Sitka, Alaska: A Seafood Culinary Retreat

by Marla on September 11, 2012 · 57 comments

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You might have seen a few Facebook posts and tweets flying around about my recent adventures in Sitka, Alaska. At the end of my summer in Telluride I got the best invitation ever. Within seconds of receiving it I signed onto join the Alaskan Seafood Marketing Institute (ASMI) and the BEST people ever on a Seafood Culinary Retreat.

What is a Seafood Culinary Retreat? Basically you go to a private island off the Southern Alaskan coastline. You hang out with some of the worlds best food writers, photographers and chefs. You learn all about wild, sustainable Alaskan seafood and you indulge on the finest seafood known to man.

Come on and join me on the adventure…


That’s right friends. Picture a private Alaskan island.


A stunning luxury fishing lodge.


This is the Talon Lodge. It is a little bit fabulous.

It sits on a 4 acre private island. Envision chic meets rustic timber ~ perched and waiting for luxury adventure travelers.


The owners of the Talon Lodge made sure we were 100% well taken care of. My coffee cup was always full, my belly more than well feed (more on that as you scroll) and the sights of Sitka Sound and surrounding mountains were breathtaking!

The views during the day were not too shabby.


They were pretty awesome in the evening too.


We had wonderful conversations at every meal…

John often took time to sketch.


I am now obsessed with fishing boats and bright buoys.

I want to travel the world to photograph them…


There is something about bright, pop colored balloons that float in the ocean. I love the way they are tied to the dock for decor.

Thank you Béatrice for taking that photo of me below.


The Alaskan air is so clear and there are snowy covered peaks not too far away. You know how much I LOVE my mountains and snow.


During the day we went deep sea fishing. The catch of the day included rock fish, halibut and crab.


This trip was made extra special because I got to experience with amazing people.

Pictured below is Béatrice Peltre: La Tartine Gourmand, John Donahue: Stay at Stove Dad, Greg Henry: Sippity Sup and Aran Goyoaga, Cannelle et Vanille.


We were hoping for salmon catch, but they were too busy leaving the ocean to swim up stream and spawn. Had it been 2 weeks or even one week earlier we would have caught a boatload of wild salmon.

Have you ever seen a salmon run? This was unbelievable. The amount of energy it takes to fight the current, rocks and the other fish is baffling.

All to lay eggs and then die….interesting circle of life.


In Alaska’s constitution it states that the people must preserve the natural resources. Sustainable management practices are what comes first.

Everything about this natural environment is carefully maintained, fully protected and well accounted for.

You cannot just fish for fishing sake. You must obtain a fishing license and closely regard the per person quota.


The system works effectively and has become a world model for sustainability.

Before we dropped crab pots we had to label them individually with our names and addresses. Accountable…


The man below is Larry. He is the Retail Marketing Director for ASMI. He is well traveled, wonderfully educated, sincere and truly a great guy!

He was super proud of this free app he developed called Cook it Frozen! You gotta check it out. Did you know that you don’t need to thaw fish before you cook it? This is a game changer and great news for us busy folks who often need to prepare meals on the fly.

As I always say here Real food fast. Not fast food.


Both sporting fisherman and commercial people need to obey the sustainability rules. They are closely watched ~ this helps preserve the ecosystem and protect the marine life. It also helps assure that the fish we eat is pure and delicious.

We met many really nice fishermen. Here is a commercial fisherman aptly named Steve Fish who kindly showed us around his well equipped fishing boat.


My friend Helen was rather intrigued by the gadgets on Steve’s fishing boat. Including the auto-baiter. An auto-baiter is a high tech device that baits hundreds of fishing hooks so you don’t have too!

Steve had a certain twinkle in his eye when he talked about his fabulous hi-tech fishing gadgets. We were all very grateful for his visit to our private dock.

It was interesting to learn about the intricacies of life at sea.


Here is a another fisherman, he just caught a Salmon Shark! He sure was proud to have his picture taken…


All of the fisherman were great subjects! These guys love to be out at sea…

Sitka-Alaska-Marla-Meridith-collage04 They all love to get their picture taken…


Here is a look at our inspiring chefs. Chef Dan Enos from The Oceanaire Seafood Room in Boston and Chef Patrick Hoogerhyde from The Bridge in Anchorage.

They taught us so much about the proper preparation of seafood, how to filet it and some great recipes using the freshest Alaskan seafood. These guys are both very passionate about high quality wild seafood and all kinds of whole foods.


We taste tested 5 kinds of salmon: King, Coho, Sockeye, Pink and Chum. I like them in that order.

Homemade gravlax was a favorite, so was smoked salmon….but my all time favorite was pan seared salmon with wild cranberries served over arugula (above). This dish would be perfect for anytime at all and would be make a nice Thanksgiving too!

I have a recipe for Homemade Gravlax in case you want to try it yourself at home. It is so simple. All it takes is super fresh salmon, a dry rub with sea salt, sugar, pepper and fresh herbs…


Wrap it up and let it cure in the fridge for at least 3 days. You flip it once per day. Simple food, simply the BEST!


Just remember to use the highest quality wild fish you can find. OK? It is better for your health and the environment. Besides, it tastes better!


For exercise (gotta exercise) we took a spooky walk in an enchanting forest. Larry kept us protected with bear mace.

He was ready to fight four our lives if needed.


Thankfully the only wildlife we saw was a guy enjoying the day fly fishing…


Also plenty of beautiful trees, wild flowers and berries…


Did you know that Grizzly Bears (brown bears) are kinda everywhere in Alaska? Look at how close I was to one!

Oh don’t you worry, these soft, fuzzy bears were about 20 feet below me frolicking before their next meal.


I hope you enjoyed checking out our adventure. I am very inspired to see more beautiful Alaska some day ~ since I have been back in the OC I make sure that I purchase certified wild + sustainable fish.

What is your favorite kind of seafood? Have you ever been to Alaska? How about on a fishing trip?


People on this Trip

Related Links


Disclosure: The Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute (ASMI) hosted me on a spectacular culinary retreat. All thoughts, opinions and views are my own. 

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{ 57 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Deliciously Organic September 12, 2012 at 10:00 am

Looks like an incredible experience. Your photos really bring everything to life!


2 Marla September 12, 2012 at 11:01 am

Thanks Carrie! It was fun reliving this trip through the photo edits. Lots of photo edits!


3 Angie @ Big Bears Wife September 12, 2012 at 10:04 am

Marla!!!!!!! I love these photos, as in I’m in love with them all. What a wonderful and peaceful looking trip!


4 Rosa September 12, 2012 at 10:09 am

Amazing region and trip! A place I could live. Thanks for sharing your wonderful pictures with us.




5 Laura (Tutti Dolci) September 12, 2012 at 10:12 am

Amazing pictures, what an incredible trip!


6 Averie @ Averie Cooks September 12, 2012 at 10:33 am

Marla the images are just amazing…I can’t even imagine how long this post took you! WOW!! And I’ve never been to Alaska but Scott has many times and every time he describes it, and seeing your images, I have to go one day. Gorgeous!


7 gaby September 12, 2012 at 11:16 am

Marla this looks like the most wonderful trip ever! Your photos are gorgeous – as always! And I bet you ate like a queen up in Alaska! I would love to get my hands on some fresh fish from up there. I bet it’s delish!


8 Cate September 12, 2012 at 11:41 am

Wow- your trip looks amazing! I haven’t been yet, but it’s definitely on the agenda for the next year or two. And when I finally make it there I plan on eating smoked salmon everyday!


9 Kammie @ Sensual Appeal September 12, 2012 at 12:24 pm

Sitka makes me think of The Propsal (movie). Looks like a lovely trip!


10 Maria September 12, 2012 at 12:34 pm

How fun!


11 Priscilla September 12, 2012 at 12:34 pm

At can’t stop gazing at these stunning images – Wow! And the one of the bear – amazing capture. The color and rustic appeal of fishing boats have always fascinated me as well. Salmon is my absolute favorite fish and I tasted all the varieties you named, except for Chum,at a Seafood Summit two years ago and I always buy sustainable – keep spreading the good word :)


12 Bev @ Bev Cooks September 12, 2012 at 12:44 pm

Siiiiiiiickly incredible.

Did you feel that? Yeah, that was my seething jealousy slapping you across the face. ;)


13 Alex@Spoonful of Sugar Free September 12, 2012 at 12:56 pm

I am jealous now. Really, really jealous. It looks like a heck of a time!


14 Marla September 12, 2012 at 3:28 pm

Hopefully you can visit too someday Alex! A well worth it adventure :)


15 sippitysup September 12, 2012 at 1:08 pm

I wanna go back! XOGREG


16 Marla September 12, 2012 at 3:28 pm

Me too Greg!! Especially after reliving it through the photo editing :)


17 Lucy September 12, 2012 at 2:04 pm

Green with envy – loved all your pics – Greg looks so rugged and handsome ;) You look far too glam to be in the great outdoors! Only recently discovered the no thawing of fish idea – via Trader Joes of all places. x


18 Marla September 12, 2012 at 3:26 pm

Hi Lucy! I agree, Greg was quite the hottie & a great outdoors man!! The no thaw thing is genius. On my to do list. Will save a lot of stress and keep us eating our healthy meals.


19 Nancy@acommunaltable September 12, 2012 at 3:46 pm

Hi Marla,
What incredible scenery!! It sounds like a fabulous trip and I am envious of all the wonderful seafood you had… never, never tire of fresh fish!!


20 HeatherChristo September 12, 2012 at 6:56 pm

Gorgeous photo’s Marla- what a great inspiration to get to Alaska!


21 Sommer@ASpicyPerspective September 12, 2012 at 8:15 pm

Oh my GOODNESS! What an amazing experience. And those photos are outrageous. This definitely makes we want to eat seafood in Alaska!


22 Heather (Heather's Dish) September 12, 2012 at 8:34 pm

absolutely stunning Marla! i’ll come with you next time ;)


23 Deborah September 13, 2012 at 7:04 am

Your photos are stunning, Marla! Now I’m itching for a vacation – especially to Alaska!!


24 TidyMom September 13, 2012 at 7:59 am

what an amazing trip Marla! and your photos are just stunning……you make me want to visit Alaska! My grandparents too an Alaskan cruise years ago and LOVED it, I’ve always wanted to go.


25 Esi September 13, 2012 at 8:26 am

What a fun trip! This makes me miss the really good seafood.


26 adam September 13, 2012 at 8:47 am

What an epic journey! For me, the reader too. Thank you for recording this.


27 Marla September 13, 2012 at 10:12 am

Hi Adam! Thanks ~ an epic journey indeed. I hope to return there some day :)


28 judy meridith September 13, 2012 at 10:17 am

marla, how awesome your pictures are, it makes me want to go to Alaska for some salmon. Thanks for showing such beautiful pictures of such a beautiful place. So happy you were able to go and be there.


29 Aya B. September 13, 2012 at 10:39 am

Looks absolutely stunning
with all the nature and amazing creatures
wish to visit that place
amazing food too :)


30 Marla September 13, 2012 at 11:05 am

Aya, those creatures were pretty fabulous!!


31 Jennifer Koskinen September 13, 2012 at 11:10 am

Great photos, Marla! Thank you for sharing!!


32 Elizabeth@ Food Ramblings September 13, 2012 at 12:36 pm

Beautiful pictures! 20 feet away from a bear is still too close for me!!


33 Kristina Vanni September 13, 2012 at 1:59 pm

Beautiful photos. What a great trip and tasty too! Thanks for sharing.


34 tara September 13, 2012 at 2:18 pm

This makes me very happy. I’m Sitka and seeing those photos brought back a lot of memories and pride in where I come from. Glad you had fun and I hoped you learned a lot along the way. Lovely pictures :)


35 tara September 13, 2012 at 2:25 pm

Sorry, I meant to say I”m FROM Sitka lol. I was raised there and just 3 years ago moved away :) It was like comfort food to me


36 Kathy Steger @FoodWineThyme September 13, 2012 at 7:27 pm

I bet the crab was out of this world.


37 Kiran @ September 13, 2012 at 9:26 pm

Amazing adventure to Sitka, Alaska Marla. It’s on my bucket list. Would love to go there, soon :)


38 Jenny @ Ichigo Shortcake September 13, 2012 at 9:37 pm

The scenery here is so beautiful it’s unbelievable! And all that seafood, I’m totally salivating. So jealous!! The bears are very cute. ;)


39 Jeanette September 14, 2012 at 1:39 pm

What a fabulous experience Marla – thank you for sharing your experience through your beautiful photography. I just bought a big piece of Alaskan salmon the other week and made gravlax – love it!


40 Marla September 14, 2012 at 3:33 pm

Awesome that you made your own homemade gravlax ~ I have got to go to Whole Foods this weekend. I need my wild Alaskan salmon fix too!


41 Yelena September 14, 2012 at 3:19 pm

Unforgettable trip with amazing people! Congratulation!


42 Alison @ Ingredients, Inc. September 15, 2012 at 7:56 am

wow what a blast girl!


43 bea September 15, 2012 at 3:02 pm

Lovely! Ah the memories of our time;-) …..We need to do episode 2, right?


44 Marla September 16, 2012 at 6:02 am

Hi Bea! Episode 2 indeed. I have a feeling I know where that might be next….


45 Val Kitka Todd September 18, 2012 at 7:25 am

Sitka is my hometown eventhough I have lived in NE Ohio for almost 50 years. Looked for my dad’s old boat in your harbor shot. We lived across from Totem Park and spent a great deal of time on the beach, by the river, and playing hide and seek in the park itself. Always a pleasure to see Sitka.


46 Andrea DiGeronimo September 18, 2012 at 4:53 pm

Amazing post! Amazing pictures! If I had one last meal or I could only eat one thing for the rest of my life it would be Salmon! The tasting of the different kinds sounds so cool. I wish I was there. Loved every morsel of this post.
xoxo, Andrea


47 Marla September 18, 2012 at 5:53 pm

Hi Andrea! Thanks so much for stopping by to say hi. You would have loved everything about this experience. The salmon was unforgettable, that is for certain!


48 aida mollenkamp September 19, 2012 at 8:48 pm

Oh, how I adore Alaska. I haven’t been in years and am dying to go back. Thanks for sharing all the gorgeous photos, Marla!


49 MikeVFMK September 23, 2012 at 6:59 pm

What a great experience and opportunity, Marla! Wish I was there, but at least I have your images to tell such a vivid story. Really beautiful.


50 Marla September 24, 2012 at 4:56 am

Thanks Mike! Hopefully some day really soon we can end up on a press trip together. We would have a blast!


51 Brooke @ Food Woolf September 25, 2012 at 5:23 pm

what an incredibly beautiful trip. Thank you for the bounty of photographs. I never knew I NEEDED to go to Alaska, and yet…I do. Holy smokes what a beautiful place to be. Seems like a perfect spot to go write a book (and eat salmon)!


52 UgaVic October 3, 2012 at 11:29 am

A great post and wonderful photos!!!

It is great to continue to see ASMI doing such a great job of helping others discover the bounty of our Alaskan waters!!

As a fairly ‘new’ Alaskan, less than 10 years here, I can tell you I STILL have to get my salmon fix at least weekly. We are out in Bristol Bay and love it.

The recipes are ones I will have to try and thanks for posting them!!


53 Lauri Ainsworth October 23, 2012 at 9:18 am

Enjoyed the photo’s and recipes! Thank you so much!

My very first boyfriend, now in his 70′s lives in Ketchikan!
He took my Niece, Melissa, her baby and me on a beautiful
trip from Ketchikan to Sitka! :)

My two nieces stayed in Alaska and love, love, love it!, lunerwolfalaska@hotmail are both looking for employment with a fishing company. They both have experience on the water and in the office. HELP, PLEASE! Thank you!


54 arthur January 17, 2013 at 1:38 am

Thank you thank you and thank you again for this wonderful post.

How much does it costs to stay for 7 days there, I wonder?

Would like to look forward to your next adventure.



55 Marla January 17, 2013 at 4:00 am

I am not sure about that Arthur, you should contact the lodge :)


56 Jane May 9, 2013 at 4:00 pm

Hi Marla,
My name is Jane and I’m with Dwellable.
I was looking for blogs about Sitka to share on our site and I came across your post…If you’re open to it, shoot me an email at jane(at)dwellable(dot)com.
Hope to hear from you soon!


57 casacaudill October 1, 2013 at 2:22 pm

Looks like an amazing trip, and it makes me all the more excited for next year’s Alaska adventure.


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