Anchorage, Alaska has some of the best restaurants in the world. Especially if you like salmon. Years ago, I spent a summer in Anchorage-it was the Exxon Valdez trial, and it went on for months. I remember some things about the trial.
I remember everything about the dinners, which isn't particularly remarkable, as I had the exact same thing-in different restaurants-every night (except for this one place where I always ordered venison).
Dinner always started with Caesar salad, apparently an Alaskan favorite. The best was made table-side at the Marx Brothers Cafe. I was last there the first week of September 2001, when my son and I stopped in before being flown into the wilderness. (How we got out is another story.)
The main course was grilled-that is, barbequed-salmon, caught that day and still tasting of ocean and river, asparagus, and roasted potatoes. Occasionally, my team and dinner mates (the regulars were Carla, Kevin, Ralph, and John) would add a side of grilled oysters. Two glasses of Pinot Noir. There was some variation in the dessert; sometimes chocolate cake, sometimes flourless chocolate cake.
The after dinner routine was equally rigid. Dinner didn't start until 10:00 p.m. (We were working hard.) It ended at midnight. Then we went for a walk in the sunshine. Sometimes we'd see a moose. We watched the locals at play; softball games were still in early innings. The effect of 20 hours a day of sunlight on energy, spirit, and bonhomie cannot be exaggerated. (I was also there in the winter. Alcohol was a great salve, and Bergman movies suddenly made sense.)
Alan's Grilled Salmon
The salmon can be approximated at home, but only in the summertime.
Buy the best and most expensive side of Alaskan salmon you can find. Copper River works. Use a real grill and real charcoal, not briquettes.
Make sure all the bones are out. (Feel for them with your fingers and pull them out with a pair of pliers.) Keep it simple.
Grease up the salmon with extra-virgin olive oil. Salt and pepper generously. When the fire has dimmed past the hottest point, put on almon, skin side down. Grill until it looks to be half done.
Turn over with two spatulas. Grill for a bit less time, then use the spatulas to put onto a serving platter. Garnish with a few pieces of emon and a few sprigs of parsley.
Serve, thinking of ocean and river.
Marx Bros. Cafe
627 West 3rd
Anchorage, AK 99501
Phone: (907) 278-2133