September 09, 2015
A gourmet culinary experience is totally unexpected at the end of the 90-mile Denali Park road, and 350 miles away from Anchorage.
Our guests are not in pursuit of a unique and memorable eating experience when they book a stay at our lodges, but that is exactly what they get. Over 60 years since our founding, the availability of good ingredients has expanded, as have the expectations of our palates. Long gone are the days of freeze-dried green beans and corned beef from a can. Today, the plates of delicious food served up in our kitchens represent the best flavors and ingredients available to us, and our commitment to source from suppliers dedicated to organic and sustainable production. We pride ourselves in making your dining experience a featured part of a stay at Camp Denali and North Face Lodge.
The level of detail found in our kitchens includes even the smallest of products: spices. The curry powder in our “Curried Cauliflower Soup” comes from The Spice House, a family owned company dedicated to highest quality and freshest spices. This delicious dish is perfect for an Alaskan climate, where a hardy vegetable like cauliflower thrives. Starting in July, we receive heads of Alaska cauliflower, ranging from creamy off-white to bright yellow and sometimes (when we’re lucky!) a shocking purple. The creaminess of this soup is unique, derived from pureed cashews and coconut milk. It has a rich flavor without any dairy, and is also vegan.
The recipe comes from health food guru, Dr. Andrew Weil.
1) Put the cashews in a blender and blend until finely ground. Add 3/4 cup of water and blend for 2 minutes. Strain and set this mixture aside.
2) In a large pot, heat the olive oil over low heat. Add the diced onions and sauté until golden. Add the cauliflower, coconut milk, cashew mixture, curry powder, turmeric, cumin, sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Add enough water to cover. Bring to a low boil, reduce heat and simmer until cauliflower is tender, about 10 minutes.
3) Blend the soup with an immersion blender or standing blender until the desired consistency is reached. If using a standing blender, allow the mixture to cool for 20 minutes before blending. Blend until the soup is smooth.
4) Garnish, if desired, with caramelized onions. Sauté the thinly sliced onion in the canola oil over low heat, stirring frequently, until the onion is golden brown, about 30 minutes. Add a couple pinches of sugar and a pinch of salt to complete the caramelizing.
May 27, 2015
When my mom visited my Alaskan home for the first time, she looked around my 325 square foot one-story log cabin with a half loft and said “but where is all your stuff?” I could not help but laugh at her reaction. The joke of a cabin dweller is that you know you live in a cabin, not a house, when you can see all the possessions you own at once. From whichever spot you are standing in. She was in fact looking at everything we have, which in reality is not a lot. My dad’s reaction was by far the more hilarious one. He sat on my couch, taking inventory of our four 15-foot long walls, and said under his breath, “My God, Teresa.”
I have friends who gush about my perfect life, living the reality of the “tiny house” phenomenon. I just have to smile and do my best to not give them a reality check of what it is usually like living in a home smaller than my freshman-year college dorm room with another person. Although I suppose most of those friends’ assumption of a “tiny house” would at least involve a separate bedroom, a bathroom, and maybe even a “cutsy” lounge space for watercolors or crafting. I do not assume that they envision a 325 square foot cabin with no dimensions, doors, and only 4 corners.
I will admit that at times a small cabin is incredibly cozy and even has its romantic moments. Stringing up Christmas lights during the dark winter months makes the logs glow with warm light. Having a dinner party of six seems like a rambunctious affair. When there is space for only one loveseat (not even a full couch), there is no choice but to cuddle up to watch a movie. Although then the dog follows suit and someone usually ends up on the floor. It is typically not the dog.
For the most part however, a “tiny house” involves awkward arrangements of personal items and overlapping uses of space. My toothbrush lives on the shelf beneath the pint glasses. The dog’s crate doubles as a side table for the couch. Leaving dirty dishes out for the night is not an option, as they take up the only prep space next to the stove to prepare morning coffee. There are no doors inside the cabin, making the dramatic gesture of slamming the door in frustration quite difficult. Unless you were to physically leave the cabin in such a fashion, which is not incredibly appealing when it is dark and minus 30ºF outside. The thought reminds me of a favorite Mitch Hedberg joke: “I got into an argument with a girlfriend inside of a tent. That's a bad place for an argument, because then I tried to walk out and slammed the flap. How are you supposed to express your anger in this situation? Zipper it up really quick?”
At least I only have 325 square feet of floor to vacuum; there’s the silver lining. Needless to say, we are building a house on our 12 acres of paradise, and we are going all out. Two stories and 1,000 square feet. I cannot express how excited I am to have stairs.
May 19, 2015
Just because it is light out does not mean it is daytime. Just because it is dark does not mean it is time for bed.
It seems a common reaction of the average working individual to look at a calendar and double take: “How is it May already?” The reaction is not necessarily a surprised one (as the person is likely well aware of the month), but rather simple disbelief that time can pass so quickly.
In Alaska there is one sure thing that will remind you of the time of year – the sun. It makes larger arcs in the sky each day from the winter to summer solstice. It can hardly be said that the sun “rises in the east” and “sets in the west” in Alaska. In winter, the arc starts just above the horizon in the southern sky, and each day becomes a little wider. Eventually the arc begins and ends in the northern sky when summer arrives.
My cabin has big windows on all sides, and the sun rises and sets in each and every one of those windows at some point throughout the year. When winter takes hold, the sun only glows from behind the mountains out of my south-facing window. Twenty-two days after the solstice, not a day sooner, it will finally break through the low passes in the range, flooding my cabin with sunlight in five-minute spurts before disappearing behind a mountain’s peak. By February, I can no longer work comfortably at my east-facing computer desk in the morning. The dawn beams come streaming through that window rather than from the south. By March, it is impossible to block the glare on the TV coming through the west-facing windows in the evening. At that point, I know spring has arrived. The sun signals summer when in the early hours of the morning, still the middle of the night for that matter, the sun’s rays burst through my north-facing window. It becomes near impossible to sleep through the constant daylight shining right into my eyes. Even with curtains, the light will find the cracks and remind me that summer is here.
People often ask how I deal with the darkness in winter. What they should be asking is how I deal with the constant daylight in summer. Each pose challenges for the psyche, but I fully embrace both. It gives me energy to watch the sun work its way through the sky, making dramatic changes as seasons come and go. Winter offers peaceful twilight, allowing for quiet evenings in front of the fire. As daylight creeps back, the long to-do list that piles up starts being checked off. Why not chop wood at 11PM when the bugs are put to bed and the sun is still high in the sky?
Before I know it, the sun isn’t coming up until my drive to work in the fall. Soon I do not have to use my sun visor on the highway on the morning commute, which means winter is arriving once again.
It is our pleasure to present Dispatches, a journal of the goings on at Camp Denali & North Face Lodge. Written by members of our staff, Dispatches is an opportunity to peek into the special sightings notebook, brush up on Denali National Park issues, read about our ongoing projects in sustainability, and maybe get a whiff of what’s cooking in the kitchens. Dispatches will carry on through the winter, when we hope to share stories of snowy ski adventures, deep cold, and the events of a small Alaskan community.