My Alaska News March 2013

My Alaska March 2013
Denali Park Landscape

Spotlight 49Alaskans and visitors spend a lot of time playing in the great outdoors, and that means many hungry bellies to fill and thirsts to quench. This may explain the recent Huffington Post article that ranked Juneau and Anchorage as number one and number seven in a list of the country's most restaurant-crazy cities. With a population of 31,094 and 112 restaurants, the state's capital city of Juneau has 36 eateries per 10,000 residents. Anchorage has 1012 restaurants and a population of 428,041; that amounts to 23.6 restaurants for every 10,000 people in the state's largest city.

Salmon While it is common for high-tourism areas to have more dinning establishments, this is still quite an impressive statistic and evidence that Alaskans take their food seriously. It would, however, serve great injustice to speak about Alaska's food scene and only focus on the restaurants. No "food tour" of the state would be complete without mention of some of the more unique aspects of the food and beverage industry, and trust us when we say that between its rural and urban offerings, Alaska serves up quite the interesting medley. Five-course dinner paired with the perfect glass of vino on top of a scenic mountaintop? We've got it. Sipping on fresh locally brewed beers on board a train? We've got it. Sink your hook into wild Alaska salmon and have the restaurant kitchen cook it for you on the spot? We've got it! Alaska is also a big melting pot, meaning you will find all sorts of ethnic cuisines and the latest in fusion offerings combining the various flavors.

Alaska Grown and Alaska Harvested
Despite its remote nature, Alaska is never far behind on trends, especially when it comes to food. Locally harvested seafood has always been a staple in Alaskans' diets and the freshest of the ocean's offerings make for extremely creative and scrumptious dishes in dinning venues throughout the state. Food trucks serving anything from cupcakes and gourmet fusion on a skewer to empanadas and hot dogs are popping up in parking lots and parks across the state. More and more restaurant menus feature gluten-free and vegan options and many chefs are making a real effort to use as many locally produced ingredients as possible.

While shopping for food in Alaska, the Alaska Grown logo is the best indicator of a product made or grown in Alaska. Alaska Grown is a state program, part of the Alaska Department of Natural Resources' Division of Agriculture, created to promote and encourage the vigorous local agricultural industry. Some of the produce is limited to the summer and fall months, but a surprising number of products can be found at farmers' markets and stores year-round; fruits, vegetables, cheese, meats, fresh seafood, honey and ice cream are just some of the products produced and sold by local growers and farmers around the state.

Tips from an Alaskan
alaska-geographyThe city of Nome is one of those places that, even if you are not well-versed in Alaska geography or history, you have probably heard it referenced in discussions of sled dog racing, featured in movies or reality TV, or read about it in a Jack London novel. It is a city steeped in gold rush history, and is the finish line for the world's most famous long-distance sled dog race, the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog race that takes place every March. But, as one prominent Alaskan, Alaska State Trooper Anne Sears states: Nome has a kind of charm to it that only a city nestled along the coast of the Seward Peninsula can have - friendly folks, great hiking, beautiful roads perfect for long day trips by bike, car or snowmobile and hidden corners packed with history.

Sample Trip: Glacier explorations and more
Glacier Exploration While the name may suggest it, this itinerary does not actually require any mountain or ice climbing skills. People of all ages will enjoy this extremely photogenic six-day tour of the Matanuska-Susitna Valley, just a short drive north of Anchorage. Be sure and arm yourself with warm, layered clothing and a camera, as you will spend some time in close proximity to glaciers, water, and alpine tundra as you travel north from Wasilla on board an airboat to Knik Glacier. Once you're back on land, you will enjoy a scenic drive to the Matanuska Glacier; hiking around Hatchers Pass and Independence Mine; fishing out of Talkeetna; and socializing in the same bars and restaurants teams of climbers gather at before or after their three-week ascent up Mount McKinley, North America's highest peak. The possibilities for exploring this area are endless.
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