Thursday, July 22, 2010

Travel + Food: Juneau!

Recently, and I do actually mean within the last month, Aaron and I went back home to Juneau for his 10 year high school reunion. It was a blast and we ate so much of my favorite food at my favorite places and had a couple of new experiences.

This is pretty much what Juneau looked like the whole time I was there, which is unusual. What I mean by that is though it may be like this in Juneau all the time, it usually clears up for July 3rd and 4th. The reason the 3rd is so important to Juneauites is that it doesn't get dark enough for fireworks until very late in the summer, so the fireworks happen at midnight, July 4th. Generally that means the 3rd is a big party and the weather rocks, but not this year, which is only the third or fourth year in my life that the fireworks have been postponed and the weather has been bad.

Despite this, we hit up all our old, favorite places. Before even dropping our bags off, we hit Peter's Oriental (affectionately known as Pete's) just before they closed and got my second favorite spring rolls in the world (my first favorite are made by the neighbor I had growing up in Juneau. She gave my family a big bag of them just before we moved and they were devoured in one sitting. No joke.) It's such a nondescript little place in what we call a mall in Juneau, but it is so good. Fair warning: once you've had it, you will crave it and I haven't found anything like it anywhere else.

I've mentioned them before, but Bullwinkle's Pizza deserves a second mention. I had my birthday party two years in a row here and the pizza just tastes great. Thin, but not too thin crust and free popcorn. What more could you ask for? PS: Here's the inside secret. The prices are ridiculous, but the pepperoni special is still super cheap. You can even get half without pepperoni if you're like me and not into it. The sandwiches rock too.

I also got to get my Silverbow fix on. The health food store I used to work it used to be located next door, so I had many a lunch here. It was a little crazy because they were showing World Cup games, but I got my super cinnamon and life was good.

Any mention of eating and Juneau should always talk about Pel'Meni. I used to be a hater. Then, one day, I was able to get the potato dumplings (they serve two things: meat and potato Russian dumplings) and I was transformed. You can't always get the potato ones (it seems to depend on if you know who is working behind the counter), but they are so good. They're open late and are perfect after a night out. This is more than I can say about the two food carts we went to while out on the town. Aaron and I had two weird experiences with both of them, one involving an overpriced soda and an angry proprietor. Stick to the dumplings.

One place I always try to go to before leaving is Hangar on the Wharf (The Hangar) because they're coconut prawns are ridiculous. Plus, halibut nachos and a lot of beer on tap? Heck yes.

Sister restaurant, Twisted Fish (The Fish), is only open during tourist season and is almost always packed, but so worth the weight, especially for the coconut salmon. Similar to my very favorite coconut prawns, these lovelies come with blueberry chutney and I wish I had that in my life all the time. Pictured above is one of their personal pizzas, which I had never had before. This one in particular is Giorgio's Salmon Pie (so named because the restaurant used to be called Giorgio's once upon a time) and is covered with capers, red onion, lox, white cheese sauce, and caviar. It was hard enough to take a picture because I just wanted to eat the whole thing right then.

Now it's time to talk about the most important food related experience I had while back home. Alaskan Brewing Company does this thing called Rough Drafts, where they test out new beers and crazy recipes, and they are in kegs and on tap only. I heard they had a ginger shandy and I couldn't wait to get my hands on it. We got into town Thursday night. Sunday afternoon, we were at the Island Pub (which used to be called Mike's. My dad worked there and it was awesome) and while asking for beers on tap, the waitress mentions the ginger shandy and I squeaked and almost screamed. And then I had it.

Do you see how happy I am? I managed, over the next couple of days, to get seven pints of this. A shandy, known as a radler in Germany, is half lemonade/half lager. I had a ton of radlers when we were in Bavaria, but I have never had one with ginger. It's like all of my favorite things in beer. They add the lemonade in during the fermentation process (Aaron asked when we were at the brewery). We also tried the XTRATuf IPA, which if you like IPAs, is very good. The Island Pub itself is also quite tasty, especially they're smoked salmon spread. That was one of my first new food experiences in Juneau, which is funny because my friend Tom lives right up the street from it and he's pretty much the only person I hang out with in Juneau!

New to Aaron was Chan's Thai Kitchen, Juneau's only Thai restaurant. Located in a weird corner out in Auke Bay, the hours are short and the lines are long, but the food is fantastic. This is another thing you'll find out about when you ask locals about their favorite places.

New to everybody was Tasty Treat, a new self-serve frozen yogurt place next to A&P Market (Foodland because that's what it used to be called and that's what I always call it). I had no idea it was even called Tasty Treat until today when trying to find it online. The sign outside says frozen yogurt and they deliver. I love this place already!

I know this post is very long (especially for one not about actually making anything), but Juneau is my hometown and near and dear to my heart. If you ever get a chance to make it up there, do it. There's good food, lots of outdoor activities (downtown is pretty much built into the mountain), friendly people, and occasionally, gorgeous weather. This is what it looked like they day I left. Of course.

Thanks Juneau for the ginger shandies and the spring rolls. They haunt my dreams!

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