Living as I do in far South Anchorage, I'm often at a crossroads. Literally. Turn right on the highway for appointments, meetings, school schedules, shopping, and errands. Turn left for Turnagain Arm. No matter how often I drive it, no matter how mundane the purpose of my drive, otherworldly beauty of that stretch of highway between Anchorage and Girdwood never fails to take my breath away. It's like 27 miles of instant vacation. Which brings me to Froth and Forage, the diminutive, yet ambitious new roadside eatery in scenic Indian (occupying Turnagain Armpit BBQ's old digs).
I generally let a new restaurant find its bearings before reviewing it, but the buzz about this new spot was strong. And because it's the perfect stop for late summer excursions, I decided to jump on the bandwagon for the benefit of late summer fishermen, hikers and the Homer-, Hope- and Seward-bound.
A holiday mindset is important when dining-in at Froth & Forage. Pacing is … leisurely. The dining room is small and fills up quickly. And the building's limited size means that the kitchen is, for the most part, a one-man show. Most diners seem to have gotten the memo. Some remained sipping coffee and chatting long after their plates were cleared. A few others had newspapers, or books, and at one table a few tourists were filling out postcards while they waited for their meals. If you're in a hurry, your best bet is to call ahead and pick up your order at the convenient drive-through window. Any obliging picnic table along the way will offer the same incredible view.
But for me, on both visits, the wait was worth it. The dishes are lovingly conceived, technically precise and beautifully presented. This is slow-food in the best possible way.
On my first visit, I met my friends (and frequent review companions) Sue and Dave for a late lunch/early dinner. As we walked through the dining area on the deck, we caught sight of a lucky diner tucking into a plate of turkey leg confit. It was love at first sight. Unfortunately, my love went unrequited. Upon ordering, we were told it was sold out. So, too, was the Alaska spot shrimp. It was a disappointing start but things began to look up quickly.
(Side note: Chef Zachary Reid later explained the shortage: because of the restaurant's limited size and commitment to serving fresh — never frozen — produce and proteins, they are able to stock only about 1 1/2 day's worth of ingredients before needing to restock. They're hoping to improve upon the current system for more consistent menu availability in the future. I'll eat you yet, turkey confit!)
So, instead of entrees, we opted for a few shareable dishes, including salmon poke, an heirloom tomato salad, a chicken wings appetizer, and poutine.
The salmon poke ($10.95) was beautiful. Fat, glistening cubes of buttery salmon were mixed with a crisp and pungent salad. The dish was vibrant with color, heady with herbs and perfectly dressed with a light sesame dressing. It looked and tasted like summer on a plate.
Similarly, the heirloom tomato salad with mozzarella ($12.95) was simple, light, bright and refreshing. A variety of tomatoes, and a heap of fresh greens were sparingly dressed, seasoned and piled on thick slices of fresh mozzarella. This restrained dish is all about celebrating high quality, fleetingly available summer ingredients.
The chicken wings, tossed in an "Alaskan birch buffalo hot sauce" were an elevated version of the typical bar snack. Elevated, that is, by perfect execution. The meat on these sizable wings was crispy on the outside, tender within, and coated with a tart, vinegary buffalo sauce. A sprinkling of blue cheese crumbles lent a smoky richness to the dish.
But the poutine ($15.95) was, without a doubt, the dish of the day. A giant plate of thinly sliced, crispy fried potatoes — both purple and white — was thickly topped with a rich, red-eye gravy teeming with bacon, tender chunks of reindeer meat, sautéed mushrooms, whole roasted garlic cloves, melted cheese curds and a generous sprinkling of herbs. This dish has (and is) everything. (Side note: This plate could easily feed two as a complete lunch, and we reluctantly left at least half of the portion behind. Yes, I have regrets.)
I was excited to return the following week and grabbed my daughter for a Saturday brunch. She opted for steak and eggs while I ordered the Forager's Benedict. And, because we are human beings with taste buds and no self-control, we decided to split the doughnut breakfast sandwich. "For dessert," we assured ourselves.
My daughter was well satisfied with her generous plate of steak and eggs ($20.95). Thinly sliced, buttery tenderloin (sourced from Delta Junction) rested in a pool of hollandaise and was topped with perfectly poached eggs, a generous salad of fresh tomatoes, greens and sweet pickled onions. The dish felt hearty but not heavy — a perfect start to a day of Alaskan play.
My Forager's Benedict ($16.95) was a riot of wholesome and tasty ingredients. Somewhere under a heap of kale, baby tomatoes, sautéed mushrooms, and wedges of perfectly ripe avocado were softly cooked eggs and slices of sourdough toast. Crispy potatoes generously seasoned with herbs came with both meals. These dishes were delicious, robust and wholesome, making us feel ready to climb mountains (or, more accurately, do a Costco run).
Less conducive to inspirational bursts of energy was the doughnut breakfast sandwich ($8.95). Let's face it. This is a ridiculous dish. A freshly fried, glazed donut was split in half and stuffed with a fried egg, melted Tillamook cheddar cheese, slices of crisp, fireweed honey bacon, and served in a pool of maple syrup. Ridiculous. Decadent. Scrumptious. This breakfast will haunt my dreams and, probably, my bathroom scale.
On both occasions, Chef Reid (who owns and operates the restaurant with his family) visited our table after our meals. This man loves his job. He waxed poetic about his farm-to-table vision of sustainable, locally sourced cuisine. He enthusiastically listed the in-state origin of each ingredient on the plate, joking that the avocados are grown in Homer. ("OK, maybe not," he admitted, "but you've got to have avocados!") He has big plans for the restaurant's future but is forthcoming about a few growing pains. I'll be rooting for his continued success.
As I write this, summer is winding down. But I take heart in knowing that there's always a vacation to be had at Froth and Forage. I'll look forward to seeing their menu change with the seasons. Happily, doughnuts bloom year-round.
Froth & Forage Coffeehouse and Eatery
Dining room hours: Closed Monday-Wednesday, 9 a.m.-9:30 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, 9 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Sunday brunch. For drive-through hours, check Facebook or frothandforage.com
Location: 27635 Seward Hwy., Indian
Contact: 907-653-1009 and frothandforage.com
Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect new hours of business.