Tuesday, May 27, 2008
Northern Exposure- Moose, Mountains, and Restaurants
As a rule, I don’t get along with Mother Nature. Despite being a liberal environmentalist, I’d rather spend an afternoon in a concrete jungle then a rain forest. I’ve often said if I ever bought a house I’d pave over any greenery. So as I prepared for my Alaskan vay-kay, I kept my expectations about the scenery in check. Then I got there and saw images like the one above. Seriously it was like the moment in The Simpsons Movie when Homer drives over the hill to reveal Alaska’s glory…except real and even prettier. We were centered in Anchorage, the most metropolitan area of the state but even then all you had to do is look up and see the surrounding mountains to have your breath taken away.
Of course my travels are much like my home life so many of my vacation activities were focused on food and drink. Sure we spent plenty of time at our host’s place enjoying exquisite raspberry weiss home brew and reindeer hot dogs but as is my habit we also ate out plenty. For such a remote city Anchorage certainly has no shortage of high quality food and of course the abundance of fresh seafood certainly plays a role in that. Here are some quick highlights:
Humpy’s: This bar/restaurant was our first stop and immediately we dove into seafood land. Their halibut fish and chips were fried perfectly. The fish was fresh and absorbed all the fried goodness and the fries were above average. We also had some mini King Crab cakes. A nice mix of crab and filler these dandies came with a great garlic aioli. Finally we tried a salmon spread that pleased my partner and her friend to no end. I’m not huge on salmon and the spread was too rich for me but for those that like salmon this seemed top notch. Probably my favorite meal of the trip.
Chair 5: While this was probably our most pedestrian meal of the trip, it certainly maintained the high level of quality. The service was sporadic as it was clear the beautiful weather had driven more customers in then the place expected but the burgers were cooked perfectly and our post dinner appetizer of chicken nachos were more then satisfactory. Plus the reverse beer snob in me has to love any place that has Pabst Blue Ribbon on tap.
Moose’s Tooth: Brewery’s are everywhere in Alaska. Whether it is in someone’s bedroom closet or in a pizzeria, you won’t have any problems finding a good beer. The Moose’s Tooth provided one of the beer highlights of the trip with a hard cider that was probably the best I’ve ever had, and a food highlight in the form of interesting pizzas. My party of four sampled four types of pizza on our visit. First up was a blackened halibut pie that was of course fresh and had a nice sear to it but lacked the expected spice. The chipotle steak pizza on the other hand had no problem in the spice department as the combo of peppers, steak and cheese danced on my palette and even had my reaching for my beer a couple of times. The roasted garlic chicken pizza also was a keeper as whole cloves of roasted garlic squished between my teeth with bits of spinach and ricotta cheese. Finally a 3 on 3 special of chorizo, Italian and polish sausage mixed with 3 types of mushrooms hit the spot as well. The chorizo in particular was of a high quality.
Glacier Brew House: While the beer here was great as well I have to mention the Apple Pear Sake-tini as a stand out. The drink was not overly sweet and the liquor not overpowering. Definitely a keeper cocktail. The food also was a hit. Once again I opted for halibut fish and chips and while Humpy’s was the best, this was a close second. The breading was a little heavier but the fish still stood out as the star. Their fries coated in parmesan where the best of the trip. My partner sampled their seafood chowder and declared it heavenly.
Snow City Café: We ended our trip with a Sunday morning breakfast that merits much love. The Snow City Café was the only place I had researched prior to going and based on their breakfast laurels I knew this was a place to hit. The café in downtown Anchorage is usually packed out the door but perhaps due to the holiday we were able to get in after a short wait. While the mix of scrambles, omelets, and stuffed French toast all looked delectable, it was the Heart Attack on a Plate that stole my heart. This was a coiffed mound of hash browns with peppers, onions, shrooms, and bacon topped with cheddar cheese. You could add eggs like my partner but that seemed like meaningless filler. Seriously this was one of my best breakfasts ever, especially right before a six hour plane ride.
So of course the food dominates my memories but I can’t stress enough how beautiful Alaska is. Considering we spent all of our time in and around Anchorage and that the state is the size of 7 Wisconsins, I’m eager to get back and see more.