When I was a kid, I craved adventure more than I did any kind of tasty morsel. Being as dramatic as I was, I’d tell my parents, “I’m a big city girl trapped in a small town”. I grew up in a small(ish) town in Eastern North Carolina and I fell in love with any place, whether in movies or magazines, bigger and more colorful than the place I grew up. There’s plenty of culture in the South. It’s bursting at the seams with history, flavor, and colorful people and it has been bursting at the seams for hundred of years. Sometimes, it feels as thick and sticky as sweet tea. Regardless, the South’s was a kind of culture I didn’t necessarily acknowledge as being significant in childhood. Now that I moved away, it’s a culture I’ve grown to respect and appreciate more. More on that later.
I never moved to New York or Paris. Age 25 passed and I didn’t come anywhere close to meeting my “Visit 25 Countries by the time I turn 25” goal, one I set for myself when I seventeen. I didn’t come close. However, unexpectedly, I did move to a place that redefined me in the most profound way and changed my perspective about my own life and the world around me. I didn’t necessarily find it in my own back yard, but I did find it in my home country.
That cultural experience comes at a price and in Alaska’s case, it’s solitude and making-do. I’ve gotten used to buying everything I need at one (of two) store; you can buy fishing licenses, heating oil, guns, and Oreos all in the same place. However, it’s absolutely necessary that I get in my car, drive 6 hours, and shop at Target or Nordstrom every once in a while.
I got my Anchorage fix last week when Chris and I went down to the big city for a work conference. I can truly say, now that the everyday luxury of variety is relative to the big box stores we have in Fairbanks, it’s always a treat to head down for the shopping, the scenery, and (of course) the food.
Some of our favorite eateries in Anchorage:
Breakfast/lunch/brunch: Snow City Cafe
* What to order: I’ve never had a bad meal here, and I consider myself a frequent flier at this point. My absolute breakfast favorite is the Kodiak Benedict: poached eggs, Alaska king crab cakes, toasted english muffin, house-made hollandaise, garnished with green onion. Need I say more?! My lunch favorite is the BLT with a side of Creamy Tomato soup. What makes those two run-of-the-mill diner “regulars” so special? The BLT is LOADED with about half a pound of bacon and the Alaskan sourdough bread is slathered with a house-made garlic/herb mayo. I just drooled on my keyboard. Wash either down with whatever local beer they have on tap, and you won’t be disappointed.
Pizza/Beer:30: Moose’s Tooth
*What to order: Beer and pizza. My favorite is the Thai chicken pizza with peanut sauce, chicken, mozz, julienned carrots, and bean sprouts. Chris’s favorite is the Brewhouse Favorite, which is loaded with a pesto/marinara sauce, italian sausage, sundried tomatoes, mozz, provolone, and red onion. They have a decent gluten free pizza, too.
The Brewskies: All the beer is delicious and pretty stout. The Fairweather IPA and Hard Apple Ale are some of my favorites.
Ethnic Food: Bombay Deluxe
*What to order: The lamb korma, palak paneer (veg), and aloo paratha (naan like bread stuffed with peas and potatoes) make for a kick-ass meal.
My absolute favorite meal of all the days was at a little 40 top restaurant called Ginger; the ambience and setting was intimate, modern, and very clean (clean lines, clean decor, clean lighting). I felt far away from Alaska while I was sitting at the table drinking my Cabernet Franc. This place serves some of the best Pacific Rim cuisine in the state. This was my first time eating at the place, though I’m certain everything on the menu is praiseworthy. Chris and I were torn about the variety of food we were going to order, and we finally decided on a pork themed meal. Yes, the only criterion for our sexy, delicious dinner was that it had to contain pork.
*What I ordered: Pork satay with bibb lettuce and house-made cucumber kimchi, five-spice ribs with thai peanut noodles, and sweet and sour pork over a bed of coconut jasmine rice. My friends, this wasn’t the chewy, bite sized, peanut oil flavored crap you get from your local Bamboo Panda. This was the most tender, mouth watering pork shank tasted by man. I asked our waiter how much time went into preparing the pork, and he said it takes days to cook. Winter challenge: replicate Ginger’s Sweet and Sour pork to share with the hungry people of cyber space.
Christoph and I came back to a balmy 40 degrees/rainy weather. After being gone most of the week and having someone else cook for me, I went with something quick and easy, a one pot meal (kind of), and it turned out pretty good.
- 1 cup plain greek yogurt
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 6 cloves garlic, minced
- A splash of white wine
- 4 Tbsp fresh oregano (separated)
- 1 lemon, zested, juiced, and cut into thin slices
- ½ tsp salt
- freshly cracked pepper
- ¼ bunch fresh parsley
- 4 lbs dark or white meat chicken pieces (preferably skin-on)
- 1 cup long grain brown rice
- 2¼ cups chicken stock (or water)
- To make the marinade, combine the yogurt, olive oil, wine, minced garlic, half of the oregano, salt, and some freshly cracked pepper in a bowl. Use either a fine holed cheese grater or a zester to scrape the thin layer of yellow zest from the lemon into the bowl (reserve the lemon juice and lemon slices for the rice). Stir until the ingredients are well combined. Roughly chop a big handful, or about ¼ bunch, of parsley and stir it into the marinade.
- Add the chicken pieces and marinade to a gallon sized bag. Remove as much air as possible, close the bag tightly, and massage the bag to mix the contents and make sure all the chicken is coated. Refrigerate 30 minutes to 4 hours.
- After marinating, pull the bag from the fridge and preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
- In a large, greased casserole dish (9×13), combine chicken stock, uncooked rice, 2 Tbsp of oregano, and lemon juice. Place a wire rack (I used a baked goods cooling rack) over the casserole dish and spray with cooking spray. Place the chicken pieces on wire rack; pop everything in the 375 degree oven for 45-60 minutes, or until golden brown on top.
- *Note: the chicken fat will drip into the rice; I think it makes it incredibly rich and flavorful. If you don't want to consume that much saturated fat, cover the casserole with tin-foil and fold the corners up to prevent the grease from spilling.
- Serve with greek salad.
While I was cooking, I was listening to:
This is definitely an oldie but AWESOME! I may not be able to muster up the energy to cook a big meal, but I can always muster up the energy to dance to a little Sam Cooke while I’m cooking.