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,







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,













Sunny in Seattle

I finally made it to Seattle, Washington. It’s a city I’ve wanted to visit for a long time and so I was quite happy to hear that my cruise to Alaska would begin and end there. My husband and I flew out a couple of days ahead of our cruise so that we could adjust to the time difference and enjoy some free time before we’d get down to filming.

We chose to stay at the Inn at El Gaucho in the Belltown neighborhood since this would be close to the cruise terminal as well as a lot of the city’s main sights. What a gem of a place this turned out to be. It’s a small boutique hotel with an old world kind of vibe, quite retro really. The staff were so friendly and helpful that even when we checked in close to midnight, we were helped with our luggage, given cookies and a welcome note and they even called the restaurant downstairs to make sure we could get 4something to eat and drink. My midnight snack turned into a gluttonous rack of sticky pork ribs and a couple of glasses of the Willa Kenzie Estate Giselle Pinot Noir. I’d say a quite tasty start to this trip.

It was so fantastic to wake up and have sunshine in a city where it’s known to rain pretty much on a daily basis. My husband and I took off walking and found CJ’s Eatery, a scrumptious place for breakfast where I had the best salmon eggs benedict and delicious Seattle Coffee. Feeling fueled up, we made our way to the Seattle Center for a closer look at the Space Needle, walked around in the Armory (where a Phillipine festival was taking place) and continued on the famous Pike’s Place Market, one of the country’s oldest continuously operating farmers markets that is also one of Seattle’s most visited locations. I can see why with the 500 or so vendors selling pretty much everything. Of course the flying fish at the fish market is a must see.5

On our way back to the hotel since it was nearing happy hour, we popped into a pretty looking bar called Absinthe. The name says it all with a huge list of absinthe cocktails as well as a nice list of wine and beer. My husband and I both figured that absinthe would do  us in  for the night so we opted for a glass of house white wine with an order of pork wings to tide us over until dinner.

Dinner turned out to be a special treat at Dahlia Lounge, one of Seattle’s long established and distinguished restaurants started by renowned Chef Tom Douglas back in 1989. We enjoyed a selection of their “tastes from the sea” with black cod, Dungeness crab, tuna and rockfish.9

The next day began with sunshine again and brunch at Revel, a kind of Fusion like Korean place in the artsy neighborhood of Fremont. I had their Revel ramen with pork belly, kimchi and a soft boiled egg served hot. (They give you a choice of cold or hot.) It was a quite tasty and filling breakfast to say the least and I was glad to have a few hours to digest and unwind before filming later in the day.

Around 3PM, we were picked up by our guide James from Show Me Seattle and taken to Aqua by El Gaucho, a magnificent seafood restaurant on the waterfront. The restaurant’s lovely General Manager, Sivi arranged for me to be in the kitchen with Chef Wes while he prepared and cooked one of his special halibut dishes for me and then the three of us sat down to chat with a glass of Sancerre and this incredibly fresh fish dish.

From that beautiful location it was off to historic Pioneer Square, Seattle’s oldest neighborhood and a stop at Good Bar for some tasty cocktails and yummy food with owner Nancy Kelly. She ordered us the fabulous Commercial Bank #2 –  shochu, lychee liqueur, yuzu, shiso tincture, orange oil and the Barbecue Burns -islay scotch, campari, bénédictine, charred hickory, sparkling rosé and candied fresno pepper plus mussels, sloppy joe and a cheese plate. Oh yes- this really is a good bar!

Next on my plate were oysters! We headed to Taylor Shellfish and Oyster Bar just a few blocks away where I was given a mountain of crab and a dozen of the most delicious oysters I’ve ever eaten. Thanks Tom for this incredible tasting.

There was still one more stop that night at Saltys, another waterfront restaurant but across the bay on Alki Beach with the best views of the Seattle skyline. We were unexpectedly greeted by owners Gerry and Kathy Keegan who generously offered me their grand seafood platter full of Dungeness crab, oysters, tuna poke and prawns as well as calamari, crab cakes and their famous seafood chowder along with some Washington State Riesling. What a terrific ending to this 2nd sunny day in Seattle.

When I woke up the next day and the sun was shining yet again, I couldn’t  help but feel overjoyed. It was the perfect day to tour around and see the beauty of the city before we’d be heading to the cruise ship. But first, our stomachs were rumbling and it was time17c for a full on greasy spoon breakfast. Dave, our guide/driver for that day eagerly took us to The 5 Point Café, he said his  favorite local “dive” that has the best breakfast around. After filling up on eggs, chorizo and spicy black beans at this unusual but fun place, we spent a couple of hours just driving around the city before we were taken to the port.

Although the visit was short, I enjoyed so much about this pretty city and looked forward to one more day there after returning from the cruise.

Cheers and all the best,






Anchors Away to Alaska

Hello everyone,

Well here I am back from another amazing expedition for our show, “All the Best with Zita Keeley”. Starting and ending in Seattle we cruised through the inside passage of Alaska with some amazing stops in Ketchikan, Icy Strait Point, Juneau, Anchorage, Homer, Kodiak, Sitka and Victoria BC. Not to mention, the beautiful Tracy Arm Glacier and Hubbard Glaciers.

I have so many photos to sort through (over 3000) and stories to write about so keep a look out. At this time, I want to shout out to all my wonderful new friends on the other side of the USA for their unbelievable generosity, kindness, fun, time and delicious food. I will acknowledge each of you in my individual blog posts.  I also want to thank Holland America Line and all the staff of the MS Amsterdam who helped us along the way.

Cheers and all the best,



A Bit from Barcelona, Spain

Here’s a little bit (or bite) from our Barcelona, Spain segment from All the Best with Zita Keeley. We had such an amazing day filming with Yves Nicolier.

It was a great ending to our Holland America Line Mediterranean cruise on MS Oosterdam.

Enjoy and cheers,


Marseille, France (Provence) A Taste on All the Best with Zita Keeley

Here’s another little look at one of our tasty destinations. Full episodes will be airing on Sky Network’s Holiday & Cruise TV. Enjoy!