Welcome to Cordova, a remote Alaskan town Southeast of Anchorage. The population is around 2,000 people (though it swells to around double that in the Summer during salmon season). The life of the town is tied to the Copper River. Salmon fishing is not just an important part of the economy but a way of life.
It's a place where you go for a hike instead of going to the movies and host a potluck instead of making dinner reservations and wear Xtratuf boots all year round. People fish, forage, hunt. And the annual festivals celebrate things like salmon, wild berries and fungus (at the fungus festival you can win a prize for the best mushroom themed decorated pair of Xtratuf boots!). There are scientists, fishermen and processors, environmental advocates and a whole lot of overlap between them all.
Cordova is also the home of the Copper River/Prince William Sound Marketing Association, Alaska's first regional seafood development association and host of my trip.
"In Alaska, you are never more than 5 minutes away from being cold and wet," someone told me the night I arrived. And true enough, it was grey and drizzling when I landed on a connecting flight from Anchorage (you can only get to Cordova by flight or ferry).
First thing after breakfast we head to the dining room of the Orca Adventure Lodge to meet our fishing guide. While we wait, what do we food bloggers get excited about? A massive 113 year old diesel powered stove named Bertha that we spy in the kitchen.
...and the engaging chef, Jeremy Storm, who told us about the challenges of shopping and cooking in a far off Alaskan outpost.
Intrepid food bloggers, we steeled ourselves and cast our lines. The zen of fishing is irresistible. You are at one with nature and catching a fish doesn't even matter. The only one that got pulled from the water by a neighboring fisherman got thrown right back in but it provided a little excitement all the same. My fish? He got away!
Alaskan haute couture aka Copper River Fleece.
Does this tell you how important restaurant culture is in Cordova? (note the spelling on the sign)
I was told by a fisherman that the favorite wine in Cordova is "Take me to Hawaii!" I think most folks will have to settle for Baja Taco, even though it's only open during the Summer.
The tacos are filled with Copper River salmon, but of course.
When not catching fish or eating them, you can print with them, especially if you get instructions from local gyotaku artist Pat McGuire.
Note:The unwitting model in the photos is none other than Joelen of What's Cooking Chicago?, another blogger on the trip.
A huge thanks to Copper River/Prince William Sound Marketing Association for hosting me in Cordova. If you enjoyed this post, check out Day Two...