Alaskans know how to eat. Find another place where people are better at DIY food (hunting it, fishing it, picking it; schlepping it on airplanes, ATVs, snowmachines, kayaks, in backpacks; butchering it, cleaning it, smoking it, freezing it, preserving it). You can't. To eat at our tables is to understand our culture. (Home cooking is another area where we excel.) This newsletter is a place for all things Alaska food.
Newsletter #10: Alaska State Fair
If you want to know how Alaska eats, look no farther than the Alaska State Fair. Donna Freedman has a comprehensive A-to-Z guide for you. From canning and home brew to baked goods and soda making, there's an exhibit at the fair for that. If competitions are what you're after, may I suggest the Alaska seafood throwdown? Or try the homemade pie contest. There are food vendors everywhere you look, tempting us with next-level fair food, like giant cream puffs that I personally can't resist. Speaking of giant food, don't miss the gargantuan produce, like pumpkins and cabbage. Because in order to really understand how Alaska eats, we need to understand how Alaska farms. (Hint: we go big, really big.)
If you can't make it up to Palmer to check out the veggies, our farmers markets have you covered and Steve Edwards has the scoop. As the trees change color heading into fall, so does our produce. Think rainbow carrots and purple cauliflower, for example. Color variety makes for sexy plates of food. It's also a fun way to try to get the kiddos to eat their vegetables. Try putting some rainbow carrots into those sack lunches you might have just started making again for back-to-school this week. For another sack lunch hack, try the recipe for my kid-tested and approved turkey sandwich roll-ups.
Last weekend, I was in Juneau, enjoying the sights and flavors. Let me tell you, our state capital knows how to eat and drink. Julia O'Malley recommended we try Coppa, known for its local ice cream flavors. We went for the rhubarb sherbet – pale pink, pucker-worthy perfection – and the irresistible birch syrup butter pecan.
If there's one flavor Juneau is known for, it's crab. We grabbed a combo meal of crab cakes, crab bisque, and a giant king crab leg at the delightful outdoor location of Tracy's Crab Shack before heading to Auke Bay to watch the humpback whales. The crab was super fresh and simply prepared, just as it should be. We rounded off our trip with a visit to Amalga Distillery for some local gin cocktails. The place was packed, standing room only. The space has a casual, light and bright energy. The gimlet was my favorite of the cocktails I tried, decidedly green with lime and fresh basil. Keep doing what you're doing, Juneau. Your food game is on point.
Julia O'Malley is back next week. If you want to get in on some behind-the-scenes local food action, get involved with her Facebook group that discusses and tests Alaskana recipes. Cheers!
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Maya Wilson lives and cooks on the Kenai Peninsula and writes the Alaska From Scratch blog. Her book, "The Alaska from Scratch Cookbook: Seasonal. Scenic. Homemade," was published in 2018 by Rodale Books/Penguin Random House. She will be the head chef at a new restaurant (@addiecamp) in Soldotna coming later in 2018.