Alaska Revisited, The Trilogy - Chapter Three

Chapter 3

On the last day, we made our way out to Halibut Cove made famous because of the halibut, surprisingly. We had a beautiful seafood lunch in The Saltry Restaurant – pollock tacos, straight out of the sea oysters and salmon poke were the standout dishes for me, so fresh and tasty and all washed down with a bottle of Kung Fu Girl Riesling from Washington State.

At lunch I met and chatted to an Alaska fish counter. Working for the US Fish and Wildlife Service, his job was literally to count salmon migrating from the sea to freshwater rivers for spawning. He does this BY EYE from an airplane or viewing tower on the weir, which is seriously impressive. Accuracy is key here because salmon stocks need to be preserved. By counting the salmon coming upstream, he can inform fishermen of the openers (the time they have to fish). I mean, no pressure...!

Afterwards we went halibut fishing. We sailed quite far out to sea before we dropped our rods, hooked with baited mackerel, down into the icy water. From experience, fishing can be quite the waiting game, but this fishing game was short lived. Within minutes we had a bite, followed another and another. These fish either aren’t shy of a hook or need to go to Specsavers – they were so easy to catch.

By law, we were allowed to hook two halibut each. Not wanting to rush this unforgettable experience out on the water framed by glaciers, we relaxed and chatted with a couple of beers. When we had reached our quota, we headed back to Tutka Bay for an all hands-on deck dinner extravaganza.

As chefs we were asked to chip in making different dishes paying homage to our home countries using an endless list of different species. Being a Brit, I was asked to make fish and chips. Who saw that coming?! I used the halibut that I had caught only a couple of hours earlier and a local beer for the batter. I also made proper chunky chips like my Dad used to make and served the dish with a kimchi tartare sauce. It was possibly the best fish and chips that I’ve ever cooked…not because of my skills in the kitchen but the amazingly fresh, almost transparent, melt in the mouth halibut.

Our wonderful hosts also cooked the biggest seafood Paella I have ever seen, and the dishes served by the other chefs were just sublime using seafood that we just don’t get here in the UK. We had a wonderful last night in the company of newfound friends - plenty of food, booze and laughs.

I’ve been on my fair share of trips over the years, but this was quite literally the trip of a lifetime. The hospitality that was shown was out of this world, but also from an educational perspective my mind was well and truly blown.

The people of Alaska are sea and fish people to the core. The harmony between man and nature is quite unique and, in my opinion, should be used as an example for the world over.