Food & Drink

Anchorage Museum exhibition includes a one-of-a-kind dining experience

Summer. Hunger.

The sun is up. Sunny side up.

Food carts. Food art.

Natural light. Creative bites.

The Alaska mind ventures to some poetic places when it swims in summer sun and outdoor food. The Anchorage Museum will happily inspire/ enable this creative thinking dining this week when it opens its lawn to the Lapin Kulta Solar Kitchen Pop-Up Restaurant as part of its "True North" exhibition.

Here's what you need to know about the one-of-a-kind barbecue.

What is the Lapin Kulta Solar Kitchen Pop-Up Restaurant?


A solar-powered dining experience set on the Anchorage Museum lawn. International epicurean Antto Melasniemi cooks a meal with Alaska's big and bright summer sun providing the heat, then serves lunch to the outdoor diners. The creative Chef Melasniemi is driven as much by design, culture and hospitality as he is food, which leads the Anchorage Museum to call this experience "equal parts gourmet eatery, enviro-friendly experiment and gastronomic art project."

Who's cooking?

Finnish food visionary Antto Melasniemi operates restaurants in Helsinki and London, and his solar side project has drawn raves and wonder in his northern homeland, around Europe and beyond. His palate and love for northern life will fit right in here -- he likes cross-country skiing, fishing and the outdoors and loves food, sun and beer (Lapin Kulta is a popular Finnish brewery).

What's on the menu?

Depends on the weather. Chef Antto's satellite-dish-shaped solar panels channel the sun's heat and direct it at his strategically placed cooking racks. A typical menu offers slow-cooked, low-heat fare: If the sun is shining bright and warm, Chef Melasniemi has been known to serve barbecue items; if the sun is obscured, the fare is lighter. No matter the intensity of the sun rays, Chef Melasniemi claims that solar heat has a mellow but distinct influence on an ingredient's taste and texture.

What is 'True North'?

The Anchorage Museum's newest exhibition, "True North: Contemporary Art of the Circumpolar North" is big, bold and inspired by northern life and landscapes. On view through September 9, the exhibit features nearly 80 photographs and multi-media installations by 14 Alaskans and more than 25 others artists from Iceland, Scandinavia, Canada and around the United States.

The True North experience is as adventurous as the North, with music, lectures and performance art events complementing the exhibit. Anchorage Museum chief curator Julie Decker said in a press release that, "These artists are attempting to define place -- not the romantic North of earlier generations but the next North, one that is connected, pivotal, and conflicted."

Learn more about the True North exhibit at

Anchorage Museum visitors can watch the solar kitchen construction and talk with Chef Antto Melasniemi from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Friday. Chef Antto gives a free solar cooking lecture at 7 p.m. Learn more about the exhibit at

By Josh Niva

Daily News correspondent

Josh Niva

Josh Niva is an Anchorage freelance writer. He's a former reporter and editor for the Anchorage Daily News.