Saturday, October 1, 2016

Humpback Whale

We saw humpback whales in Alaska on a number of occasions. 
This photo is from Wikipedia. I give it to provide some context for the body parts I was able to photograph. 
Our first exposure was in Kachemak Bay near Homer on our way out to Gull Island. Our pilot spotted a whale and it breached a number of times. I learned that trying to photograph the breaching whales was a real trick, as you have no idea when and where the whale is going to come out of the water. I did get a photo of the enormous splash from the breaching whale and of its tail just before submerging.
This photo captures the tail-end of my most thrilling whale experience. It was a gigantic whale and the splash was enormous. This photo is with a 500 mm lense from quite a distance. 
The tail of the whale in Kachemak Bay.
On our eight hour boat trip into Kenai Fjords National Park, outside Seward, we followed a number of humpback whales. I don't recall that any of them breached, but we did see the spouting water and the roll of their bodies in the water. 
The fin of a humpback whale in Kenai Fjords NP.
A closer view of the fin.
A small spout from a nearby whale.
A good view of the blow-hole.
We saw a few from the Island Princess as we cruised along the coast of Alaska, but none of those views were as good as those mentioned above. I would really like to do some more whale viewing to see if I can get some better pictures. 

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Granville Market - Vancouver

One of the most amazing markets we've ever visited is Granville Market in Vancouver, Canada. It is a mixture of restaurants, farmers markets, bakeries, and sellers of all sorts of food products. I could eat myself silly in that place and we nearly did on the morning we visited. If I lived nearby, I could eat there most every day of the week. I share some pictures of some of the delectable delights we saw and tasted.
One of my favorite parts of the market were the stores selling seafood. Here are some fresh salmon.
Smoked salmon, capelin and other kinds of fish.
This maple smoked salmon was fantastic.
We purchased a sampling of the smoked salmon types. All were good. The salt and pepper salmon, back left, was particularly good. 
Wonderful soft smoked salmon. 
Salmon collars.
Lots of deli style dishes.

Lots of cheese.

Cured meats. 
This wild boar prosciutto looked really good.
I had to try some in honor of the wild boar prosciutto that was confiscated from me at JFK on our way back from Italy years ago.
They also had Jamon Iberico, which we hadn't seen since being in Spain years ago - so we had to sample some of it.
Slices of Jamon Iberico.
We got some wonderful bread with black olives in it.
Blueberry bread with powdered sugar.
Foccacia bread.
This looked really good - had to have some - roasted red pepper and spinach focaccia with Asiago cheese. 
A quiche of roasted peppers. Unfortunately, this one looked better than it tasted. 
A crepe with banana and Nutella.
Trays of sweets.

More bread
Some of the nicest stuff was produce.

Mangosteen, the purple fruit to the bottom left, and rambutan, to the right. 

These currants were screaming at me.
I don't remember if these were cape gooseberries, golden berries, or something else, but they looked really good.
We got one of these baskets with a sampling and enjoyed them while we drove around in our car later than day. I would love to have better access to all of those berries. The currants were a little tart, but good and the orange berry was great.
Vancouver has great access to seafood, coastal farms, mushrooms, berries and other foods. Granville Market brings much of the best that the area has to offer. It was a treat to visit. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Annabelle's Famous Keg and Chowder House - Ketchikan

We arrived in Ketchikan on the Island Princess and immediately set out for a bear watching excursion to Anan Bay that involved a flight on a float plane.
The Island Princess docked in Ketchikan, viewed from our float plane. 
One of the bruins we viewed.
By the time we got back we were hungry. I was in salmon mode, I'd seen bears eating salmon and wanted some for myself. I really wanted to try coho. I'd tried chinook and sockeye several times and coho was the last of the big three I'd not tried. We got several recommendations for places we could get salmon and started out. Our first choice looked great, but was closed because it was between lunch and dinner. Our next choice, Alaska Fish House, was quite a walk, was completely out of salmon, except that they did have salmon tacos and were using coho. Judy patiently followed me as we turned around and left
I wanted a filet, so we tried several other places. One was a commercial fishing house that sold fish, and had coho, but would not cook it. We were running out of time and were getting hungry, so we went back to Annabelle's, a place we'd passed earlier, and found that they had chinook salmon filets, and decided to stay. 

We got off to a rocky start. Our server let us sit and sit before taking our order. We were hungry and it was a very late lunch. Then when we did order, she did not write it down, which always worries me. It took quite awhile for our food to arrive and it trickled in. I had to remind her to bring my Diet Coke, which arrived well after our food arrived, except for the clam chowder, which never did arrive. I decided not to remind her of it, I didn't want to have to wait for it.  

We started out with a pound of steamed clams in an herb garlic wine sauce with bread and butter. I adore garlic sauce with clams and mussels, more so than the clams and mussels themselves, because it is so good to dip bread into and sop it up. The broth had an extra spicy quality to it that detracted from it, and I left a good portion of it untouched, something I'm generally not inclined to do. So it was a little disappointing. 
Judy ordered wild salmon tacos, with cabbage, cheddar cheese, green onions, tomatoes and a lime cilantro sauce. She really liked them and I tried a bite and it had a nice kick to it, which worked with the tacos.  
I ordered the chinook filet and it lacked something, I'm not sure what it was. I'd ordered grilled and it looked fried. I'd had salmon many different ways by then and missed the accompanying ingredients, such as rice, greens, capers, peas, etc. I found that those ingredients really enhance the salmon and I missed them. 

They did have fantastic fries. In fact, Alaska in general, serves great fries. Cooked just right, nicely seasoned, nice size, and particularly good dipped in the accompanying tartar sauce. 
This was one of my least favorite meals in Alaska, all around. 

Monday, September 26, 2016

Forage - Vancouver, B.C.

In our trip planning I often make reservations at restaurants before we leave home, sometimes one in every city we stay in. I try to discern any local cuisines we might want to try and look at Trip Advisor and Yelp for suggestions. For our Alaska trip I only booked one restaurant ahead of time and that was Forage in Vancouver. Vancouver is known for its good food and Forage was ranked no. 10 out of 2,836 restaurants. It focuses on local farms and seafood and shared small plates. This is what drew me to it. Chef Chris Whittaker is a local pioneer for responsible eating, using fish recommended for sustainability by the Vancouver Aquarium's Ocean Wise program.
Our first course was conifer gnocchi in brown butter. Judy has always loved gnocchi and I'm only so-so on it. But I really liked this, perhaps my favorite ever. It had a browned crispy outside, somewhat gooey inside, and a very distinctive taste. I asked about it and was told that the small flecks we could see in the gnocchi were conifer tips, basically pine needles, which offered a very interesting and unusual pine flavor, and made me appreciate it all-the-more.
Our next dish, brought out after we'd finished the gnocchi, was corn bread cooked in a cast iron skillet with cheddar cheese and spicy honey. Another creative and nice tasting dish. This super-moist cornbread had large melted sections of cheddar. At least part of the spice was added by bits of jalapeno, or some other type of green pepper. This was great comfort food - stick-to-the-bones, moist, flavorful. I could have eaten much more of it.

A look inside the moist cornbread.
We were hitting on all cylinders. Out came another cast iron skillet filled with foraged and cultivated mushrooms, Okanagan (region of British Columbia) goat cheese and grilled caraway rye bread on the side. The rye bread was good with mounds of mushroom piled on it. This was our second mushroom on toast dish of the trip using wild and foraged mushrooms (the other was in Seward) and I was wishing Andrew could be with us to enjoy it. I liked this one, with the rye bread, best.

The last dish was Turtle Valley Bison Ranch bison ribeye, smoked sausage, smashed potatoes, pickled mushrooms and foraged green chimichurri. This is the signature dish of Forage, probably the most expensive, and the one I was looking forward to the most. I love bison ribeye. Everything about it was good, the ribeye, the potatoes, the sausage, the greens, it all worked. But taking into account the originality, the cost, as well as the taste of the various dishes, I preferred the other dishes more. The chimichurri was different from any I've had, the oil was not separated from the greens and it was almost like a green slime (not saying that in a pejorative sense). I really liked the large pieces of green scallions.
I didn't get a picture until we'd divided into it a bit.
We had a deceptively large amount of food and left stuffed. It was a great meal, worth the advance planning and I enjoyed the creativity of the dishes.