The Puzzle of the Hospital Murders Continues as Trent Joins an Anchorage Friend for Lunch at Fromagio’s (Conclusion)

Trent Marshall and Darcey Anderson returned to Anchorage a week after the third hospital murder. The fourth patient was killed the following week.

Trent was having lunch with his friend Pete Kott at Fromagio’s, a deli that specializes in cheese. While Trent would take a few samples of Fromatio’s excellent cheese home with him, he and Pete both ordered Coppa Cubano Melt sandwiches.

“You say four people have died in the same hospital, killed by an overdose of the same painkiller?” Pete repeated. “It does seem like more than a coincidence.”

Trent looked at him.

“Yeah, I know,” Pete said quickly. “You don’t believe in coincidence. Who were the victims?”

Trent went through the list. There was the woman who was a potential witness in an upcoming trial who was first thought might have been killed by the defendant; the terminally ill man who might possibly have been suicidal; a woman who had minor but painful surgery; and, finally, just a guy who had suffered a painful injury and had nothing in his life that would indicate a reason for him to be murdered.

“Sounds like a serial killer, all right,” Pete said. “Do you have their names?”

Trent had committed the names to memory. He reeled them off. Pete looked up quickly when he heard the third name.

“Did you say Lacey Lansbury?” he asked.

Trent doubled-checked the names before answering.

“Yes, Lacey Lansbury. Do you know her?”

“I know of her,” Pete replied. “Her husband is Kevin Lansbury. He’s a doctor. A fairly well known guy in town.”

“A doctor? Really?” Trent said, thoughtfully. “A well known doctor?”

“Well, better known for other things,” Pete chuckled. “A friend of mine who belongs to a private wine connoisseur club told me Lansbury’s application for membership was rejected because he’s such a well known philanderer. I mean, someone has an affair and can be forgiven, but apparently old Doc Lansbury chases every woman he meets. I heard he has a newyoung beauty on the line now. I also heard his wife was tired of his carrying on and planned to divorce him.”

“Interesting,” Trent said. He thought Pete had just supplied the answer to the serial killer puzzle. They didn’t have a serial killer. They had someone wanting to make people believe there was a serial killer. What they really had was a guy who wanted to get rid of his wife. He would have to give some thought to best way to take care of this guy. Anyone as heartless as the murdering doctor deserved nothing in the way of mercy.

“I think you just helped me solve this puzzle, Pete,” Trent said. “Now we’re in Fromagio’s. Let’s have lunch.”

They both ordered Coppa Cubano Melts from Fromagio’s limited but delicious lunch menu. The sandwiches contained both coppa and prosciutto, thin slices of pork, similar but coming from different parts of the pig. There were chopped cornichons, the small, sour French pickles that Trent especially loved, and the Swiss-like Emmental cheese. It was all held together with dijonaise, the delightful mixture of mayonnaise and Dijon mustard.

They ate in silence for a couple of minutes.

“Would you put this sandwich in the good category,” Trent asked, “or great?”

“I’d say it’s great,” Pete replied.

“Yeah, so would I,” Trent said. “Darcey will love the cheese I’m going to take home but I think she’ll enjoy lunch at Fromagio’s even more.”


Murder and Oyster Stew on a Cold Alaska Winter Day (Part One)

Darcey laid the newspaper aside and stared out the large windows at the snow-covered view from their penthouse on the edge of Bootlegger’s Cove in Anchorage. The article she had read had her considering its meaning.

A patient at the city’s largest hospital had died from an overdose of fentanyl. Debbie Ziering recently underwent gallbladder surgery, a relatively minor but very painful procedure. But that wasn’t what attracted Darcey’s attention.

Ziering had been the only eye witness in the trial that resulted in the conviction of Aurora Henning for multiple heinous crimes. Darcey didn’t know Henning but had seen her. It was hard to miss the woman, Darcey thought, since she played the role of the popinjay. Her arrogance was, at the least, offensive.

The entire city, it seemed, had breathed a sigh of relief at the woman’s conviction. Her lawyers had already filed an appeal. Now if that motion was granted the star witness would no longer be available. It was possible the charges would be dismissed and Henning would again be free to threaten the peace of the city.

She would show the article to Trent when he got home. But first, it was time to make oyster stew.

Darcey’s Oyster Stew

4 tablespoons butter, divided

1 tablespoon olive oil

3 green onions, chopped

Darcey’s Oyster Stew

1/4 cup parsley, chopped

2 tablespoons white wine

3 tablespoons flour

oysters (2 8 – 10 ounce jars, drained with liquid reserved)

milk

1 cup heavy cream

Worcestershire

cayenne, salt, & coarsely ground black pepper to taste

In a heavy stock pot or large sauce pan, saute the green onions and parsley over medium heat in one tablespoon of melted butter and one tablespoon of olive oil until the vegetables are soft and taking on color.

Deglaze the pot with the wine. Let the wine simmer until it is almost completely reduced.

Melt the remaining three tablespoons of butter. Add the flour and stir to make a white sqauce. When the white sauce has reached the desired consistensy, mix the reserved oyster liquid with enough milk to make two cups. Pour into the pot and add the oysters. Cook briefly, only until the oysters have begun to curl.

Add the heavy cream and several dashes of Worcestershire. Season to taste with cayenne, salt, and pepper.

Heat thoroughly for a few minutes but don’t let the liquid come to a boil.

Stay warm!

Chiang Kai Shek’s Gold Served with Trent Marshall’s Lasagna

The sweet aroma of lasagna in the oven filled Trent Marshall and Darcey Anderson’s Anchorage penthouse. It was the week before Christmas and it was cold. Trent and Darcey had brought their family to Alaska to enjoy a white Christmas. It was cold but not cold enough to keep the girls of the family from their holiday shopping, though Ivy was heard grumbling about ice and snow as they left.

After he got the lasagna in the oven, Trent lost himself in a tome from the book shelf that included a section on the removal of Chinese gold reserves from the mainland to Taiwan when Chiang Kai Shek led his army and several hundred thousand civilians fleeing the victorious communists at the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949.

When Chiang realized he had lost the war, he secretly began moving his forces to Taiwan. He flew almost five hundred military aircraft to the island along with twenty six naval vessels. He also used several dozen ships to smuggle China’s complete gold reserves from the mainland. Before Mao Zedong realized what was happening, Chiang successfully moved some 135 tons of gold plus several national artistic treasures to Taiwan. It was that huge cache of gold that would serve as the basis of Taiwan’s future commercial success.

Trent was vaguely familiar with the story. His interest was stirred the previous weekend while on a family trip. As it was unseasonably warm then, Trent took Darcey, their daughter Kelli, Darcey’s mother Betty, and Ivy, Trent’s surrogate mother, on a drive through the mountains south to Seward.

While the women explored the shops along the water front, Trent strolled along the dock looking at boats. One in particular attracted his attention. It was an old boat. He thought it came from the first half of the twentieth century. The name, written in faded paint on the bow, said “Chuan.” it seemed somehow familiar to him.

He learned in his research that day that Chiang used many ships and aircraft to spirit the gold away from the mainland. Eighty or ninety of those ships eventually defected back to the communist government. One sank. And one simply disappeared. The Chuan.

It wasn’t known if the Chuan was carrying gold when it vanished. With 135 tons of gold moving to Taiwan there would certainly be a temptation.

Trent closed the book and looked thoughtfully out the window, his gaze following Cook Inlet. Perhaps another adventure was shaping up.

But first…lasagna!

Trent Marshall’s Lasagna

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 cup onion, finely chopped

5 cloves garlic, minced

1 pound ground beef

2 pounds canned tomatoes

8 ounces tomato sauce

6 ounces tomato paste

1/2 cup red wine

2 tablespoons Worcestershire

1 teaspoon oregano

Lasagna

1 teaspoon basil

1 teaspoon sugar

Creole seasoning & pepper to taste

1 cup ricotta

1/2 cup parmesan, grated

1 pound mozzarella, grated

lasagna noodles

Saute the onion in olive oil until it is soft and beginning to color. Add the garlic and cook a minute longer. Don’t let the garlic burn. Add the ground beef. Stir to mix well and continue cooking until the meat is browned.

Add all the remaining ingredients except for the cheeses and noodles. Gently simmer the sauce for at least an hour and up to four hours.

Create layers in an oven proof pan beginning with a thin layer of sauce. A glass dish is best.

Next cover the pan with noodles. Trent uses pre-cooked noodles. Then make layers as follows: a thicker layer of sauce; crumbles of ricotta; sprinkles of parmesan; a layer of mozzarella. Repeat the layers, ending with sauce and then mozzarella.

Bake in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes.

Terrific when snow is on the ground!

Alleyway Grille

Trent Marshall was still in New Orleans when Tom Brennan called.

They had become friends when Trent and Darcey began spending part of the year in Anchorage after A Shooting at Auke Bay. Like Trent, Tom and his wife, Marnie, had been newspaper reporters. While Trent followed his career as an investigative reporter by seeking adventure, Tom became a best-selling author, penning a series of books on true crime in Alaska.

“Hey, Trent,” Tom began the call. “There’s a new restaurant we have to try when you guys get back to Anchorage.”

“Sounds good to me, Tom,” Trent replied. “I’ll be there next week. Darcey will be flying up with her mother and Ivy the following week. Kelli travels better when Betty and Ivy are with her.” Betty was Darcey’s mother. Ivy was the older black woman who became Trent’s surrogate mother when his own parent died suddenly. Trent and Darcey’s daughter Kelli considered both women to be her “Mamaws.”

The Alleyway Grille is in a small building in midtown Anchorage that is a food legend in the city. Dick Sanchis opened the first Arctic Roadrunner in 1964. It soon became the premier local fast food restaurant with Sanchis known as “Your Local Burgerman.” A second, larger Roadrunner on the Old Seward Highway followed and continues as a popular Anchorage eatery.

When Sanchis passed away, his will specified that the original Roadrunner be closed. Fortunately, along came Alan Hammond, a veteran of the kitchen at Chilkoot Charlie’s. Hammond opened the Alleyway Grille in the original Roadrunner building. It was a good day for Anchorage foodies.

Hammond’s years managing ‘Koot’s kitchen might explain the 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 a.m. hours of operation. The Alleyway’s menu has been described as “upscale bar food.” The hours would indicate the restaurant welcomes the crowd hungry after the bars close.

Trent met Tom and Marnie for lunch at the Alleyway. If it was good, he’d come back with Darcey later.

He ordered the Cubano, a hearty sandwich of smoked pork belly, corned beef, onion, and Swiss cheese with Dijon mustard on a Hoagie roll. The combination of taste sensations created a synaptic event on his tongue.

“This,” Trent proclaimed, “is a good sandwich.”

Tom said his club sandwich also was very good. A more traditional offering with ham, bacon, chicken, lettuce, tomato, and pickles, it was brightened by the inclusion of AWG sauce. The house-made sauce, the diners were told, is a southern-inspired spicy aioli with a noticeable hint of cayenne.

Marnie proclaimed her simple BLTA (bacon, lettuce, tomato, avocado) satisfyingly tasty.

The Alleyway Grille

All three sandwiches were accompanied by hand-cut fries, perfectly browned. Trent and his real life friends agreed the fries were the perfect sides for sandwiches that would bring them back for more.

Noting the children’s menu, Trent vowed to bring his whole family when he came back. As he looked over the extensive menu, the decision to be made was breakfast, lunch, or dinner?

The answer, he thought, was “Yes!”



Lobster, Chicken, and Clean Justice

Something was bothering homicide detective Christopher Booth. Something he saw at the hospital. There was reason to believe a serial killer was at work. Four patients had died under mysterious circumstances. Circumstances suggesting foul play.

Murder.

It was true that one of the victims was a government bureaucrat charged with taking bribes to issue permits for questionable projects. The other three were just people who were having a rough time of it.

Whatever it was that Christopher saw lingered tantalizingly at the outer edge of his memory. He decided to drop it. It would, he knew from experience, likely bounce up again in perhaps a more recognizable form.

Christopher and his wife, Nancy Patrick, also a homicide detective, were escaping the Bay area to join their friends Trent Marshall and Darcey Anderson in Anchorage. They were packed and ready. While their luggage held clothing that allowed them to dress in layers responsive to the unpredictable Alaska weather, Christopher was wearing huaraches, the comfortable old shoes he liked to wear when flying.

He called Trent from the airport.

“Hey, buddy,” Trent said. “I was just washing up before going to help Darcey in the kitchen. We plan to do you justice for dinner and justice starts with clean hands.”

Trent said he had a very fine Jamaican rum waiting on his bar to whet their appetites before dinner.

As the wheels were retracted after take off, Christopher settled back in his seat with the thought of a pleasant nap in mind. Suddenly his eyes popped open. Trent’s innocent comments raised the image Christopher had seen in the hospital. He knew who the hospital murderer was.

Christopher rushed off the airplane as soon as it landed in Anchorage to call his colleague.

“Roger, the killer is the maintenance man,” he said.

“Are you sure?” Roger questioned. “How do you know?”

“The way he washes his hands,” Christopher said.

Roger laughed.

“You call that evidence?” he asked.

“No,” Christopher said. “I call it probable cause to look into the man’s background. I saw him washing his hands while you and I were talking. Your back was to him so you couldn’t see what he was doing. He spent a good five minutes washing his hands. He paid particular attention to his nails.”

“So what?” Roger exclaimed, sounding a big exasperated. “So he’s a clean maintenance man. Good for him.”

“Roger, maintenance men don’t wash their hands like that. But doctors do,” Christopher said. “Trust me on this. See what you can find out about the man. I’ll bet you will find he has a medical background. He’s not who he pretends to be.

The weather was turning cool in Anchorage. The four friends sat inside with a gentle blaze in the fireplace sipping the Jamaican rum Trent provided. There was still enough evening light to allow them to enjoy the magnificent view of Cook Inlet, Mount Susitna, and the distant Alaska Range from the penthouse windows.

Chicken-Lobster Emince in an Orange-Cream Sauce


Trent and Darcey had prepared a chicken and lobster emince in an orange- cream sauce. An emince is cooked meat, poutry, or even seafood, thinly sliced and served in a sauce. It is sometimes made with leftovers, turning them into elegant meals. Christopher thought he had found a new favorite meal.

Christopher Booth’s Chicken and Lobster Emince in an Orange-Cream Sauce

1 tablespoon butter

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 shallot, minced

1 cup dry white wine

1/2 cup fresh tarragon, or to taste

2 cups heavy cream

2 tablespoons Triple Sec (or other orange flavored liqueur)

1 chicken breast, cooked & thinly sliced

12 ounces lobster tail meat, shelled, cooked, & thinly sliced

salt & white pepper to taste

rice

Heat the butter and olive oil together.

Saute the shallot until it is soft.

Pour in the white wine. Simmer until it is reduced to about a quarter of a cup. It will take ten to fifteen minutes.

Toss in the tarragon and add the heavy cream. Simmer the sauce until it is reduced by half. Add the Triple Sec. Let the sauce simmer for a minute or two longer to allow the liqueur to permeate the sauce.

Stir in the chicken and lobster.

Season to taste with salt and white pepper.

Serve over rice.

“Good morning, Roger,” Christopher answered the call.

“I don’t know how you did it,” Christopher’s colleague said, “but you were right. The maintenance man is our guy.”

“What did you find out?”

“He’s been working here for almost a year under the name Dylan Burns. His real name is Franco Liston. And you were right. He was a doctor in Arizona. The hospital there began having a similar series of murders. Liston was suspected but he disappeared before he could be arrested,” Roger explained.

“It’s a bit weird,” Christopher said.

“Yeah, he’s set himself up as judge, jury, and executioner,” Roger said. “The biggest problem, however, is that some of the people who have died are perfectly innocent. Liston gets it in his mind that they’re not good people and decides to deliver his own brand of justice.”

“Well, he’s out of business now,” Christopher observed.

“Thanks for your help,” Roger said. “Now go enjoy your vacation.”

Christopher thought that was good advice. He dragged himself out of bed and set out for the kitchen. The memory of the delicious chicken and lobster emince from the night before lingered on his tongue. He was anxious to see what breakfast delights awaited.

Bon temps!

The Cop and The King

Homicide detective Nancy Patrick’s hand went involuntarily to the nickel plated Smith & Wesson .357 magnum on her hip as she stared in wonder at the creature in the kitchen.

Since Nancy and her husband, homicide detective Christopher Booth, had become friends with Trent Marshall and Darcey Anderson, they had been involved in one adventure after another. Most involved fast cars, criminals, guns, and fighting for their lives. So it was when they arrived in Alaska after A Shooting at Auke Bay.

More pleasant were the adventures that began “when the sun went over the yardarm” at five o’clock daily. It was a time when refreshing cocktails or fine wines were poured. Cocktail hour was always followed by amazing meals. Some as complicated as the kolety, sort of a Russian version of a burger made with pork. It was a welcome departure from the scrambled eggs, ham sandwiches, buckets of chicken, and pizza that had been the staples of the Booth-Patrick household.

Now Nancy was staring at the three king crabs who were staring back at her with their twin eye stalks, which seemed to search the room, moving independently of each other. It was little wonder Nancy was startled by the giant crustaceans. Even for a species known for its large size, these specimens were giants. Each had a carapace of nearly eleven inches in diameter. Their leg spans looked to be six feet. Monsters.

King crab & drawn butter

Later, when the confrontation in the kitchen had passed, Nancy joined the small group in the large sitting room for French 75s, Trent’s signature cocktail. The crabs were cooked quickly in boiling water and served simply with drawn butter. The “Sourdough” Alaskans showed their new “Cheechako” friend, Nancy, how to cut through the shells of the leg segments to extract the long lengths of sweet meat. Dipping it into drawn butter is all that’s necessary for king crab.

What are your thoughts on king crab? What’s your favorite way to eat it?

Don’t forget that I’ll be hosting a book release and signing party for A Shooting at Auke Bay on August 3rd at Mexico in Alaska. Let me know if you’d like to be invited. Who knows? You might even meet Trent and Darcey!

Trent’s Riddle: Go to Mexico but Don’t Leave Anchorage

Darcey Anderson was puzzled by the riddle her husband, Trent Marshall, posed as they cruised north on their chartered yacht in A Shooting at Auke Bay.

“I want Mexican food when we get to Anchorage,” she announced.

Trent smiled.

“Then go to Mexico,” he said, “but don’t leave Anchorage.”

“What did he mean?” Darcey asked Robert Monk, the retired Alaska State Trooper commander who had been a friend of Trent’s dad. “Do you know?”

Robert laughed.

“He meant you should meet Maria-Elena,” Robert said.

“Maria-Elena?” Darcey repeated. “Does she have a last name?”

“She does,” Robert replied, “but you don’t need it. Maria-Elena is a legend in Alaska.”

Maria-Elena opened Mexico in Alaska in 1972. From the beginning her restaurant was a favorite of Anchorage diners.

She is known not only for the excellent Mexican food she brought to table but for her kindness and gentle disposition. One couple tells of the time their baby was acting up a bit, complicating their attempt at lunch. Maria-Elena took the baby in her arms and walked around the restaurant, comforting the child, letting the stressed parents enjoy a relaxing meal.

“Let’s go,” Darcey said, after hearing Robert’s answer to Trent’s riddle.

Maria-Elena met them with her usual warm smile. She showed them to an excellent table and personally took their order.

Carne deshebrada taco & tamal

Robert ordered a carne deshebrada, or shredded beef taco, and beef tamal. Darcey ordered lighter fare while staying within the realm of the Mexican kitchen. A chicken salad. Mexican style.

When the large bowl was placed in front of her, Darcey said, “Now that’s a salad!”

Chicken salad, Mexican style.

Robert was very pleased with the taco and spicy tamal placed in front of him. The excellent quality for which Maria-Elena was known.

They left somewhat later, pleased with their meal, taking with them a container of hot salsa and a package of flour tortillas, both made in house.

Even better, Maria-Elena agreed to host a book release and signing party for A Shooting at Auke Bay on August 3rd. Let us know if you’d like to be invited! You might even meet Trent and Darcey!



What’s Different about a 21st Century Burger, Fries, and Hot Dog?

A relative new entry in the upscale fast food market, BurgerFi opened its first restaurant in Florida in 2011, ironically housed in what was once a Burger King.

The company focuses on traditional fast food with all natural ingredients. It also offers a vegetarian burger.

Making burger magic at BurgerFi

BurgerFi’s commitment to the sustainable nature of the 21st century extends to furniture and wall paneling. All are made from recycled products.

The fictional Bay area homicide detective couple Christopher Booth and Nancy Patrick, who we met in Neighbors and Other  Strangers, make their way to Alaska in the upcoming third in the Trent Marshall/Darcey Anderson series, A Shooting at Auke Bay.

In Anchorage, they meet Steve Hamlen, a real person. One of a group of late 20th century pioneers instrumental in bringing advanced telecommunications services to Bush Alaska.

When they decided to have lunch together, Steve suggested they meet at BurgerFi.

A good choice.

Christopher and Nancy both ordered the CEO, a burger made from a combination of wagyu beef and brisket. It comes adorned with only a modest sauce of candied bacon and tomato, made in-house.

It needs nothing more.

The couple agreed it was one of the best burgers either had ever eaten.

They also each ordered a side of fries, hand cut and brought to table perfectly browned. The way hand cut fries should be.

Steve opted for the VegiFi, a vegetarian burger with a patty made of quinoa and hand cut vegetables accompanied by lettuce and Cheddar cheese.

He also ordered hand cut onion rings. Huge. Perfectly breaded. Perfectly browned. Onion rings.

After lunch, Steve continued on in real life, pleased with the meal and his new, fictional friends.

Christopher and Nancy returned to their world of fiction, determined to convince the author to set a scene at a BurgerFi.

They thought it would spice up any story.

If you’d like to meet somewhere for lunch with Christopher and Nancy, just leave a comment and we’ll see if we can make the arrangements.

And check out my books! Here’s the link: https://www.amazon.com/author/parkergordon

South

October 16, 2015 – The blackboard in the bar at South said the day’s sparkling wine was Mumm’s.  OK.  I’m in.

The cocktail menu boasts a French 75.  A favorite.

And anyone who knows me knows my kinship with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and his legendary character Sherlock Holmes.  They would understand why the Basil Rathbone cocktail got my attention.  Cucumber, basil, lemon peel, pink peppercorns, Bombay Sapphire Gin & Fever Tree Bitter Lemon Tonic.  It could become a favorite.

South is bright.  Vibrant.  Glittery.

I want to go back in the evening for cocktails.  But today was about food.

South is the latest restaurant opened by Laile Fairbairn and her partners.  It joins Snow City Café, famous for its breakfasts, and Spenard Roadhouse, that cozy, family-friendly eatery that reminds me so much of growing up in what was then the south part of town.

There’s the feel of a French bistro about South.  I asked Laile if that was their intent.   “We were definitely thinking European,” she told me.  “French, yes.  But evenings have more of a Spanish influence.”

General Manager Tyler Crenshaw has done a good job of creating an atmosphere that encourages friends to meet for lunch.  Or even better, brunch.

Executive Chef Shane Moore has developed a brunch menu that features European classics alongside southern standards.  (Biscuits and gravy anyone?)  Spanish-influenced dishes like Huevos Divorciados.  (Eggs over corn tortillas with black beans and pico de gallo.)   And what Alaskan restaurant wouldn’t offer Crab Benedict on a brunch menu?  It’s our own classic.

I was meeting my long time friend and colleague Marnie Brennan.  Her husband, the journalist and author Tom Brennan, had been scheduled to join us.  But as it happened he had doggy duty that day.  His job, Marnie explained, was to take their two dogs, Bonnie and Clyde (both females, by the way), to the doggy hotel to demonstrate that they could play well with others.  As one with a King Charles Cavalier who sincerely believes she is a princess I fully understand doggy duty.  Still it was Tom’s loss.

Milan, the young man assigned to tend our table, greeted us with a cheerful, “Bonjour!” thereby adding to the French bistro feel.  Milan is from Serbia.  He’s been in Alaska for about a year now.  He says Alaska is a beautiful place to be.

He also said the chef was offering a seafood New England style chowder.  I had to try a cup.  Good decision.  The small bowl was brimming with Alaska seafood.  Shrimp, crab and cod in the traditional milk-based soup.  The chef accomplished a difficult task.  The milky liquid of the chowder gave body without being floury.  Sliding noticeably but subtly beneath the milky texture was the distinct flavor of the sea.  Terrific.  Just Terrific.

Marnie decided to be good.  As in healthy.  She ordered the egg white omelet with zucchini, asparagus, kale and tomato.  Sprinkled heavily with feta and arugula sprouts.  Since she had made the moral decision to be good and be healthy, she wasn’t expecting great flavor.  She was pleasantly surprised.  Delectable, she said.  Packed with flavor.  Healthy can be tasty.

When it came to ordering an entrée I was very much into French bistro mode.  The menu has both a Croque Monsieur and a Croque Madame.  Traditional bistro dishes.

A Croque Monsieur is simple.  A grilled ham and cheese sandwich.

A Croque Madame is the same but more.  It traditionally is served open faced, topped with a fried egg.  At South the Croque Madame is presented on brioche with Black Forest Ham, grilled asparagus and caramelized leeks.  Covered with a pungently delicious Gruyere Mornay sauce.  Topped with the traditional fried egg.  I asked for smashed potatoes on the side.

It was not only delicious, it was beautiful.

On our way out someone called, “Hey, Marnie.”  So Alaska.  We always think of Alaska as a very large land mass with the feel of a small town.  It’s wonderful to find a place like South that still has that old Anchorage feel.  That Alaska hominess.  Where you still run into people you know.

I can’t wait to go back for dinner.

And, by the way, if you’re in a hurry and want something light, on the other side of the maître d’s desk is South’s Coffeehouse.   Pastries, light sandwiches and Kaladi Brothers coffee.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Casa

May 25, 2015 – Fusion restaurants are all the rage now.  It’s exciting.  Producing  interesting, sometimes delicious dishes by combining flavors of different cultures.

It has occurred to me that there is a downside to carrying food cultural diversity too far.  I wouldn’t want some of my favorite foods to become memories.  Then I recall the first fusion restaurant I ever visited.  Mestizo in Baton Rouge.  The brain child of Chef Jim Urdiales, born of Mexican and Cajun parents, combined two of the world’s great cuisines to create something remarkable.  Something memorable.  You really haven’t lived until you’ve had a shrimp and crawfish stuffed chili relleno.

This week I was joining my Inupiaq friend Willie Hensley for lunch.  Willie is one of Alaska’s most respected statesmen as well as a good friend.  When we get together the conversation is interesting, substantial and significant.  So is the food.  Willie’s willingness to experiment with new food concepts matches my own.

Today I suggested a fusion restaurant I had heard about on the east side of Anchorage.  We made our way through the road construction detour on Muldoon Road.  (It’s said that Anchorage has only three seasons:  winter, almost winter and road construction.)  We found Casa in a non descript stand alone building.  As we entered we saw a bar with pool table to the right.  We were guided to a booth on the left side.  The restaurant side.

The room was decorated much as one would expect in a Mexican restaurant in Anchorage.  But the menu was far different.  Casa is a Mexican-Korean fusion restaurant.  How could we pass on the chance to try that?

Casa is the latest offering by Ronnie Lee, the Korean born chef who came to the United States to study fashion design.  Instead he discovered Japanese food and became enthralled not only with the food itself but with the color and design used by sushi chefs in preparing their presentations.  Lee has opened two successful sushi restaurants in Anchorage.  Casa is an experiment in a new and untraveled direction.

We placed our orders and very quickly the ubiquitous chips and salsa of a Mexican restaurant appeared.  Each of us also received a small bowl of chicken soup with threads of egg white.  Much like an egg drop soup.  We were in a fusion restaurant.

Willie ordered bibimbap, a traditional Korean dish that translates literally as “mixed rice with meat and assorted vegetables.”  The meat was pork.  The rice was Spanish rather than the customary white rice of Korea.  The classic presentation of bibimbap includes a raw egg on top.  At Casa the egg was replaced with a dollop of sour cream.

The sampling I tasted was highly pleasant.  I was especially pleased with the hint of sesame oil.  The flavors of Mexico and Korea were working well together.

I opted for the bulgogi burrito.  Bulgogi is another dish those accustomed to Korean food will recognize.  It translates to “marinated beef.”  The marinade usually includes soy sauce, sesame oil, green onion, garlic, shiitake mushrooms and onion.

The burrito set before me was huge.  Massive.  I told Willie there was no way I could eat all that.

I focused first on the sides.  There was, of course, the standard accompaniment of refried beans and rice one would expect in a Mexican restaurant.  There was also a beautiful tempura shrimp and slices of tempura sweet potato.  I forgot about the beans and rice.  The tempura was delectable.  The breading light and perfectly cooked.  Just nicely crisp on the outside without overcooking the delicate shrimp and sweet potato inside.  Beautifully done.

I turned my attention to the burrito.  Like the breading on the tempura, the tortilla encasing the bulgogi was cooked just right.  The marinated beef inside was very tasty, the complexity of the marinade prevalent with each bite.  The addition of cojito cheese, sort of the Mexican version of Parmesan, was a good choice.  It added a bit of tang to the other cheese, more conducive to melting, that was included.  Green and red sweet peppers, onion, tomato and cilantro,  a touch of salsa, and a swipe of guacamole on top.  All combined to make a highly palatable meal.

Mexican Korean fusion works.  Works well.  I did eat the whole thing.  And l’ll do it again.