Sitka chef Colette Nelson to represent Alaska in Great American Seafood Cook-Off

ColetteGarnishesRabbitThighs

Ludvig’s Bistro owner and executive chef Colette Nelson garnishes rabbit thighs with beach asparagus for a special local foods dinner she prepared as a February 2015 fundraiser for The Sawmill Farm.

Next week, Sitka chef Colette Nelson will carry a special cargo in a violin case when she heads to New Orleans to represent Alaska in the Great American Seafood Cook-Off.

Nelson, the owner and executive chef of Ludvig’s Bistro, will be carrying a frozen white king salmon in her violin case, the fish she plans to cook for the annual contest. The white king salmon was caught July 4 by troller Lou Barr of Auke Bay (who Nelson used to commercial fish with) and flash-frozen earlier this month. Nelson doesn’t plan to let the fish out of her control as she travels to New Orleans.

“I’m going to hold that fish with me. I’m not going to let somebody put it under the plane because that’s our gold,” Nelson told the Juneau Empire in a July 25 article.

On Aug. 6, Nelson will compete against chefs from Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Oregon, South Carolina, Texas and Utah. The Great American Seafood Cook-Off is sponsored by the Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board, and focuses on domestic, sustainable seafood and local ingredients.

Nelson, who will compete with her sous chef Josh Miller, hopes to become the second straight Alaska chef to win the Best Seafood Chef title, joining Beau Schooler and Travis Hotch of The Rookery Café in Juneau who won last year with a sockeye salmon dish. Nelson was nominated for this year’s contest by Gov. Bill Walker.

Nelson hasn’t said exactly how she plans to cook her white king salmon, but did hint that it will have a Spanish theme in keeping with her restaurant’s use of Mediterranean flavors.

“For me this experience is not only about representing Alaska, but it’s about what Alaska has given to me,” Nelson told the Empire. “I came here to fish in college so that I could study abroad in Spain. I did that and had a great time fishing. I fished for three seasons, then went to Spain and fell in love with the cuisine and with Mediterranean food as a whole. So to go to this competition 25 years later — after being in both the seafood industry and the restaurant business — it feels complete to go there with Spanish ideas.”

The dish will feature a pan-seared fillet of the fish that includes the belly meat.

“For anybody that knows king salmon, the belly meat is where the best flavor is,” Nelson said. “We like it just perfectly cooked so it just starts to separate, when the flakes come off. You can feel the oil, get it on your lips and really taste it.”

Nelson opened Ludvig’s Bistro in 2002, and has been a big supporter of local foods in Sitka (including using her restaurant to host fundraisers for the Sitka Local Foods Network and developing recipes and lesson plans for Sitka’s Fish To Schools lunch program coordinated by the Sitka Conservation Society). She grew up in Oregon and attended the University of Washington, where she trained under Seattle restauranteur Susan Kaufman, who also had a food cart and restaurants in Juneau. She moved to Alaska in 1998, working as chef for Kingfisher Charters & Lodge in Sitka before opening her restaurant.

During the competition, Nelson and sous chef Josh Miller will have an hour to prepare six plates for the judges and one for photos. Nelson and Miller have been practicing, and now feel they’re ready.

“We do this all the time. We cook under pressure,” Nelson said. “When we were practicing (Sunday) I said, ‘Look, we’re just having a dinner party for seven guests and let’s just make it in an hour. We got this.’”

• Wanton waste of deer meat, a record high herring quota and other local foods stories in the news

Over the past couple of weeks, at least 10 Sitka black tail deer corpses have been found in Sitka with lots of edible meat still on the bone but the prime cuts missing. According to the Anchorage Daily News, state wildlife officials are searching for the hunters, and wanton waste charges may be coming for those involved. There were six deer found off Green Lake Road, then four deer were found near Harbor Mountain Road five days later.

The Sitka Local Foods Network encourages the responsible and sustainable harvesting of traditional subsistence foods, such as deer, but we must respect the resource and use the entire animal. Not only is leaving edible meat in the field wasteful, but the last couple of years have been down years for deer survival and the actions of these wasteful hunters may mean fewer hunting opportunities next year for hunters who need the deer to feed their families. Anyone with information about the cases is asked to call Alaska Wildlife Troopers at 747-3254 or, to remain anonymous, Wildlife Safeguard at 1-800-478-3377.

In other local foods news, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game established a record sac roe herring quota for the 2010 season, a quota of more than 18,000 tons (more than 4,000 tons higher than last year’s then-record quota). The commercial herring fleet is very happy with the higher quota, but KCAW-Raven Radio reports local subsistence gatherers worry that the record quota will harm their ability to gather herring eggs on hemlock branches, a popular subsistence and barter food for local Tlingít and Haida residents. They also worry two straight years of record quotas will hurt the resource, since herring also serves as a key forage food for salmon, halibut, whales, sea lions and other species in the region.

The Juneau Empire reported that the State of Alaska asked for an extension to reply to an inquiry on subsistence management from the federal government. The federal government took over some management of subsistence in Alaska more than a decade ago because state laws weren’t in compliance with the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA), which calls for a rural preference on subsistence in times of shortage, and the federal government may be expanding its role in subsistence management.

The Anchorage Daily News reported on Alaska pork being ready for the freezer at A.D. Farms, and that pork will be sold at the indoor farmers market at Anchorage’s Northway Mall. The story included a wrap-up of other local foods available at the market, and it had a recipe for crock-pot cod.

Laine Welch’s Alaska fishing column was about how more local fish is appearing in school lunch menus.

The Anchorage Daily News Alaska Newsreader feature reported on several Arctic travelers getting trichinosis from eating undercooked bear meat. The National Post of Canada also had a story on travelers eating undercooked bear meat, while the New York Times had an article about how trichinosis is common in bear meat that isn’t cooked properly.

The Anchorage Daily News had an article about how Alaska’s rhubarb probably first came from Russia.

Miller-McCune magazine had an article about how Alaska’s complex salmon politics can serve as a model for sustainable fisheries elsewhere in the world.

The Alaska Public Radio Network reported on a woman from Aniak, Dee Matter, who has taken freezing her food to a new level. The story also was on APRN’s Alaska News Nightly show.

The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner had a feature article about Kotzebue hunter and trapper Ross Schafer and the “Eskimo” way of life.

The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner had an article about a conflict between farmers and hunters over the future of the Delta bison herd.

The Juneau Empire ran a story about glaciers providing an important food source.

Anchorage Daily News garden columnist Jeff Lowenfels wrote about magazine gifts for gardeners.

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer ran an Associated Press article about Monsanto’s role in the business of agriculture, especially the way it squeezes out competitors in the seed industry.

Finally, the University of Alaska Fairbanks School of Natural Resources and Agricultural Sciences blog featured an article about a new study about food security challenges in Alaska.

• Two associated with Sitka Local Foods Network win awards at Alaska Health Summit

Sitka filmmaker Ellen Frankenstein, center, of Frankenstein Productions, greets fans after the Sitka premiere of her film "Eating Alaska" in October 2008

Sitka filmmaker Ellen Frankenstein, center, of Frankenstein Productions, greets fans after the Sitka premiere of her film "Eating Alaska" in October 2008

The Alaska Public Health Association (ALPHA) honored two programs with ties to the Sitka Local Foods Network during the Alaska Health Summit banquet on Dec. 9. Sitka filmmaker Ellen Frankenstein (and her Frankenstein Productions company) and the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC) Steps to a Healthier SE Alaska program both won the Alaska Community Service Award. According to ALPHA, the Alaska Community Service Award “recognizes an organization, business or group making a significant contribution to improving the health of Alaskans. It is ALPHA’s intent that nominees outside the public health tradition be considered for this award. A nominee does not need to be an ALPHA member.”

Frankenstein has produced several documentary films over the years, including “Eating Alaska,” which focuses on how we choose the food we eat. Eating Alaska debuted in the fall of 2008, and Frankenstein has taken it to film festivals all over the state and country. “Eating Alaska” received funding support from the SEARHC Steps to a Healthier SE Alaska program and other funders, plus technical support was provided by SEARHC health educators, physicians and dietitians. Some of Frankenstein’s other films include “No Loitering,” “Carved from the Heart,” “A Matter of Respect,” and “Miles from the Border.” She currently is working on a documentary film project with Haida weaver Dolores Churchill.

“As someone who fills in the occupation blank on forms with ‘filmmaker/artist,’ this award represents the fact that labels and lines don’t matter when it comes to social change and to making our lives healthier,” Frankenstein wrote from Austin, Texas, where she was attending a screening of Eating Alaska. “It not only validates my work, but represents your open-mindedness to the potential of working collaboratively and creatively with kids and adults, using art, media and storytelling to influence well-being and healthy communities.”

Frankenstein also sent this note to her e-mail group:

EATING ALASKA: ART AND HEALTH!
We just got the news the project has been awarded The Alaska Public Health Association’s 2009 Community Service Award for Health. In the process of making this film and in its use we’ve worked with nutritionists, health educators, medical and public health practitioners to add to the conversation about what we can do to make our homes, workplaces, schools and communities healthier and more sustainable. We appreciate the help everyone has given to the project to help us “contribute to improving the health of Alaskans” and others far beyond.

The SEARHC Steps to a Healthier SE Alaska program, which closes this month, was honored for the work it did over the life of its five-year grant (the national Steps to a Healthier US grant has ended, so that means all of the local grants that were part of the national grant also are ending). The Steps program funded 77 projects worth just over $1.1 million in 12 Southeast Alaska communities. Steps was one of the major funders and organizers of the Sitka Health Summit, which is where the Sitka Local Foods Network originated.

The Steps program’s goals were to increase opportunities for physical activity, improve nutrition and reduce the impact of tobacco in Southeast Alaska. The program also worked to reduce diabetes, obesity and asthma in Southeast communities. To accomplish its goals, Steps developed partnerships with schools, worksites, tribes and other community groups so they could change social norms and policies, and make evidence-based and culturally relevant interventions. In addition to the projects, Steps also hosted conferences and workshops to help programs learn how to work in collaboration.

The Steps program used the socio-ecological model, which emphasizes that an individual’s health status is influenced not only by his or her attitudes and practices, but also by personal relationships and community and societal factors. Nearly half of the 77 Steps grants (37) went to community projects, with the others geared toward schools and worksites. More than three-quarters of the grants (60) focused on improving nutrition and/or increasing physical activity. Together, the projects reached 128,000 people (with many people reached by multiple projects) in the communities of Angoon, Craig, Haines, Hoonah, Hydaburg, Juneau, Kake, Kasaan, Klawock, Klukwan, Sitka and Wrangell.

“Overall, the Steps initiative helped build capacity within communities, worksites and schools to work collaboratively, to plan evidence-based programs, and to monitor and evaluate program success,” said Grace Brooks, Steps Grant Manager. “Steps also contributed to an overall increased understanding of the importance of policy in supporting community, school and workplace health.”

In other local foods news from around the state this past week, the Alaska Dispatch ran an article about an indoors farmers market this winter at Anchorage’s Northway Mall.

Capital City Weekly featured a story by Carla Petersen about how the search for elusive cranberries is worth the challenge.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced last week that it is encouraging the use of catch shares to preserve the remaining stocks of halibut (the article features a photo from Sitka).

The Anchorage Daily News featured a story about Gov. Sean Parnell proposing to spend $1.3 million to research declining Yukon River salmon runs.

The Juneau Empire had a story about how an arts advocacy group in Juneau, Arts for Kids, has teamed up with Sitka-based Theobroma Chocolate Co. to offer SmART bars as a fundraiser for art scholarships for graduating seniors in Juneau.

The publicity poster for the movie Eating Alaska

• Food security in Alaska a big issue in recent local foods news stories

Last week, the Anchorage Daily News’ Alaska Newsreader blog reported on a story from the Huffington Post’s The Daily Beast blog that ranked Alaska second in failing to properly feed its people. The story used data from a new USDA survey on household food security in 2008, where Alaska was ranked in the middle of the pack, but it re-ranked the states based on the household food security rankings combined with statewide income and access to programs (including bureaucratic issues) that feed the hungry. By the way, Colorado had the dubious No. 1 ranking. The Juneau Empire ran an editorial from the Washington Post about the USDA survey that compared food insecurity vs. hunger.

The University of Alaska Fairbanks School of Natural Resources and Agricultural Science blog reported on a food security meeting in Fairbanks earlier this month hosted by the Sustainable Community Action Network for Fairbanks (SCANFairbanks, site hasn’t been updated in more than a year). The UAF SNRAS blog article mentioned food security projects from around the state, including work being done by the Sitka Local Foods Network. The Fairbanks Community Cooperative Market blog also had an article about the meeting.

The food security issue has been around for awhile. Earlier this year, the Alaska Food Coalition reported on Alaska’s Hungriest Communities. More than a year ago, back when Sarah Palin still was governor, Kim Sollien of the Alaska Trust Food Network (and Chickaloon Tribe) wrote an open letter to then-Gov. Palin detailing Alaska’s food security problems. While the letter is more than a year old, many of the issues still exist. Last year, the Christian Science Monitor ran an article about Alaska’s food challenges and how new farmers are coming online.

In other local foods news this week, the Tundra Drums reported that a teacher from the Kuskokwim River village of Quinhagak is receiving a $10,000 grant from former talk show host Jenny Jones’ foundation to build a community greenhouse.

Laine Welch’s Alaska Fisheries column this week discussed how more halibut this year was consumed in homes instead of restaurants.

The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported on a problem moose hunters in the Interior have been having with Tanana Valley Meats being overloaded so it’s taking too long to process the meat, processed meat returns have been light and some meat has been rancid.

Finally, the Alaska Dispatch reported on a KTVA-TV story about Permafrost Alaska Vodka, which is made by Glacier Creek Distillery and uses potatoes grown in the Mat-Su valleys, earning a top ranking from the Beverage Tasting Institute of Chicago.

• Sitka Local Foods Network gets mentions in Juneau Empire, Daily Sitka Sentinel, Capital City Weekly and on APRN’s Talk of Alaska show

The Sunday edition of the Juneau Empire and Monday edition of the Daily Sitka Sentinel (Page 4) both featured a press release about a Sitka Local Foods Network-hosted presentation about “Growing in Sitka and Southeast Alaska: The Food of Today, Tomorrow and 200 Years Ago” that takes place at 5 p.m. this Friday, Oct. 16, at the Kettleson Memorial Library. The presentation is by UAS anthropology student Elizabeth Kunibe of Juneau, who has spent the last six years researching traditional gardens in Southeast Alaska. The presentation also received a write-up in this week’s issue of Capital City Weekly that came out on Wednesday.

Monday’s issue of the Daily Sitka Sentinel also featured a press release about a put-the-garden-to-bed work party the Sitka Local Foods network is hosting from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 17, at the St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm.

On Tuesday, the Alaska Public Radio Network’s statewide call-in show “Talk of Alaska” was about food security and during the show the work of the Sitka Local Foods Network was mentioned. The Talk of Alaska topic on food security was a preview of the Bioneers In Alaska conference this weekend (Oct. 16-18) in Anchorage where food security will be one of the topics. Kerry MacLane, president of the Sitka Local Foods Network, is supposed to travel to Anchorage to participate in the conference.

In addition to the Sitka Local Foods Network mentions, there has been a lot of other local foods news around Alaska this week.

In Sunday’s Juneau Empire, Ginny Mahar (a chef at Rainbow Foods) wrote a column featuring a mac and cheese recipe with king crab. Ginny also writes the Food-G blog, which features a lot of local foods recipes for Southeast Alaska.

Also in Sunday’s Juneau Empire was an article about the Alaska Native Brotherhood/Alaska Native Sisterhood Grand Camp meeting in Juneau and discussion about subsistence fishing rights following the recent arrest of Sen. Albert Kookesh.

In this week’s Capital City Weekly, there is an article from Carla Peterson about the chocolate lily and how to prepare this edible plant for food.

In the Alaska Newsreader blog Wednesday on the Anchorage Daily News Web site was a link to a feature from TheDailyGreen.com, which listed Anchorage ninth among U.S. cities in per capita space given to community gardens. The list (opens as PDF document) was compiled by the Trust for Public Land, and it had a distinct Northwest feel with Seattle ranked No. 1 and Portland, Ore., was No. 2. Click here to learn more about Anchorage’s community gardens program.

In his Anchorage Daily News garden column last week, Jeff Lowenfels wrote about planting garlic now for spring flowers and an August crop.

The Mat-Su Frontiersman recently ran an article about a sustainability project at the University of Alaska Fairbanks Mat-Su College where students were gathering organic spuds.

Finally, while this isn’t about Alaska, you might want to read an article about efforts to preserve our biodiversity so we don’t lose more food plant varieties and why these efforts are important.

• Recent articles highlight food security issue in rural Alaska

The New York Times on Saturday ran a lengthy article by former Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reporter Stefan Milkowski about how weak runs of king salmon are hurting Yukon River communities. The article is datelined from the village of Marshall, near the mouth of the Yukon River, where villagers already are feeling the pinch of no salmon to fill their freezers for the winter.

This is a region where heating oil costs $7 a gallon and a can of condensed milk goes for nearly $4. It also is a region that last year faced critical food shortages last year, with many faith groups from around the country sending food to help tide the residents through the winter. Click here to read accounts from “Anonymous Bloggers” about last year’s airlift and what villagers are doing to prepare for this winter.

The food shortages resulted in some July protest fisheries, which resulted in the arrest of the only police officer in Marshall, Jason Isaac, who joined other villagers in claiming state and federal fish and wildlife officials were more concerned with a Canadian fish treaty than they were about rural Alaskans. The Tundra Drums reports that 67,000 Yukon kings reached Canada, about 10,000 to 13,000 more than the treaty called for.

In relatively close-by Bethel, Tim Meyers and his wife Lisa have helped their communities food security with Meyer’s Farm, which is growing enough fruits and vegetables that Bethel residents can buy weekly boxes of locally grown produce for $30. This shows that local produce can be grown in rural Alaska to reduce our dependency on store-bought food.

Food security also hits closer to home, where state Sen. Albert Kookesh of Angoon faces a trial over subsistence fishing practices near his home village.

Not all of the local foods news in Alaska is gloom and doom this week. The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner featured a story on Monday about the growth of the Delta Meat and Sausage plant in Delta Junction, which processes locally raised Galloway cattle and game meat shot by local hunters.

Also, this week’s Chilkat Valley News (Haines weekly) included a brief item about a Haines moose hunter who was the beneficiary of a snow goose dropped by a hawk that didn’t have the strength to carry its prey.

Finally, the Alaska Dispatch site includes an update on the inaugural Alaska Local Food Film Festival, which runs from Oct. 2-8 at the Beartooth Theatrepub and Grill in Anchorage. Sitka filmmaker Ellen Frankenstein presented her movie “Eating Alaska” on Sunday, Oct. 4.

• Aliens from Running of the Boots fundraiser show up in Daily Sitka Sentinel and Juneau Empire

Screenshot of the Daily Sitka Sentinel site on Monday with the aliens photo from the 2009 Running of the Boots

Screenshot of the Daily Sitka Sentinel site on Monday with the aliens photo from the 2009 Running of the Boots

Screenshot from Tuesday's Juneau Empire featuring the aliens photo from the Running of the Boots

Screenshot from Tuesday's Juneau Empire featuring the aliens photo from the Running of the Boots

The green-headed aliens were the hit of the Running of the Boots on Saturday, earning spots on the front page of the Daily Sitka Sentinel on Monday and in Tuesday’s issue of the Juneau Empire. The Running of the Boots is a fundraiser for the Sitka Local Foods Network, and we greatly appreciate race founder Sheila Finkenbinder and the Greater Sitka Chamber of Commerce donating the proceeds from the event to our organization. A photo gallery from the race is posted just below this one, or click here to go directly to the gallery.

In other recent local foods news, Sitka filmmaker Ellen Frankenstein and her movie, “Eating Alaska,” are featured in Wednesday’s Anchorage Daily News. Ellen will be in Anchorage to show her film on Sunday night at the inaugural Alaska Local Food Film Festival, which runs Oct. 2-8 at Anchorage’s Beartooth Theatrepub and Grill.

Click here to read a “Local Flavor” column by chef Ginny Mahar about chanterelles from Sunday’s Juneau Empire, which local mushroom enthusiasts can find throughout Southeast Alaska about this time of the year. Ginny, who works for Rainbow Foods in Juneau, writes the Food-G blog where she has posted several recipes that use chanterelles. Chanterelles are popular this week, because Carla Peterson also writes about them in Capital City Weekly.

Click here to read a letter to the editor in Tuesday’s Juneau Empire about how to eat healthy foods on a budget. The letter, written by staff members from the Juneau office of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service, was in response to a Fairbanks Daily News-Miner story (that appeared later in the Juneau Empire) about Alaska lawmakers trying to live on food stamps for a week.

Click here to read a Seattle Times article about how Northwest cooks are falling in love with the sablefish (aka, black cod), a fish frequently caught in Sitka waters and available at the Sitka Farmers Market. The article includes a recipe.

Click here to read a blog post on The Atlantic Food Channel called “Local Food Comes To Alaska,” by New York University nutrition, food studies and public health professor Marion Nestle (author of “Food Politics,” “Safe Food,” “What To Eat,” and “Pet Food Politics,” as well as the “Food Matters” column for the San Francisco Chronicle).

If you haven’t visited the “Eat Local Northwest” blog, it’s worth a look. This blog is maintained by two friends — Stephen lives in the Mat-Su Valley and works in Anchorage, while Audrey is from the Seattle area. In the most recent post (as of Tuesday night), Stephen writes about his happy discovery that some of the prices at the South Anchorage Farmers Market actually were comparable or lower than what he was finding at several of local grocery stores. There is a link to this blog in our blog roll on the right side of the page.

Click here to read a story from KTUU-TV (Anchorage NBC affiliate) about Meyer’s Farm in Bethel, a project started by Tim Meyers that now involves a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program where local residents pay a fee and get weekly boxes of fresh, local produce. You can click a video link in the upper right corner, too. Meyer’s Farm was featured in the April 2009 issue of Alaska Magazine (link opens a PDF file of the article). There also is a Flickr photo gallery that shows nearly 100 photos of Meyer’s Farm.

Finally, the new farmers market near the White House isn’t about Alaska food, but it does promote and encourage people to eat local food. Click here for a story about the new farmers market on National Public Radio and click here for an article from the Washington Post. Click here for an article from USA Today about the growth of farmers markets across the nation.