Alaska Food, Wine & Travel originally began as Alaska Food & Wine, a site for insider information about Alaska cuisine, restaurant reviews, chef news, recipes, and other tips. Since that time, extensive work-related travel has kept us on the road – and up in the air – much of the time.

In upcoming weeks we’ll be revamping the site to include travel tips, destination information, and reviews of hotels and restaurants from a wide range of destinations. Please join us for what promises to be a wild ride!

(Updated 2/1/15)

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Over the past 2 1/2 years I’ve had extensive domestic travel for work, travel that took time away from my presence here. But the prize for spending that time away from home, engaging in my profession, translated to the accumulation of airline miles and hotel points that have been used for some wonderful leisure trips.

During the past 18 months I have the good fortune to be able to fly in the pointy-end of the plane on some terrific international airlines – Emirates, Qantas and Cathay Pacific for starters. I was able to travel to Dubai and Hong Kong twice, staying at a variety of wonderful hotels. Australia was sandwiched in the middle (my third trip to that country), with wonderful stays in both Melbourne and Sydney.

Of course, all of the air travel, airport lounges and hotels were filled with fabulous culinary offerings and fine beverages – heaven forbid that I should ever miss a meal. But it wasn’t all glam and glitz. There were off-the-beaten path culinary explorations within the various cities – particularly into the ethnic sections and working class areas where locals reside, places where travelers make only a rare appearance. Meanderings accompanied by fun and funny adventures, a few misadventures and, of course, lots of food.

My question to you, dear reader, is this: Which parts of the world, which adventures – and oh, there were many – do you have an interest in hearing more about? Please tell me in the comments section which destinations are of most interest to you for future posts and articles.

Thank you in advance for your input!

Lately it seems to be a rare event for me to eat out while I’m in my home city of Anchorage. These days, most of my dining seems to be done on planes or at mediocre airport hotels due to work and leisure travel that’s consumed me over the past two years. There will be more on the topic of travel to come in future posts, but for now let us focus on food.

Recently a friend and I had a wonderful dinner at Maxine’s Fireweed Bistro. We ended up sharing all of the dishes – with minimal bickering, I should point out – at least minimal bickering in regard to the food.

Our starter was tempura pork belly that was light and crunchy outside while bursting with juicy pork inside – all without a hint of grease.

Tempura Pork Belly Appetizer

Tempura pork belly appetizer

Both entrees were equally good in their own ways. The evening’s Bistro Steak was local elk loin seared medium rare, served with fiddlehead ferns and Continue Reading »

There’s definitely something to be said for the warmth of a cozy, family-owned neighborhood restaurant. A place where you can find hearty portions of soulful comfort food, prepared with care by the owner and served by an attentive staff. Here in Anchorage, Little Italy Restaurante has been filling that role by crafting traditional – and a few non-traditional – Greek and Italian dishes for 30 years.

Warm tones and lighting at Little Italy

Warm tones and lighting  provide a comfortable setting at Little Italy

In a town like Anchorage, where restaurants breeze in and out like the blustery Chinook winds, family-owned Little Italy’s longevity speaks volumes about camaraderie and customer loyalty. Guests appreciate the care owner Spiros Gialopsos and his staff put into the ample plates of food – and also the attentiveness of the staff under the guidance of P.J. in the front of the house.

This is a place to go to enjoy the types of food that you might be too intimidated to try cooking at home. For me, that means diving into a large appetizer of spanakopita made with fresh sautéed spinach dotted with tangy feta, seasoned with herbs and onions, then Continue Reading »

I had the opportunity to dine at Le Cirque during a recent trip to Las Vegas. This New York City fine dining outpost is located in the lovely 5-star Bellagio Hotel and Resort, and is one of the cornerstones of the hotel’s dining experiences. My expectations for the restaurant were quite high, but both the floor staff and kitchen fully delivered with an amazing meal and a very memorable evening.

My recommendation is to definitely go with the Le Cirque dégustation menu rather than ordering a la carte, and certainly do opt for the lovely wine pairings. You will not be disappointed. Unlike some tasting menus, you will have an element of control in the selection of your dishes while still experiencing the full range of what the chef and his staff can create. The exemplary service from the wait staff and sommelier at Le Cirque is professional and attentive without feeling at all intrusive.

Amuse bouche - uni 'ice cream' with ginger-lemon grass gelee -- Le Cirque Restaurant

An amuse bouche of uni with caviar – Le Cirque

Although I ordered the snow crab as my starter, I was surprised when the waiter brought a lovely amuse bouche of uni with lemon grass gelée and a fennel puree. It was sublime, as was my actual starter of snow crab with turnip, apple, avocado and pomegranate.

Sautéed foie gras with pear confit – and a salty caramel sauce – did not disappoint. It was delicate and Continue Reading »

We were invited to watch six stellar Alaska chefs compete in the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute’s First Annual Great Alaska Seafood Cook Off held last evening. It was a fierce battle held amidst hoards of raucous seafood fans anxious to learn who will represent Alaska at the Great American Seafood Cook Off to be held in New Orleans in August.

Contenders for the coveted title included: chef Aaron Apling-Gilman (Seven Glaciers Restaurant); chef Kristi Skaflestad (Chipper Fish Restaurant, Hoonah); chef Christopher Vane (Crush Wine Bistro); chef Mary Helms (JBER); chef Gil Turturici  (The Chart Room, Kodiak); and chef Kevin Lane (Alaska Culinary Academy, Seward).

The winner: Troll caught while King Salmon pinwheel over a spinach cake, atop a polenta cake

If you’ve ever watched culinary competitions you know that typically the chefs are given a secret ingredient. This cook off had a different twist — contenders had to provide all of their own Alaskan seafood products and the ingredients required to create their recipe. There was no pantry to raid, no advance cooking allowed, and no prepped items could be used other than pre-washed greens or peeled vegetables. One hour was allotted for the chefs prepare, plate, and serve their signature entree to the panel of judges.

Speaking of judges, the room was lit with a panel of seafood luminaries including chef Christine Keff from the Flying Fish in Seattle, Continue Reading »

ORSO Restaurant has weekly specials based on the owner’s philosophy, “a great bottle of wine doesn’t need to cost more than a dinner.” Each week they offer one case of wine at an incredible value that won’t break the bank. But like any great promotion, there’s a catch: There’s only one case – 12 bottles – and it’s first come, first served.

This week’s the Case of the Week takes you to Tuscany, quite fitting given ORSO’s culinary influences from the region.

Ruffino Chianti Superiore

The Sangiovese notes are dominated by violets and ripe cherries which are well integrated with the spicy scents of vanilla and, lightly, of cloves. On the finish the fruity sensations become riper and reveal elegantly toasted sentors of plum jam. Tasting profile: Very smooth, yet fresh and lively. The mature tannins are sustained by the harmonious fruity structure, where alcohol and acidity reach an ideal balance. The long aftertaste leaves notes of mature cherries.

Recommended ORSO Menu Pairings:
Antipasto, Grilled Ribeye, Osso Buco, Alaskan Salmon, or ORSO’s Traditional Chicken Parmesan
75% Sangiovese and 25% other red varieties admitted by Chianti Superiore code production (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Canaiolo).
Please visit ORSO soon to claim your wine special!