Alaska Dining in the Shadow of Denali

Alaska Dining in the Shadow of Denali

Specialty dinners showcase the best of Alaska dining By: Chris Batin
Chef Cris Rosemond prepares dinner at Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge. // © 2015 Christopher Batin
Chef Cris Rosemond prepares dinner at Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge. // © 2015 Christopher Batin

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The Details

Kenai Fjords Wilderness Lodge

Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge

Each spring and fall, two of the most popular culinary events in Alaska are the specialty dinners held at Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge. The events — popular with residents and visitors alike — sell out quickly because they feature gourmet Alaskan cuisine in a great local atmosphere. Of the two, the spring beer dinner held each May is my favorite.

Executive chef Cris Rosemond explained that the lodge pairs local Alaskan seafood and gourmet meats with limited-release brews from Denali Brewing Company, located a few miles away. The event is held in the lodge’s main dining room, with a panoramic view of Denali and the Alaska Range.

According to lodge marketing director Dee Buchanon, the four-course dinners are paired with one or two nights at the lodge at a special discount rate for dinner guests.

“Agents should request to be added to our culinary mailing list so they can be notified via email well in advance of the events,” she said. “Agents receive a 10 percent commission.”

The spring beer dinner I attended started out with a meet-and-greet over cold brews, which allowed the 60 to 70 guests free time to mingle and chat with lodge chefs and Denali Brewing Company reps.

I sampled Agave Gold, an ale made with organic blue agave nectar. It was followed by the company’s Barrel-Aged Fruit, Herb and Spice Beer, which is aged in Jack Daniel’s barrels for two months before aging more with green apples, mulling spices and local Alaska cranberries. I slowly savored the subtle but distinct flavors of this brew alongside seared medallions of Muscovy duck breast wrapped in cured duck prosciutto. The wild arugula salad with green apples paired well with the first course.

The second through fourth courses were equally tasty and intricate. Grilled Alaska spot prawns preceded free-range elk shoulder braised in unsweetened chocolate, dried cherries and smoked chilies. The courses were served with complementary ales and finished with a dessert accompanied by a delightful coffee stout.

Whether or not your clients have a chance to attend these events, every guest at the lodge should be sure to sample the halibut ceviche, made with Alaskan halibut, Roma tomatoes, lime juice, lemon zest, jalapenos and red onion, served on blue corn tortillas. Enjoying the dish alongside one of the best views of Denali, about 60 miles away, makes for a very special experience.

Talkeetna’s sister lodge, Kenai Fjords Wilderness Lodge on Fox Island, offers a hands-on Culinary Experience for tourists throughout the summer season. During the program, participants learn how to prepare a variety of Alaskan seafood.

The classroom — a weathered but cozy lodge nestled in a valley of spruce trees — is as scenic as it gets. After instruction, clients should wander the surrounding area. After all, this paradise provides the bounty essential for the day’s recipes.

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