Tuesday, February 23, 2010

What A Fun Evening . . .

Right after work we headed over to City Hall where all the Fire/EMS folks that responded to the Peking Fire (and that could break away from work) were presented with Unit Citations by the Mayor.

Then we headed over to the Grand Aleutian for a going away party for our dear friend Baby Bear. Baby Bear flies out Thursday to start a great job in the big city of Seattle, and she is going to be sorely missed. She is one of a small handful of true thick-and-thin friends on the island, Chico is devotedly and passionately in love her her dog Kali, and I am still in a bit of denial that she is leaving. She baked and decorated our wedding cake when Goldfish and I had our island wedding, she is always willing to dog-sit if her busy schedule allows, and she is one heckuva cook. She is my island baby sister, and even though we didn't spend a ton of time hanging out, it made my heart smile to know she lived here.

What we did to see her off in style was make sure we got the high bid on the wine tasting/food pairing offered as an auction item in the Channel 8 Auction. The fact we were sucessful in our bidding plans is entirely the work of fellow island baby sister Elaine, who Goldfish enlisted to be a backup bidder. Picture me dialing and redialing furiously in the final minutes of the auction, watching the price on the tasting go up but not able to get a connection to make a bid, totally stunned and dismayed when I finally got an open line just a second too late . . . . then Goldfish pipes in "Elaine got it!" Elaine, I owe you one - again . . . . Above is the menu with the food and wine pairing listed, let me just say right out front that the Executive Chef Rich and Food & Beverage Manager Lisa did an amazing job! I have had special meals in special places all over and would put last night on a short list of favorites, it was simply a blast in every aspect.

This is the group that got together for the event; there was supposed to be 8 of us but Sherri couldn't make it. What a beautiful group of island gals - was I a lucky guy or what?

Let me apologize right up front for the photos, they just don't do the food justice. I should have slapped on a macro lens, I couldn't decide between the white glare of the flash or the odd coloring of no flash and longer exposures, sometimes I was just too distracted by the good conversation and food to take a decent photo. With that said, this was the first course, the Amuse Buche, Sea Scallops with green apple, honey, coriander and mustard oil and Goi Cuon, a shrimp and mango spring roll. The wine pairing was a Zardetto Prosecco Brut NV.

In addition to the food pairings, there was a wonderful cheese, fruit and nut tray set up by our table. Did I mention we had the whole of Margaret Bay Cafe to ourselves??

The second course was a Sesame Seared Sockeye Salmon in a soy, ginger and sake sauce, paired with a Bergstrom Winery De Lancellotti Pinot Noir 2007. Amazing. So amazing all I have for photos are ones of my empty plate. I tried, honest . . . . possibly my favorite dish of the evening among all the stellar candidates.

Steak au Poirve, a USDA prime ribeye in a cabernet-beef reduction and a gratin of potato. Paired with a Les Domaines Barons de Rothchild Reserve Speciale Pauillac 2005, the cabernet sauvignon of the evening. Rich reminded us that only 1 - 2% of all the beef served in the United States achieves the USDA Prime label . . . a truly amazing beef experience, and the only prime beef available anywhere on the island. Okay, I think I liked this one more than the salmon.

The 4th pairing was a Produttori del Barbaresco 2004 with Tagliatelle, hand made pasta with braised pork shank. The real stars for me in this dish were the oven sundried tomatoes and the white truffle oil! The Nebbiolo varietal was new to me, and this ended up being one of my favorite wines of the evening.

This creation Rich calls a China Town Duck Burger; it is a ground duck slider with shitake mushroom ketchup paired with a Cirrus 2003 Syrah from Africa which unexpectedly was Goldfish's favorite of the night. The duck slider was amazing, even better than Rich's Kobe beef sliders I've had in the past.

The 6th course was grilled New Zealand lamb "lollipops" with a pomegranate-orange glaze. These little pieces of heaven were paired with an amazing Quita do Carmo Reserva 2002.

Our last course was a vanilla bean mousse with candied kumquat sauce and toasted hazelnuts. This was paired with a stunning 2006 Inniskillin Ice Wine, the likes of which I had never tasted, mainly because I can't afford the stuff. Thanks Lisa for giving us a glimpse of something heavenly, maybe - maybe - I may one day in a moment of weakness spring for some, even at close to ten bucks an ounce. In the photo below, Rich looks on as Lisa explains why the stuff truly is worth it due to the extremely low yields and the complicated harvesting and manufacturing process.

This evening was much more than the sum of its parts however. To have the Executive Chef and the Food & Beverage Manager (a certified Wine Expert) of the Grand Aleutian devote hours of their time to putting on this dinner and wine tasting was amazing. Rich pulled all the stops on the food, introducing each dish with his laid back style and really working closely with Lisa to pair the courses. Lisa had fact sheets and maps and place mats and was an endless source of information on the wines she was clearly excited to be introducing to us. I've read over the little blurbs by the photos above and they really don't begin to describe how the great food and wines, presented by caring professionals giving their best to benefit a local charity, combined with great friends to become something truly special. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Friday, February 19, 2010

A Word About the Neighbors . . .

Not the human neighbors (although they are all very nice), the four legged neighbors who leave their tracks along side ours, all throughout the valley (and not the dogs, who are also very nice). I'm talking about the foxes. The valley foxes are not like the "townie" foxes - they don't skulk, beg, or slink. They live on a natural diet of grasses, grains, berries, insects, mice ptarmigan and fish. They don't approach humans for food because they are self-sufficient. And humans (at least the ones in my household) don't feed foxes, because they care for their well-being.

Valley foxes are beautiful and self-assured . . . .

Sharing the land with them is a privilege - granted, they are not the wolf, bear, coyote, moose and caribou that I loved to watch on mainland Alaska for 20 years before moving out here . . .

But they still are a joy to see, and their relative abundance means there are usually at least a couple joyous occasions each and every day . . .

Like seeing one crossing my driveway tonight from my living room window (hard to see, just trust me or click the photo to enlarge). Another reason for joy? This photo was taken at 7 PM, we are actually having a small bit of evening after work!

Alright, my better half has returned from the Vagina Monologue performance at the Grand. I would have gone - I am pro-vagina for the record - but my assigned task was to hang out with Chico, keep one eye on the Olympics, and figure out how to rearrange the front room so we can move the computer desk in, making the dining room a proper, umm, dining room.

Goldfish, by the way, is particularly enchanted with sharing the valley with foxes, and she took half of the fox photos above. Foxes make her smile, and well, anything that makes Goldfish smile is a-okay with me . . . .

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

View from Work

Anyone who reads this blog regularly probably knows I work a lot. My last day off was January 1st and there is not a day off anywhere on the horizon. I'm a little lucky - I work 11 hour days. Many of my friends and co-workers work 12 hour days. These long days working make the view from the work window even more important . . . I know there are better office window views, but I still see enough from mine to feed my dreams through long days of paperwork. Above, the summit of Mount Newhall is visible above the meal plant, and my mind wanders back to summer days climbing the slopes and the view from the top.

There are almost always eagles visible from my window, often in huge numbers. Sometimes I can see as many as 60 eagles from my desk, and without fail they steal money from the company in lost productivity as I sit for a moment and watch their antics. Sometimes they will fly through the narrow alleys of the plant just 5 or 6 feet off the ground and I am always reminded of that scene from Star Wars where Luke is attacking the Death Star. Okay, that didn't come across quite right, that would make work a Death Star . . . . but you get my drift . . .

This is the view straight out my window where I can see a slice of the East Channel with the Coastal Dock and Strawberry Hill in the background.

And finally, my co-worker and partner in crime Deil who shares the desk next to mine, smiling last week from the sheer joy of the nice weather. These were all taken on the same day so you can see the snow levels vary greatly depending on altitude. It will be many months before the snow is gone completely from the top of Mount Newhall.

Cheers, I'm going to watch a bit of the olympics coverage . . .

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy Valentine's Day!

Goldfish and I have a iron-bound tradition of going out for Chinese food on Valentine's Day. With our favorite Chinese restaurant out here burned out for the time being, Goldfish cooked up a meal of egg rolls, pot stickers and General Tao's Chicken to keep the tradition alive. A romantic dinner for two (well, three if you count Chico . . . . ) I was busy assembling dining room chairs while she was cooking - five down and one to go by the time the evening as over.

With her birthday and Valentine's less than two weeks apart, I combined the two and gave her a Birthintine's present this year - an Electrolux Wavetouch double oven, otherwise known among the gals as a "Kelly Ripa oven" (seriously, you can Google it).

Goldfish was amazingly thoughtful and gave me everything I need to get started making sushi, something I've wanted to try and get good at for a very long time, especially with all the great fresh seafood out here on the island. There is nothing more loving to give to another person than the tools for them to achieve their goals; thank you sweetheart for a wonderful Valentine's Day!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Unalaska Island Dancers (EDITED)


Hey folks, the Unalaska Island Dancers are selling very cool t-shirts to raise money for their on-going regalia making project. You can see video of some of the dancers performing on MLK Day here. The t-shirts are just $20 - for anyone on the island, contact Laresa directly; for anyone off the island who would like one of these t-shirts, available in any size, email me at unalaskasteve@gmail.com with your address and size and I will donate the postage to help out, just send me twenty bucks and I'll priority mail you a shirt. If you are a long time reader or family (you know who you are), I'll priority mail you a shirt and you can mail me a check for $20 when you get the shirt. Lets help this group out, they are amazing!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Pot Cod Ends & Opilio Deliveries Begin

I'm sure a lot of you have seen fishing for pot cod on television - they use crab pots, the fish are in great shape when they come over the rail, they bleed them and keep them cold, it is just a premier fish in all respects, Goldfish and I buy a few boxes every year and try to always have some in the freezer. Lots of crab boats fish for cod in between king crab season and opilio crab season.
Last week there was some severe icing on the fishing grounds and the boats were coming in completely coated. The day I took these photos the temps were in the high 30's and the ice was falling off the boats at the dock, saving a lot of back breaking labor. This is the bow of F/V Sea Storm.

Who can resist taking pictures of eagles? (no matter how many they already have on their hard drive?)

Opilio crab, marketed as "snow crab". This is the tail end of a large 240,000 pound delivery by Aleutian #1.

There has been some crazy weather this week - on Monday, I woke up to a ground blizzard as bad as it gets, with 3 foot drifts in the driveway and 50 knot winds. Six hours later, the winds were calm, the sun was out and everything was melting. Crazy island weather . . . . gotta love it!

Flat Apple Pie

So life has been busy since I last posted, but I kept taking pictures, so I have about a half dozen posts to get out so I can move on with the month! I cooked another recipe for Goldfish out of the Pioneer Woman Cooks cookbook, making her a Flat Apple Pie using the crust in the freezer left over from the chicken pot pie.

It is an interesting way to make an apple pie, you can just cut a slice and eat it out of hand after it cools. Of course we didn't wait for the cooling, opting for a warm slice with a scoop of Haagen Daaz vanilla ice cream on top!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Warm Weather (for awhile) & First Bonfire of the Year

A couple days ago it got up in the high 30's and the roads were clear so I headed over to play on Strawberry Hill. Where this warm weather went, I have no idea . . . everyone at work always blames me for the return of cold weather, claiming it was me riding around the island that ended the warm streak . . .

The ice looked like a giant sheet of stained glass.

Last night Goldfish, Chico and I joined Joe and Max for a bonfire on the beach with hotdogs and marshmallows. Eight or nine years ago on this very spot I was at another bonfire; I had flown out to Unalaska to visit Goldfish and I remember the sea lions bellowing in the darkness, attracted by the flames.