Sunday, July 13, 2008

Reindeer Sausage - Yep, we're in Alaska

One of the first places we ate out here was called either Big Al's or a Taste of Russia (there were signs that said both things) in Downtown Anchorage. It is possible that the hot dog cart is Big Al's and the deli it is attached to is A Taste of Russia. We had gotten the tip that the hot dog carts downtown were not to be missed, and decided to combine trying one or more of them out with another mission that took us to the downtown region of the city. It seemed that everyone else got the same tip, because the carts were all swarmed. There are quite a few carts out in this area, and they are hard to resist. They send a smoky, meaty perfume into the air that makes even hardened vegetarians hungry. The one we finally settled on was out front of a deli in a little strip mall. It is staffed by Al, an extremely friendly man who is a former paratrooper. If you stop by, thank Al folr serving in the armed forces! His wife, also very pleasant, is inside running the deli part of the business. They trade condiments and rolls back and forth, and generally keep a running conversation going through the front door of the deli.
The grill menu is pretty limited - hot dogs and reindeer sausages. However, that's really all they need to have. We decided - what the hell - reindeer. I had a few bites, then ceded the balance of my half to Mr. Eating Alaska, who is a bit more of a carnivore than I am. Not that it was bad, not at all. But it was very, very meaty. The sausage is a coarser grind than a standard sausage, and is more mildly spiced. It was not very different in flavor from beef - maybe a bit gamier. This is one of those situations where there is really no easy way to describe the flavor of something. It tastes kind of like a couple of other things, but really not like anything but itself. Try some if you get the chance, then you'll see what I mean. If you like meat in general, you won't be sorry!
The Taste of Russia part remains something of a puzzle. The sole Russian-ness in the place comes from some souvenirs which they also sell along with food. Russians did have the first European settlement in Alaska and their influence, though faint, is pervasive. Even today, there is a small but steady trade in matrushka dolls and similar items. The deli menu consists of standard sandwiches and accompaniments, which is good for those who would like to try the reindeer but are accompanied by people who are kind of freaked out by the whole notion.

No comments: