A year ago a group of families in Anchorage decided to eat only local food, for an entire year. In a state where winter dominates. I was skeptical.
The Alaska Food Challenge ended this week, and, apparently it was easier than everyone expected. Saskia Esslinger, who lives in East Anchorage, grew tons of vegetables and fruit last summer. Saskia said her garden produced about 1,600 pounds last year and the garden is already flourishing this season. Her husband Matt shot a caribou for protein, they fished and bought a half a pig from a farmer in the Valley.
Saskia got pretty creative with her cooking, she used the lard from the pig as a substitute for olive oil. The three chickens at her house remain nameless, because they’ll eventually be used in a soup, and she used rhubarb juice as a substitute for cranberry juice.
The family was allowed a few ‘cheat’s’ like salt and pepper. They also decided that eating out would be allowed as long as they also had friends over for a second, all local meal.
Probably the number one question Saskia gets is what food did you miss?
“I missed coffee, a lot.” said Saskia, “I realized I can go without it, but that it really does make life a little better.”
Saskia said now that the challenge is over she’s decided to continue using mostly local products, but will buy a few other foods as well.
For more information on Saskia, and the Alaska Food Challenge check out these links.
Have you checked out Bridge Seafood? It’s that cute little restaurant in Ship Creek. It just re-opened, with new owners, this summer. This time Chefs Al Levinsohn and Patrick Hoogerhyde are running the place. Bridge is restaurant during the summer and a place for private parties and catered events during the winter. You can eat dinner and watch people fish for Kings in Ship Creek while you dine, because it actually was an old bridge when it was first built. I haven’t been able to stop by for dinner yet, have you?
All of our entrees choices include:
“Our All You Can Eat Starter Bar”
* Chilled Bering Sea Crab
* Fresh Alaskan Side Stripe Shrimp
* House Made Salads
* Sourdough Rolls & Our Signature Smoked Salmon Spread.
Today’s Entrees include:
Fresh Alaskan Sockeye Salmon 29.95 Fresh Alaskan Halibut 36.95
Fresh Alaskan King Salmon 34.95 Fresh Ale Battered Rockfish 29.95
Alaskan King Crab Legs 1# 49.95 Char Grilled Rib Eye 14oz 32.95
Fresh Alaskan Oysters ½ Dozen 10.95 Dozen 21.95
Fresh Alaskan Oysters Casino Style ½ Dozen 11.95 Dozen 22.95
Fresh Ale Battered Rockfish 10.95
Bridge Seafood Chowder Cup 3.95 Bowl 5.95
House Made Desserts
Rhubarb Strawberry Crisp with Vanilla Ice Cream 4.95
Chocolate Chip Bread Pudding with Caramel & Whipped Cream 4.95
Flourless Chocolate Decadence Torte with Whipped Cream 4.95
Vanilla Ice Cream 2.95
Confession: I don’t drink coffee. It makes me feel sick and I don’t like the taste, but, I do like the idea of it. There is something so appealing about being with people who order specialty coffee drinks at brunch. I love seeing people walk around in winter, clutching their paper cups filled with hot coffee.
This leads me to my new exploration of hot tea. After Alaska the longest I’ve ever lived somewhere is North Carolina with it’s tradition of sweet tea. Not to brag, but I think I’m a master at brewing a big pitcher of sweet tea. But cold tea doesn’t really work in the winter here so I decided to meet-up with Audrey Paule, one of the owners of Summit Spice & Tea Co. for a lesson on brewing, (3030 Denali Street, Suite 2).
She showed me three different types of tea: White, Oolong, and black tea.
The white tea was the lightest and most delicate. It had a sort of hay or grassy character but it was also sweet, slightly floral and a little bit nutty.
Oolong, which means it’s partially oxidated, was a little darker, not the deep brown color most of us are used to. It was a medium bodied tea, with a slightly flora flavor.
My favorite was the black tea. It had a deep, rich flavor that tasted like the more traditional teas that I’m used to.
Paule told me that tea drinking is the fastest growing specialty drink in the country.
“With tea there is such a range of flavors and variety,” Paule said, “you can play around with adding flavors and spices and fruits. Industry experts think there is a lot more potential for growth.”
Paule offers classes on tea, oil and vinegar, chocolates and honey. It ranges from $10, per person, to $15.
If tea isn’t your thing check out her store anyway, there are a ton of cool spices and specialty items that food lovers would love.