The port city of Seward comes alive in the summer, and some restaurants are finally rivaling Anchorage for Alaska's best bites.
There's chef Kevin Lane's deft hand with all things smoked brisket and an offering of the freshest oysters at The Cookery, chef Erik Slater at Seward Brewing Co. (open until mid-September) and the newly revamped Chinooks (now open with a full liquor license).
Recently, some family came up from another port city, New Orleans, and we spent some time at Trail River campground before heading to Seward. After a cool, rainy night of camping, we were craving warmth and comfort, which we found as we stopped in for lunch at Seward Brewing Co.
My family members, from a food-obsessed city, are accomplished eaters and we were delighted by everything from "chowdah" made to order with lots of fresh seafood to fish tacos with tomatillo crack sauce to a crispy fried chicken Yard Bird sandwich. We took a small break before tasting the root beer float and "chocolate salty balls"; snicker all you want, but this was a rich and creamy dark chocolate dessert, doused in a fruity Spanish olive oil with good sea salt, Nutella dust and bacon — it was worth saving room for.
After a few days, I found myself craving many of the dishes we had, but mostly the salted watermelon salad. When I asked Slater about the recipe, he said there really isn't one: "just components put together with a lime gochujang vinaigrette." Mainly, you want to use the best of ingredients: a ripe, sweet watermelon and good-quality olive oil and feta cheese.
If you're like me, and count your travel days in meals, you might want to plan your next adventure — preferably one that burns lots of calories — near Seward, and time it so you can lunch at Seward Brewing Co., snack at the newly re-opened Chinooks and enjoy dinner at The Cookery.
Watermelon-feta salad with pepitas and mint
Makes 4 servings
3 to 4 cups cubed watermelon
1 medium cucumber, peeled
3 to 4 ounces feta cheese
1 to 2 tablespoons raw shelled pumpkin seeds (pepitas), lightly toasted
Fresh herbs, such as basil, mint and cilantro
Extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling
Sea salt flakes, such as Maldon or fleur de sel
Optional: edible flowers, thinly sliced jalapeño or a pinch of smoked paprika
There are various ways to serve this salad. You could peel and slice the watermelon and cucumber and crumble feta over, or cube the ingredients for a pretty presentation.
If cutting fruit and cheese into cubes, place the cut pieces in a pretty pattern on a serving platter. Add pumpkin seeds and fresh herbs. Drizzle with good olive oil and top with a sprinkle of sea salt flakes. Garnish, if desired, with edible flowers, sliced jalapeño or paprika.