Thursday, May 29, 2014

Kodiak Crabfest

Now if you read my blog often enough, you know that I love food.  And I have to say that the best thing about Crabfest was hands down the food.  Funny thing, though.  I didn't have any crab.  I know, there's something not right about not eating crab at a Crabfest.

I have a good reason, though.  Because again, if you read my blog often enough, you know that we're still knee deep in trying to eat our way through a ton of crab we managed to get a hold of over the last year.

We have our own personal Crabfest in the damn garage freezer. - Which we invoke on a weekly basis!  So no crab was had at the fest, but there was plenty of tempting deliciousness to experiment with instead of the guy the party was held for.  Crabfest is an event Kodiak puts on every year at the end of May, and it's a the perfect kick-off for summer.

The best thing I ate was the pan seared Alaskan Weathervane Scallops over wild rice.  So fresh, so tasty.  So much so that I got the scallops with red curry the first day, and went back again the next day to try them with the mushroom marsala sauce.  Both were fantastic.

They topped the red curry scallops with fresh cilantro, and I added a little Siracha for good measure.  Can't go wrong with that combo. 

Fish tacos!
 Now when it comes to any kind of fest where the selection of food is more than you could possibly have at one time, (I'm looking at you, Jazzfest) the best strategy is the classic divide and conquer.  Which translates to splitting as much as possible so we can experience as much variety as we can without having to be rolled home.

So along with the scallops, we went with the fish tacos.  It was fried Alaskan cod with fresh mango, lettuce, tomato, and onions, wrapped in a flour tortilla.  It was good, but it could have used a little baja sauce to put it over the edge.

I branched out a little and tried some smoked cod, (on a stick, of course) but I wasn't a fan.  The flavor was just okay and I wasn't crazy about the texture.  It didn't even compare to some of the smoked salmon I've had since we've been here.  The barely nibbled smoked cod on a stick went into the trash!  Sorry, Pickled Willy's.

Along with the fantastic food, there were lots of events, races, art shows, craft fairs, etc. to wander around and check out.  Overall, it's a very small event.  Appropriate for Kodiak and its small town feel.

One of the trendy outdoor decor accessories that I've noticed in front of tons of houses both on base and in town are carved wooden bears from this one particular artist who seems to be popular.   

The guy who does the carvings had a booth set up where he was doing demonstrations.  It's pretty impressive to see what he starts with, and what the completed bears look like.  He's a talented guy.

Some of the carvings are small, but some are life-sized and enormous.  Usually the fish the bear is holding says welcome or the family's last name.  They're definitely cute and whimsical, but not really the type of decoration I'd buy.  Not a subtle thing to be greeted by at someone's front door!

One of the fun events to watch was the survival suit races - where teams of four have to get dressed in a survival suit and swim about 50 yards to a life raft.

Survival Suit Races
The winner is the first team to get in their life raft.  Fun to watch because those survival suits aren't exactly sleek and easy to maneuver!  The Coast Guard team came in second place.  Shameful.  Just kiddin.'

Another interesting Kodiak tid-bit - Roller Derby is a thing here.  There's a team called the Rock Island Rollers, and they had a mini track set up where they skated around to songs like Brick House and Rockin' in the Free World.  It was entertaining to watch them, but I have to be honest, I don't really get it.  I don't know a whole lot about Roller Derby other than there was a Drew Barrymore movie about it a few years ago.  All I know is those gals seem to have a good old time and are a tad intense!
The Rock Island Rollers

And you've got to love the names on their jerseys.  Names like Paddy Whackher and Mystic Foxx.

Reminds me of the short lived XFL football league in the early 2000's and their ridiculous names like "He Hate Me."  Only somehow the roller derby chicks are cooler.

Of course, we couldn't leave without getting into some sort of dessert situation.  We indulged in a chocolate covered, almond coated vanilla ice cream pop.

It was among one of the many food recommendations I'd been soliciting from locals all week about what Crabfest foods are the must gets.  Another tasty "you just can't go wrong with that" meal.

While the hubby enjoyed his ice cream, I was compelled to harass him into standing in front of the salmon sculpture that lives in front of the Harbormaster's office.  The sculpture is made out of plastic debris collected from the waters around Kodiak.  I think it still has Christmas lights wrapped around it from the holidays.  Always keepin' it classy, Kodiak.  ;)

Our first Kodiak Crabfest was a fun diversion.  Even though we didn't actually eat crab.

Ta-ta for now.

St. Paul Harbor

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Pocket 'o MEAT

Nice, neat little pocket!
I started hearing whispers of it a few weeks before Crabfest.  A subtle mention from the local public radio DJ, a snippet of an overheard conversation...and then an all out "you must try this" from a co-worker the closer we got to Crabfest, the annual Ode to Crab that Kodiak puts on every May.

What, pray tell, could I possibly be talking about?  The Bruin Burger, baby!  Now, the name isn't because Kodiak is a secret enclave of Boston ice hockey fans.  It's named after the non-profit who churns out these bad boys every year.

The Sno-Bruins is a non-profit community organization that was founded in 1971, and promotes winter sports, provides safety education, conducts search and rescue operations, and contributes to the charitable needs of the Kodiak community.  And from what I've learned, these burgers they make are in pretty high demand, always sell out, and are only available during Crabfest.

So what is this Bruin Burger?  It's only a doughy pocket of love!  It's basically a deep fried cheeseburger.  They combine ground beef and pork, finely diced onions, seasoning, and cheese, wrap it in dough, and deep fry it.  The result is a tasty little concoction that I decided would be the perfect hangover food.

Lining up for fatty deliciousness -
Kodiak's finest men in blue included!
Today was the first day of Crabfest, so during my lunch at work, I walked down to the Sno-Bruin booth to get a taste of these burgers I've heard so much about.  The Tribal Center where I'm working these days is right on the main drag of downtown, and all the Crabfest festivities take place right across the street on the harbor.  (I'll write a separate post all about Crabfest after we go check it out this weekend)

Once I made my way down, I was welcomed to a line that was at least 25 people deep, and I ultimately waited about 20 minutes for my fatty reward.  I entertained myself by subtly watching the portly woman in front of me eat a strip of chocolate covered bacon.  On a stick.  And by "subtly," I mean I tried really hard not to stare.  I fully admit to it being a train wreck moment.  I couldn't look away.  I guess that's an appropriate appetizer to have before scarfing down a fried pocket o' meat.  

Don't be afraid of the mustard - it was the perfect addition
The Bruin Burger comes in a nice & neat little pocket of dough, but doesn't stay neat once you get started.  This is a good four to five napkin sandwich we've got here.  The dough reminded me of an egg roll - crunchy and flaky on the outside, with a little bit of softness on the inside.  It was suggested to me that yellow mustard is the condiment to go with for this, so I was sure to grab a few packets on my way back to work.

It tastes exactly like what you would imagine. - Savory, cheesy, and a little bit greasy.  In other words, delicious!  Not a meal I'd choose to eat on a regular basis, but no doubt a simple, tasty indulgence that's unique and regional to Kodiak.  I guess I can check the "Bruin Burger" off of my list!

Ta-ta for now.
NOM NOM! Bruin Burger selfie.  I didn't eat again for another
 7 hrs after that meal!  It was a whole lotta belly filling Carnie food.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Winner, Winner, Crab Dinner

We went Snow Crab style for the Risotto
I think we may have a winner, folks.  The crab risotto experiment we tackled for the first time about a month or so ago was probably my favorite of all the different crab recipes we've been attempting over the last few months.  Definitely in the top 3.  We made it again last week because it was FABU, as my cousin Patty would say.

It was so creamy and delicious, no doubt one to add to the crab rotation.  The funny thing is, I think my favorite way to prepare crab is just straight steaming.  We've tip-toed into all kinds of crazy recipes lately, but you just can't go wrong with some simple steamed legs that you can crack into and dip into a little melted butter.  Add a baked potato and a salad, and it's the perfect meal.  That being said...holy Lord was this risotto good!

If you're a Food Network watcher, you'll probably be familiar with Robert Irvine, the Restaurant Impossible guy.  The risotto recipe we used was his - you can get it here if you're interested.  The only tweak I would recommend is cutting back on some of the chives.  The final result could have used a little less of that onion-y flavor.  Actually, we'll probably just cut out the chives altogether next time we make it.

Lots 'o stirring with the risotto - Not sure what he's looking at!
We veered from the recipe a little by adding peas to it.  According to the hubby, peas are a traditional risotto ingredient, so it was a non-negotiable tweak.

I'm all on board with a vegetable addition to any dish at any time!  I can't dispute the healthy-it-up factor, even though peas aren't on the short list of my preferred vegetables.  They totally worked in the risotto, though.  It was a nice sweetness among all the savory and rich flavors it had going on.

I think one of the reasons why this dish was so good was the truffle oil.  Truffle oil makes everything fancy and delicious.  We've added truffle oil to macaroni and cheese in the past, and it just bumps the dish up to that standout level.

And you really can't go wrong when you add Parmigiano-Reggiano.  I challenge you to find a savory dish that isn't complimented by the king of cheese.  I guess it helps that I'm a sucker for anything Italian. Perhaps it wouldn't go as well with...let's say tacos. 

Anyway, here's our final plated crab risotto, a la Robert Irvine:

No doubt, this one is one of my favorite crab experiments so far.  Robert Irvine ain't messing around!

Ta-ta for now.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Sometimes Island

This is the little spit of land that's underwater when the tide comes in
That really is the name of the island.  It's kind of poetic.  If the tide is low, enough land is exposed that you can walk over to it, but once the high tide rolls in, water fills in the peninsula and it reverts back to being an island.  So naturally, it's been dubbed "Sometimes Island."  There's something kind of charming about the name. 

It's right up the road from Base Kodiak, so we checked the tides and took the Cheetster over there last weekend to frolic off his leash.  It was a much needed excellent weather weekend, with sunshine to spare.

I've said it before, but living in Kodiak sure makes you appreciate sunny days more.  I remember bitching when it rained for more than a few days in a row.  Now I'm marveling at more than a few days in a row of sunshine.  Four days in a row with sunshine and no rain?  Break out the grill!

It's just reality that misty, overcast, gray, and rainy dominate over sunny, clear skies in this part of the world.  But the positive spin on it is, you really, really appreciate beautiful, sunny days.  People are so happy the sun is out, that there's this tangible energy among everyone, everywhere you go.  It's the unspoken, "Wheeeeee, SUN!"

It's that time of year when spring starts to gradually peek its way through, and you can see in some of these pictures the little shoots of green struggling to emerge through the dried out winter grasses.  It's just a matter of time until the mountains turn back to that unbelievably vibrant green.  I can't wait for that change to happen!

It won't be long now till we're carpeted with green, and Alaska's Emerald Isle is back.  Even though we're not quite there yet, apparently it was warm enough for a swim...

Sometimes Island is a great spot for his highness to be off leash, since he really can't get into too much trouble.  He can run out his energy, unsuccessfully chase birds, roll in stinky things, and generally have a good ol' doggy time.

I'm hoping we have more sunny weekends like this one to look forward to as spring emerges and eventually slides into summer.  Come on Emerald Isle, you can do it!!

Ta-ta for now.

Water break - We laugh that he was panting in sixty degrees, considering he used to be active in much hotter temps!

He was a stellar rock climber along the beach

Thursday, May 1, 2014

A Year??

So, happy blog-a-versary to me.  This Sunday it'll be a year since I started yammering on to whoever feels like tuning in to my weekly inconsequential chatter.  But, hopefully mildly entertaining inconsequential chatter.

It's funny how time passing can feel both drawn-out and quick at the same time.  It doesn't
make any sense, but that's exactly how this past year has felt.  You'd think it would be one or the other. -  Ooozing along like molasses, or zipping by in a blur like most years seem to do the older I get.  But, it's a weird blending of both.

Packing up the truck at our house in Key West,
and our almost empty house - May, 2013
I think it's because we did a lot of living over the year.  An almost 8,500 mile, month long road trip from one corner of the country to the other has the tendency to shake things up a little.  When I think about what we were up to around this time last year, I get predictably nostalgic.

Remembering back to what it felt like being right on the brink of a massive change in lifestyle, geography, everyday's one of those indelible memories.  Anytime there's a hefty change coming in life, there's that inescapable, heightened sense of anticipation.  That unshakeable feeling of being right on the doorstep of the next chapter.  There's nothing like it.  Reflecting on this time last year reminds me of all those emotions.

We're almost one year in, but I've been constantly taking stock of what our first year in Alaska has been like in my posts over the year.  The re-cap posts I wrote are the short and sweet sum-ups of our Alaska, year one experience.  You can check them out here and here if you're feeling it.

So while I'm in a New Year's-esque "take stock of things" mind-set,  I've decided to take a breather from drinking any alcohol for a while.  My goal is an arbitrary 7 weeks.  (Well, it's not really arbitrary - it just so happened that when I decided to swear off the hooch, I was seven weeks away from a trip down to FL. - A little vacation down south is as good a time as any to jump back off the wagon!)

Right now I'm at the end of week 3.  I've done this before, but this will be my longest alcohol-free stretch.  It's always harder than I expect.  I think that's the case anytime you're voluntarily denying yourself something that's part of your regular routines.

Habits get ingrained pretty deeply, and a glass or two of vino after work & the weekend beer indulgence is probably a good habit to churn up and clear on out every once in a while.  Can't hurt, right?  Plus, the tendency to over-booze is a bit of a family trait.  I need to remind that stubborn little booze-hound that lives inside of me who's in charge here.  He's an ornery little hellion.  And hey, I bet I'll shed a few pounds while I'm at it.  Win-win.

And on top of that, I've started juicing.  I know, I know...what in the hell is going on up in Alaska?  Next thing you know, I'll be following the Phish tour around the country with a tent and some Sandalwood incense.
♪ ♫ "Your hands and feet are mangoes...You're gonna be a genius anyway..."  ♪ ♫
(You either get it or you don't)

Just trying to healthy it up a little more.  What I've done is replace my morning snack with a green smoothie, and holy hell do I feel GREAT.  I ordered a Nutri-Bullet and a few juicing/green smoothie recipe books from Amazon a few weeks ago and I've been at it ever since.  Technically, it's not really juicing because I'm blending the fruits and greens altogether, not extracting the juice from the fruits while leaving the solids behind.  So...I'm smoothie-ing?  Either way, I'm digging it.

Sunday morning  banana, mango, strawberry, rainbow
chard concoction. - Looks wacky, but tastes great
I've been rotating through all different combinations using kale, swiss chard, spinach, and banana, strawberry, blueberry, mango, pear, orange, etc.  I also add in a little plain Greek yogurt, flax seed, skim milk or water, and sometimes another nut or seed like sunflower, walnut, or almond if the flavors go together.  The combinations are endless, and they're pretty damn tasty. You can't even taste the greens, the flavors are completely dominated by whatever fruits are added. 

I'm tip toeing in starting with fruit, and maybe eventually I'll evolve into the more hard core smoothies.  Some of the recipes are a little much for a newbie.  I'm pretty sure I'll need to work up to drinking potatoes or beets.  Actually, I don't think I'll go that far.  I'll stick with fruit and greens combinations!

Voluntary departure from alcohol and green smoothies...I have to wonder what I'll be up to at blog-a-versary number two.

Ta-ta for now.

Photo Credit:  By Dzenanz (Own Work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons