In the fall, hungry Alaskans start to feel a pull as winter approaches. A pull toward cozy wool socks, a good book by the woodstove and, yes, a pull to the plate. This weekend, Haines residents can enjoy an extensive feast by Whitehorse gourmet chef Michelle Genest at the Haines Senior Center.
The event is a fundraiser for the Sheldon Museum, and is called When Forest meets the Sea. Genest says she worked with museum director Helen Alten to come up with the perfect combination of foods for this ultimate local dining experience.
“Slowly, we put together a menu that we thought might work for the folks in Haines, who, as you know, eat a lot of fish,” she says.
The meal will feature local fare plucked from farms, gardens and the wild spaces around Haines. It will incorporate mushrooms gathered by naturalist Judy Hall Jacobson, and vegetables from Four Winds Farms and the Henderson Garden Group. Cherries were harvested from private yards in Haines earlier this summer, as was salmon from local waters, both of which will be used for Saturday’s feast. Wine will also be provided.
Genest says she’ll bring a special treat for the main course.
“We would have loved to do wild game, but of course you can’t do that commercially, so I found some domestic elk from Alberta that I will be bringing with me which I’m very excited about.”
Genest is the author of the Boreal Gourmet and the Boreal Feast and says she loves finding new ingredients in unassuming places. She says she enjoys finding new ways to cook with northern ingredients, whether they live and grow wild in on land or in water.
“You get to know plants, and berries, and mushrooms, and they kind of follow you around the world. You feel at home in very diverse environments and it’s because a few familiar friends are always there on the forest floor,” she says.
Genest says she has a long-standing relationship with Haines and Skagway and is looking forward to sharing her craft with locals.
“In Whitehorse, we always feel that we are related to people in Skagway and in Haines and so it’s really fun to be able to share and celebrate the harvest with people who are really good neighbors and are really good friends.”
Money raised from the dinner goes toward supporting activities at the Sheldon Museum for Haines’ residents and visitors alike. According to the museum, they are getting ready to install a new research center to improve access to its archives. They are also in the process of creating a new maritime exhibit about the small boat harbor and are developing a new children’s center.
When Forest Meets the Sea happens this Saturday at 6 p.m. and will feature music by pianist Kyle Yarborough. Tickets can be purchased at the museum and at the Babbling Book. For more information call 766-2366.