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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A Day (No.. A Few Hours) in Provence

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Cruising on back into France, our ship docked at the busy and bustling port of Marseilles. Although this large old city had a rough and not so stylish past it has rebounded as a big tourist destination with its historical sites and landmarks as well as shopping and restaurants.

However, in my very few hours in the Provence region, my guide today, Sebastian, (Iamnotatourist) has some special out of town visits planned for me. First on the list is the absolutely charming restaurant, Le Bistrot du Paradou in the equally charming and stunning village of Le Paradou. Sebastian tells me that this quaint and off the beaten path restaurant is a favorite for the local Provencal people and one of his number one picks in the region. The interior is classic  French country with bare stone walls, long wooden and marble top tables and all kinds of photos and pictures hanging on the walls. There’s a pretty outside seating area surrounded by oleander bushes and herbs and the noisy roaring sound of the cicadas.

We are there on a Friday and the special is Aioli,  not just the sauce but a  dish of hot vegetables along with some type of fish and served with the special aioli sauce. I follow  Chef Quenin into his kitchen where he is painstakingly stirring the sauce made of garlic, olive oil and eggs. This is the traditional meal that is prepared and served every Friday.

Sebastian and I are served this huge plate of food (with salted cod) as well as salad Provencal and some local wine. As if all that were not enough, we are served a platter of cheeses and French bread and I am given a glass of Pernod to wash it all down.

Having cheese on the brain now,  we head off to Fromagerie Des Alpilles  where owner Mr Sequin and his family have prepared a tasting of more than just a few of their goat cheeses. But first,  I get to spend  time with goats again, (remember the goats in Corsica)!20160708_131138 After a tour of the small farm we head into the house where the actual cheese making takes place. Very briefly, the milk is put in big plastic vats to ferment. (Rennet is added after a few hours to help curdle the milk.) About 24 hours later the “cheese to be” is transferred to individual molds for further fermenting and drying out. (Salt is added at some point.) About another 24 hours later and this is actually edible delicious fresh goat cheese. Some of the cheese is left to ferment and mature and Mr Sequin’s claim to fame is adding herbs and various toppings and coatings. This is what he had lined up for me and  I had to figure out which ones I would try. I loved the black pepper coated creamy cheese and one coated in tarragon too. Basically, I loved them all and wish I could have taken some with me.

Time to wash that all down with some good wine. Driving  through the beautiful countryside we come to Les Baux de Provence and  Le Chateau Dalmeran. The magnificent winery is located beneath the Alpilles mountains and owner Beatrice Joyce, along with her dog Elliott, take us into the heart of the vineyards to do a tasting of a couple of her wines. It doesn’t get better than this.

We have one more visit before having to re board the Oosterdam and on the way we can’t help but stop to take in some of those spectacular views surrounding us.

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Arriving at Moulin Castelas, one of the best olive oil producers in the region, we meet owners Jean-Benoit  and Catherine Hughes.  While there’s no production taking place at the mill now, it’s still very special to hear the passionate story about why and how this olive mill was started in 1997 and the love the Hughes have for the land. I have a tasting of a few oils that  are rich with aromas and taste. The oils here are like the wines, dependent on the terroir, climate, varieties of olives used and how ripe the olives are. I was quite happy to be given a couple of small tins that I could quite easily fit into my suitcase!

Back on the ship and it was another relaxing night for a delicious dinner and time to catch up with my friends.

All the best,

Zita  

Lovely in Lucca

Before heading to Civitavecchia, Italy where I’d be boarding the Holland America Line Oosterdam that would be my home for the next 12 days, I spent a wonderful week in London and in Sussex, England visiting family. It was a nice break before buckling down and getting to work.
The first port on the itinerary was Livorno, Italy but I had pre-arranged with a local guide to take us to Lucca, an ancient medieval Tuscan city that has been on my bucket list ever since I learned there was a Saint Zita from the 13th century who lived and died there.|
Prior to visiting the church where St. Zita’s mummified body is on display, (yes, you read IMG_3448that correctly!)  I have an appointment with chef Giuliano Pacini of Buca di S. Antonio, a long established and very popular traditional Luccan IMG_3449restaurant. He wants to show me their methods for making pasta and so I am taken to their small and very warm kitchen where I find Chef Monica all ready to go. According to Giuliano, women are better pasta makers so he IMG_3459never makes it himself. I watch Monica do all the hard work while the Chef tells lots of entertaining stories that helps keep my mind off how hot it was in there.
I am then treated to a terrific pappardelle with porcini mushroom IMG_3488sauce that was quite flavorful yet subtle that was paired perfectly with a super tasty local red wine thanks to Sommelier Cristiano. Nice to know I’d be going to the Fattoria di Fubbiano winery later on and could be tasting some more. Chef Giuliano insisted that my crew and I stay for lunch and we devoured more pasta with a rabbit ragu, fresh bread & olive oil and a refreshing rosato to complete the feast.

My guide, Wanda Martinelli, (toursbylocals.com) is with me now and I am eager to  head to the Basilica ano de San Frediano to see the famous Saint. This imposing Romanesque church  is quite beautiful with its marble interior and many intricate chapels. I head straight to St. Zita’s chapel, where the Patron Saint of Maids and domestic servants is entombed in glass and on display for all to see. The story is that she was a maid for the wealthy Fatinelli family and they believed she was stealing bread to feed the poor. When stopped one day and asked to open her apron thinking they would find bread, instead it seems that flowers fell out. Her life is celebrated with a feast every April 27th and while I don’t know if I’ll ever be in Lucca for that event, simply visiting her now meant a lot to me.  20160630_143351

After that very special visit, what better than to enjoy some wine. First, I get to

admire 55,000 bottles at one of Italy’s best wine shops, Enoteca Vanni. The shop itself is rather tiny with just a few shelves lining the walls but down some steps you come to an amazing and ongoing cave filled with wine, whiskies and all kinds of treasures dating back years and years. I was hoping to get a sample of something but seems I would have to wait until the winery.

IMG_3599We drove  into the hills of Lucca and came to the stunning grounds of Fattoria di Fubbiano surrounded by olive groves and vineyards. This impressive property has recently added a new wine cellar and tasting room with temperature controlled steel tanks, large wooden tanks as well as some concrete vats. I met with winemaker Marco in the barrel room where I was honored to taste a Sangiovese out of one of the small French oak barriques. He told

me it was his first time tasting it since it went into the barrel just a few months ago. I have to say it was already quite delicious. The winery produces about 100, 000 bottles of wine per year protecting the local traditions and styles of the Colline Lucchesi  while continually striving to make their wines even better. I liked the fruitiness and easy drinking style of their wines. If only I didn’t have weight restrictions on my luggage I would have grabbed a few bottles to take with me.

It’s time to head back to the ship after a whirl wind few hours in lovely Lucca – a trip I will always remember.

Cheers and all the best,

Zita

 

 

 

 

 

Sampling of Spitz

It was such a great experience to meet Winemaker Johann Donabaum and taste some of his fantastic Gruner Veltliners and award winning Riesling thanks to Martin Wicke. This is a little sampling.

Cheers,

All the Best, Zita