ALASKA and following the trail of sustainability

Posted on December 18, 2013

Alaska… Here we come… The Final Frontier lives up to its name…

At last years Celebration of Sustainability Event at the seafood school we included presentations from a number of species of seafood either harvested or farmed in the UK but also sockeye salmon from Alaska. This is not the first time an Alaskan product has been presented as the US state has a reputation for managing its seafood resource well.

I’m here right now seeing for myself the extraordinary process of harvesting this fish in the short season it runs for a six week period.
Accompanied by Jocelyn from the Dialogue Agency who represent Alaska Seafood in the UK along with Rosemary Moon, food writer (who kept as all thoroughly entertained with her wit and zest for life and really good food) and Rowley Leigh, restaurateur, chef and food writer we are heading off on a short, but tightly packed schedule to see Alaska’s finest seafood!

Packing my bags for a visit that included 8 flights in 6 days (and around 11000 miles round trip) … should have been light… but with wet weather gear, steel-toe capped boots and many layers for variable weather it was impossible and I REALLY did appreciate all those extra layers when we went to sea.

Arriving in Anchorage after a long flight and over 30 hours of continual day light we are met by ASMI (Alaskan Seafood Marketing Institute) representative, Joe Jacobson.

Checking in to Captain Cooks Hotel, we enjoyed a  wonderful dinner on arrival at the Crows Nest Restaurant including a brief of the fully packed schedule of the next 6 days whetting our appetite for what we are about to experience.

First impression of the skyline and surrounding sea and mountains around Anchorage was ‘Wow’… Snow capped mountains and very little traffic, a slower pace …. and a glorious sun setting over the ‘Sleeping Lady’ mountain around 11pm.

Our introductory dinner included a starter of rock oysters which were briny and creamy, but slightly overcast by an un-necessary ball of melon sorbet spooned on top.
King Crab legs, sea urchin roe and roast bone marrow to follow all with robust flavours that didn’t quite draw together and Resurrection Roast Black Cod (we learnt more about this superbly oil-rich fish later in our visit) It has an unusual flavour and having only ever enjoyed it from frozen in the past the flesh was lighter and more delicately flavoured than I remembered.

Day in Anchorage…
Sunday opens grey and very wet… No sun at all forecast for our stay but that is no matter… We hadn’t expected it and you don’t come here for the weather…but the abundance of wildlife and extreme sports.
Alaskans go wild and party (apparently) when the sun shows up… its obviously a rare occurrence! When the sun does come out one of our hosts admitted that all housework went un-done as it never lasted long.

In a country that only boasts two seasons… long winters and short summers with a quick break for autumn and spring in between… these two ‘in and out’ seasons run for only a few short weeks. Winters are long with only 4 – 5 hours of daylight in the darkest months, mountains of snow – which they are geared up to deal with and it is most always there on the tips of the mountains.

A short walk pre-brunch – early Sunday morning with Jocelyn and we find a morning street market… With loads of hugely enthusiastic market holders cheerfully fending off the persistent rain and standing patriotically to attention as someone opened the market with the singing of the national anthem. We came across Rich Clarke selling his SMOKED BLACK COD (www.akblackcod.com) He takes the collars (or lugs/shoulder trimming) from a friend who processors black cod and he smokes them in his own small scale facility… He sells them frozen and vac-packed. The smoke works incredibly well with the oil rich nature of this fish… He also sells the ‘tips’ - tiny morsels of flesh from the inside of the collar, which is the perfect way to eat this incredibly rich fish. Rich has his own way of serving ‘Crack open a few beers with friends and serve the ‘tips’ with crackers!… Sounded good to us…

After a hearty brunch – which appeared to be the best way to start our day we headed off to see the 365 day operation of the Copper Seafood Company as they filleted and prepared their fish to send off around the globe.

Off to Cordova next and the Copper River salmon run…

Over and out