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Spring arrived 5 weeks ago and with it the spring fever that has been taking its toll on me the past few weeks. It’s not creating a frenetic push, rather it’s leading to a dreamy – almost delirious – state of plotting details for upcoming travels and planning opportunities to dine out at new restaurants.

Here in Alaska spring does not always translate to warmth, as temperatures easily drop into the 30s during the night. It’s nippy enough that a cracking fire helps take the chill out of the evening air. Before a leisurely dinner party, I find it’s nice to relax by the fireplace, chat with my friends, and nibble some appetizers before putting the finishing touches on our dinner. For a retro-twist, it’s fun to serve a classic cocktail to sip alongside with those appetizers.

 

Classic cocktails by the fire

Yes, I realize this site has the word “wine” in the name — but sometimes it’s interesting to shake things up a bit. Literally. Everyone should have at least one or two traditional shaken cocktail recipes in their repertoire. Here are three versions to file away for your next dinner party or “Mad Men” themed evening. Cheers!

Classic Vodka Martini (Adapted from The Spir.it)

Ingredients

2 ounces vodka (Skyy or Absolute)
1/2 ounces dry vermouth (Martini & Rossi or Noilly Prat) Continue Reading »

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The best deal in Anchorage dining is the $39 3-course dinner at Simon & Seafort’s. This isn’t an ‘early-bird’ or tasting menu. Portions are full size and include some of Simon’s most popular dishes.
 
Start with their red king crab and artichoke dip, move on to rock salt roasted prime rib, finish with vanilla burnt cream — or enjoy your own combination from the selection of restaurant favorites. Simon’s special deal is available through March 31, so don’t miss out. Make your reservations today and take advantage of 4 star dining at 2 star prices.

Simon & Seafort's Restaurant March Trio Menu

Simon & Seafort’s March Trio (AKA “March Madness”) Menu: 

First Course

Oven Roasted Red King Crab and Artichoke Dip
Flash-Seared Teriyaki Tenderloins  Continue Reading »

Last month I read a moving essay by Monica Bhide, published in Bon Appetit magazine, “Save Your Recipes, Before It’s Too Late.” In essence, it was the personal tale of how a poignant cookbook and a trip around the world taught a burned-out food writer the true meaning of cooking, eating, and family.

Burned out? In search of meaning? Yes, I can relate to those feelings.

The book providing inspiration to Ms. Bhide was “In Memory’s Kitchen,” a compilation of recipes written by women at the Terezín concentration camp in Czechoslovakia during the Third Reich. A very powerful book.

An excerpt: “These women were eating potato peels and scraps salvaged from garbage piles, but recording from memory recipes for chocolate tortes, roast goose, plum strudel, Bavarian bread … They scribbled their cooking instructions on the backs of propaganda papers passed out at the camp. Writing down their recipes gave these prisoners hope that perhaps someday life would return to normal, if not for them, then for their children or grandchildren …”

I am not a concentration camp survivor. Sure, I’ve weathered difficulties during my years. The life-changing stresses of Continue Reading »

One of my favorite local appetizers is Sashimi Hali’imaile, a dish that explodes with flavors that are as vivid and crisp as the pleasing colors that meet the eye.

A bed of crisp greens and julienne vegetables provides the foundation for Napoleon-like layers of smoked salmon, crispy wontons and ahi, all topped with a dollop of caviar. Sesame seeds and capers dot the dish.

This appetizer may draw its inspiration from Hawaii, but it is the creation of the Danish-born Alaskan chef, Jens Hansen, owner of Jens’ Restaurant in Anchorage. A colorful, bright plate that bursts with flavor is just the ticket when winter lasts for 7 often dreary months. Locals who are unable to escape to Hawaii can instead sidle up to the bar in the bustling little bodega at Jens’, sip a glass of wine from the extensive list, and imagine a tropical paradise while savoring a bit of fresh sashimi.

Insider Tip: Timing is important. You don’t want to be in the middle of your meal and miss the tradition. Each night at precisely 10 PM the music switches to Eric Clapton’s “Layla” — and dancing is encouraged.

Sashimi Hali'imaile from Jens' Restaurant

Jens’ Restaurant
701 West 36th Avenue
Anchorage, Alaska 99503
(907) 561-5367
Jens’ Restaurant Website

Jens' on Urbanspoon

If you missed our Oscar’s evening buffet, you missed a chance to sample these juicy – but dainty – pork tenderloin sandwiches, each draped provocatively in feta aioli. But unlike the luxurious Oscar gowns adorning the red carpet, these luxe little creations can easily be replicated in the privacy of your own home.

As with all prime time events, advance planning is necessary and preparation of this dish should begin a day in advance. Don’t fret — the steps are easy and time itself will do most of the advance work for you. Scents of garlic and oregano will perfume the air while the marinade is prepared, aromas that – at least for some of us – are far more alluring than the most expensive Oscar-worthy perfumes.

Pork Tenderloin Sliders with Feta Aioli (From: Alaska Food & Wine)

Greek Inspired Pork Tenderloin Sliders

INGREDIENTS:

For the Pork Tenderloin:
3 lbs pork tenderloin
1/2 cup olive oil, plus additional for sautéing
2 cloves garlic, finely minced Continue Reading »

It’s a chilly afternoon and this listless lady’s thoughts are turning to – of all things – cake. But not just any cake — I’m craving a luscious little bacon cheesecake from the Alaska Cake Studio. Yes, a cake of my very own. That is just what I need to cheer me up on this cold, windy winter day.

Bacon Cheesecake from Alaska Cake Studio

Alaska Cake Studio is a delicious spot to make a stop no matter the season or weather. During one of my Cake Studio visits the individual dessert items on display included a Madagascar Vanilla Mousse, my favorite Bacon Cheesecake, and a Mojito Truffle dessert. Cupcakes at the Alaska Cake Studio are offered in two flavors per day, and rotate on both a daily and monthly basis. Red Velvet, S’mores, and Strawberry Champagne cupcakes are popular with both visitors and locals alike.

Owner Will McDonald and his staff at Alaska Cake Studio have been bringing sweetness and light to Downtown Anchorage and 4th Avenue since December 2009. But why locate the shop on 4th Avenue, an area of town that has foot traffic but little in the way of parking? As it turns out, a storefront was just what he was looking for, as McDonald revealed during our conversation.

“You get people with the smell, the scent of baking,” he confided. “I wanted to bring something to Anchorage that we didn’t have … a shop with a warm, comforting feel where people can browse, sample pastries and cakes, or purchase specialty items.”

He’s quick to add, “It’s all about the cake. I believe the cake should stand alone — frosting is just an accessory.”

The warm and very inviting interior of the Alaska Cake Studio

There are many delectables available in addition to cakes made on the premises. You’ll also find a wide selection of gourmet sugars and pearls for decorating your own confections; specialty sugars such as Demerara, Continue Reading »

Lavelle’s Bistro is pleased to present guest Chef Mimi Houston on Sunday, February 27th for a spectacular night of French fusion cuisine.

Chef Houston’s culinary aspirations took her to New York for training at the French Culinary Institute. While working under celebrated chefs such as Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto and Master Chef & Chocolatier Jacques Torres, Mimi further refined her signature style of Mediterranean and Southeast Asian Cuisine while incorporating strong, clean French flavors. 

Mimi’s love for cooking and food began as a young girl growing up in Vietnam. Between helping with the family dessert cart business and following her mother around the kitchen she developed a passion for cooking and Continue Reading »