Sitka Seafood Festival elote (WBEZ/Louisa Chu)
It's not really a vacation per se, and a lot of locals here in Sitka, Alaska
would say that it's hardly been summer, what with some of the coldest and wettest weather in a decade, even for the notoriously soggy Southeast. But I've been here for the Sitka Seafood Festival
, a growing event now in its third year, cooking and eating local food (and visiting local public radio station KCAW
with festival organizer Alicia Olson).
This is a critical time for Sitka, having just nixed plans
to build a cruise ship dock. Cruise ship passengers currently come ashore via small shuttle boats called tenders. Some say building a dock would have boosted the local economy, while others seek to establish the town as a culinary destination.
See above what I call the Fully Loaded Sitka Seafood Festival Elote. It's a roasted ear of corn on the cob (not local, though I heard about a hopeful soul who once grew tiny ears of corn in one of the community gardens
), slathered with mayo (made with a yolk, lime juice, local Alaska Pure
alder smoked salt and canola oil) mixed with sour cream, garnished with local salmon roe, locally grown cilantro, and sold-locally-only Alaska Pure spicy hot pepper salt). The good people of Sitka had never heard of an elote (curiously common in two places: Mexico and Chicago) but I was relieved that when I finished the festival demo, I wasn't pelted with fish heads from the bobbing for fish heads contest.
I also made the passed apps for a VIP cocktail hour, kicking off with oysters, Caddy Ganty style: roasted oysters finished with brown butter toasted Pilot Bread
crumbs and locally grown nasturtium petals. Halibut Caddy Ganty is a dish made with white wine marinated halibut; covered with mayo, sour cream, onions, bread crumbs, and paprika; then baked until golden and bubbly. What's become a homey dish was named after the woman who's credited with inventing it: Clarabelle "Caddie" Ganty, whose granddaughter's blog post
reveals a sophisticated woman in rural Alaska. Halibut Caddy Ganty is best known at the James Beard Classic Gustavus Inn
; their recipe is in Kim Severson's The New Alaska Cookbook
. I thought it would be a new take on a southeast Alaskan dish, but no one here in Sitka knew what I was talking about.
Oyster new Caddy Ganty style (WBEZ/Louisa Chu)
Roasted sockeye salmon, garlicky spinach and escarole, carrot coriander sauce (WBEZ/Louisa Chu)
We also made a local Sitka seafood chowder with salmon, black cod, and Dungy (Dungeness crab) — served with locally baked sourdough bread — for our festival food booth.
Sitka Seafood Festival chowder (WBEZ/Louisa Chu)
Widely considered the best gastropub in Sitka, The Bayview Pub
, is actually now owned by former Chicagoan and LTHer
Dave Jenks and his brothers. They served a crab boil at their booth.
Bayview Pub crab boil (WBEZ/Louisa Chu)
Sitka is now home to a microbrewery, too: The Baranof Island Brewing Company
, owned by Rick and Suzan Armstrong, makes lovely and unique brews like their local spruce tip beer.
Baranof Island Brewing Company owners Rick and Suzan Armstrong at beer tent (WBEZ/Louisa Chu)
For more photos, see the Sitka Seafood Festival Facebook page
. You'll find the winners of the signature dish and cake contests, including a detail of the latter's People's Choice winner. Entitled The Changing Tides, it is indeed for Sitka and its young seafood festival.
The Changing Tides by Kaitlin McKee (WBEZ/Louisa Chu)