Back to Alaska!
We 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 organized 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 would 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,