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Alice Rogoff / Publisher Maia Nolan-Partnow / Editorial Director Aaron Jansen / Creative Director Jamie Gonzales / Editor Catalina Dengel / Assistant Editor Viki Spiroska / Production Coordinator Joshua Genuino / Art Director Rejoy Armamento / Graphic Designer Kelly Day-Lewis / Layout STAFF WRITERS Bailey Berg, Catalina Dengel, Kirsten Swann, Nina Wladkowski PHOTOGRAPHY Rejoy Armamento, Bailey Berg, J. Besl, Catalina Dengel, Herbert Eddington, Elin Johnson, Tim Leach, Alaska Digital Archives, Alaska State Library, National Park Service CONTRIBUTERS J. Besl, Eli Julia Johnson, CharlieCharlie Musser,Musser, Gracie Gonzales, Occhino, Julia Reed,Hazael Hazael Reynosa Reynosa Gracie Nelson, SALES Stephen Acher, Tia Conley, Madison Law, Lisa Hartlieb, Meghan Mackey, Brandi Nelson, Kelsey Newman, Whitney Robins, Emily Rohrabaugh, Clare Tilley, Erika Watsjold
ALASKANA 6 Date Night in 'Old Russia'
by J. Besl
8 I'll Have What Harding's Having by Kirsten Swann
11 Let Them Eat Naan by Elin Johnson
PUDDLE JUMPER 14 Seeds of Change
by Bailey Berg
18 Feast for the Senses by Jamie Gonzales
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21 Trash Talk
Copyright © 2016 Alaska Dispatch News P.O. Box 149001 Anchorage, Alaska 99514
by Catalina Dengel
SAVOR 24 Sourdough Starters by Bailey Berg
27 The Workday Special by Nina Wladkowski
BODY, MIND & SPIRIT 32 For Everyone by Joshua Genuino
LOOK 39 Taste of Home by Rejoy Armamento
WHAT WE LOVE 43 All Eyes on Food compiled by Joshua Genuino
Sea to Table
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by Bailey Berg
ON THE FRONT COVER:
Local artist Aaron Bish, in collaboration with Joshua Genuino, created this issue's exclusive art.
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JOIN NINA AT THE END OF THE ROAD, IN NIKOLAEVSK, FOR A MEMORABLE EVENING.
OU HOIST WOODEN SPOONS in the air and smile politely. “Look into each other,” Nina commands. She means “gaze into your date’s eyes,” but in her Russian-inflected English, words have a way of coming out upside-down. Which is how you’ll feel after a night in Nina’s kitchen. If you barely know your dinner date, maybe don’t show up at Samovar Café. This Russian restaurant in Nikolaevsk is a small business with a big personality, and Nina K. Fefelov—your chef, host, photographer, stylist and best friend for the night—runs the show. When you step inside, you’re immediately on her time and her wavelength. She knows the best place for you to take photos. She knows how many pelmeni you should order. When she asks you to wear Russian clothes and pose with a human-sized nesting doll, she’ll thrust out two shirts. “Pink or blue? I recommend pink. You have 30 seconds.” Just grab the wolfskin cap
and roll with it. And don’t interrupt her when she’s cooking. Aside from the post office, Samovar Café is the only business in tiny Nikolaevsk, a Russian Old Believer village on the Kenai Peninsula. The Old Believers split from mainline Russian Orthodoxy in the 1650s and landed in Nikolaevsk in 1968. This quiet community of fishermen and boatbuilders now occupies four villages across the Peninsula, but Nikolaevsk—about 350 residents—is the original settlement. The town is just 10 miles from the parade of RVs streaming through Anchor Point, but it feels so much further away. Let Samovar Café be your window into this enigmatic world. Nina started her café in 2001, a year after paved roads reached town. Though many lifelong Alaskans couldn’t find Nikolaevsk on a map, her guest book brims with visitors from distant cities: Melbourne, Kolkata, St. Petersburg (Florida). Drop-ins are welcome at Samovar, but call ahead so Nina can prepare her kitchen. Reservations
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are required for the Dining in Russia experience, a three-course meal served on the U-shaped counter outside Nina’s kitchen, where you can watch her cook, peruse her Russian gift shop and—importantly—have Nina dress you in Russian clothes. If you order Dining in Russia (and, obviously, you should), ignore the printed menu and try to keep pace as Nina ticks off your options. Two piroshkis? Or one bread and one piroshki? How about a combo plate for the second dish, or just more piroshkis? That’s what you want? It’s too much. Here’s my recommendation. To dine at Samovar Café is to give in to dizzying confusion (again, not a great first date spot). Though prices are listed in the menu, there are numerous invisible asterisks—$20 covers the photo fee, but a gift purchase does too. Trying to clarify will only add further confusion. “$20 costume, if you would like. The costume fee finished. Understand?” she asks. But don’t stress. Nina just wants everyone to enjoy their time in her home. “Don’t worry about money!” she exclaims, furrowing her brow and shaking her hand as if the concept was a fly in her kitchen. She’s cash only (though, strangely, also accepts PayPal) and, if you go over budget, she has an IOU list tacked to the wall. Just arrive with a full wallet and an open mind. First out is the borscht—a hearty vegetable stew with a sweet tomato flavor, topped in sour cream and dill—along with warm potato piroshkis. Before you dig in, Nina has one more choice for you to make; each course requires a new photo op, and the
ladies have a selection of shoulder scarves to choose from throughout the meal. “Heads together,” she instructs, hoisting your camera. The second course is a combo plate—half pelmeni (beef-and-turkey-filled Siberian dumplings), half polish sausage, circling a generous stack of sweet sauerkraut made from mushrooms, carrots, peppers, onions and rice. Men serve the women, then serve themselves. Dessert is last out the door—cream puffs with whipped cream and chocolate sauce, plus a small cup of samovar tea made of fireweed blossoms and leaves of currant, raspberry and mint, all harvested from her garden outside. Dip your spoon in the tea so Nina can add a dash of cinnamon cloves to make it taste “like Christmas.” Then wait, spoonful of hot tea hovering over a colorful saucer, as she looks back smiling. “You can drink tea,” she laughs kindly. “No more instructions.” Nina’s warmth and humor radiate through the room. It’s a night of big laughs and cheerful disapproving clucks, as if you were visiting your own babushka. After the meal, Nina is happy to answer questions about her town, her cooking, her culture and her fascinating life. Samovar Café is a time warp—three hours will feel like 30 minutes—and though you won’t drink any vodka, you’ll still stumble out a bit bewildered. It’s worth the trip just to meet Nina, and dinner is only a bonus. But go soon. She’ll be the first to tell you she’s nearly ready to hang up the oven mitts. Don’t miss this new take on the old country.
I’LL HAVE WHAT HARDING’S HAVING MEMORABLE MEALS IN ALASKA HISTORY
ICTURE WHITTIER, ALASKA, before the cruise ships and the railroad depot and the Swiftwater Seafood Cafe. Before the ghostly Buckner Building and the Pepto Bismolpink Begich Towers and the art gallery with the famous fudge. It was a historic day: Nov. 20, 1942. The final bit of rock was about to be broken in the new tunnel beneath Maynard Mountain, and Alaska was celebrating with a special “holing through” ceremony. Attendees included the great Maj. Gen. Simon Buckner—after whom the future military building was eventually named—the estimable Mr. Robert Atwood, a few judges, a half-dozen colonels and other who’s-whos of Alaska society. The final charge was set. An explosion. Then, celebration. Time to eat. The last punch through the famous Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel was marked with fruit cocktail, cream of clam soup and shrimp salad; moose, caribou and goat; mashed potatoes, whole kernel corn, hot rolls with honey
and pumpkin pie with whipped cream. Across the state, food marks the passage of time— milestones and journeys alike. People share fresh fish cooked over summer campfires. The tourist season means reindeer sausage from streetside vendors and allyou-can-eat prime rib buffets on glacier cruises. Autumn brings berry patch picnics. Year round, neighbors share community potlucks, Sunday brunches and holiday banquets. Long after the plates are cleared, morsels remain; preserved on handwritten recipe cards and saved menus and dog-eared cookbooks. To browse those culinary chronicles is to savor a unique side of Alaska history. Start in the archives at the Consortium Library, on the University of Alaska Anchorage campus. Stored in cardboard boxes on the quiet top floor, the archives are filled with the records of long-ago meals. They give flavor to days past and help answer old questions: What were Alaskans eating when the tunnel was finished, or the train stopped on the way to Fairbanks all those decades ago, or the steamship came to town?
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ABOARD THE ALASKA LINE When the passengers of the SS Northwestern sat down for dinner the evening of July 19, 1931, the menu paid homage to the location: There was fresh shelled Petersburg shrimp cocktail and poached Juneau halibut with lemon sauce. The booming Alaska seafood business was a significant draw. “Only two short days after leaving Seattle the Alaska steamer reaches Ketchikan, a thriving center for the salmon industry,” the ship’s menu declared. “During the spawning season the fish can be seen jumping at the falls—a remarkable sight.” In those days, Alaska’s young tourism industry was blooming, and the Alaska Steamship Company’s 342foot steamer—“strictly modern in accommodations and appointments”—was en route to Skagway via Seattle and the Inside Passage. Though this was an Alaska cruise, the food was far from traditional Alaska fare. For nearly two weeks, the passengers dined on dishes like grilled tenderloin steak with New Mexico yams, calves’ brains financiere in patty shells, lettuce and tomato salad with French dressing and yankee plum pudding. There was roast young Washington capon, prime rib, East Indian chutney and steamed English plum pudding. But Alaska’s geography and natural resources were evident, too: There was always a seafood cocktail and halibut prepared multiple ways. THANKSGIVING IN THE ALEUTIANS At the height of World War II, the U.S. Marines at Naval Operating Base Dutch Harbor gathered to welcome a cadre of new officers with a banquet. It was Thanksgiving Day, 1943, a year after Japanese aircraft bombed Amaknak Island. The spread was modest and military: roast turkey and baked ham, snowflake potatoes, creamed peas, candied yams and cranberry sauce. For dessert, the men of the 21st Naval Construction Battalion enjoyed fruit cake and ice cream, then coffee and cigarettes. The menu, printed in fading ink on thin paper, is stored in the UAA/APU Consortium Library archives. The mess hall has been abandoned for years.
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DINNER ON THE LOGGER’S LINER As steamships go, SS Catala had a long and zesty career. The 229-foot vessel, built like an ocean liner, once carried passengers along the coast between British Columbia and Alaska. It earned the name “Logger’s Liner” for ferrying men to work in the forests of the Pacific Northwest. Later, the vessel became a floating hotel for the 1961 Seattle World’s Fair; a charter fishing base; a floating restaurant. In 1965, the Catala was grounded at Ocean Shores, Wash. For decades, it settled into the sand; periodically cut down and sold for scrap. Today, there’s nothing left, but two years before the Whittier tunnel holing ceremony, on the same day a German U-Boat sunk the SS Arandora Star off the British coast, the Catala was cruising the North Pacific under the chief stewardship of a British man named Henry Audley. According to menus preserved in the library’s archive, passengers dined on fresh oyster cocktails and iced queen olives, shrimp mayonnaise salad, braised ox tail and orange cream pie. Diners had their choice of roast leg of pork with applesauce, or beef prime rib with horseradish. And because you can’t cruise Alaska and not serve fish, there was also boiled spring salmon with crevette sauce.
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THE PRESIDENTIAL BREAKFAST While steamships were plying the waters of Southeast Alaska, trains were bringing passengers to a resort in the woods outside Denali National Park. Throughout the mid 1920s, the luxury Curry Hotel was a popular rail line destination and stopover for travelers heading to Fairbanks. The grounds featured a golf course, a tennis court and a small swimming pool, and guests included avid fishermen, skiers and President Warren G. Harding himself. Harding spent a night at the hotel on his way to drive a golden spike at the terminus of the Alaska Railroad in Nenana. On the hotel breakfast menu? Cereal (hot and cold), sausage, cottage fried potatoes, eggs to order and grapefruit.
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A FESTIVAL FOOD VENDORâ€™S TAKE ON THE HUNGRY HORDES AT SALMONFEST.
VERY YEAR DURING THE FIRST WEEKEND of August, the small Kenai Peninsula town of Ninilchik experiences a strange phenomenon. Its fairgrounds and campsites are taken over as thousands of joyous festival-goers descend to strum banjos and chug kombucha. There is an incredible boost in the number of Patagonia sweaters, while the overall ratio between individuals and footwear decreases. Yes, friends, I’m talking about Salmonfest, the three days of fish, love and music that arguably defines the Alaska granola community. For the past three years I have had the privilege of working in a food booth with my father and another family. We are one of the many food and craft booths that service the Salmonfest community. The array of food booths offer something for every palate—options include artisan gelato, savory jerk chicken and fresh crepes. Our booth, Local Roots, prepares a naan plate topped with basmati rice, daal lentils, mango-rhubarb chutney and masala sauce. We also serve up a curly fry doused in a mild yellow curry gravy (inspired by the British delicacy “chips with curry sauce”). Local Roots isn’t just our business name; it’s also our motto. It’s operated by family and friends and was built entirely out of recycled materials in our backyard and then decorated by hand (not my hands, we can’t all be whizzes with a paint brush). The recipes were all discovered and then cultivated by the proprietor. All of our food is prepared on site with the freshest organic ingredients to cater to the wishes of our consumers. The majority of the Salmonfest crowd is passionate about the integrity of their food. And rightly so. We are honored to live in such a bountiful state, so why not make the most of it? That being said, your average Salmonfest reveler is willing to give any dish a go. They will gleefully gobble up more exciting meals alongside typical fair food. They treat every part of the experience as it is: an adventure. Accompanying all these good eats is non-stop music. The three stages located inside the grounds boast Alaska favorites as well as bands from all over the country. During the years I have had the joy of being a part of Salmonfest, the festival has boasted headliners such as Lucinda Williams, Emmylou Harris and, most recently, the Indigo Girls and The Wood Brothers. It’s a unique event in that vendors, musicians and frolickers all end up camping together and the end of the day. The close quarters and shared porta potty experiences cultivate a sense of togetherness that prevails throughout the entire celebration of fish and music.
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The music isn’t the only attraction. Many individuals attend Salmonfest because they care about its purpose: protecting wild Alaska salmon. Environmental advocacy booths are very prominent at the festival. They are operated by knowledgeable young people who fight for the protection of our rivers and streams. At these booths, participants can sign petitions, join outreach programs and gain knowledge about protecting wild salmon. The charitable cause of this event encourages like-minded people to gather and commemorate their love of fish with their ears full of tunes, their bellies full of good food and hearts full of love. The eccentrically dressed attendees of Salmonfest who balter through the night are a hardy bunch. For the three days the festival took place this year it dumped biblical quantities of water (or Southeast Alaska quantities, take your pick). Nevertheless, ticket holders swarmed the fairground gates every day at midmorning, chomping at the bit for the chance to kick up the dust … er, mud ... with their favorite bluegrass bands. And muddy it was! People were soaked to the bone, caked in mud, yet still smiling. It may be a downpour, but there’s beer to drink! Revelers were so enthused by the festivities that they often took it upon themselves to keep the party going until the wee hours of the morning. Tarp shelters were quickly assembled in the communal camping areas to house jam sessions where all were welcome. The sounds of crooning, the crackles of the camp fires and, of course, the pouring rain provided a soundtrack to the night as vendors dreamed of ice bags that would stay frozen and portable credit card readers that would work consistently. Throughout the event, a cheerful army of volunteers paraded around the grounds making sure everyone was having a good time and, more importantly, staying safe. The volunteers spread straw over muddy paths in an effort to absorb some of the moisture, and helped reunite wandering children with their worried adult counterparts. Stage crews worked quickly to prepare for upcoming bands. Security at the front gate limited shenanigans to those of the legal kind. In short, they provided the backbone of a wonderful event and allowed vendors to tote their wares without conflict. Speaking from experience, vendors put in long hours. Our days start at 8 a.m. with fights over the portable shower and conclude at 3 a.m. when the last pot is scoured. At the conclusion of the festival on Sunday night, food booths share any and all leftover food with the volunteers and neighboring vendors. It’s a time to swap stories and de-stress after the hectic onslaught of people drifts away. For me, the entire experience demonstrates what I love best about my home state. We have such a strong and caring community forever resilient in the face of bad weather. Salmonfest combines our love of gathering with our desire to protect our wildlife. It is a time to eat, drink and be merry with those that we love in the place that we love.
KACHEMAK BAY OYSTER FARMERS FIND SUCCESS CREATING THEIR OWN SEED-TO-TABLE INDUSTRY
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T’S JUST AFTER NOON in Peterson Cove as Marie and Ron Bader head to work. The sun is high in the September sky, warming the metal seats of their skiff, but the water that sprays off the stern is rousingly cold. It’s a quick commute for the retired teachers turned oyster farmers. Pushing off the shore outside their stilted cabin in Kachemak Bay, Ron motors the duo (and a few nets holding some of the juvenile oysters they’ve been raising) just around the corner to the work dock moored near their oyster field. The two step stiffly yet gracefully from the bucking boat to the bobbing dock— they’re plainly used to the motion of the sea, despite not starting this career until late in their lives. They start working quickly, fluidly, harmoniously. As Ron readies the sorting table, Marie unties the compartments of the 10-tier net. Then, each taking one end, they empty the rounded net, sending a wave of oysters clunking onto the stainless steel table. “Man, there are some real beauties in here,” Ron says, picking up a maroon striped oyster and running his thumb across its heavily ruffled bottom cup. “Oh, I know. I never get tired of emptying a net,” Marie says. “It’s like playing poker. You never know what you’re going to get.” While many may see the principal allure of oysters in their tan meat and pearly inner shell, the Baders are drawn to the colorful outer shells—the bit buried in the crushed ice when these delicacies are served on the half shell. Spread across the table, the couple turn the shellfish this way and that to catch the light like a jeweler would inspect fine gemstones. Some are colored a delicate pink. Others lined with rich purple hues. Others boast varying shades of red and brown and orange—there are more warm tones here than you’d find in the makeup aisle. Most on the table showcase the bounty of the ocean in miniature. On their fluted shells grow a myriad of baby creatures: barnacles, soft shell clams, tubeworms, mussels, rock oysters, sponges, plant life. The ride-along organisms won’t last long though. As they’re sorted into like-sized pails, the farmers rough the oysters across a metal mesh to clean each shell, similar to scrubbing laundry on a washboard. Granted, not all the oysters end up in the pails. Every so often, one or the other will shuck and slurp the briny contents. “There’s nothing like it,” Marie says, holding the now empty cup and smacking her lips. “And you know, it’s a minor miracle that we can even do this.”
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OYSTERING IN ALASKA Oysters don’t naturally grow in Alaska. It wasn’t until the late 1980s that legislation allowed for juvenile oysters to be planted in Alaska. The intent was to create another industry to contribute to Alaska’s economy and strengthen the competitiveness of Alaska seafood in the world market. The chilly waters off Alaska’s shores both helped and hindered oyster growth: It made the meat sweet, but stunted their sexual maturation, meaning they couldn’t reproduce. For decades, that meant oyster farmers across Alaska, from Annette Island near the Canadian border in Southeast Alaska to Kachemak Bay, had to import seeds from shellfish hatcheries in Washington state. For the Baders and other area farmers, that was frustrating. It wasn’t very sustainable and they were tied to their suppliers to get the seeds for their livelihoods. Marie likened it to being able to grow your own garden. If you’re not able to grow things yourself and are cut off from the grocery store—due to a missed barge or fire, for example—there aren’t many options available for getting food. “We wanted the security of having our own seed so we’d be able to manage every step of the process from seed to plate,” Marie said. The Kachemak Shellfish Growers Co-op, of which Marie is president, decided it was paramount to start their own processing facility. With a facility in place, they could spawn oysters, raise them to seed size and provide stock that could be transplanted in the bay. Local, affordable seed would streamline operations for the 12 farms in the co-op. Experts in the field pooh-poohed the idea. Too many barriers. Their facility on the Spit was a mere fraction of the suggested industry size for mariculture processing. Everything would need to be rigorously monitored. Others in Alaska had tried and failed, despite having more space, staff and funds. “We were successful the first year,” Marie said. “Then those experts said, ‘OK, let’s see you do it again.’ This is our fourth year of very successful seed harvest. Lightning doesn’t strike four times in the same spot.”
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FROM SPAWN TO SHIPPING To generate a spawn, the co-op puts a dozen oysters into a warm tank (waters need to be at least 70 degrees for the oysters to spawn) for a few weeks. As Marie puts it, once they’ve adapted to their warm bath, they send out a signal saying “I’m a girl, I’m a girl” or “I’m a boy, I’m a boy.” If all 12 oysters are girls, a few will simply switch sexes and procreation can begin. The seeds grow from a microscopic size (roughly 3 million would fit in the palm of your hand) to the size of one’s pinky nail. Like razor clams, the seed has a foot that is used to swim around the tank. That foot allows them to stick to one of the crushed shells on the tank floor, which they’ll then ingest and use to form their own shell. The process needs constant monitoring. If the temperature drops or rises by 3 degrees centigrade, everything will die. At roughly three months old, the seeds will be moved across the bay to Halibut Cove into a FLUPSY (a floating, upwelling system) that’s mounted under a dock. The system force feeds the seeds and allows
If all oysters are girls, a few will simply switch sexes and procreation can begin.
the oysters to bounce around in the bins, giving them nice, deep cups—a feature that is prized in the shellfish market. A year later, the oyster seeds are sold to farmers— primarily in Kachemak Bay, but also Wrangell, Prince
William Sound and Washington state if supply allows. Farmers put them in tiered lantern nets. Once hung between buoys on long rows, they’re considered planted and the circulating seawater (or, more specifically, the plankton) provides them with all the nutrition they need to grow for a few more years. Suspended culture (the tiered nets) make up a small percentage of all oysters raised in the world. Most oysters are raised on the beach. The State of Alaska, however, doesn’t allow for beaches to be used for private enterprise. Those nets need constant upkeep. Several times a year, seaweed and waste is blasted off with a fire hose. Deadloss is removed. Oysters are sorted into like-sized groups. “Women in particular excel at this,” Marie jokes. “We like to gab.” While suspended culture oysters require more work, they’re generally purer. Because they never touch the bottom, mud and grit isn’t swept into them. It also means pearls are exceedingly rare. They also taste like the water they’re grown in. The cold, clean water found in Kachemak Bay, Marie says, is what makes their oysters so crisp. “Eating cold water oysters is like learning to ski at Alyeska,” Marie says. “We learned to ski there and then tried going to places in the Lower 48—what a breeze. Nothing like the black trails here. Once you eat cold water oysters, I don’t think you could go back to warm water ones.” THE WORLD IS YOUR OYSTER Now the Bader’s 24th season of oystering is almost over. They could work into the winter, but the work is strenuous and demanding enough in the warm months without the added challenges the winter weather would bring. “We’re not so hungry anymore that we need to work year round,” Ron says. “We farm hard in the summer so we can take winters off.” On that September day, the duo were sorting and transferring the last few nets of oysters. In the months that will follow, they’ll shift their energy to marketing their oysters to customers. Though their biggest market is undeniably Homer, where the words “fresh Kachemak Bay oysters” are found almost ubiquitously on menus (Grace Bridge Brewing even used 10 dozen of them to brew a stout last spring), the tide of oysters from the co-op has trickled throughout the U.S.—they’ve appeared in restaurants and personal kitchens in every state. “We have a lot of repeat orders from individuals,” Marie says. “People who’ve had them up here and want to have a continued connection to Alaska and our seafood year round.”
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J U M P E R
A farm-to-table dinner at a budding flower farm in Sutton
HE WEATHER WAS PERFECT. Well, perfect for Alaskans: sunny, 68 degrees and very few mosquitoes. The 50 guests arriving in pairs at Wild Rose Highlands crested the hill and saw lush green grass, a long white table between the fenced garden and the peony bushes, glassware glinting in the sun. Bohemian bouquets provided splashes of color. At the far edge of the clearing, signs of progressâ€”bare earth and a clutch of rakes leaning against a log bench where attendees could enjoy their wine and a panoramic view of the Matanuska River in the valley below. What guests didnâ€™t see was the flurry of activity beforehand and the jumble of canopy tents and poles stashed beside a massive brush pile at the edge of the picturesque clearing.
Dallas Wildeve, a florist who co-owns the Highlands with her partner Chris Rose, laughed recalling the shaky start. “It was a bit disastrous before … We had a tented area. I made floral chandeliers that were hanging. Then a giant windstorm came and just obliterated it. But it was perfect! We got to sit outside in the perfect weather.” Floral chandeliers were remade into centerpieces. Developing the Sutton, Alaska, farmland while also managing their businesses—Dallas owns Bloomsbury Blooms and Chris is executive director of Renewable Energy Alaska Project, both based in Anchorage—is a more-than-full-time gig that’s heightened the couple’s adaptability and reminds them, regularly, that they’re not in charge of the weather. But for one evening in late August, they lucked out. “This is a special place for us,” said Chris, once all the guests were seated around the table. “We spent a lot of time figuring out what we're going to grow here. This was all forest five years ago … Right now, we're all sitting on about 30 feet of soil. It's an amazing place. You can see how fast stuff grows here, without a lot of help.” As soon as dinner was over, he continued, they’d be planting more grass by the bluff.
“This is, in part, a way forward for us to get water,” he said. Some of the proceeds from the dinner would be used to dig a well on the Highlands property. Four years ago, Dallas and Chris began clearing land, building a road and putting in their first plants—flowers for Dallas’s business, vegetables for their own use and to share with friends. And, for four years, they’ve been hand watering everything. “Our house is five miles away,” said Dallas in a follow-up conversation after the event. At their home, she added, they’re fortunate to have an excellent well. “We have a big pickup truck, Mr. T (he's turquoise), and there's a big tank that goes in the back of him. We fill it with water [from our well] and then we drive it five miles to the garden. There's a holding tank there. We empty it by gravity and that takes about three hours.” Once the holding tank is full, they use a hose connected to the tank, also gravity-powered, to fill holding containers in the garden. “Then almost all of our watering is done by dipping watering cans and hand watering.” She’s “so ready” for an upgrade. A well will make drip irrigation possible and allow them to plant significantly more on their property. Both Dallas and Chris are committed to developing Alaska’s capacity to produce local food. Right now, Chris
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Chris Rose addresses the dinner guests.
said, Alaskans import the majority of their food from Outside. “Food security is a big issue,” he said. “I work on energy security, but they're connected, because food is our energy. In 1955, Alaskans imported 55 percent of their food. Now we import over 90 percent of our food. That's going the wrong direction.” A farm-to-table dinner is their way of showcasing what’s possible. Local pork from Mat Valley Meats. Salad greens, beets and potatoes from Arctic Organics and Stockwell Farms. Carrots for the carrot soup from their own garden 30 feet away. Apples from the trees outside their house. And, of course, flowers—from Wild Rose Highlands and beautiful dahlias from The Persistent Gardener, Rob Wells. Owning a floral business has given Dallas the opportunity to feel more connected to the seasons and more in tune with what’s available locally. “Everything I make has something local in it, regard-
less of the time of year. If it's December, I go out and get some spruce branches and include them,” she said. “ If you can pick it from here, you don't have to ship it; it's a better choice. Just like food.” Before guests dipped their spoons in the carrot soup or slathered ginger butter on their fresh rolls, made by the evening’s chef, Deb Seaton of Side Street Espresso, they all raised their glasses to the dinner’s contributors—the farmers, the prep team working behind the garden shed without electricity or running water, the servers and the Alaska businesses who had all pitched in to make the moment unforgettable. Lawyers, pastry chefs, sustainable energy experts, chocolatiers, therapists and writers clinked glasses and murmured about their luck at being in this place, with this weather and this food. “Maybe next year we'll be having dinners out on the bluff, right next to that view,” said Chris.
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Battling bears and public perception to create McCarthy’s first composting operation ASON ESLER REMOVES HIS CAP, wipes his brow and surveys the fresh mound of potato peels, watermelon rinds, crushed zucchini, tomatoes and other various food scraps he’s just dumped into a hole. The stocky blonde with two shaggy shoulder-length braids takes a minute to catch his breath, look down from the heap with a satisfied smile and yell, “Delicious, right?” before grabbing another full bag and dumping its contents. Thirty-four-year-old Elser, owner of Alaska Homestead Services—the first garbage and recycling company operating in McCarthy, Alaska—has spent the better half of the day hauling 800 gallons of compost in 55-gallon, bear-proof drums down the potholed 75-mile stretch of dusty road between McCarthy and Kenny Lake. The compost’s destination is 320-acre Rustic Roots Farm in Kenny Lake. His fledgling company has seen a tumultuous first couple years. This is the last month running compost for the handful of restaurants, bed and breakfasts and lodges in McCarthy and neighboring Kennecott before seasonal workers and tourists perform their yearly disappearing act and the 50-ish permanent residents get serious about hunkering down for winter. Starting a garbage and recycling company on the edge of civilization has been challenging. McCarthy is tucked into the base of Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, the country’s largest national park, spanning 13.2 million acres of wilderness. Limited access to McCarthy and Kennecott—there is one foot bridge and one vehicle bridge—is a significant hurdle when your business is hauling garbage by the drum-full. And in a town where new ideas are often met with a raised brow and skepticism, Esler’s faced public perception obstacles as a first-time business owner. “I didn’t want to see a landfill here,” Esler said matterof-factly. “I love McCarthy and I want to be a part of this community and do cool things for my community. I want to be the type of community leader who is solutions-oriented and thinks locally.” Esler’s lived in and out of Alaska for the last 15 years, but has always called McCarthy home. He recently bought property, opened an eatery called the Slow Down Cafe and has been watching tourism grow steadily each summer.
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As traffic increases and businesses grow, so does the waste. Esler wasn’t the only community member who realized McCarthy and Kennecott had a garbage problem, but he was the only one who felt there was another option besides a landfill. The idea of one makes him shudder. “No way! We don’t have to do that!” he said. “I don’t want to have my kids deal with landfill issues like we see all over in Alaska.” McCarthy and Kennecott’s “pack-it-in-pack-it-out” model is, Esler thinks, a backcountry philosophy that is no longer feasible for the two front-country towns. “You’ve got people coming to visit this area—and it’s more and more every summer. It’s not going to slow down,” said Esler. “Something needed to happen and the landfill was option A and I offered option B, and a bunch of people took it—pretty much all the restaurants.” Esler’s option B solution is a composting and recycling system based off of the core values of permaculture. He’s modeled his system after Hugelkultur composting, a technique used in parts of northern Germany that replicates the natural decomposition process. The system uses raised beds or mounds filled with decaying wood, wood chips and other decomposable plant materials mixed with compostable items like kitchen scraps. His system breaks down into 11 categories: plastics one-with a dimple, plastics two-with a seam, plastics five (any of them), tin cans, aluminum cans, glass, corrugated cardboard, paperboard, stretchy plastic, compost and trash. Next summer, he plans to add even more categories. So where does it all go? This year, he collects everything from his clients, separating compostable materials and recyclables. The compost goes into the 55-gallon bear-proof drums that eventually get hauled to the Kenny Lake farm. The recyclable materials are staged on Esler’s property in McCarthy until he transports them 250 miles to Valley Community Recycling Solutions in Palmer. The trash also gets hauled to Palmer. Last summer, he was burying the compost he collected from his clients in four-foot pits lined with cardboard, mixing a three-to-one ratio of compost to carbon, covering the hole completely with sawdust and woodchips before adding large brush and trees and then covering the entire hole with two feet of soil. He was also feeding compost to several pigs—all on his property in McCarthy—which is what got him into trouble. The town has always struggled with bears, but Esler’s methods seemed to attract even more. He admits there were bear issues the first year. Concerned residents took it up with the McCarthy Area Council (MAC) to investigate. Some even took it a step further, calling state agencies and the state troopers to try and get Esler’s operation shut down. Steven Harper and his wife have lived in McCarthy
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for 17 years and although he’s been supportive of Esler’s business—they recognize the need for a garbage service— he said in this case, the “devil’s in the details.” He feels Esler missed a few of those important details when it came to bear safety, having the right equipment, space and infrastructure to take on the garbage and recycling from two communities. “We’re experiencing growing pains,” Harper said. “We don’t have a dump site like many other villages do. There’s more garbage than there used to be and we need a wellmanaged, viable garbage service.” He said at one point McCarthy tried to employ Copper Basin Sanitation Service Company to deal with the town’s garbage and recycling, but the company, located in Glenallen, was just too far away. Harper doesn’t just blame Esler for attracting bears— that’s on other residents, too. “It just boils down to, either you do it right, or you don’t,” said Harper. “There’s an individual responsibility to keeping your garbage. If your dog can get it, a bear can get it. If an animal has gotten something tasty out of a garbage bag before, then they’re going to come back.” To avoid further conflicts with McCarthy residents, Esler dug up all of his compost and hauled it 75 miles down the road to Kenny Lake. “Year one, I had no idea what I was getting into—no idea—no one had done this before,” he said. “So, I was gonna fail at some things.” From year one to year two, Esler’s changed his methods quite a bit. Now he feels most people are supportive and encouraging of his business—especially the restaurants and lodges. Even with a bumpy start, by the end of the 2015 season, Esler said he had recycled 32,000 aluminum cans, diverted 20 cubic yards of cardboard from going into the landfill in Palmer and removed 20,000 pounds of trash. “When I told people that the pop can total from last year
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was 32,000—that’s a number that for my customers and for my non-customers—was like a holy shit moment,” Esler said grinning. “He’s doing a great job and we couldn’t be happier,” said Malcolm Vance, a co-owner of The Roadside Potatohead in McCarthy. “It’s a lot of work to make this happen.” This fall Esler plans to start clearing and building an access road to a new lot, permitted by the Department of Natural Resources. That transfer site will be ready to go for the 2017 summer season. It will eliminate his 75-mile drive to the Kenny Lake Farm and give him the needed space to compost and sort closer to home—although that’s subject to change. “Permaculture is the basis for this whole thing,” Esler said. “It’s more than just coming in and scratching the earth a whole bunch and getting it set up really quick.” With bear problems handled, he hit a new, literal roadblock just a few weeks before the summer season officially ended: his bridge pass was pulled. The one and only vehicle bridge in McCarthy is owned by the Rowland family, Esler’s neighbors. Keith Rowland pulled Esler’s bridge pass over what he describes as a miscommunication. News of Esler’s bridge pass troubles spread like wildfire during Labor Day weekend. In the end, Esler adapted; for now he’s using fourwheelers instead of a vehicle to run his operation. And that’s Esler’s business philosophy: find new solutions to a problem. He knows McCarthy isn’t the only rural town that has garbage and recycling issues, but his hope is that if he can get his business off and running he can show the rest of the state that a sustainable, good-for-the-earth garbage and recycling system is possible—even in Alaska. He sees himself as a leader and hopes that the Alaska he calls home will still be the beautiful, pristine wilderness he’s come to know and love for his kids’ kids, too.
TABLE Sitkaâ€™s subsistence herring roe harvest is a springtime tradition
PHOTOS BY BAILEY BERG
Presented by Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium
APTAIN JEFF JACKSON AND HIS FIRST MATE sip coffee from ceramic mugs as they stand side by side near the port railing of the Lady Louise. It’s a rare, sunny Sitka day, but steam can still be seen curling from their mugs into the early March air. The pair are gazing out on the near-placid water, not sure what to expect from the long work day ahead. It hasn’t been a particularly fruitful season so far. Their crew is out to harvest herring roe, the eggs from the little iridescent fish that return en masse to Sitka Sound each spring to spawn. But it’s been an uncharacteristically slow season so far. In years past, the herring have spent at least three weeks spawning, their eggs clinging to upturned hemlock trees and kelp in the murky blue waters. It’s only been a week, but it seems like many of the herring have already departed. Some 30 yards away, a crew member in an aluminum skiff checks on what will hopefully be their harvest for the day. He makes a grab for a milk carton turned buoy. Attached to a long rope, the buoy marks where a hemlock tree had been suspended in the depths below. Wrapping the connecting rope around a T-shaped bar for leverage, he hoists up the tree. “Not ready yet,” he calls back to his captain, shaking his head, letting the tree submerge again. “Needs another spawn.” He then makes his way to a floating Welch’s grape juice container. With a homemade hook attached to a wooden dowel he catches the marker. Again his broad shoulders flex as he muscles the tree up. This one is obviously ready. As the hemlock nears the
surface a billow of herring eggs break away in a hazy yellow cloud. It looks heavy. “Man, what a difference 30 yards makes,” he says chuckling. He ties a thick, simple knot securing the tree to the vessel and hauls the load back to the Lady Louise. From there the tree’s trunk is attached to a net hauler buzzing laboriously as 400-plus pounds of tree, seawater and herring eggs are hoisted. Crew members with pruning shears start cutting off sections of the tree—fat, grainy fingers of eggs clinging to the branches— and toss them into a big plastic container to be weighed. It’s a process they’ll repeat dozens of times throughout the day and, with any luck, the next few weeks to come. UNDERSTANDING THE HERRING HARVEST Jackson’s crew isn’t sure exactly how many days they’ll be on the water. That depends on two things: the herring and how fast they reach their goal of 30,000 pounds of roe. At the end of each day, the captain calls the harbormaster alerting him they’re on the way back. By the time he docks, a crowd has gathered to greet their return with empty Tupperware containers and plastic bags. They’re there for the eggs—as many pounds as they can carry. Jackson and his crew don’t earn a profit from this work since nobody in the state can sell subsistence food. The annual harvest is funded by the various herring seiner permit holders in Sitka; they pay for Jackson and his crew’s gas and time. Though meant for the community of Sitka (it’s one of the few places in Alaska where the fish still go to spawn after the 1989 Exxon-Valdez oil spill), the harvest will disperse throughout the state.
Jackson’s crew isn’t the only one to participate in the harvest—other individuals, crews and tribal organizations also collect and distribute herring eggs each spring. “These harvests will touch Alaska Natives statewide,” says Desiree Jackson, captain Jeff Jackson’s wife and occasional crew member. “There are so many elders, working people or just people who don’t live in Sitka who can’t come out to harvest for any number of reasons, but who will still receive these eggs somehow.” Sitka residents ship so many eggs by air during harvest time that Alaska Airlines had to set up a booth to help expedite the mailing process. Desiree Jackson jokes that her husband isn’t allowed to tag her in photos on Facebook during harvest, lest she be inundated with more requests for shipments than she could possibly handle. “That sharing of subsistence foods brings us back to the root of our culture,” Clara Gray, a health educator for Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium, says. She adds that one community trading their bounty with another is something they’ve always done. Some of the people who send egg shipments will receive packages in return containing other subsistence products: meat, fish, fresh produce or canned goods. Each herring season the town awakens with songs, stories from elders, derbies and the Kiksadi clan blessing of the herring roe. “Traditionally, herring and herring eggs were the principal food in the spring for our people,” Gray says. “I remember even as a child we ate a lot of herring and herring roe in the spring.” A DAY IN THE BAY By the time the fishermen board the boat at 9 a.m. the first mate is already decked out in his Grundens, blasting Metallica and chomping on an apple. “All aboard,” he says, wiggling his eyebrows. It’s a small crew—less than half-a-dozen men (plus the Jacksons’ daughter, Stormy) in total. Most of the crew members respond to their boat nicknames rather than their given names—like Hannibal the Animal, named for his strength, and Face, after his crinkled cheeks. Face moves to clean up yesterday’s leftovers, a small heap of water-logged branches crusted with spawn and loose eggs on a worn tarp still littering the deck. It’s all that remains after the community picked through the prior day’s haul—a waist-high mound of branches and eggs that spanned the entire stern. They’re hoping to get just as much or more today. As the boat leaves the harbor and the town recedes, the crew discusses that day’s game plan. They divvy up who will
perform what duties at the handful of spawning locations they need to check. The trees, Jackson says, had been placed in the water three days prior. His family has used the same locations for generations; it’s where the herring seem to spawn regularly. They decide to start with the spot furthest away and work their way back. As the boat navigates across the sound, the chilly morning air prompts the crew to hustle into their waterproof gear. They won’t bother with it for long though. By noon the entire crew will have stripped down to their base layers. Carrying heavy armloads of herring eggs across the boat to the scale is sweat-inducing work. “Coming up on the starboard side,” a crewmember named Sid says as the first sufficiently fruitful tree is hooked onto the lever. As it’s hoisted, it lets loose a flurry of eggs onto the deck below. “Do I have eggs in my hair?” Stormy asks, blinking hard and wiping roe from her face. In the lulls between sets, she picks eggs out of her braid like other high school girls pick at split ends. That is, unless she’s snacking on eggs soaked in butter and soy sauce or looking for tiny crabs wreathed in the sticky eggs on the deck to ride on her sweatshirt sleeve. The process of snagging a tree, chopping off the roecovered limbs, weighing the haul and piling or packaging the eggs is repeated over and over throughout the day. In the early afternoon, there’s whooping on the deck. Thanks to the low tide, someone found a cache of kelp wrapped in herring eggs—enough to fill a white garbage bag. “Mmm, better than cake,” Jackson says, folding a piece of kelp dripping with seal oil into his mouth. It just so happens it’s his 51st birthday. Jackson has been working in the fishing industry most
PHOTOS BY BAILEY BERG
of his adult life. During the spring and summer he collects herring eggs, then seaweed, then salmon. The herring egg harvest, he says, signifies the end of winter and the beginning of his favorite season: subsistence fishing. “I went with my dad for years and harvested,” he says. “It’s just one part of our subsistence way of life. Part of our culture.” The eggs stick together in great clumps—sections need to be cut or ripped apart. A mouthful pops between your teeth like mini boba. “It always comes as a surprise when some eggs get stuck in your teeth and pop later,” Desiree Jackson jokes. Gray says in Southeast Alaska herring eggs on hemlock branches are often among baby’s first foods—they’re tasty and high in omega fats and protein. “You want your children to get a taste for these foods, because they are so healthy,” Gray explains. The last tree of the day is monstrous. As it’s hauled on board, the boat tips hard to the port side to meet it. The needles at the core of the conglomeration are completely obscured by the sheer mass of eggs. Hannibal gives a gleeful hoot as he lobs off a prodigious branch, hoists it above his head and takes a lap around the deck celebrating his new trophy. The heavyweight tops out at nearly 1,000 pounds—more than twice what the other trees weighed. As the core of the final tree is lowered back into the water, Jackson calls into port to let the harbormaster know they’ve got a big harvest coming in today. A crowd of nearly 50 people is waiting on the docks when the boat returns, eager to receive some eggs.
Herman Davis, an elder in Sitka, is one of the many herring egg recipients. Now wheelchair bound, Davis can’t collect herring eggs himself anymore, but recalls gathering them with his father and brothers when he was a child. One year, he says, there was so much spawn in the water the townspeople could smell it in the air. It even turned the clear blue water a murky yellow. “There was spawn from all the way over there …” he says, pointing to Mount Edgecumbe, the dormant volcano at the southern end of Kruzof Island. “All the way to Baranof Point. All spawn, all of it. Holy mackerel, everybody was happy.” That year his family went to gather subsistence food together. While his father chopped the big hemlocks down, he and his brothers dragged them to the water—a difficult task considering Davis wasn’t more than 70 pounds at the time. After the trees had sat in the water for a few days, they all loaded into their boat, The OK, to bring in their haul. “We had this big witches pot that we cooked the eggs in,” Davis recalls. “You know how seagulls are when they’re after food? That’s how us little boys were. We just converged on the table and when we had our fill we laid in the sun.” Though the process is different decades later, the response is still the same. As the other collectors stuff their bags and boxes with eggs, Gray talks about the importance of the harvest. “It’s so important because people need to learn about food they can get for themselves,” Gray says. “Not only is it healthy, but it unites us as a people.”
VER THE LAST FEW YEARS, ALASKA NATIVE Medical Center executive chef Amy Foote has tried to showcase more traditional foods on the menu. “The people who come here come from all over and come to heal,” Foote said. “If they have the comfort food they’re raised on, I see it as a part of the healing.” Because the hospital cannot purchase traditional foods, it relies on donations for its various traditional food programs. Following the Sitka herring egg harvest, 600 pounds of herring eggs were donated to the hospital and appeared on the daily menu or were delivered as treats for patients is in the form of this herring egg salad:
HERRING EGG SALAD 1-2 cups herring eggs Spinach 1/4 cup carrots, grated 1 1/2 green onions, finely sliced 1/4 cup radishes, shredded 1-2 grape tomatoes, halved 1/2 cup mayonnaise
PHOTO BY BAILEY BERG
The juice and zest of 1 lemon
Mix spinach, carrots, green onions, radishes and tomatoes together.
Add one to two cups of blanched, cooled herring eggs. Make sure the herring eggs are nice-sized portions, rather than clumped together.
Add light canola mayonnaise or a salad dressing of your choice.
This story was sponsored by Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, a nonprofit Tribal health organization designed to meet the unique health needs of more than 150,000 Alaska Native and American Indian people living in Alaska.
HEALTHY FOODS, HEALTHY RECIPES:
Alaska Fresh Rolls with Yarrow Dipping Sauce
ALASKA FRESH ROLLS WITH YARROW DIPPING SAUCE FRESH ROLLS (EACH) 1 sheet rice paper, softened in 100Â° water 2 salmonberry blossoms (if available) or fresh herbs 2 teaspoons herring eggs, cooked and cooled 2 teaspoons canned or frozen sea asparagus 2 teaspoons carrots, julienne cut on mandoline 2 teaspoons celery, julienne cut on mandoline 3 teaspoons rice noodles, cooked and cooled 1 leaf romaine lettuce, cut into 31/2â€? lengths
1/4 cupssoy soysauce sauce 1/4 cupsrice ricevinegar vinegar Herring eggs 1 tablespoon brown sugar 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest Juice of 1 lemon 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes 2 tablespoons chopped yarrow or lovage
1. Mix dipping sauce ingredients and set aside. 2. Place each ingredient on top of the bottom third of the rice paper. Roll everything up tightly. To do so, gently pull up the bottom of the roll and roll over the filling. Then, roll and use your hands to tuck the filling in as you go. 3. Serve and enjoy!
delicious fresh rolls, please visit http://bit.ly/akfreshrolls. To watch a YouTube video on how to make these deliscous
Sharing our tradition of health
AN SCHWARTZ AND ALISON ARIANS wake up at 4 a.m. to bake tomorrow’s bread. On a floured cutting table in their bakery sits a mound of tawny-colored mix, speckled with pumpkin, sunflower and sesame seeds, from which the duo pulls deflated spheres of sourdough. Handful after handful, they roll and shape the orbs and place them into individual baskets on baking trays, a method that will give the loaves a hemispherical shape with a lot of crunchy crust. While the first loaves rise, they’ll start prepping another batch. By day’s end they’ll have five varieties (and several hundred individual loaves) of bread baked. They’ll work long into the evening to finish bagging, labeling and packing up their signature sourdough to sell the next morning. Their hearth stove may be able to bake 100 loaves—either traditional pan loaves or rounded hearth loaves—in one go, but what Schwartz and Arians are doing can’t be measured with a kitchen timer. The process takes commitments to tradition, craftsmanship, their community and each other. You see, the husband and wife duo that owns Rise and Shine Bakery didn’t follow a particularly conventional road to being one of the baking bastions of Anchorage.
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GETTING STARTED Schwartz worked as a biochemist, then a furniture maker. Arians received a graduate degree in geography, which she used as a natural resources planner for the Alaska Department of Natural Resources for many years. It wasn’t until 2007 that the duo started seriously discussing building and opening their own bakery. “Baking bread made sense to us,” Arians said. “We both turned to baking when things got hard in our work lives, we realized. Baking was solace.” So that year they turned an addition to the back of their home—which had previously been Schwartz’s woodworking studio—into a bakery. No easy task considering nobody else had built a commercial kitchen in their residential area. But, after months of getting up to code and securing permits, Rise and Shine was open for business. “We actually got customers out of the process,” Arians said. “The fire safety guy buys from us and so does the health inspector. I think that’s a good sign when your health inspector buys from you.”
While the words “craft” or “artisan” are buzzwords commonly associated with wild and offthe-wall recipes, Rise and Shine focuses on forging diverse breads with wholesome, local ingredients in traditional ways. “We’ll likely never make something like cognac fig hazelnut bread,” Schwartz said. “We’re more into bread as a basis of healthy diet and being something you can enjoy every day, so we’re very traditional with our approach. We’d rather focus on making a good product than trying too many different things.” The loaves they craft are either 60 or 100 percent whole grain sourdough. One features Alaska potatoes as the vital ingredient, another uses spent grain from Midnight Sun Brewery and others use kalamata olives, fresh rosemary or dark chocolate and cherries. All are hand-crafted, from the mixing, to the fermenting, to the shaping. They even mill some of their own grain flour.
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it’s dairy free, has minimal salt and sugar and has lower levels of gluten than what is produced with commercial yeast. CARE AND FEEDING Their emphasis on tradition means they have to be really careful about keeping their sourdough happy. Sourdough is different from commercial yeast. It’s bread which has been made with a starter rather than yeast to create a loaf. The starter is a mix of flour and water, which is fermented and fed with additional flour until it becomes a thick mixture. This will be used as a rising agent in each batch of dough. It is also slow to rise and needs to be carefully “fed” and monitored. “It’s like a persnickety pet,” Arians said. “If we travel for more than 10 days, we bring our sourdough starter with us. It can die if it digests all the nutrients. We need it to stay healthy because we need it to bake 400 loaves when we get back.” Because of the inherently healthier nature of their bread—it’s dairy free, has minimal salt and sugar and has lower levels of gluten than what is produced with commercial yeast, a positive in a world where “carb” may be considered a four-letter word—Rise and Shine has risen in popularity. Even so, the duo have kept a small business model. From June to September, they sell at the South Anchorage Farmer’s Market every weekend. But during
the winter, their customers pre-order online and are able to pick up their loaves once a month. “Somebody once described us as having a lifestyle business,” Schwartz said. “We’re busy in the summer and slower in the winter, which we needed because we’re homeschooling our daughter and take a lot of trips. A normal business plan wouldn’t allow us to take that same time off.” The couple said they are frequently asked why they don’t open a commercial space. Again, it doesn’t fit into the model they wanted. “We want to have a continued connection to our customers,” Arians said. “We see them week after week. I know which bread certain people are coming for. It’s a good community. If they weren’t so supportive, we wouldn’t be able to do this.” The couple said apart from the bread biz being nourishing for both their bodies and souls, it’s nourished their marriage. From sun-up to sun-down on their baking and selling days they are together. “We might not make a lot of money in the bakery, but we save a lot of money on marriage counseling,” Schwartz joked.
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FOUR TAKE-ANYWHERE LUNCHES FOR ON-THE-GO ALASKANS
T’S THE MIDDLE OF A BUSY DAY on the job and the clock says it’s time for lunch, but what to eat: the box of crackers stashed in a filing cabinet or the microwaveable cup of instant noodles that has been in the breakroom since day one? The phenomenon of the “Sad Desk Lunch” is nothing new. But here in Alaska, we hunker for a nosh anywhere our jobs may take us—whether it be at a desk, in the cab of a haul truck or the cockpit of a Cessna, in the middle of a field or bay or on our feet without a moment to spare. Here are some inspired alternatives, to prepare in advance, for a long week of work, wherever that may take you.
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WHITE CHICKEN CHILI
START TO FINISH: 40 MINUTES / SERVES: 4
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts 2 15-ounce cans cannellini beans, drained 1 8-ounce can diced green chiles 3 cups quality chicken stock ⅔ cup heavy cream 1 medium poblano pepper 1 small yellow onion, chopped 2 cloves garlic, minced 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 teaspoons ground cumin 1 teaspoon ground coriander 1 teaspoon dried oregano 1 teaspoon chili powder, mild or hot ½ teaspoon paprika, smoked or sweet ⅛-¼ teaspoons ground cayenne (to taste) ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 1 ½ teaspoons kosher or coarse sea salt
1. In a bowl, mix cumin, coriander, oregano, chili powder, paprika, cayenne, black pepper and salt together. 2. Season chicken on both sides with spice mixture, leaving half of the spice mwixture in the bowl. Set spice mixture bowl aside. Heat oven to 375 F. 3. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet, preferably cast iron, over medium heat. Add the chicken breasts and cook 2-3 minutes per side until golden brown on both sides. 4. While chicken is browning, coat poblano pepper in olive oil. When chicken is browned, add poblano to skillet and transfer skillet to oven. Roast chicken for 15 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees, flipping the pepper once. 5. Heat remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil in dutch oven over medium heat. Cook onion to soften, about 7-10 minutes. Add garlic and cook additional 2 minutes. Add half of cannellini beans to pot, along with approximately ⅔ cup chicken stock. 6. Puree mixture, using either an immersion blender, standard blender or food processor. Return mixture to dutch oven, if necessary. 7. Add remaining cannellini beans, canned chilis, chicken stock, heavy cream and spices. 8. When chicken is cooked through and poblano is roasted—skin should be slightly blistering—remove from oven and allow to cool to the touch. When cool, cut chicken and poblano and add to dutch oven. 9. Bring chili to a boil, then lower heat and let simmer for about 10 minutes and serve. If a thicker chili is preferred, allow chili to simmer longer.
S AVO R
CRUDITE AND CHARCUTERIE PLATTER START TO FINISH: 10 MINUTES / SERVES: 1-2
Chop and arrange your favorite Alaska grown vegetables and Alaska-cured milano salami and prosciutto. Throw in some tasty cheeses to round out the platter. Share or donâ€™t.
S AVO R
VEGETABLE AND TOFU STIR FRY
Adapted from Marzia at Little Spice Jar
START TO FINISH: 30 MINUTES / SERVES: 3-4
1 3.1-ounce bundle dried soba noodles 1 14-ounce package firm or extra-firm tofu 1 tablespoon cornstarch 1 tablespoon sesame oil 1½ tablespoons freshly grated ginger 1½ tablespoons minced garlic 1 tablespoon rice vinegar 3 tablespoons soy sauce ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes 3 tablespoons brown sugar 1 tablespoon cornstarch 2 tablespoons water 2 fresh scallions 1 hard boiled egg
1. Prepare soba noodles per package instructions—typically cooking in boiling water for 4 minutes and draining before running cold water over cooked noodles. Set aside.
4. Combine sesame oil, ginger, garlic, rice vinegar, soy sauce, red pepper flakes, brown sugar, cornstarch and water in a blender or food processor and blend until completely smooth. Set side.
2. Place a paper towel folded in quarters on a plate. Remove the tofu from the package and place the tofu on top of paper towel. Place another folded paper towel on top. Place a flat surface, such as another plate or a cutting board, on top of tofu and two 28-ounce cans or anything that weighs 2-3 pounds to help remove the water from the tofu. Let the tofu drain for at least 15-20 minutes.
5. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the cubed tofu to the pan and let fry for 3 minutes, flipping the tofu to brown all sides. Add the prepared sauce to the tofu and allow to cook for an additional 2-3 minutes. When the tofu is caramelized, remove to a plate.
3. Once dry, cut the tofu into 1-inch cubes and toss cubes with 1 tablespoon of cornstarch.
6. Place noodles in bottom of dish and top with ginger-soy tofu, scallions and hard boiled egg.
S AVO R
START TO FINISH: 35 MINUTES / SERVES: 4
1 16-ounce package farro 1 cucumber, either halved with seeds removed or an English-long variety, diced 1 9.5-ounce jar Kalamata olives, halved 1 16-ounce container cherry or heirloom tomatoes, halved or quartered 1 4-ounce container feta cheese, crumbled 1 5-ounce bunch of mixed greens, arugula or spinach
1. Cook farro according to packageâ€”typically add 1 part
farro to 2 parts water and bring to a boil. Cover and reduce to simmer for 20-30 minutes.
2. Layer cucumber, Kalamata olives, tomatoes, feta and
greens into mason jar or other container, adding as much of each ingredient as preferred.
3. Serve with favorite dressing, or a drizzle of olive oil
and balsamic vinegar.
B O DY
M I N D
S P I R I T
iconic alaska food favorites, reinvented
HEN YOU THINK ABOUT FOOD in the 49th state, you might think about wild game, fresh fish, traditional Alaska Native favorites or tundra staples like Sailor Boy pilot bread. But for those living with food allergies, blood-sugar issues and other conditions, Alaska culinary culture can be hard to stomach. Ingredients like milk or wheat flour can leave many of us (myself included) scrambling for an epi-pen or inhaler. So, in a quest to cater to more sensitive palates, I took to the kitchen in my tiny Downtown Anchorage apartment, hoping to work some gastronomical magic and recreate some of Alaska’s favorite foods. Here are my takes on three local staples, all free of meat, eggs, dairy, soy, wheat, corn, peanuts, tree nuts and refined sugar. While they may not taste too much like the originals, they’re fun, original and delicious ways for everyone to enjoy some of the Last Frontier’s most recognizable fare.
B O DY
1 cup coconut or palm shortening (non-hydrogenated) 2/3 cup xylitol 2 pieces of dried kombu kelp 1/2 cup of water 2 cups of mixed berries
M I N D
S P I R I T
1. In a large mixing bowl, drop in about 1 cup of non-hydrogenated palm (or coconut) shortening.
2. In a small saucepan, boil together the
water, dried kombu kelp and xylitol for 5 minutes. Remove kelp from liquid and allow to cool completely.
3. With a balloon whisk (electric or
hand crank works best) vigorously blend together the shortening and cooled liquid until well emulsified. You should end up with mixture that behaves similar to whipped cream.
4. Fold in mixed berries of your choice.
Garnish with a couple of mint leaves or spruce tips and serve.
B O DY
M I N D
S P I R I T
START TO FINISH: 2 HOURS / SERVES: 4-6
1 large eggplant 2 teaspoon pink himalayan salt 1 tablespoon smoked paprika 1 tablespoon of red beet powder 1 tablespoon kelp powder 1 tablespoon brown rice syrup fresh cracked black pepper ¼ cup sesame oil
Preheat your oven to 350˚F. Peel and slice the eggplant into long thin strips about ¼-½ inch thick. Set aside. In a large mixing bowl, mix all of the seasonings together. Toss the eggplant strips in the mixture until well coated. Set aside for about 1 hour. The salt in the seasoning mixture will cause the eggplant to sweat. After an hour has elapsed, pat dry the eggplant strips with a paper towel. In another large bowl, toss them in the ¼ cup of sesame oil until well coated. Place them onto a foil-lined baking sheet and put them in the oven for approximately 30-45 minutes turning them over once halfway through the cooking time. Allow to cool on a cooling rack. Sprinkle additional cracked black pepper if desired. Serve and enjoy!
LO O K
START TO FINISH: 60 MINUTES / SERVES: 2-3
Preheat your oven to 350˚F. Add all of the dry ingredients into a medium mixing bowl and whisk together until well incorporated. With a pastry cutter or fork, cut in the coconut oil until the mixture resembles coarse beach sand. Slowly add the ice cold water little by little and mix just until you get a pliable dough. Let the mixture rest in the fridge in a covered bowl for about 20 minutes.
½ cup brown rice flour ½ cup sorghum flour ½ teaspoon xanthan gum ¼ teaspoon salt 1 tablespoon GF (and corn-free*) baking powder 1 tablespoon evaporated cane juice ¼ cup coconut oil (or palm oil shortening) ¼ cup (+/-) ice cold water *Conventional baking powder typically contains either wheat or corn starch. Look for brands that use arrowroot or tapioca starch instead.
Place the dough onto a sheet of wax paper. With a rolling pin, roll out the dough until it is about ¼” thick. Use a circle cookie cutter or mason jar lid to cut out neat circular shapes. Poke holes into the pilot bread crackers with either a barbeque stick or fork. Transfer them onto a baking tray and bake for about 15-20 minutes or until golden brown. Allow to cool on a baking rack.
LO O K
Fr ed o m ng S ushi-challe
su shisnoot in 3
RAINBOW ROLL Diversity makes this rainbow roll shine. Thin layers of raw salmon, tuna, red snapper and sometimes escolar are expertly combined with avocado, crabmeat and sushi rice—a difficult technique that translates to complex tastes and colorful presentation.
s r e d r o
NIGIRI Ordering nigiri? The perfect bite is about 40 percent sticky rice and 60 percent fresh fish. Whether you choose tuna, salmon or something else entirely, the right proportions will take these simple flavors to the next level.
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HETHER YOU'RE A seasoned sushi savant or a complete novice, there are a few key things to look for when ordering this iconic dish—technique, proportion and creativity. At 61˚North, we homed in on the three common menu items that best showcase these qualities. Rainbow rolls feature a rich variety of seafood and fillers. Nigiri exhibits a delicate balance of fish and rice. Signature rolls give sushi chefs a chance to experiment with originality. Hungry yet?
SIGNATURE ROLLS Varying from restaurant to restaurant, signature rolls are a fun exercise in creativity. Look for rolls that show off local flavors and unique combinations— like Sushi Yako’s Kenai Roll.
DAMI JAPANESE RESTAURANT 642 E 5th Ave | Downtown Anchorage
SAKE N SUSHI BAR
639 W Intl Airport Rd | West Anchorage
CHEF'S SPECIAL: ORANGE ROLL
3501 Old Seward Hwy | Midtown Anchorage
11401 Old Glenn Hwy #103 | Eagle River
SALMON NIGIRI PINK ROLL KENAI ROLL
THE ART OF GREAT FOOD AT THE ANCHORAGE MUSEUM FIRST FRIDAY
Battle of the Breweries Beer Tasting Every Third Thursday
Friday After Hours at the Anchorage Museum Half-off appetizers from 4-6 pm
625 C Street, Anchorage, AK 99501 www.muse.anchoragemuseum.org
Public parking conveniently located beneath the museum on weekends and evenings.
LO O K
• Denise Thanepohn, O.D. • Patrick Reber, O.D. • Jim Falconer, Jr., O.D. • Ladd Nolin, O.D. • Ian Ford, O.D. • Joshua Cook, O.D. • Jessica Giesey, O.D.
Anchorage 1345 W. 9th Ave 272-2557 or 800-478-2557 Mon-Fri 8:30-6:00, Sat 8:30-4:00 Alaska Dispatch News Best Optometrists 2007-2015
Wasilla 1700 E. Parks Hwy 376-5266 or 800-478-5266 Tues-Fri: 8:30-5:30; Sat: 8:30-4:30
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LO O K
International Market Owners of Wasilla and Anchorage words and photographs by Rejoy Armamento
OOD AND MEMORIES GO TOGETHER LIKE POTATOES AND PIEROGIS. Inside jars of kimchi, grandfather used to hum songs. With freshly baked conchas dipped in coffee, auntie watched soap operas. That beautiful lady on the colorful packet of kare-kare seasoning speaks to you just like your mother would. The motions of buying ingredients, making the food and sharing it with others becomes a memory. And, in Anchorage and Wasilla, it all starts in a specialty market. The market owners, Alaskaâ€™s protectors of cultural memories, share why they maintain shelves chock-full of products from around the world. *All products above were bought from MĂŠxico Lindo, Alaska Halal International Market, New Central Market, Anzilotti's Tuscan Market & Deli and Eastern European Store & Deli.
LO O K
" WE KEEP THE FIESTA GOING!"
MARIA and EZEQUIEL HERRERA
México Lindo est. 2001
Mexico, Central and South America, the Caribbean WHAT'S POPULAR
concha bread, various types of mole, corn flour mix, Mexican cheeses, arepa, Inca Cola, raspado, plantain chips and dried, whole chilies (New Mexico, black pepper, puya, California, guajillo, ancho, vasillas, chile de árbol, cascabel) “¡LA COMIDA DE MÉXICO
es la mejor! (Mexican food is the best!) I’ve been cooking other kinds of food, but Mexican food is still the best,” says Ezequiel, founder of México Lindo. He misses Mexico, yet familiar flavors from the spices he keeps stocked on his shelves embody home and it’s like he’s back again. “We hold on to these memories by cooking the same exact way it’s done back in Mexico.” He used to cook for Greek and Italian
restaurants. It was the owner of one of those restaurants who encouraged Ezequiel to start his own business. They offer products that customers recognize, no matter what part of Latin America they’re from. “Mexican, Central or South American, we all use very similar ingredients,” says Maria. They even have a little raspado stand in their store so they can offer customers the traditional Mexican dessert made of shaved ice doused in fruity syrup, chunks of fruit and condensed milk. Customers can also enjoy fresh rosca de reyes, a sweet cake made every January. “We celebrate Jesus Christ’s birth on January 6. We make a rosca de reyes and put a little plastic toy baby in there. We usually put two or three babies,” says Ezequiel. “So, everybody gets together, cuts a piece of the rosca, and if you find the toy baby in there, you have to throw a fiesta at your house. We keep the fiesta going!”
LO O K
HYUN “SONYA” YOO and JOSEPH CLARK
New Central Market est. 1998 PRODUCTS FROM
Korea, China, the Philippines Japan, Thailand, Vietnam, India, Pakistan, Nepal, Pacific Islands WHAT'S POPULAR
kimchi, an original recipe made in-house; assorted banchans (Korean side dishes); rice cakes, namkeen (a spicy, salty afternoon tea snack in Indian culture), high-grade meats, fresh Asian pears, Thai basil, tons of Asian candies “I WAS AN EXPERIENCED
teacher for 17 years. I didn't know anything
about grocery stores,” says Sonya Yoo, founder of New Central Market. She came to Anchorage from South Korea and started out selling only fish with two chest freezers. It became a big hit with the Vietnamese and Filipino community, which encouraged her to start a grocery store. “My original market burned down … twice. My house burned down, too, around the same time. But, everything is good luck now,” says Sonya. “I am a survivor,” she adds. One product at a time, her store expanded to feature a plethora of Asian countries–even tossing in products from the Pacific Islands. She now runs the store on Northern Lights with her husband, Joseph Clark.
“We have the coolest customers! I didn’t get to learn about these food products by being a chef in some culinary school or anything like that,” says Joseph. “We learned just by listening to our customers. They taught us how to cook their food and we try to build upon that.” Here’s a neat success tip: watch TV. “A part of our success is that we watch international TV programs. They do product placement in a lot of soap operas, especially Korean ones. We see what’s hot and we have to get it for our store. Our customers are notorious for soap operas. A customer will ask for it, and already ahead of the game, we’re like, ‘We already got it. We saw it, too!’”
"OUR CUSTOMERS ARE NOTORIOUS FOR SOAP OPERAS." LAMINE JOBARTEH Alaska Halal International Market est. 2016
India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Ghana, Nigeria, Gambia, Senegal, Turkey WHAT'S POPULAR
Halal meats, palm oil, atta flour, couscous, biryani rice, Gambian findi lah “GAMBIANS LIKE FISH
with palm oil. It’s very spicy,” says Lamine, the owner of the Alaska Halal International Market. “My wife can describe the food better. I’m not lazy,
but I’m also not a very good cook.” A Gambian native and president of the Islamic Community of Anchorage, he saw the demand for halal in Alaska. “The Muslim population was growing, so I was looking at serving my community. Before, halal was very hard and inconvenient to bring it up here. We always got it from Seattle, Oregon, even as far as California.” Halal is what you label meat after it has been prepared according to Islamic cultural traditions. “You must respect the animal. You pray first for the soul of the animal before you slaughter it.
It must be grass-fed with no chemical products. We are very careful what we consume because you are what you eat,” says Lamine. Along with halal meats, he provides key ingredients for the variety of customers that come in. Ola-Ola cassava flour and palm oil is popular among African customers; for Pakistanis, biryani rice; Indians use atta flour for making flatbreads like naan and roti. “This is a very special store because all cultures meet here. I see them all. It’s a unifying factor, I must say.”
Eastern European Store & Deli est. 2008
Poland, Hungary, Germany, Russia, Macedonia, Croatia, France, Brazil, Bosnia, Ukraine, Albania, Austria, Bulgaria WHAT'S POPULAR
Over 90 varieties of sausages and cheeses, pierogi, pelmeni, borscht, European chocolates, cookies, loose candies, kvass, fresh German bread made in-house INSIDE THE EASTERN
European Store & Deli you’ll hear a conversation in Russian, then down a separate aisle, a snippet of Bosnian. For some customers, it’s familiar, warm–it’s home. To others, it’s gibberish, yet comforting because it feels like they’re “traveling,” sampling food from all over the world without having to step onto
Anzilotti’s Tuscan Market & Deli est. 2009 PRODUCTS FROM
Tuscany region of Italy, but also features various regions of Italy; some from Mediterranean region WHAT'S POPULAR
parma prosciutto, pecorino Romano cheese, D.O.P. olive oil, fresh cannoli, tiramisu, focaccia panini sandwiches, gluten-free pasta, lasagna “I’VE HEARD PEOPLE
say, ‘If the cook’s not Italian, I’m not going
to that restaurant!’ That’s crazy. There are awesome Filipino cooks, Mexican—you name it. They’re not just cooking their food,” says Wendy Anzilotti, who can relate. Not being Italian didn’t stop her from learning Italian cuisine. She grew up in Illinois and later married into an Italian family. “I did extensive research on tried-andtrue Italian cooking. I also learned from my customers who grew up with these products. We want to demystify Italian cooking. People think it’s going to be so hard. No, it’s really about quality ingredients. Their recipes are so simple.” Located in Wasilla, Anzilotti’s is a
family-operated grocery store with a deli and coffee shop. They pride themselves on making the freshest focaccia bread in town, made from scratch using their own original recipe. “Food–it’s memories. It’s what’s going on around you in your culture that makes you decide how to do something. Sometimes people don’t know why you do things a certain way. One customer told me about how their grandmother made cannoli shells. She would go get a broom and wrap the dough around the handle to make that shape! It’s because that’s just what they had.”
a plane. “There are some folks that come in and get weirded out. They can’t read the labels,” says Nonna Pryt. “However, 99 percent of the time, they’ll buy something; and most of the time it’s our chocolate. Our chocolates are one of our biggest hits. We especially have a larger selection of chocolates during the holidays.” Nonna’s parents arrived from Russia and wanted to share a little piece of their home with Alaska. So, they decided to open up a market, one in Anchorage and one in Wasilla. Customers unfamiliar with Eastern European cuisine can try traditional dishes made fresh in their store. “You have to try our pierogi. It’s like a dumpling, filled with potato, mushrooms and cheeses. Another delicious dish is our pork and chicken filled pelmeni, a traditional Russian food.” Then, wash it all down with a refreshing bottle of kvass, a fizzy liquid bread drink.
“ I WANT TO BE THAT ITALIAN CORNER STORE THAT EVERYONE GREW UP WITH. I WANT TO BE A PART OF PEOPLE’S MEMORY.” - Wendy Anzilotti
# W H AT W E LOV E
compiled by Joshua Genuino OPULAR TOY BRANDS like Shopkins and TokiDoki have made eyes on food a continuing trend. And who better to imagine that than some of Alaska's young artists? For this edition of What We Love, we tapped Gracie Occhino, age 7, to illustrate some of her favorite friendly foods.
Do you like to play with your food? Personify your plate and share it with us on Instagram at @ShareADN!
Travel off the beaten path with Alaskans who know the way.