlife, Alaska can't be beat.  I was there in late August and early September, and the foliage had already started to change into fall colors.  For a land that is frozen for so much of the year, it is teaming with wildlife in the summer. 

Caribou Chili
On the glass-domed train from Denali to the Copper River, I enjoyed my second bowl of caribou chili.  It was very good, as was the caribou stew I had earlier in the trip.  Of course caribou doesn't seem all that exotic, being much like deer, but how about moose.  We saw many on the trip, and the lodge was teaming with hunters hoping to bag one.  The cover story on Alaska magazine while we were there was "Field Dress for Success" and was about the need to get your game properly dressed and sent to the wild game processing shop so you can have a freezer full of moose when you get home. Apparently moose burgers are quite popular, but I did not have the chance to enjoy one.  Of course they also catch and eat deer and rabbit, along with the occasional bear.  If the bear tastes anything like it smells, I'm glad I missed that experience having been on a trail hike when the guide said "smell that... bear are close by."  I guess the odor must give their prey fair warning. 

Rafting the Copper river
a favorite route of the salmon.
With over 34,000 miles of coastline, Alaska's cold waters provide a mouthwatering array of fish and seafood. Most famous of course are the salmon, halibut and crab, but you can also enjoy fresh oysters, scallops and sablefish. Alaska is one of the world's foremost areas for wild salmon and I enjoyed many different varieties. There are five varieties of salmon in Alaska. The largest and least abundant is the King or Chinook salmon, valued for its red flesh and rich flavor. There are also sockeye salmon, which were not as rich or high in fat as the King and I preferred the sockeye.  I also very much enjoyed the fresh halibut and recommend you try it for a white, flaky, tender fish.

Alaskan King Crab, renowned for its sweetness and tenderness must be on your menu while in Alaska. While I have enjoyed it at home in Chicago, by necessity it must be frozen and shipped. Enjoying it fresh is an amazing experience. The flesh is less spongy and watery and the flavor more intense and sweet. It can easily be enjoyed without drawn butter, as it is most commonly served when eaten whole. While not inexpensive in restaurants even in Alaska (about $40 per pound), you should take the opportunity to enjoy it while on a visit to Alaska.  And for the adventurous, they do offer "deadliest catch" excursions where you can actually go out on the boat and watch them catch these big beauties.

Kevin's mom picking
mushrooms and blueberries
Not all of Alaska's food products come from the land and sea, however. Though the winters are cold, the long summer days provide excellent growing conditions - in fact, a million acres of land in Alaska are farmed. In the northernmost part of the state, the sun does not set for 84 days in summer. All that sunlight can produce some giant flowers and vegetables, so don't be surprised if you find a cabbage that weighs in at 70 lbs!

If you have the opportunity to visit Alaska, make sure you arrive hungry.  You'll no doubt enjoy the bounty of this beautiful region and will return home a bit heavier than when you left.

Julian at Sea
P.S.  After I made the above post one of my friends read it and asked if we had "baked Alaska".  As you may know, we were on a Princess Cruise the last week of our trip and on the final night of the voyage the chef did indeed serve the famous ice cream, cake with flaming meringue dessert.

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful pictures.
    I would love to see a 70lb cabbage, that is crazy.