What is a baked Alaska? Maybe you’re more worldly than I am, but I really didn’t know. For me “Baked Alaska” was one of those things that I’ve heard enough to recognize the name, but still really knew nothing about. You know, like “port wine” or “South Dakota.” When I pulled up a picture, I discovered that I actually had the right image in my head for this dish, but I was convinced that the primary ingredient was whipped salmon. It’s not. It is in fact a dessert made with cake, ice cream and meringue.
After watching a quick “how to” video on YouTube by my new friend Zoe Waits, I knew right away that I did not want to make this traditional Alaskan dish! She makes it look really easy, but she leaves out the part about cooking a whole cake, and I hear that in the South, meringues can be quite tricky because of the humidity.
Whether or not I wanted to make one was irrelevant though, because I had scheduled a work trip to Oldsmar, Florida today, so now I had two options: stop into Tampa for a Baked Alaska, which would put an additional 2-hours onto my trip w/traffic and the blah, blah; or find somewhere along the way. I have family just outside of Crystal River, FL (a city I would be passing through) so on a whim, I began to poke around.
The picture at the top of this entry is of the Baked Alaska I ate. This picture is of where I got it, a place called Oysters’ Restaurant. Now, get this! Oysters’ came up #1 under a Yahoo search for “desserts crystal river florida.” So, I called. Charles answers and I explain to him that I’d be passing through and wondered if they had a Baked Alaska. Charles quickly answered no, but then told me that they could probably make one for me. Now I’m a little blown away by this, and my first thought is, “Ah, man! He thinks it’s made with whipped salmon too!” But when I asked him how he made it, he used words like cake and ice cream. So I booked it.
It turns out that Oysters’ is owner by a Chef William Bunch who spent thirty years as Chef and Head Chef at the Crystal River Country Club and Resort before opening this establishment eleven years ago… and let me tell you something, this man knows his stuff! The Baked Alaska he brought out was so light and creamy, it felt like I was eating pureed angel meat coated in flambeed manna. It was gorgeous and delicious and I had two slices even after a pretty filling lunch (which was also awesome!).
Today I thank the Lord for lessons relearned like, it never hurts to ask.
(Tomorrow is not a National food day in honor of the groundhog, so I’ll check back in Friday for National Carrot Cake Day)