Thursday, August 30, 2012

In a pinch, preserves

The magical thing about preserves is that they can save you in a pinch!

Like when you have dear friends over and are hopelessly out of milk and eggs and are on your last smidgen of butter.

Thankfully the fridge had strawberry preserves from our Swanton Berry farm adventure. And Mary Norwak's book of English puddings had the perfect fruit crumble recipe. 

Monday, August 6, 2012

Where to eat in the Last Frontier

We went to Alaska recently. The trip was amazing.  We saw lots of stunning wilderness (see top).  Caught some amazing salmon (sockeye! see below). And encountered many grizzly bears - some too close for comfort.

We also ate some amazing food.  The culinary scene has changed a ton since I was last in Alaska 10 years ago. This is no longer the realm of just hamburgers everywhere and impossible-to-find vegetables. There are some very special places that make local Alaskan ingredients sing in inventive ways that I strongly recommend.

I'll save the rustic, off-the-beaten-path local joints for a future post.  But for now, let me tell you about my favorite restaurant in Alaska.

229 Parks Restaurant and Tavern is a lovely new spot that's just past mile marker 229 (229.7 to be exact) on the George Parks Highway to Denali National Park. 8 miles south of the "glitter gulch area," this hidden spot is a sparkling gem in Alaska's interior.

Everything about 229 Parks is local, organic and fresh. Owner and Chef Laura Cole was the executive chef at Camp Denali and the North Face Lodge prior to opening 229 Parks with her husband.  This is her first full-fledged solo venture. This woman is gifted beyond the kitchen - her inspired and talented hand is evident in so many of the restaurant's details from the colorful wildflowers growing around the outside, to the carefully designed cabin that 229 Parks sits in and to the local folk art adorning the walls.

And Chef Cole has certainly done phenomenal things with the fare. The menu features seasonal, fresh ingredients that are sourced locally as much as possible. The kitchen even has its own garden.  The star dish when we dined was a plate of Alaskan King Crab ravioli in a butter-lemon sauce, garnished with sweet little nasturtium (above, top). And anything with spot prawns from this kitchen just sings - especially when paired with their house-made prosciutto (above, bottom). The ice cream sandwich dessert it also not-miss-able (below).

The level of creativity and precision in the flavors that come out of the 229 Parks kitchen are even more remarkable given the resource constraints facing any upscale restaurant in Alaska. It's simply harder to get high quality ingredients, especially in a location so near to Denali, which is largely uninhabited for 6-8 months of the year. So if you make it to 229 Parks after a 13 hour bus ride to Kantishna and back in pure wilderness, as we did, you will really relish it!

And if you're lucky, you may spot a moose as you very slowly walk your stuffed self back to your car. . .

229 Parks
Mile Post 229.7, George Parks Highway