Within the Wild: Alaska on a Plate

Within The Wild Adventure Company is a partnership, in existence since 1983, between Carl and Kirsten Dixon and their daughters, Carly and Mandy Dixon. The family owns and operates Winterlake Lodge; Tutka Bay Lodge; the Cooking School at Tutka Bay; a home goods boutique, RusticWild; and La Baleine Café, all in Southcentral Alaska.

Kirsten and her daughter Mandy are passionate chefs, who work together to bring their guests a unique culinary experience alongside Alaska’s outdoor adventures. They introduce travelers to the flavors of Alaska, greatly influenced by the state’s pioneer spirit, Alaska Native and Russian heritage and the Pacific Rim and Nordic fishing cultures. Guests experience a sense of place through the flavors of seasonal and regional ingredients.

The mother-daughter duo have traveled and cooked around the world from New York City to Japan and Morocco, allowing global cuisine to influence their cooking. The Japanese philosophy of washoku, how the balance of color, taste, flavor and texture brings harmony to food, plays an important role in Kirsten and Mandy’s kitchens. Both chefs incorporate the concept in their dishes, such as their ramen bowl, including homemade ramen noodles with wild Alaska king salmon, spot shrimp toast and king crab beignets.

Kirsten Dixon

Kirsten Dixon has been cooking in the backcountry of Alaska for more than 30 years. As chef and owner, she not only runs the kitchens at both Tutka Bay Lodge and Winterlake Lodge, but also operates the Cooking School at Tutka Bay. Kirsten attended the Le Cordon Bleu in Paris and earned a master’s degree in gastronomy from Adelaide University in Australia.

Mandy Dixon

Mandy serves as Within the Wild Adventure Co.’s pastry chef and the chef of La Baleine Café, a seaside cafe in Homer, Alaska, that the family opened in May 2013. Mandy left Alaska in 2002 to train at Le Cordon Bleu in Pasadena, Calif. Four years later, she enrolled in the intensive pastry program at the Culinary Institute of America in St. Helena, Calif. During school and following her graduation, she worked as a pastry chef for the Thomas Keller Restaurant Group in Yountville, Calif. She returned to the family business in 2010.

The Tutka Bay Lodge and Winterlake Lodge Experience

Location is the primary difference between the company’s upscale wilderness retreats. Winterlake Lodge sits lakeside surrounded by mountains approximately 198 trail miles north of Anchorage. Tutka Bay lies at the end of a seven-­‐mile fjord off the southwest coast of Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula near the seaside community of Homer. The kitchen staffs at both lodges take pride in the uniqueness of their wilderness kitchens situated close to nature.

All meals are included during each guest’s stay and feature fresh local ingredients, ranging from wild berries and produce grown in the lodges’ on-­‐site gardens to wild seafood or famers market vegetables. To help supplement when fresh products aren’t as readily available, they preserve jams and jellies from the summer berries and harvest and dry seaweed and other edible wild herbs or mushrooms.

Seafood heavily influences the menu at Tutka Bay Lodge due to its location in the heart of Kachemak Bay. A stay at Tutka Bay often becomes a culinary exploration into the area’s rich maritime culture and history. Meals at the lodge typically feature local seafood including crab, halibut, salmon and famous Kachemak Bay oysters.

Guests are always welcome in the lodge’s kitchens, whether they want to take a cooking class or just talk about the food. It’s often the topic of conversation over the daily evening wine and cheese tastings as well.

The Cooking School at Tutka Bay

Within the Wild Adventure Co. opened the Cooking School at Tutka Bay on the property adjacent to Tutka Bay Lodge in 2010. Set on a former World War II troop carrier turned crabbing boat, the cooking school is open to the public on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Visitors to the cooking school participate in classes based on several international cuisine themes that incorporate local ingredients from the sea and the garden. Under the instruction of Kirsten and Mandy, guests find themselves preparing a three-­‐course menu featuring a personalized collection of global recipes prepared form a regional perspective.

La Baleine Café

Mandy opened the doors to La Baleine Café on the Homer Spit in the summer of 2013. Working in partnership with her mother, Mandy designed a menu of traditional and modern rustic-­‐style Alaska dishes and pastries for the café. The cuisine places an emphasis on locally sourced and grown ingredients from around the Kachemak Bay area.

Armed with ingredients from the Homer farmers market, La Baleine Café offers a bounty of hearty, homemade dishes from the frittata of the day made with fresh farmers market veggies to a Dungeness crab melt sandwich. A menu highlight is the salmon bowl which features brown rice, roasted root vegetables including beets, seasonal greens and grilled salmon served with a miso ginger dressing.

Media contacts:

  • Kirsten Dixon, co-­‐owner and chef
  • Meghan Aftosmis, Thompson & Co. PR