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A glimps on the look of great Alaska harvested food

Focus Alaska Swan ice sculpture
fashion over 40 woman in LBD with denim jacket
Outfit that I wore on the commute to the scholarship fundraiser. Trina Turk LBD, Great Northwest denim jacket, Madonna Truth or Dare floral pumps (all own), and multi-color baroque opera pearl necklace c/o The Pearl Clasp

Fairbanks lunch tip

I want to start today’s Focus Alaska post with an insider tip for a great lunch that will not ripe a whole into your travel budget, but will be incredibly different from what else you get in town.

When you visit Fairbanks on a Thursday between September and end of April, go to the Borealis Bistro for a first class lunch of Alaska grown food for $12.

The Borealis Bistro is operated by the University of Alaska Fairbanks culinary arts department. It is located in the James T. Hutchison High School on 3770 Geist Road. During the school year (end of August thru end of May), the UAF culinary arts students have their active cooking class on Thursdays. Note that reservations are required for seatings at 11:30am, 12:00pm, and 12:30pm.

fashion over 50 woman sitting in the sun in a black dress
Me waiting in the sun prior to the scholarship dinner in a Trina Turk LBD, Madonna Truth or Dare floral pumps (all own), and multi-color baroque opera pearl necklace c/o The Pearl Clasp

Annual scholarship fundraiser is a tradition

Every year, the department has a scholarship fundraiser. It is by invitation only, typically at the end of the semester. My husband and I were invited to attend the fundraiser. We arrived early, as I wanted to make sure that I can take photos for you of the appetizer before people start enjoying them. I also wanted to capture the ice sculptures below the would start melting in the warm sun.

What people wore

Fairbanks is not a very formal town, not even at an event like an Inaugural Ball of the Governor, and of course not, when it comes to a scholarship fundraiser. The dress code was Fairbanks Formal.

I went for a LBD with a long pearl necklace and floral pumps for the event. Most women wore some variation of a LBD or a simple solid color long gown, or short cocktail dress. Men wore business casual or a look that would pass as a Casual Friday at most offices. One man wore a cutaway.

Focus Alaska appetizers made with Alaska Grown Food
Champagne and a selection of appetizers

Alaska food

All dishes including the appetizer featured Alaska food. There were shushi rolls (not shown) made with salmon, beef liver paste, salmon sandwiches arranges in form of a fish (see photo above). I loved the salmon wrapped asparagus. The salmon was really chewy. The appetizer came with champagne and you could have drunken as much champagne til you dropped. However, nobody did that.

While waiting for everybody to arrive, guest caught up with old friends, enjoyed the champagne and appetizers and some nice live dinning music played on a Yamaha keyboard. Its sound was so perfect that one could think the young woman played a concert piano. However, the entrance hall to the Hutchinson Center is too small to host three tables with appetizers, one table with champagne, over 150 people, and a concert piano. In front of the entrance, there were two ice sculptures, a swan (see featured photo) and a fish (not shown). We really enjoyed meeting some neighbors of our old neighborhood out in Goldstream whom we hadn’t seen for quite a while. after an hour of chatting, catch-up and appetizers, we were called to our tables.

Alaska dinning room at Hutchinson Center
Impression of the dinning room. From upper left to lower right: Photo of a wall and the ceiling that represent the aurora borealis and gravity waves that build on the lee side of the Alaska Range and Brooks Range and are often visible as lenticularis (lens-shaped) clouds; table setting with dinner menu and napkin; view across the dinning room to show the table and chair decoration; and snapshot of the cake, dinner, BBQ, brewery and culinary class auction

The menu

The dinner was a nine course menu (see photo below).

  1. Beet & pastrami cured salmon, spourdough rye crisps, rosehip dressing – Pinot Noir
  2. Roasted mushrooms, duck fat steam bun, fresh hoisin – Roederer Anderson Valley Brut
  3. Alaska King crab, saffron sabayon, green apples, brown butter – Argyle Williamette Valley Chardonnay
  4. Alaska carrot soup, whipped coconut & carrot top oil – Alexander Valley Vineyards Gewürzdraminer
  5. Local gin, raspberry sorbet with spruce
  6. Roasted hen, pearl onions, dandelion greens, cranberries & rhubarb – Pinot Noir
  7. Grilled venison, potato pave, romanesco, marrow – Cote du Rhone
  8. Mirror cake, blueberry ice cream, colored isomalt – Kiona late harvest Riesling
  9. Buried chocolate cake, chocolate ganache, gold accents – Bear Creek Port

All dishes featured Alaska grown or harvested food like salmon, game, mushrooms, rhubarb, potatoes, carrots, cranberries, dandelion, King crabs, blueberries, carrots. The intermezzo featured Alaska made gin. The raspberry sorbet was gin infused and the was a little smoldering spruce twig under the inverted glass. We tried to capture the flame and smoke that comes up when you lift the glass and the sudden availability of oxygen leads to s small spark and smoke. Unfortunately, it did not work. It’s hard to capture the right moment.

My favorites were the first three items on the menu: the salmon, Alaska King crab, and the carrot soup. I liked that the King crab was served without shell. Usually, when you order Alaska King crab it comes in a can that looks like an old- oil can. It is filled with ice and the leg sticks out.

There were two desserts. For me a dessert is not an American dessert when it has no chocolate. Since my hubby doesn’t like chocolate, we decided that he would eat my first, in exchange for his chocolate dessert. Well, we hadn’t seen the last dessert yet when we agreed to switch. Believe it or not, I made it thru that huge mountain of chocolate. Did you know you know that many chefs in Alaska call chocolate crude oil?

Each course came with a matching wine. On our table of eight, there was a young pregnant woman who purred down the wine of each course.

Alaska food made from food harvested in Alaska and its waters
The dishes of the scholarship fundraiser menu. From upper left to lower right. See post for description of this food with Alaska typical ingredients

Fueling the audience for the auction

Between courses several cakes, some special classes, like a shushi making class for ten people, some special events like a tour thru the Hoodoo brewery with dinner for eight or a BBQ for 30 people as well as student-made cakes were auctioned. The carrot cake, for instance, went for $675, the raspberry strawberry decorated cake for $725. One cake was even sold for $1200. Unfortunately, I hadn’t taken a photo of that one.

culinary art student-made cakes
A selection of the cakes made by students. From the upper left to the lower right: Mirror cake, nuts cake, raspberry cake decorated with strawberries, and carrot cake

I hope you enjoyed the report on one of Fairbanks’ dinning lifestyle. Do you go to scholarship fundraisers?

Focus Alaska is a weekly series on Alaska lifestyle, events, curiousa, insider travel tips, and Alaska street style.

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Photos of me: G. Kramm
Photos of the food, ice sculpture, and venue location: N. Mölders

Copyright 2013-2017 Nicole Mölders | All rights reserved

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