Wednesday, September 10, 2014
Alaska The NEw Culinary Frontier
Saying Alaska is known for its culinary innovations is like saying it's known for its beaches.Yet this rugged state is starting to be recognized for delicate cuisine and innovative dishes.What is even more interesting is that most of the ingredients are locally grown. The chef who is changing this is Alaskan native , MArian Beck and the restaurant was her the Saltry.Julia Moskin was granted an interview with Chef Beck at the restaurant located on the wildly beautiful Kachemak Bay, across the water from Homer.The nearest town is Anchorage, located 220 miles to the northeast.This is not usually an area for gourmet restaurants however Chef Beck is from the area.She is shattering the concept of Alaskan cuisine being nothing more than salmon burgers and corned beef.Her list of ingredients are salmon halibut and cod, all fresh caught by herself as well as fresh picked rhubarb that grows during the area's short summer season. luckily Homer does have a farmers market and here she can buy other cooking staples.There are big leafed vegetables such as kale as well as multicolored root vegetables, cabbage and broccoli(basically what we call fall or winter veggies in these parts).There are also mushrooms and for fruit raspberries and huckleberries.She can also get Thai dumplings and Japanese noodles, along with halibut poke ,thanks to a surprisingly Hawaiian population.Her garden yields edible flowers, herbs and salad greens. She no longer cooks at it but hires chefs who can live up to her legacy. Chef Beck's restaurant maybe in a rustic area but her dishes were certainly not.She took the smaller. Sweeter halibut and turns them into seared filets.Their broth is a herbed affair, punched up with salsa verde.Risotto ,flecked with root vegetables is the side.Chef Adam Walker is the current chef at Saltry.He is following in Chef Beck's footsteps, using the local fish as the stars of the menu.Halibut is the star, it being the go to food for the population up there.It is a treat when it is air dried and then slathered in butter or dipped in seal oil.There is also the pickled salmon,another recipe from the Beck family.It is made from a local strain of China Poot.The flesh is a deep reddish orange.There are also vegetable nori rolls, a nod to the elder Beck's trips to Japan when he was the chairman of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council.While most of Saltry's desserts have locally grown fruits, the restaurant's crown dessert is a mile high chocolate cheesecake with imported European chocolate. Thanks to both Chef Marian Beck and Adam Walker, Alaskan cuisine is turning into a foodie must have.Gone are the salmon burgers and in their place, interesting ,locavore cuisine.It is changing ,being red hot in a cold climate.