In mid-July, Local Pickins spent a week on the Kenai Peninsula, a large landmass which juts out of Southcentral Alaska. Seeking adventure, we hunted down bears at Hallo Bay, hiked to an ice field, and scoured this remote area for Alaskan eats.
We spent the first three days in Homer, a community located on the shores of Kachemak Bay, and known for both its access to world-class bear viewing, and its halibut fishing. At the base of the Homer spit, at the Kachemak Bay Oyster shellfish booth, where you’ll find some of the freshest oysters in the world.
A product of the cold glacier waters of Alaska, Kachemak Bay Oysters have a clean and sweet taste. Sitting on the deck overlooking the pristine waters of Kachemak Bay, I learned how to shuck an oyster and chew (not just swallow!) the plump meat with just a dash of lemon (no hot sauce needed.) If you can’t make it to Alaska, not to worry. Kachemak Bay Oysters will ship to your door or you can find them at the renowned Grand Central Oyster Bar in New York City.
If you’re lucky enough to be in Homer on a Wednesday, be sure to stop at the Homer Farmers’ Market to meet local farmers and artisan producers. Eager for more of the delicious regional oysters, we headed directly to the Jakolof Bay Oyster Co. booth. Unfortunately, they only had mussels left, and we were unwilling to compromise on our filter feeder of choice. Instead, we snacked on radishes and enjoyed a veggie chai from The Apothocary Jar, made with local beet and kale juices, spices, agave nectar, and soy milk. Before leaving Homer, we stopped on the spit at La Baleine Café for a lunch of locally-grown ingredients. We loved their smoked salmon cardamom dip with Alaska Chip Company potato chips, and the Alaskan salmon bowl with brown rice and miso ginger dressing (ask them to put a chive flower on top!).
Next stop: Kenai Fjords National Park. On our way, hoping for some road-trip ice cream, we stopped in the coastal city of Seward, Alaska and were happy to discover Sweet Darlings Candy Store. We satisfied our sweet tooth with homemade peanut butter chocolate fudge and four scoops of gelato: coffee chocolate chunk, banana, pistachio, and vanilla. And then promptly burned it all off hiking in the breathtaking park…right?!
We spent our last day in Alaska in Anchorage, exploring the farmers’ market and making stops at the city’s best eateries. We started the day at Snow City Cafe, voted the city’s best breakfast 9 years in a row, and fueled up on housemade granola, blueberries, and soy milk. Then we headed downtown to stroll through the Anchorage Farmers’ Market and Festival. It was no surprise to see many kinds of jerky for sale, including salmon, reindeer, venison, and buffalo. Alaska’s Best wild salmon jerky stick slow smoked over cherry and alderwood made for a perfect snack while walking through the market. We also owe a big thanks thanks to Kahiltna Birchworks for introducing us to birch syrup, made from the sap of paper birch trees in Alaska’s forests. It has a distinct rich, spicy-sweet, caramel-like flavor that’s more potent than maple syrup. With its very limited production, this was a rare and tasty treat. We bought some to bring home and have on our pancakes mornings when we were feeling adventurous and nostalgic for Alaska.
Just south of downtown Anchorage, you’ll find an artisanal bakery called Fire Island Rustic Bakeshop that is more than worth a visit. The gluten-free salted caramel and dark chocolate tart with pecan crust that we ate was delicious, and if we could have, we’d have sampled much more. Next time I’m in Anchorage, I’ll come back for one of their whole-wheat focaccia sandwiches! We had a great adventure in Alaska eating fresh seafood and savoring the unique flavors of the Kenai Peninsula. Our trip was filled with new experiences that left us with a new appreciation for phrases like “fresh seafood” and “farm-to-table”. We’re already planning our next trip to The Last Frontier – should we bring you back a bottle of birch syrup?