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Food and Drink

Is Alaska food ‘exotic’? This international tour company thinks so.

Striking decor greets visitors to the dining room in the Widgeon II, which hosts cooking classes at the Tutka Bay Lodge. The beached vessel is a repurposed crabbing boat that was originally a World War II-era troop carrier. Owner Kirsten Dixon, center, describes the facility to visiting Norwegian journalists in 2015. (Erik Hill / Alaska Dispatch News)

A Seattle-based tour company has announced it will offer multicity culinary tours of Alaska starting in September.

While there are already food tour companies in Alaska, including Juneau Food Tours, none is a multiday, multicity excursion.

Access Trips, a company that pairs cultural tourism with cuisine, is offering the eight-day, seven-night trip, which will start Sept. 2 in Fairbanks.

From Fairbanks, the trip will head south, with stops in Denali National Park, Talkeetna, Homer and Girdwood before ending in Anchorage.

The itinerary will include cooking classes at 229 Parks Restaurant and Tavern in Denali and the Tutka Bay Lodge cooking school outside Homer, a look at birch syrup production at Kahiltna Birchworks in Talkeetna, and trips to farms in the Matanuska Valley. It also includes cultural components, like dog sledding on Colony Glacier and visiting the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center in Portage.

Access Trips' other culinary tour destinations include Cuba, Japan, Morocco and Thailand. CEO Tamar Lowell said in an interview Thursday that to some in the Lower 48, Alaska seems foreign.

"There is a culture and feel that is completely distinct from the rest of the country," Lowell said. "For us, Alaska was another exotic piece of the world. It just happens to be a little bit closer than other places we explore."

Lowell decided to launch the tour after attending the September 2016 Adventure Travel World Summit in Anchorage. She said Alaska's a challenge because of the short summer tourist season and the long distances between locations.

Lowell said that at $5,790, the trip is one of her company's most expensive. Only one tour will be offered in 2017. The first trip will be considered a pilot, though she plans to offer more tours starting in May 2018.

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