The first excerpt from Living Within The Wild
Kirsten Dixon and daughter, Mandy, both accomplished chefs and owners of Within the Wild Alaska – Winterlake Lodge and Tutka Bay Lodge – are currently working on a new cookbook, to be published in April 2021.
Here is the first of a few previews of stories and recipes from Living Within the Wild…
Let’s just begin our story here…
It’s an early July morning in Southcentral Alaska. The sun is streaming through low-lying clouds as a gray fog shrouds the harbor. It’s a moody weather day for summer, but perhaps it will improve later. The La Baleine Café, with its twinkling lights, is an inviting bright spot against the intense blues and grays of Kachemak Bay. If you peek inside one of the café windows, you’ll see a warm and convivial scene of a room filled with fishers and locals, tourists, and weekenders from Anchorage. Mandy is cooking eggs and grilling salmon in the tiny kitchen of her tiny café.
The thing about owning a small café in a seaside town in Alaska is how quickly you learn to know the most colorful regulars. There’s Breakfast Mike, who likes his egg sandwich cut in half so he can eat part of it later. And, the Friday Morning Breakfast Club, a group of long-retired friends that meet once a week to talk about any adventures they’ve had. There’s John, the owner of a bear viewing guide boat who lives in Alaska year-round. He brings in his entire eclectic work crew into the café for big meals as they work on their boat moored just behind the cafe. The cast of characters goes on, and they all seemingly breathe life into the La Baleine Café. The people who inhabit this space create a kind of kinetic energy that inspires Mandy to work hard, to do her best, and to be creative. She doesn’t ever want to let these people down.
Here are a few breakfast dishes on the menu today:
– Homemade walnut toast with berries
– Hot barley cereal with birch butter
– Yukon Jack salmon bacon
Across the bay, about twenty-five minutes by boat, Carly is setting out yoga mats onto the large wooden deck overlooking the ocean. The sun has broken through, and tiny beads of dew are evaporating around her. Grace Ridge, a 3100-foot rise in the lush maritime landscape, looms just to the east of the lodge, displaying a hundred colors of green in the early morning light. The lodge is coming to life, hummingbirds dart in and out of the feeders surrounding the back deck, and the aroma of coffee fills the main lodge. Carly faces her students and begins her morning routine, stretching and breathing in the salt-kissed morning air.
Down near the tide, naturalist guide and resident scientist Karyn, is guiding a small group of guests along the shoreline, delicately pointing out nearly missed creatures so small they would go otherwise unnoticed. Tiny oblong nudibranchs, mollusks that abandoned their shells a few million years ago, swirl amidst the bits of algae, amongst the sea anemone and sea stars. Karyn is gathering bright green sea lettuce into her basket to dry and use in the kitchen.
Later in the afternoon, Karyn will ready kayaks on the other side of the deck for the guests she’ll take out after lunch. The group will silently paddle along the edge of the deep fjord of Tutka Bay into the Herring Islands, looking for whales, sea otters, and the dozens of shorebirds Karyn will point out along the way.