Monday, July 5, 2010


So this week's story has its roots in events that transpired around Christmas.  As long-term readers know, I am gradually attempting to learn candy-making.  A coworker who also knew this went home for Christmas, and while there helped her family clear out her late grandmother's possessions.  Among her grandmother's belongings were some candy molds.  She texted me and asked if I wanted the molds, adding that they were going to be thrown out if I didn't want them.  "Sure!"  I replied.  Fast forward to a few weeks ago, and boxes start arriving at work.  Big boxes.  Full of chocolate molds. 
My coworker did say "There are a LOT of molds." She wasn't kidding.  These boxes are a treasure trove of molds - holiday themed, kid themed, character molds, just about anything you can imagine. 

I sorted through them and weeded out most of the duplicates, which I offered to another lady at work who sometimes makes candy too. 
Since these things came to work, everyone else got into the act and demanded chocolates.  I resolved to make some candy for the lady who gave me the molds and some for work friends, and we'll see for everyone else.  Maybe eventually. 
Now I have tried various caramels and toffee and that sort of thing, but no chocolates so far.  Why?  Because when I read about it, there was a whole bunch of stuff about tempering and maintaining precise temperatures and other stuff that made me nervous. 
But now I kind of have to do it, so I got myself to Michael's and bought a bunch of candy disks in a variety of colors and a couple of different flavors. 

Knowing that if I let myself think about it too much I'd stall, I went right home and threw some chocolate disks into the top of a double boiler.  I set the burner to medium low and started stirring.  In no time at all, it was smoothly melted and ready to be spooned into the molds. 
It turned out to be not that hard at all!  You spoon the chocolate into the molds, then tap them (the molds) on the counter a couple of time to shake loose any bubbles, then chuck them into the fridge to firm up. I gave the lady who gave me the molds got a couple batches of chocolate, and I owe her a lot more.  When she tried her first piece, she said "This tastes just like Grandma's", which was pretty cool.  The recipients enjoyed their chocolate, I'm over my fear, and I have a kitchen full of molds. 
There are plenty more steps to take down this road.  There's filled chocolates, chocolates with flavorings added, and chocolates with different colors painted into the molds so they look all artsy.  So plenty of candy adventures left to have!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Stand Off II - Because there was so much uneaten food from the last time

Today's odyssey of grazing took us to Downtown Market.  For those of you playing along from the Anchorage area, this is the market on 3rd and E streets. Our visit was divided between buying food for later and buying food to eat there - never let it said we lack focus. 
 Our first stop was at Capriccio Spices, to pick up some much needed supplies.  They are local purveyors of just about any herb, seasoning or tea you could possibly want.  Just next door is a specialty meat stand that we think was Indian Valley, but did not think to make a note of the name.  Mr EA got landjager meat sticks, which he loved very, very much.  They have other products made of specialty meats (elk, reindeer, etc), so if you like that sort of thing, look them up! Right next to that is a stand for plucky local dairy, Mat-Su Creamery.  They had plenty of their cheese curds, string cheese, and mild and sharp cheddar.  The guy staffing the booth says that their ice cream will shortly be available at New Sagaya market, but their butter is mostly sold at the factory.  So there's something to keep in mind, dairy fans!  Of course, we stocked up - they have darn good cheese.  Shopping done, it was time for lunch.
   We made our way to the food aisle, where the crowds made it clear tourist season has begun.
We started with the ever-popular corn fritters with honey butter, which are pretty much what it sounds like.  They are tasty little deep-fried nuggets of batter with sweet corn kernels embedded in them.  The crispy outer layer gives way to a sweet, tender interior.   They are dished up with whipped honey butter in copious amounts, and are well worth a stop.  As you can see from the picture, they also do fried halibut.  Mr EA has had it and liked it quite a bit in previous visits. 

Next up was the Slider Shack, where shared an order of sliders. The burgers are juicy and meaty, topped with cheese and some tender flavorful onions, all on sweet Hawaiian rolls.  Mmmm! Usually I need to condiment up my burgers, but these are perfect just they way they are.  We were hoping for some of their fries as well, but there was a pretty long wait, so we skipped them for this trip.
Then we went across the aisle to Latino Grill for an order of their brochettas - or "cubes of meat on a stick".  Resisting the siren song of a combo platter, we got an order of beef sticks, which had a good beef flavor, but could have used just a bit more time on the grill. They are served with chimichurri sauce, which was a little more acidy than my platonic ideal chimichurri sauce, but still was pretty darn tasty. 

Our last stop of the day took us to the Gyro stand for a ...if you guessed gyro, you guessed right!  And it was a pretty good gyro - the sauce was tasty and the veggies were fresh and the meat was crispy.  It was not the best gyro I have ever had, but it was pretty good!
On the way out, we stopped at the Nut House for a bag of tasty cashews for later - if you like flavored nuts, this stand is a good bet.  Also, their nuts come wrapped in cute little American-flag paper cones.  The adorableness almost makes the nuts taste even better :)

In short, your biggest food problem at the Downtown Market is going to be chosing which delicious option you are going to take.  Good luck and happy grazing!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Stand Off!

A Tour of the Downtown Dog carts, Part I
There are many signs of spring here in Anchorage - citizens shedding layers of clothing, flowers sprouting in flowerbeds and planter boxes, and the hot dog carts appearing downtown.  Only one of these signs is in our purview, so that is where our story starts today. 
Our hot dog adventures started today at Tia's stand, next to the PAC on the side closest to the Egan center. 

We were originally going to try the same thing at every stand, but quickly concluded that then we would be eating a lot of the same thing, which would get pretty boring pretty fast.  So we decided to try whatever we were hungry for when we were standing in front of the stand.  Not the most scientific method, but why not?
  Anyway - Tia's. 
The thing Tia seemed to be emphasizing the most was her reindeer dogs.  For those of you not from the Anchorage area, this is a taste of Alaska which you will not find anywhere else, as far as I know. They are actually made of reindeer, which are farmed near here.  As I have written previously, it is a unique taste sensation, kind of beefy, kind of slim-jim-y.  Mostly it just tastes like itself.  It is pretty good.  Tia's reindeer dog was precooked when she fished it out of the depths of the cart, but then she split it and threw it on the grill to char a bit.  She also grilled the bun a bit, then put it all together with some cooked onion.  The sweet, soft onions were a good complement to the hearty meat of the 'deer. Generally reindeer is a bit too meaty for me, but it was so good I took two or three bites, instead of my usual one, before ceding the rest to Mr EA.  Tia also says she will be getting reindeer and elk steaks for her stand, so there's something to look forward to!

Our next stop was MA's stand by the Federal Building.  MA was featured as the signature Alaska dog vendor in The Great American Hot Dog book, making him famous among people who read books about hot dogs (which, I must confess, includes me.  I read books about hot dogs on a fairly regular basis.) 

As you approach MA's stand, you can't help but notice a series of wacky signs with directives telling you to stop conversing with your party and get off your cell phone while ordering your dog, and I was getting ready for a Soup Nazi-like experience.  However, the proprietor was pretty pleasant, and nothing untoward happened, except for he was playing something on his stereo system that sounded like Celtic rap.  But that was actually kind of fun. 
Anyway, from MA we got a kosher beef hot dog, with grilled onions.  It too was precooked, then grilled after we ordered and topped with a lavish amount of onion.  He also asked if we were splitting our dog, and as we said yes, gave it to us cut in half crosswise, which I thought was nice of him.  Especially since I like a little hot dog with my mustard, while Mr EA is a bit more restrained with his condiments.  The dog itself was tasty and juicy, with the nice texture of  quality hotdog.  (And yes, I do know what's in hot dogs.  I just want it ground up fine enough that I don't need to think about it.) MA's onions really elevate the dog above the ordinary - they are mellow and oniony without being sharp. 

Our last stop of the day was not dog-related, but was instead Smitty's stand, situated near the big sun (start of the planet walk). Smitty's is a fine purveyor of many things, but their big claim to fame is poutine!  I had read about this dish, but never got to try it.  It was everything I hoped for, and so much more :)

So what's poutine?  For those of you playing along not from Canada, poutine is french fries and cheese curd covered with gravy.  Mmmmmmmm!  I will be honest with you - this dish will not do your arteries any favors, but your taste buds will be happier than you can imagine.  The personable young man staffing Smitty's dishes up a sizable cup of crispy delicious fries, tops them with a generous portion of cheese curds, and then ladles savory gravy over the whole thing.  He made sure we took forks, without which we would still be washing our hands.  This dish was the most delicious fast food I have had in a good long while.  The gravy was richly beefy and oniony and the cheese curds started out as a cool contrast to the rest of the dish, and then melted into cheesy goodness.  It was one of those things where you are involuntarily mmmmming, even with your mouth full.  I urge you to drive downtown right now and try it.  You'll be glad you did.  Also, to make sure they will be there when you are, friend them on Facebook - they post when they will be there and when they will not - this is good to know, as they don't plan to head out in rain or poor weather. 
We plan to visit more carts next weekend, or whenever we get back downtown.  So there's something to look forward to!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Another chance to eat for a good cause!

    Well, the days are getting warmer, the temperature is above freezing more often than not...and that means it's charity walk/run time again!  Since there is roughly one of these events a day in the warmer months, even the most dedicated walker needs to pick and choose which to participate in.  For the foodie with a heart, may I suggest Graze to Raise - the Alaska Visitor Industry Charity Walk .
   Held on May 7th in Anchorage and May 8th in Fairbanks, this walk raises money for a variety of charities and offers participants a good time as well!  It is organized by Alaska's Visitor Industry, and billed as "the only walk in Anchorage where participants probably won't lose any weight."  Sponsors have food and beverage booths out for walkers, and I'm told in past years there have been some pretty good eats. 
  Teams can register, as can individuals.  You are encouraged to get sponsors and raise as much as possible, but you can just sponsor yourself for a fee - go to the website to get specifics.  Individuals and groups who raise money above a minimum level (again, see the website for details) can specify what local charity gets their money!  However, even if you don't get to specify where your donation goes, your money still goes to nonprofits here in Alaska. 
    So to have a good time while doing good, sign up to Graze to Raise.  We'll see you there!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Yes. Yes, we DO heart bacon.

Mr EA and I recently revisited the Spenard Roadhouse, of earlier post fame, in order to check out this month's Bacon of the Month appetizer. Yes, you read that right - bacon of the month.
    We split the aforementioned appetizer, a Cubano sandwich with tater tots (Mr EA's favorite sandwich ever) and a dessert which I will get into later.  The Bacon of the Month turned out to be crispy cheese and bacon croquettes with a tomato dipping sauce also enriched with bacon.  It was not what we were expecting, but it was delicious anyway!  (On their website, the menu listed the bacon of the month as a fondue with bacon, Granny Smith apple slices and toast points.  That sounds awesome, too.  We 'll look for it to come around again some time.)
   The Cubano was awesome, as always, as were the tots. Served on a ciabatta, the sandwich is a rich taste treat consisting of pulled barbecued pork, ham, Swiss cheese, pickled onions and dill pickle.  It is a sloppy, delicious sandwich that will fill you up - which is why we started sharing dishes at the Roadhouse in the first place.  The tots were crispy and delicious as always, and perfectly set off by the ketchep that comes with them in little dipping cups.  Mmmmm.!
    Then to round out our lunch, we chose Maple Apple Bread Pudding, which is served warm with bourbon caramel sauce.  What was so interesting about this dessert?  For a couple of dollars more, you can get it with ice cream and/or...bacon!  Obviously, we got the bacon.  This is our second experience with bacon-maple based dessert, and I have to say, so far its worked out pretty well for us.  The saltiness of the bacon worked perfectly with the sweetness of the caramel bourbon sauce and the maple-apple flavor of the bread pudding itself. 
    So, in short, if you're in the mood for some bacon, head on over to the Spenard Roadhouse - you'll be glad you did! 

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Eating Japan

Mr. EA will be guest-writing this post. Enjoy!

In February, I had the opportunity to go to Japan for work. We stayed in Yokohama, where there are many great places to eat. It should be noted that the place we stayed in was the waterfront area – it’s a tourist area, very Westernized, so we had a difficult time finding Japanese food. In particular, we never got to try any actual sushi while we were there, because everyplace was either very, very high-priced or looked untrustworthy. One of the interesting characteristics of restaurants in Japan is that they display models of the food outside. These are realistic, 3D representations of the dishes they serve. This is a big help for ordering, as there is a significant language gap. I’d like to describe the things we ate – and I’m going to take it day by day.

The 7 of us traveling arrived Friday night on February 12. After a very long day of travel we met three of our coworkers who were already there, and who were familiar with the area from previous experience. We were pretty tired and didn’t want to make any decisions, so we went to a favorite place of theirs, called the Kirin Beer Hall. Kirin is a Japanese beer brand. I can’t comment on any of the beers or other drinks available in Japan, because as a rule I don’t drink when I’m away from home. My dinner that night was billed as Beef and Scallions. It actually was Beef and Garlic. It consisted of 1 x 2 thin slices of meat, sautĂ©ed in butter and garlic. Some scallions were sprinkled on it, hence the name. I am a huge fan of garlic, so this one was a particular treat for me. The dish was delivered on a sizzling cast-iron plate, fajita-style.

Saturday, Feb 13.

Saturday morning began with a stop at the Starbucks in our hotel, a ritual we repeated every day. We then went out to our worksite by train, and there discovered one of the most wonderful things about Japan. Everything, and I mean everything, is available via vending machines, banks of which can be found at every building. I got a can of hot coffee for about 100 yen (roughly $1).

Dinner Saturday night took us a long time to find. There was a difficulty reaching a consensus on where to eat, so we walked around for a while looking at different places. We wound up at a place called Beer Dock, where I had a grilled tuna dish that was really good. Two of our party ordered garlic bread, which for some reason was made long and thin and delivered in a stein.

Sunday, Feb 14

Sunday was a day off. So we took most of the day to explore the harbor area in Yokohama, scouting out places to eat and generally tourist-ing. We had lunch in an all-you-can-eat place in our hotel (Washington Sakuragicho). The restaurant featured American and Japanese breakfast foods. I ate American stuff, which I suppose isn’t that interesting for this blog. We ate supper at an American chain called Jonathan’s which was not very good, so not much to report there.

Monday, Feb 15

Supper was the culinary highlight of my trip. We ate at a most astounding restaurant on the third floor of our hotel (which had a LOT of restaurants). The restaurant was called Seiryumon. Its interior is decorated to look like – and I’m not making this up-a sewer (or an old subway system or similar), complete with rounded brick ceiling, pipes, and cast iron hatches. The food here was excellent – I returned several times during the week. I had their version of my old Chinese favorite, Ma Po Tofu. I think it was the best I ever had. However, the highlight of dinner was the “show”. They quite literally “flush” the restaurant. The lights go out, and the sound system starts to play rumbling noises like explosions. Lights begin to flash, and a big valve at one end of the room opens, pouring gallons of water into a channel on the floor (which during dry times is the middle aisle of the restaurant). We were told this demonstration commemorates the bombing of Yokohama during the war, in which the inhabitants took shelter in the sewers.

Tuesday, Feb 16

A strange thing happened Tuesday night. Almost every business and restaurant in Yokohama was closed. We still have no explanation for this. However, we lucked into one restaurant that was open, the name of which escapes me. It was an Italian restaurant run by a young Japanese guy whose name was Tommy. Tommy spoke very good English and spent a lot of time talking with us. He also did not know why everyone was closed. I had grilled chicken with herb salt – it was quite good! We were served some more weird breadsticks, which were essentially extruded to the width of a single electron, but were tasty anyway. Tommy told us his dream was to fish for salmon in Alaska! My boss left Tommy his card – we hope to see him someday.

Wednesday, Feb 17

Lunch – I went to McDonald’s. The only reason I bothered to go to McDonald’s in Japan is that I was told that they use a different frying medium and that the burgers and fries taste better than they do here. I’ll say that they were different and good, but not necessarily better than here. I would describe it as tasting a little fattier, but not greasier. It is also comforting to note that #3 is a Quarter Pounder with cheese in Japan as well as here!

Dinner was at a place called Beer Next. Gentle reader – at this point you are probably noticing a certain undercurrent in our dining choices. What can I say? My coworkers like a lot of beer. This surprisingly exceptional restaurant is located in the “Red Brick Warehouse” on the waterfront. I don’t recall the actual name of the dish I had, but I would describe it as “flaming chicken”. I think I recall 5 of us in the same party ordered the same dish which was prepared flambĂ©-style at our table.

Thursday, Feb 18

For lunch I went back to “The Sewer”. I had a dish that was the rough equivalent of another Chinese favorite called Seafood Triple, which was pretty good. I also had a side of Gozya, which are long, flat dumplings filled with meat and spices. I highly recommend these! I passed on supper Thursday, as I had a cold and didn’t feel good enough to venture out.

Friday, Feb 19

Lunch was at a Thai place, again in our hotel. I had a dish called Cam To, and a side of very peppery miso soup. Cam To was sort of fried chicken in a salad. The miso soup was good and made me feel better. This was OK, but only passing. I wound us wishing I had gone back to The Sewer.

Dinner. Finally! A Japanese restaurant! I don’t recall the name, but it was on level B2 of the Landmark Tower, the tallest building in Japan. The restaurant specialized in yakitori, which is stuff on sticks. But since most of these were unidentifiable and I’m kind of a picky eater, I wimped out. I had a dish that was like southern fried chicken with garlic.

Saturday, Feb 20

Back to the Sewer for lunch for my beloved MaPo Tofu. I skipped supper again, still due to the cold.

Sunday, Feb 21

Another day off! The guys and I went touristing to the nearby town of Kamakura. We did a lot of walking this day, all before having anything to eat. Happily though, this day of touring included a lot of back-street, authentic Japanese food. We were well off the tourist track and it paid off.

Lunch was, with a nod to the Marx brothers, duck soup. I had Kamonanban – hot soba noodles with tender breast of duck and Welsh onion. This was at a little mom-and-pop restaurant on a side street in Kamakura. We did some souvenir shopping then and stopped for coffee at a little shop in an alley. I had a "Blue Mountain" Coffee that was 800 Yen! Basically, an $8 cup of coffee. I have to say that was the best cup of coffee I ever had! It was worth $8 easily. Now I'm looking to get some Blue Mountain here but cannot find any. Supper, also in Kamakura but at a different place, was called Batu Soba. Essentially noodles and pork. This was another performance restaurant, where our food was cooked before us on a giant griddle. My supper was pretty good. I also got to try a bit of calamari from my neighbor’s plate. That was pretty good too – kind of like fish gum.

Most of the second week was unremarkable – mostly return visits to places I had been before.

Wednesday the 24th was our last night in Japan. We returned to the Kirin Beer Hall, where I bookended my trip with the same beef and scallions dish. Starting Thursday morning and for the next 24 hours, it was airline food and snacks, and then I was home.

If you visit Yokohama, you’ll have no shortage of places to eat, but if you stay in the tourist area, what you’ll find is Western food, Westernized food and food from other places in the world than Japan. To get the good Japanese food, go out into what the locals call “real Japan”. In Sakuragicho, it’s just on the other side of the train station from the hotels. If you’re feeling adventurous, take the train a few stops in any direction and start looking. The Japanese have a lot of good food, especially seafood, but if you don’t see pictures or models of the food you may have a hard time ordering (unless you speak the language). Do not expect the local to speak English, most of them don’t. But be polite, and they’ll be happy to help you. They are very friendly and inviting people.

PS - A sign on the table at the All-U-Can Eat place.....You figure out what it means...

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Paris Bakery and Cafe

Last week Mr EA and I met some friends for dinner at Paris Bakery and Cafe.  We had been reading good things about it for a while, but -like so many other places - didn't manage to get there until recently.  Although nothing here is that far away from anything else, it is about as far away from our house as you can get and still be in Anchorage.  But it was worth the trip!
     Our friendly waitress brought some bread, which was OK but not amazing. It took us a while to get through the menu, which had a lot of temping choices.  In the end, I had eggplant parmesan and Mr EA had pork chops.  Our friends has ginger scallops and the special of the day, which was orange roughy crepes. My eggplant parm was very good - thinly sliced, lightly breaded eggplant with tasty sauce and just enough cheese.  Mr EA's pork chops were also very tasty and moist, thereby missing two frequent problems with pork chops. Our friend's scallops were sweet-ish and also very well done, and our other friend's crepes were very good.  He said the fish was perfectly cooked - not overdone, but not underdone - and the flavors of the dish were subtle and delicate.  Overall, our entrees were very well done.  While I don't think any of us experienced a culinary revelation, we all had good, tasty food at reasonable prices for that level of dining. 
     However, on another level, the desserts were fantastic!  I had and orange and chocolate cake that presented a perfect balance of sweet and sour, richness and lightness.  Mr EA had a concoction of cake layers interspersed with chocolate and almond cremes.  Our friends had a rich chocolate dessert and a small lemon meringue tart, which they reported were also delicious.  The desserts too were reasonably priced and extremely tasty.  Overall, a good midlevel dining experience.  Check it out - particularly the desserts - you'll be glad you did!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Burger Cache

For the past year and a half, I have occasionally driven past the Burger Cache on Northern Lights and thought "That looks interesting..." but then never quite managed to check it out.  It looks a bit like a dive, and possibly abandoned as well.  However, a group of people from work ordered in today, and I'm sure glad we did. 
Burger Cache is another one of those places, which are fairly common up here, that have a kind of weird variety of items on their menu.  In this case, American and Chinese fast-food favorites.  There's a fairly large selection in each category, so there's something for everyone.  My coworkers and I ordered from the American section, getting a selection of burgers and deep-fried treats on the side. 
Their burger selection is intriguing, including a Hawaiian burger (pineapple and a bunch of other stuff), a Taste Burger, a New York burger, and a Cache burger, which had such a huge selection of toppings on it that it seemed like it would either be inedible or the best burger ever in the history of meat sandwiches.  It had pepperoni and ham and cheese and onions and mushrooms - and possibly some other things I'm not remembering.  I was tempted, but in the end went with a mushroom cheeseburger, and added bacon on for an extra $1.50.  I also got a side of fried mushrooms, which come with ranch dipping sauce.  The burger was amazing - meaty and moist and flavorful.  The toppings (bacon, mushrooms, cheese, onion, and possibly some mayo) were present in enough force that I could taste them, but not piled on to the point where I could taste nothing else.  All in all, an outstanding burger!  The fried mushrooms were not that awesome, sadly.  The breading next to the mushrooms was soggy and kind of icky.  Fried mushrooms are kind of hard to get, though.  I did get to try some of their fries ( both regular and steak fries), which are beer battered and really delicious.  When choosing a side, I urge you to go for the fries - of the two things I tasted, they are definitely the better option. 
     I am continually amazed by the sheer volume of funky little joints all around Anchorage where you can get great, interestingly unique fast food.  Burger Cache just got added to my personal list, along with Arctic Roadrunner and  White Spot.  I still need to check out Burger Jim and Wee Bs.  Anchorage readers - got any other favorites?  Let me know!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Learn to cook - the Allen & Petersen way!

Last night I went with some friends from work to Allen & Petersen's to attend a session of their Viking cooking school. Our class, picked more at less at random from the dizzying array of classes available, was Argentine Steakhouse.  Two of the aforementioned friends recently went to another of their classes and had such an awesome time that they came in to work the next day and recruited a few more of us into their cult.  We had to decide fast, as they had 10% off coupons that only lasted a day, besides which these classes seem to sell out FAST. 
     I am glad we picked this class, though, because of one specific recipe we walked away with...chimichurri sauce.  A few years ago I worked as a software trainer, and my job took me to Ft. Lauderdale for a couple of months.  When I went to lunch with the folks with whom I was working, we often went to a local place that had a vat of chimichurri sauce right by the cash register, and my hosts would ladle this stuff all over everything on their plates - meat, sandwiches, mashed potatoes, pasta...everything.  After one taste, I put it all over everything too.  Since that time, I have been hunting for this recipe.  I looked online, at epicurious and Gourmet and Saveur's websites.  I looked in cookbooks and magazines.  And I found plenty of chimichurri recipes, but not the same one.  They were all either too acidy or too oily or too... well, too something.  So I had a little bit of a mission in going to this class, but also hoped to have a good time with my friends as well. 
      So we showed up at A&P's fabulous midtown showroom at around 5:30 and cruised around the store, salivating over all the shiny toys.  My kitchen philosophy veers between the austere and the gadget-hound - I'm somewhere in the middle right now.  I should point out that A&P  is a high-end store, with high-end prices.  I'm not a high-end girl, but there were a lot of extremely tempting gadgets for sale.  Eventually, I wrenched myself away from the shopportunities and went upstairs to the beautiful kitchen/classroom.  A staff member ushered us into the dining area sector of the upstairs, where we found our welcome packets.  We each got a Viking apron, a recipe booklet, a 10% off coupon (good for that night only) and an evaluation sheet.  We also got an appetizer, a little chorizo sandwich with...chimichurri on it!  One bite told me that my gamble had paid off - this was the chimichurri I was looking for.  Happily chewing away, we listened to the opening spiel.  Our teachers introduced themselves - one lady is an experienced cook who has been doing this for some time, the other is just finishing up her culinary arts degree at UAA.  Also assisting was a lady who cleaned up as we went, made sure everything was right in place as needed, and just generally ran the show from the background.  These three made a great team and backed each other up pretty well.
     We had an ambitious class schedule lined up in front of us.  In about 2 1/2 - 3 hours, we were making empanadas, grilled skirt steak with chimichurri sauce, roasted marinated sweet peppers, oven-roasted potatoes, and flan.  We started with the flan, then went to the empanadas, and mixed in working on all the other stuff on the way.  The teachers were very knowledgeable, and gave lots of great tips and info about the food we were working on.  The classroom space itself is absolutely astounding - well laid out and beautiful as well.  During the course of the event, the teachers would occasionally demo some gadget or the other and point out that it was available for sale downstairs.  Also, the class itself was sort of an ad for Viking ranges and other appliances.  The pitches were kind of darling in their straightforwardness, but I have to say they worked.  More than one of us left with a garlic-chopping gadget or similar item.  Also, I have to say I see now what all the fuss is over Viking stoves.  I rate it as highly unlikely that I will personally ever own a Viking stove.  When the same amount of money will get you either a stove or a luxury cruise through the south Pacific for two...well, I won't be going for that stove.  However, the ones we were using were pretty damn impressive.  So we watched and then did, getting occasional feedback and coaching from the teachers.  We chopped, we stirred - it became a part of us.  At the end of the class, we served ourselves from the big platters of food.  Here is what my plate's worth looked like...
And it tasted even better than it looks!  I did not get a picture of the flan, because I was far too busy feeding my face by that point.  However, that looked and tasted wonderful as well. 
So at the end of the day, I got some good recipes, a good meal and a good time.  Are these classes for everyone?  No.  They are spendy, and honestly not that informative if you are an experienced cook.  However, they are a good time, especially if you are there with friends.  However, if you like to cook and can afford it, gather up a friend or two, check their catalog for a class that interest you, and go! 

Empty Bowl Coming Up!

The Empty Bowl is a fundraiser for Beans Cafe, an Anchorage institution and a wonderful cause.  Follow the link to find out more about Beans Cafe and the Empty Bowl in general.  Tickets are $18, for which you get a handmade ceramic bowl and some soup and extremely good cornbread. 
A few things to be aware of:
  •  Bring cash for your tickets. I bought mine at Borders, and they wanted cash. 
  •  People line up early to get in, because the first thing you do is pick out your bowl.  If you do not care what kind of bowl you get, or if you don't want a bowl, save yourself some stress and go late. 
  • When you get in, you will find tables laden with ceramic bowls of varying styles.  Choosing one can be pretty daunting, but you'll find one you like.  They move pretty quick, so if you see one you love, don't hesitate! 
  • Also, when you go (and you really, really should), bring bunches of extra cash with you.  In addition to the meal, there are plenty of shopping opportunities at the event itself.  Last year there were bean soup mix bags and really nice T-shirts for sale. 
  • Also, you will have the opportunity to bid on some extremely nice pottery pieces made by local potters.  
 All these purchases also go to support Beans, which is well worth supporting.  Be a foodie with a heart - check out the Empty Bowl.  You'll be glad you did!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Chocoholics, rejoice!

Happy Valentine's Day!
Hope everyone is either having a romantic dinner or some good chocolates, or both!

Cookbook Corner - new book edition

     So I recently decided to clear out a block of free time in the evenings to really focus on bread baking and either get it down or determine that it's not my thing and let it go.  Toward that end, I "had" to go to Barnes and Noble to get one of the many no-knead bread books on the shelves.   I have been hearing about this new "no knead" bread method for quite a while, but just hadn't gotten around to trying it out.  Mr EA and I considered Artisan Bread Baking in 5 minutes a Day  and My Bread by Jim Lahey.  While they both offered a credible set of recipes and method explanation, we felt that Artisan Bread has more items we would use.  Also, we had the impression there were more varieties of bread and less bread-adjacent stuff.  We already have things to go with bread, we just wanted bread. 
     In the past week and a half, I have made two batches of dough, which came out to something like 7-8 loaves of bread, and one batch of bagel dough.  I have been baking up a storm, and it has all been good!  The authors have presented a great new way to bake bread that is easier and less hassle, and yeilds excellent results.  The title is somewhat misleading, however.  Baking a loaf of bread takes more than 5 minutes, although your personal involvement will be around 5 minutes, unless you hover a lot.  I don't want to give away the end, but basically what you do is mix up a big batch of dough - about 4 loaves worth - and let it rise in the fridge for a while.  Then when you want to bake up a loaf, just whack off a chunk of dough, shape it and let it rise, and pop it in the over with a pan of water for steam.  It is much easier, and I have gotten much better results than with traditional methods.
     I wasn't a horrible bread baker before this, but my bread was usually heavier than I would have liked, and results were somewhat hit or miss.  I don't have a lot of counter space for kneading, so I kind of gave it short shrift.  Now that I don't have to knead, and I can mix one batch and bake bread off of that for days, I do a lot more than I had in the past. 
     There are a lot of recipes I haven't gotten into yet - nothing but the basic white bread and the bagels, really.  I sort of wanted to make sure the basic recipe worked before I got into esoteric stuff.  However, I am heartened by my success, and will be branching out - I'll let you know how it works out when I do! 
     Is this book for everyone?  No, probably not.  People who are afraid of carbs, or don't want to bake, or are already accomplished bakers will not find much here that they are interested in.  However, if you have an interest in being a better baker and/or are lazy (as I am), check it out - you'll be glad you did!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Cookbook Corner

Among other hobbies, I collect cookbooks.  Surprise!  From what I've read, lots of people collect cookbooks - they like to collect books from a certain author or a certain region (Southern US) or a style of cooking. I tend to lack that kind of focus, and get whatever looks interesting and organize it as I go along.  International cookbooks were my main passion for awhile.  I do like to cook from them when possible, but sometimes it's just interesting to read them and wonder who first thought that a certain food (rotted shark, sea urchin roe) would be a good thing to eat.  In some cases (rotted shark), I wonder why no one has thought maybe it would be a good thing to stop eating.  (Rotted shark fans, I welcome your responses!  If it's really super-tasty, that would be an interesting thing to know.) 
   For awhile I wanted to get some Canadian and Australian cookbooks to compare with generalized American ones.  Since all three nations began as English colonies but landed in different climates with different resources, I thought it might  be interesting to look at the differences and similarities in the cuisines.  Not now, since everyone is all globalized, but maybe between 1940-1970 or thereabouts.  But years of pestering online cookbook enthusiasts from those two countries did not yield a suggestion for a good cookbook or two to represent their nations.  I have no idea why, but I could not get a straightforward response.  So I gradually let it go, for the most part. 
     Right now, I'm mostly interested in local community cookbooks.  Again, not recent ones, for the most part.  Those are mostly full of things people got off of or out of magazines, and don't really represent any kind of regional cuisine in any meaningful way.  Oh, occasionally you'll get a gator casserole from a Florida book or mooseburgers from Maine, but usually that's one recipe out of 200 or so.  That's a long run for a short slide.  Also, I'm suspicious they are in there for a joke.  No, I like old cookbooks.  And Mr EA and I found a doozy in a recent trip to Value Village (we like junking).
     It is the awesomest, darlingest book I have seen in a good long while.  Originally published in 1959, my version was printed in 1969 and has a few bits that had been added on.   One of the things I love about these books is that they are a window into another time with their chatty introductory notes and household tips.  The recipes themselves are also interesting, even where they aren't really reproducable.  For instance, this tome contains recipes for making pickles out of sea kelp. One starts with instructions for gathering the stuff.  Apparently, the Alaska version of "first catch your rabbit" is "first, get out your rowboat".  Of course there are many, many salmon and seafood recipes.  Almost every mention of vegetables refers to canned vegetables, which jibes with what I have been told life was like by friends that grew up here. As is usually the case with this kind of cookbook, I have some recipes bookmarked to try, but the whole thing was a fascinating read.  I have no idea how available copies of this book are, but if you like this sort of thing too and  have a chance, I strongly urge you to grab one if you see it.  In the meantime, I'm thinking about getting a rowboat - there's kelp to pickle! 

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Day 7 - a pretty good finish!

This evening I went to the freezer and found, among other things, a pound of frozen ground lamb and a bag of frozen chopped spinach.  Then I checked the spice rack and auxiliary spice rack and found the appropriate seasonings and created the following dish:

Greek-ish Lamb-Stravaganza

1 tsp. olive oil
1 lb ground lamb
1 onion, slivered or chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 package frozen chopped spinach (I used a 16 oz bag, but whatever should work)
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 1/2 tsp salt (or more to taste)
1 Tbsp oregano
1 tsp lemon peel ( I used dried, but fresh would probably be even better)

Saute the onion and garlic in the olive oil until starting to soften.  Add the lamb to the pan and break up into small bits, but not too small.  Try not to drool from the delicious scents that will be wafting from your pan about now!  When the lamb is not showing any more pink, add the spinach.  Stir well and add the rest of the ingredients.
Eat with rice and/or pita bread.  If I do say so myself, it tastes pretty awesome!

Now if you'll excuse me, I have a week's worth of meals to plan...

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Day 6 - Back in the saddle again!

Today we regrouped with stuffed peppers - sort of.  We didn't have some of the things I normally stuff peppers with - corn and limas and hot peppers and Monterey Jack cheese.  However, we did have rice and canned tomatoes, so we just used that.  It got pretty good - I will have to remember this combo when we don't necessarily want the full-blown veggistravaganza I normally make. 
One more day of this, and I can get back to my normal life!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Day 5 - We give up, via the eating out method

We ate out tonight.  Tomorrow night, we pick up some bits and pieces from Fred Meyer's on the way home and try the non-planned cooking thing again. 
In other news, I picked up a couple of new cookbooks tonight in an attempt to master my old nemesis, baking.  I'll let you know how they are in a future report, so that's something to look forward to!

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Day 4 - Going downhill quickly

Today started off pretty good - we heated up the rest of the broccoli-salami-swiss egg pie for lunch, and it was even better the next day.  This afternoon I made a couple of loaves of ciabatta using a starter begun last night.  I used the recipe from Epicurious, which originally came from the late, lamented Gourmet.  It got OK - not amazing, but pretty good.  It was just a bit sweeter than I expected it to be.  But it's a good basis for improvement.
     Then for supper, we have parts of a couple of meals, but not everything we needed for any of them.  Today was a lazy pajama day, and we were pretty adamant about not leaving the house for anything short of a fire.  So, we relied on emergency apocalypse supplies - Spam and Kraft macaroni and cheese.  I am feeling considerable shame as I type these words, but there you have it.  That's what we ate.  I did dress up the mac 'n' cheese with dried leek flakes and smoked paprika, but that was mostly to make myself feel better.  Don't get me wrong, we eat mac 'n' cheese every couple of weeks, but I usually make it from scratch (though not to the point of making my own noodles - that's a bit far for me).  After mac 'n' cheese with real actual cheese, Kraft doesn't taste great.  But it gets the job done, so there you have it. I make no apologies about the Spam - it tastes as good as any other processed ham and Mr EA loves it. 
   So tomorrow we'll be out of the house for work, and able to pick up the bits and pieces we need for the other meals we have most of, so that will be a relief. 

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Day 3 - Egg-pie day

So back to our regularly scheduled story!
     Tonight I made an egg pie (or refrigerator pie, or quiche) out of the leftover broccoli from last night.  I had a frozen pie crust, so that saved some stress.  I am hit or miss on homemade pie crust, so I avoid it when I can.  But what to put in with the broccoli?  By itself it's a little dull.  We had 3 slices of hard salami left - they got diced up and thrown in the mix.  The bag of shredded cheese I though we had was nowhere to be found, so I diced up 4 slices of swiss cheese we had for lunches.  Now for the binder - we do have eggs for which we have no other plans, so that was a go.  However - cream?  Not so much.  Well, we had 2% milk, which isn't an exact substitute, but close enough is good enough - more or less.  In the oven it went, and emerged somewhat moister than I think it should have, but still done well enough.  It tasted pretty good, and we have a good bit left over for lunch tomorrow.  So that's another meal done.  Yay!

F Street Station

I take a break from our regularly scheduled column about our planless week to write about our visit to F street station today for lunch.  We were downtown running some errands, and having a tough time figuring out where to eat - so many good places we wanted to get back to, so many new places to try!  We have heard good things about F Street Station for some time now, so after some discussion we decided to check it out.
     In decor terms, F Street actually is what places like Red Robin try to be - a funky, interesting-junk-encrusted, neighborhood joint.  It is a very comfortable place with a relaxed atmosphere. The lunch menu, at least, is somewhat limited - burger, fish and chicken sandwiches, and a reasonable selection of seafood entrees. What is on the menu, though, sounds pretty good, so we were a while deciding.  Mr EA chose a halibut sandwich, and I got onion soup and a side of homefries (which turned out to be french fries).  Mr EA immediately fell in love with his sandwich - the fish is perfectly cooked - moist and tasty, and the batter is light and a bit spicy but not overwhelmingly so.  Mr EA said it is one of the best fish sandwiches he ever ate.  He reports that the roll was also very tasty, and he appreciated that the fixings came on the side so he could dress the sandwich himself.  On the side were tomato, onion and pickle slices, and a little cup of tartar sauce.  My onion soup was delicious - the cheese was nicely browned and the soup itself was richly beef with lots of good tender onion.  It came with some bread that I was too full from the soup and fries to eat.  The fries were medium-thin cut with the skin still on, fried to a good crisp brown.  In my lifetime pantheon of best fries ever, they are now second to White Spot fries.  I would guess that they are fresh cooked, but I can't swear to that.  We dipped them into the tartar sauce left in Mr EA's cup, and that made them even better.  All in all, an excellent lunch at an interesting place.  If you already haven't, check out F Street Station - you'll be glad you did!

PS - a little later in our downtown trip, we stopped by the Cake Studio, where Mr EA had a key lime pyramid and I had a cherry-champagne dessert - they were both delicious :)  So far, 3 out of 3 stops there have been successes.  Check them out for sophisticated treats when you are downtown!

Friday, January 29, 2010

Day 3 - A Spunky Try at Dinner

      This is one the meals we actually sort of planned during our shopping trip - meat!  Mr EA grilled (yes, outside, on our grill) a steak, which we started marinating this morning.  The marinade was a thrown together mix of mustard, oil, seasonings, liquid smoke and vinegar.  It got pretty tasty, and was expertly grilled - mmmm!  With it we had sauteed onions and steamed broccoli.  We didn't think of having steak until we were at the meat department, which is after produce in our store, so we didn't think of potatoes.  However, the veggies were pretty good, so we didn't miss the starch too much.
      Also, in a happy accident, we have a lot of leftover broccoli, which we are thinking about making into an egg pie for dinner tomorrow.  Egg pie is a naming convention that came about because, apparently, men do not eat quiche.  They will eat egg pie, however, so that's what we're having :)  We do have some eggs we need to use up, and have a bag of shredded cheese, so that should all work out.  I'd say I love it when a plan comes together, but of course, we don't have one.  I love it when not having a plan comes together?  I'll work on that and get back to you.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Day 2 - Quick Dinner night

So tonight was a hurry-up night.  I have an exercise class which makes it necessary to leave the house at about 5:45, and so we can either eat something quick before I go, or something quick after I get back at around 8.  Sometimes I make something the night before that we can reheat, like soup, and sometimes we just have cubanos or something like that.  Of course, being plan free meant we hadn't prepared for either of those eventualities - what would we do for supper tonight?
     Rifling through the pantry I found an emergency can of Italian Wedding soup, and we had sandwich fixings.  Voila!  Soup and toasted cheese sandwiches it was.  Now that wasn't so hard, was it?

...However, I will say this.  We already had to make a store stop to get stuff we didn't know we would need.  We decided to try baking naan and ciabattas this weekend, so we needed yeast and milk. This is one of the reasons I like to have a plan. Hopefully this won't be too frequent of an occurrence!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Our Week of Eating Dangerously - Day 1: Shopping Without a Net

Our Week of Eating Dangerously really has its roots in yesterday, or as I like to call it, D minus 1.  I finally talked myself into getting a new phone, which was something I had wanted to do for sometime but could just not justify it.  Finally though, I did justify it (to myself; Mr EA has been telling me to "just get one" for months now).   Anyway, the result of this was that last night, when I should have been planning for the coming week's meals, I was playing with my new phone well into the night.  So when I finally started thinking about my chores, it was 10:30, which was too late to start as it is an hours long process. 
     Normally, I open up my Living Cookbook software and plan the menu using the calendar, then use that to create our shopping list, which I then adjust according to what we already have on hand or need that isn't related to a menu item.  Then I print out the shopping list, then I go through the coupons to have the ones we will probably need together.  Then the list and coupons go with us the next night for shopping.  I have friends who think that is the craziest thing they ever heard.  They just stop to pick up a few things every night, or get what's on sale, or get bunches of packaged food from Costco or something.  Then of course I think that's crazy.  But what a boring world it would be if we were all the same! 
     So anyway.  Because of various other things going on this week, if we did not shop tonight, it would probably not be until this weekend some time.  So we decided to just wing it.  As we wandered through the aisles of Fred Meyer's, randomly picking up and putting down various items, this seemed kind of like a bad idea already.  Like Dr. Henry Jones, I recorded all my important information so I wouldn't have to remember it.    A good percentage of our favorite meals are a bit involved, so I put them in the software.  "Think," I said "What do we like to eat that isn't too involved?"
 "Pizza" said Mr EA.  So we got stuff for French bread pizza (which is what we had to eat tonight).
"OK, pizza."  I said, "What else?"
 "..,.Different pizza?" said Mr EA.  "Spam!  Some kind of meat!"
 "No, seriously"  I said.
     He was serious.  So we wandered around a bit more, picked up some things we vaguely thought might go with some other things we were pretty sure we already had at home and wandered back out.  After paying, of course.  The grocery bill was about on par with what it normally is, so we didn't go absolutely berserk, which was what I would have predicted would happen.  So that was a surprise!  Wonder what else we will discover on this wacky, menu-free adventure we are on?

Saturday, January 23, 2010

L&L Hawaiian Barbecue

Acting on a hot tip from ADN, and also as part of a generally Hawaiian-themed day, we went to the Dimond Mall today to check out L&L Hawaiian Barbecue.  A relatively recent addition to the food court next to the skating rink, L&L is one of several interesting stands at the mall.  Apparently this is part of a fast food chain that originated in (surprise!) Hawaii and has since spread to many Western States, American Samoa, New Zealand, and now Anchorage. 
The focus of the menu are the plate lunches.  For those of you who have not yet had the pleasure, a plate lunch is your entree of choice, two scoops of rice, and a scoop of macaroni salad.  I don't know why that's the standard combo, but it sure is tasty.  Entrees are some form of beef, pork, chicken or fish - no vegetarian options are available that I could see.  It was hard to choose - so many delicious looking options shone out at us from the menu board!  However, Mr EA wound up with a chicken katsua lunch plate and a spam musubi, and I got a loco moco lunch plate.  I had been reading about loco moco for years, and wanted to try it - it was worth the wait!
plates are available in two sizes, mini and regular.  We got the regular, since mini sounds...well, tiny.  However, we will probably go to mini next time, because regular is a humongous pile of food. Despite valiant efforts, neither of us could finish - the food was so tasty we didn't want to stop eating, but eventually you have to.  Or you'll explode. 
     Mr EA's chicken consisted of planks (strip is too timid a word for these pieces) of boneless chicken, breaded and fried.  It tasted to me like there was skin still on there, but maybe that's just because it was so flavorful.  The breading was crunchy and lightly spiced, the chicken was moist.  He also got a small portion of barbecue sauce for dipping that was also delicious - kind of ketchup-y with some soy sauce flavor as well.  The spam musubi was also very good, but a big portion.  You get a big brick of sushi rice with a thin layer of sauce on top and then a slab of Spam on top of that, and the whole thing wrapped in a sheet of nori.  It was even better than the same appetizer at Hula Hands, because it was warm, and the sauce really added a bit of kick.  I know it sounds kind of icky, especially if you are not a Spam fan (and if not, why not?) but it really is extremely tasty.
    In ordering loco moco, you need to specify how you want the egg done - I got it scrambled, so I didn't get any good yolk action.  However, I'm kind of squirrely about eating eggs out, so scrambled was the safer bet for me.  Loco moco is a hamburger patty topped with an egg and covered with gravy, all on top of rice.  It is really pretty tasty!  If you were a fan of salisbury steak day at your school cafeteria, you will like loco moco, as it tastes very much like that, but with an egg on it.  Also, the hamburger and gravy are probably better than what they had at your school cafeteria.  I even tried dipping a few bites in Mr EA's barbecue sauce, and that was pretty good too, but it was re tasty on its own.  The macaroni salad (mayonnaise based mix with not a lot of vegetation in there) was also delicious.
     As for the ambiance, well, it's a food court.  The beverage options include a variety of Hawaiian fruit juices and (really) Hawaiian Punch.  If you do want a delicious taste of the islands, and aren't too concerned about ambiance, check out L&L.  You'll be glad you did!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Sullivan's - Believe the Hype

Pretty much everything anyone has said to me about Sullivan's has consisted of two parts:
1) the food is amazing, delicious, incredible!
2) it's kind of pricy, though.
Both those things turned out to be entirely correct. 
     As yesterday (1/12) was my birthday, Mr EA offered to take me out to eat anywhere I wanted.  After a lengthy internal debate - I picked Sullivan's.  We got there a bit early in the evening, shortly after their dinner opening at 5 pm.  Despite not having reservations, we got seated right away.  The dining room filled up pretty quickly thereafter, though, so I'm glad we got there early. 
The atmosphere is what I would call "Classic Steakhouse" not Western Steakhouse - not a lasso or branding iron to be seen.  There are dark wood panelled walls, tables with white tablecloths, subdued lighting, and photos of Jazz Age boxers (John Sullivan, Jack Dempsey - that sort of thing).
Our waiter, whose name I unfortunately did not catch, was a real pro - making excellent recommendations and generally maintaining a good balance between checking in on us and leaving us in peace. 
I started with a gin martini, which came with a skewer of three absolutely enormous olives.  The martini itself was perfect, bitter and with good aromatics from the gin.  Then we got risotto fritters - herbed risotto wrapped around a chunk of mozzerella and fried into a crispy ball.  This came with a delicious tomato dipping sauce that really brought out the savoriness in the dish.  It was delicious, and just enough to share between the two of us. 
For our entrees, Mr EA and I debated long and hard, but both wound up ordering 10 oz strip steaks with a side of frites, both of which had garlic butter on them.  "Wait a minute!" the fitness conscious will be saying "Steak and fries with butter on them?!"  Yes.  And it was delicious.  Mr. EA also ordered gorgonzola butter for his steak, which I stole little bits of, and that was even MORE delicious.  But I am getting ahead of myself. We generally like to order different things so we can try each other's food and get a better sampling of what's on offer.  And there were a lot of tasty-sounding items on the menu.  However, this was the thing that sounded best to both of us.  We'll try for more diversity on our next visit!
  I started out with the "salad", which was a wedge of iceberg lettuce liberally doused with a house-made blue cheese dressing.  It also had a little sprinking of tomato bits on it.  This came with the entree, but Mr. EA declined his, on the grounds that he did not want to have anything to do with lettuce just then.  I loved it.  The lettuce was very crisp and refreshing, and the dressing was creamy with a good dose of blue cheese funkiness - a perfect balance of flavors.  When the entrees came, the steaks were perfectly done - we ordered medium, and they had a good sear on the outsides and juicy pink insides.  The frites were crisp and garlicy, and the ones on the bottom of the stack were doused in steak juice.  Mmmmmmmmmm. 
     Our waiter tried to tempt us with dessert, but there was really no way for that to happen.  Everything - the appetizers, the side dishes, the desserts all looked so tempting, but we were seriously full.  Maybe on another visit.
If you are in the mood for a hearty meal featuring steak in an elegant atmosphere, check out Sullivan's. You'll be glad you did!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Burpee catalog - harbinger of delicious veggies, or cruel hoax?

Once upon a time, I was a halfway decent gardner.  July through late September would bring us baskets of tomatoes every week, more pumpkins and cucumbers than you could shake a stick at.  However, that was a few grow zones away. 
     I've been getting conflicting reports from green-thumbed locals and long-time transplants.  Some people say you can't grow tomatoes here without a greenhouse (which isn't going to happen for us).  Others say that you can spit a seed at the ground and come back a week later with a wheelbarrow for the veggies that will result.  Now, obviously, agriculture happens here - we do have plants.  I'm just wondering if amateur gardeners can do much of anything with regular seeds.
     I plan to try some container gardening, and maybe a bit of planting in the yard.  So we'll see. 
    Anyone reading along from the Anchorage area - do you have a garden?  And if so, how does that work out for you?

Eating Alaska - Christmas Edition!

Here is the second half of our foodie Christmas exchange!
Here is a cross section of what we sent out to loved ones in different parts of the country.

The base layer is, of course, a smoked Alaska Wild Salmon.  the other box on the left is a selection of chocolates from the Alaska Wildberry store, which have centers of (you guessed it!) wild berry jellies.  On the right are the birch caramels of earlier post fame.  The cylindrical device above that is a reindeer sausage.  The cute little jar is birch syrup from the same maker as the caramels.   

Not everyone got the same stuff - some people don't like fish, some people don't like meat or fish, and so forth.  I don't believe we sent anyone Alaska jellies this year, or AK specific herbal teas.  However, those are some other good options. Some of this, of course, is stuff you wouldn't necessarily eat on a weekly basis.  However, it is indisputably local, and it is indisputably good stuff! 

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Thrill Griller

Mr EA is, shall we say, an enthusiastic grill man.  In our previous home, he grilled something at least once a week.  We had a decent sized porch, so inclement weather didn't bother him, and it never got that cold, so winter didn't bother him either.  However, events have conspired to keep him from cooking meat over an open flame for the past year and a half, and it has been wearing on him.  Severely.  A few weeks ago, however, he was able to purchase a grill.  Then events conspired to keep him from using it. 
Until today...

He grilled a reindeer sausage we bought this weekend at the Alaska Sausage company (to be blogged later).  Right now he is feasting on crispy sausage, and seems happier than I have seen him in a while - a guy and his grill :)