Nov. 2—One of my favorite things about Anchorage is the convivial and symbiotic relationship between our breweries and our local food trucks and pop-ups. Follow the beer and you'll find the food. Follow the food and you'll find the beer. It's a win-win. This October, with its implied "K," found me feeling festive and let's just say, beer-adjacent, which led me to three new-to-me quick bites that I'm excited to share.
B Street Gumbo
B Street Gumbo, a new little Cajun eatery on wheels, opened this summer featuring a pithy menu of New Orleans classics. You may have seen them roll up to various events, dispensaries and breweries from Girdwood to Anchorage to Palmer. I caught up with them at Raven's Ring Brewing Co. in South Anchorage. Did I decide to go out for a beer because I knew there would be gumbo? Or did I decide to go out for gumbo because I knew there would be beer? We may never know.
I ordered a shrimp po'boy ($16) and a "regular-sized" chicken and sausage gumbo ($18). I was flying solo and I figured this would leave me with leftovers for the next day. While I waited for my meal, I whiled away the brief time in the cozy tasting room and nursed a dry cherry cider. So, I'm awarding bonus points for B Street's "waiting room."
The shrimp in my po'boy had a crunchy, crackly, textured crust and I loved the zingy, briny, house-made remoulade. However, both of these components brought a lot of salt to the table. A little less salt in the batter or a heavier hand with the lettuce and tomato would have given this sandwich a bit more balance. Of course, there's an easy fix for too much salt: a second glass of cherry cider.
But we need to talk about the gumbo. Let's just say, I have no notes. With a rich, thick and smoky base, teeming with tender, melt-in-your mouth shreds of chicken and spicy andouille sausage, this was my dream gumbo. As someone who makes gumbo often — and gets it right about half the time — I admire the depth of what must have been an espresso-dark roux. A well-developed roux leaves an addictive toast-like finish on your tongue that keeps you dipping your spoon in for more. The stew is served atop a mix of long-grain white and brown rice, which was cooked to a perfect al dente, giving the whole dish texture and substance.
Reader, I did not have leftovers for the next day.
Word from the chef behind the wheel is that B Street Gumbo is planning to winterize the truck, so keep your eyes peeled. Hot, hearty, spicy gumbo is the perfect companion for Anchorage's long winter nights.
If you go:
B Street Gumbo
For hours and locations, follow them on Facebook or Instagram: @bstreetgumbo
Once a year, a friend of mine from New York City comes for an Alaska visit. Her to-do list is pretty straightforward: long hikes, a visit to the reindeer farm, and at least two meals at Familia, the pop-up restaurant that holds court inside Anchorage Brewing Co. three days a week. In fact, she usually arrives with the weekend's menu firmly memorized. In other words, Familia falls firmly into the Anchorage dining category of "if you know, you know."
Of course, you don't have to try that hard to induce me to sip beer, mead and wine alongside and, indeed, inside giant beer barrels. But Familia tries hard anyway. Their menu changes weekly, but it's always fresh, fun, inventive and designed to pair well with the unique beers on offer. Past offerings at Familia have included woodfired ahi sandwiches, braised beef rice bowls, gyros, banh mi, tamales, pork tofu with glass noodles, and bao buns with steak or lobster salad. There is always a thoughtful vegetarian version of their dishes on offer.
I cyber-stalk their menu with regularity and was recently inspired to drop in for early dinner by a photo of decadent-looking bison sliders ($20). I don't know what it is about the appeal of sliders over burgers — perhaps it's the one-handed ease of eating them, leaving your other hand free for beer sipping. I placed my order, hesitating only slightly about ordering the vegetarian option of woodfired oyster mushroom sliders because of the heady and savory aroma they created. But I'm not sure the bison could have been topped. The perfectly cooked, perfectly seasoned bison patties were topped with a luxurious blanket of melted brie cheese, and sweet, salty, boozy bacon onion jam. The rich combination was balanced and brightened by thin slices of Granny Smith apples, pickled mustard greens, arugula and micro greens. The whole construction was smoky, salty, sweet and herbaceous.
Familia announces their menu a few days ahead of the weekend, but if you're not a menu cyber-stalker like myself, I think you can roll the culinary dice and see what's on offer. I don't think you can go wrong.
If you go:
Inside Anchorage Brewing Co.
148 W. 91st Ave.
Thursday-Saturday (check social media for hours)
For hours and menu, follow them on Facebook or Instagram: @familia.ak
Bore Tide Pretzels
A good soft pretzel is one of my favorite things on Earth. My father, who started baking during the pandemic, makes a batch for me — sprinkled with caraway — whenever I visit home, so for me, a good pretzel tastes like love.
So, when news of a new pop-up serving authentic soft pretzels at farmers markets and breweries around town hit my feed, my interest was piqued. I finally caught up with Bore Tide Pretzel Co. at Green Connection's recent Halloween Bazaar, a delightful event in its own right.
They were worth the pursuit. The pretzels ($7), sprinkled with your choice of Alaska-sourced sea salt or sesame seeds, are served with a side of either house-made cheese sauce, house-crafted mustard, or jam. They are chewy and toothsome on the outside, soft and pillowy on the inside, and flavorful throughout. The cheese sauce tastes of actual cheese — no processed cheese food was harmed in the making of this sauce. It's creamy but sharp. I was skeptical at first about jam as a dipping sauce, but in retrospect, it makes perfect sense. The combination of sweet and salty is a delight.
While pretzels may seem like a simple snack, doing them right is a painstaking affair. There's an art to elevating them from nothing more than a whimsically shaped dinner roll to the supremely satisfying bite that Bore Tide serves up. One secret is in the "poolish," a liquidy dough that is prepared 12 hours before the rest of the dough and then added in to create the light, bubbly crumb within. The other secret is in the lye bath that each pretzel is dipped in before baking. Why does lye perfect the humble pretzel? In layman's terms, lye speeds up the Maillard reaction, which gives the crust a satiny texture and golden brown hue. In chemist's terms, with thanks to the company's website, it looks like this:
CO₂ (g) + H₂O (l) ⇄ H₂CO₃ (aq)H₂CO₃ (aq) + 2 NaOH (aq) → Na₂CO₃ (aq) + 2 H₂O (l)
Of course, no science degree is required to enjoy these perfect pretzels.
If you go:
Bore Tide Pretzel Co.
For hours and locations, follow them on Facebook or Instagram: @boretidepretzelco