An Authentic Alaskan Day in Icy Strait Point

Back to Alaska!
IMG_6926We cruise about 30 miles west from Juneau to Icy Strait Point located on Chichagof Island. This port is unusual in that it was literally created for cruise ships as a place for passengers to learn about the native Tlingit culture. It’s owned and operated by the natives of Hoonah, the only town here. All profits help support the community and this largest Tlingit village that has been around for thousands of years.

I have to admit that I was quite skeptical about this stop. I mean, it all sounded so IMG_6835organized and touristy that I really didn’t expect much. Fortunately, I met Tyler, one of the local guides who understood that my travels are mainly all about the food.

Our first stop was to the Cookhouse Restaurant where Tyler told me the old salmon cannery workers used to eat. This historic place serves amazing seafood and local beer plus one amazing tasting reindeer burger!  While I munched and drank, Tyler told me about the salmon cannery that began here in 1912. It operated until the 1950’s and then was used as a storage facility until the 1990’s. The Huna Totem Company then bought it and turned it into a museum showing some of the original machinery used.

My next stop was to meet Joanna Dybdahl  a local Tlingit woman who was going to demonstrate her salmon smoking techniques. According to Tyler, she has the best smoked salmon on earth and I was ready to find out for myself. We set up out on the deck of  the Duck Point Smokehouse with the beautiful glacier scenery behind us. Joanna sliced up a gorgeous looking silver salmon into strips that are then put in a brine of salt, sugar and soy sauce. After the brining, the strips are hung and smoked for about 6 hours in their special smokehouse. I get to try a finished product and it really and without a doubt was the best I ever had.

After that delectable stop, it’s time for more salmon at Alaska’s Wildest Kitchen where local fisherwoman, Dodi Lunda, hosts hands on cooking demonstrations and tastings. I get my own lesson in salmon dip made from canned sockeye salmon. She takes juice of a lemon, cream cheese, mayonnaise, green onions, cilantro and liquid smoke and just mixes it all up and there you have it. Simple, quick and tasty. The one can made quite a bit and Dodi said it will last for 5 days in the fridge. It’s a great appetizer that you can serve with crackers or vegetables.

On the way back to the ship we passed by a stand called the Crab Station where another Tlingit woman, Minnie was preparing and selling the Alaskan Crabby Marys. As you IMG_6912would guess, this is a Bloody Mary with crab! I had to try it. It was basically a meal in a cup with a huge plump shrimp and king crab leg plus a whole lot more crab mixed inside. It was quite the finish for this unexpectedly fun day.

I left that port feeling gratified and satisfied and with a new knowledge of a culture I had known very little about.

Cheers and all the best,

Zita

 

 

 

 

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From Crab to Gin in Juneau

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My ship arrives in Juneau, Alaska the state’s capital city and accessible only by boat or plane. There are roads  through the city that take you to the beautiful Mendenhall Glacier and Tongass National  Forest but, otherwise, most sites are in the downtown area.

I was surprised to find out that Juneau has a thriving and growing food scene, and I, of course, am ready to sink my teeth into some delicious food. Who better to do that with than one of Juneau’s best and most passionate food tour guides, Kelly (aka, Midgi) Moore.

I meet Midgi at the dock and we take a very short walk down the pier  to the first and most known spot, Tracy’s Crab Shack where owner, Tracy LaBarge is there to meet us.  While we sit and wait for our order to come, Tracy explains that it took many years (15 or so) to make her dream of having the “best legs in town” a reality. Now, she owns the shack as well as 2 other amazing restaurants in town, Salt (that I’ll be going to) and Saffron.  A bucket of huge crab legs are put down but there’s also crab bisque and cole slaw, rolls with butter and just a whole lot of food. I started with the bisque that was thick and crabby before attacking the legs. Forget the rolls although both Midgi and Tracy told me they’re great.

Further down the pier, we stop at Deckhand Dave’s Fish Taco Truck. Dave McCasland is a former commercial fisherman who cooked for his crew and developed a passion for opening up his own restaurant. For now, he has his funky food truck where he whips IMG_6760up the most delectable fish tacos as well as fish and chips. He gave me a sampler of beer battered halibut, blackened rockfish and panko salmon with a thirst quenching Alaskan beer that certainly hit the spot.

After all that, it’s a short walk further into town  for some unique Alaskan cuisine in the modern, stylish restaurant, IMG_6764Salt.  Chef Lionel Uddipa is there and takes me into his kitchen where he has me help him make his special king crab rissotto. Being a 3rd generation cook, he has developed his own incredible style and recipes and this rissotto includes ingredients like spruce and chive flowers. It was absolutely fabulous and I’m not surprised that Chef Lionel has since won the top award of King of Seafood at the Great American Seafood Cookoff. Well done Chef!

As Juneau is said to be one of the most beautiful capitals, I want  to see some of that beauty. Although I don’t have enough time to go to the well known Mendenhall Glacier,  I am taken to the very picturesque Glacier Gardens rainforest within the Tongass National  Forest.  This is a 50 acre botanical garden with unusual flower tower structures and diverse plants and has a great view over Juneau too.

It’s one last stop before heading back to the ship and what could be better than Juneau’s first distillery where they make their very own gin and call it Juneauper? In fact, Midgi explains they make their own tonic too and so a cocktail to toast and say thank you seems a very appropriate way to finish off this visit.

 

Cheers and all the best,

Zita

(more to come from Alaskan cruise on Holland America Line, MS Amsterdam)

 

 

 

Catching Fish in Ketchikan

I have finally made it to Alaska and the first town on this inside passage cruise, Ketchikan. This place is mostly known for fish and my plan for the day is to head out on a boat and, hopefully, catch some lunch.20170607_163646

Once again, I am fortunate to have sunshine on my side in yet another place where it usually always rains. I’m quite thankful as the thought of going out on a boat in the rain is not something I’d be looking forward to doing.

My team and I are met at the port dock by Chuck Slagle, owner of Baranof Fishing Excursions and our boat guide/Captain Todd who is extra happy to take us as it’s on20170607_145959ly his 2nd day back in the water this Spring season. They walk us over to the boating area where I am suited up in rubber overalls and handed the coolest pair of Xtra tuff boots to wear. (I find out  later that they are a gift for me!)

The water is quite calm and it’s an easy ride to our first stop where we throw in some crab pots to be picked up later on.  As we carry on to our fishing location, we see eagles and a couple of sea lions and then Todd spots some whales. He cuts the engine and we wait  for the whales to  “bubble”, This is when whales form a circle to catch prey by blowing bubbles as they swim to the surface. The bubbles trap small fish, plankton etc. for the whales to devour. Unfortunately, it didn’t happen but we did get to see a couple of whales breaching.

As soon as we get moving again, the boat is surrounded by a family of  porpoises jumping and zipping all around us. It was really incredible but they were too fast for anyone to get any photos.

Eventually we made it our fishing location and I  was handed a rod and instructed to let the weight stay at the bottom of the ocean and as I felt it move, reel out a bit more to keep it there. My husband was also fishing and within minutes caught the first fish, a rockfish. He then caught what we think was a flounder.  I also caught a rockfish  and then an even bigger yellow eye rockfish. Since none of us were catching any halibut which is what we were hoping for we moved to another spot and with Captain Todd’s fishing rod  caught a 42 inch ling cod. We had to let the smaller fish go and then went back to pick up our crab baskets. Although full, Todd had to  measure each crab and see what we could keep, Not too many in the end.

When we got back to the dock, we were met by Paris, the Chef of Alaska Fish Company who wanted to see what we got since he was planning to cook up our catch after Todd gutted and cleaned them. He was so thrilled to see we had a ling cod that he said is one of his favorite and tastiest fish. I was really looking forward to this meal.IMG_6574.JPG

The rockfish was battered in panko and fried to perfection and the ling cod was served 2 ways. The first was with a simple dill butter sauce and the second was blackened with special spices. Although we didn’t have enough crabs for a meal, Chef Paris added some other ones so we could get a taste of those as well. I enjoyed all of this with a flight of delicious Alaskan beers.  As it turns out, Chef Paris didn’t use all the fish we caught so they planned to ship the rest home for me. I was excited to share that with all our friends and family back in Florida.

This was such a fun day and I have to admit I’m ready to get my own fishing rod and see what I can catch back home.

Cheers and all the best,

Zita