Robert and his team at the Eagle River Classic on Day 2.
Photo credit: Anchorage Daily News
I have said it before and I’ll say it again, I have had pizza in just about every state in the country. Tonight we headed over to The Rock, a new pizza place in Anchorage, Alaska.
As soon as we walked up we noticed the the cool brick and iron work and the fire!
We walked in the restaurant, once a Red Robin burger joint, and was assaulted (pleasantly, I might add) to a barrage of rock-n-roll, album covers, and black lights.
We were seated quickly and our waitress came over to take our drink order. My wife, Michele, ordered a beer and we ordered an appetizer.
The place is awesome! It is decorated in cool rock related gear and the booth seats are covered in song titles. The menu items all have a rock-n-roll theme.
We ordered a 16″ pizza, the Founders Favorite–a red sauce pie with pepperoni, sausage, mozzarella and ricotta cheese. We added mushrooms too.
Our appetizer arrived shortly before the pizza. We ordered the brown sugar mozzarella bread. It comes with a side of ranch and pizza sauce for dipping.
“This stuff is addicting!” Michele said. She’s right it was amazing. It is just the right amount of sweet and cheesy and the tangy kick of the Ranch was an awesome complement.
Our pizza was delivered on a large cookie sheet and our server dished us each up a slice. Michele is picky about her pizza and she liked it. I love all pizza and this rivals any pies in Alaska including Moose’s Tooth and Mountain High Pizza.
Even the rest rooms are decorated in cool concert stickers, black fixtures and industrial steampunkt style.
By the time we left the place was filling up quickly. On our way out I glanced into the bar. They have a cool fire pit table in the middle of the room. Next time we will sit in there and order a sandwich and a rocktail !
Our bill was reasonable. 44 bucks and I left a ten buck tip just because of what the waitress said when Michele commented on the food. “Isn’t everything amazing? I will be 400 pounds when I quit here,”‘ said our server.
Hell yeah, we will be back! Anchorage Alaska’s restaurant scene is getting better and better.
After about a month of evenings and weekends working in the bright daylight in the land of the midnight sun, our walk in smoke house is finished at the Fort.
We had planned on building our smokehouse for over a year since seeing our friend, Marvin “PeeWee” Rankin’s. I knew right from the start that he and I and my son Tyler, could build one similar to his.
We decided on making it six feet by six feet. Much bigger than that any we could have problems with the smoking effect.
Our first step was to lay the foundation. We used the same design as our greenhouse by using railroad ties cut to fit, sunk into the ground and squared.
The walls and the room went up next. We built it in a typical construction fashion using studs on two foot centers. We laid 3/4 in plywood for the floor and skinned the inside walls with plywood as well.
[Read… Smoking Alaskan Salmon]
Our initial plan was to side the walls with rough cut pine from a local saw mill but after several unreturned calls we decided on using 5/8″ thick by 5 1/2″ wide cedar slats, similar to what you may use for fencing. We picked them up at Home Depot for about $2.70 a piece and used about a 120 of them. Since cedar will shrink we used the siding boards ripped in half over each seam to give it a much tighter fit and a very good looking exterior.
Our initial plan was to lay down red roofing that matched the barn and the trim on the house but found out that it would take almost 5 weeks to order and was very expensive. We thought about shingles and decided against and eventually went with steel (non-colored) panels.
With the outside complete it was now time to work on the guts of the smoke house. We knew the interior of the structure would be not only the most expensive part of the project but one that would take the most careful planning.
[Read… Smoking Alaskan Salmon]
Early in the project my wife, Michele, called the local metal company to order stainless steel expanded metal that was to be cut to fit for a quoted price of about $250.00 for 16 racks. When it came time to order they said it would be three weeks and over $500.00!
We called every metal company in Alaska and no one carried stainless. We found a company in North Carolina but it would cost over three hundred dollars in shipping.
You never want to use galvanized metal in cooking, nor can you use racks from an old refrigerator. They contain metals that are toxic.
I drove down to Anchorage on a quest to find racks and I did. I found 12 grill racks at Fred Meyers that were buy one get one half off, and 16 jerky rack trays and four pretty good sized aluminum racks at Sportsman’s Warehouse.
We spent the evening carefully installing the racks for maximum use of space and smoking ability.
We decided to use the same system that our friend used to fuel the smoker. We found a heavy duty propane cooker, similar to a turkey fryer but one without a timer. We plumbed in the cooker to a tank outside and fired it up.
[Read… Smoking Alaskan Salmon]
In our smoke house we are using pellets in different wood varieties that each have its own flavor: hickory, apple, mesquite. A couple handfuls on a low flame inside a steel pot will last an hour and a half or so and produce the desired smoke at the right temperature.
We seasoned the smoke house by running it through a couple cycles of pellets three or four times. This will allow the smoke to work its way into the wood and season the racks that we spray with Pam cooking spray.
We had a goal to finish the smoke house before the annual dip net fishing season here in Alaska. Up here each family can take a number of salmon for personal use during dip net season. The head of household is allowed 25 fish and each family member is allowed 10. In our case 55 fish. We are heading to Kasilof next weekend to try and get our limit.
When we return we will prepare and smoke the fish in our new smoke house!
The smoke house has the ability to both cold smoke and hot smoke a variety of meats. Everything from moose, beef, pork, chickens and turkeys, fish, cheese, eggs and more. Each type of meat will require a different length of time in the smoker at different temperatures and different pellets. A smoke house is not designed to be used like your grill or even the small commercial smokers found in many stores. For example a turkey may take 20 hours or more.
It will be fun to try different things and techniques in our new smoke house. I’ll be sure to share them here with you.
A huge thanks has to go to Marvin for his help and expertise in the design and the hours that he put in with us to make this project a reality. A big thank you to Tyler as well.
Do you have any questions on the design? Or do you have ideas to share? We would love to hear them.
UPDATE October 2017. There have been a lot of questions about our walk-in smokehouse since it was posted on another site on the web. I will do my best to answer them here in this update.
Question: After smoke curing of my meats, how long can I keep it, or do I need to consume it right away?
Forto: You can leave the finished products in the refrigerator for about two weeks. For a longer period you will want to freeze it.
Question: Do you have plans for the smokehouse that you can share?
Forto: No. This is by far the most asked question about our smokehouse. Our good friend, Marvin “PeeWee” Rankin and my son and I built it from scratch over a couple weekends based similarly on what he had build for his own smokehouse. It is a pretty simple design. It is about six feet square with an 8 foot peak roof. The foundation is railroad ties and the framing is simple 2/4 framing 16 inches on center. It is sheeted with plywood on the inside and cedar outside using fence pickets that you find at Home Depot or Lowe’s. The roof rafters are left open and we use dowels to hang hams from the ceiling. The smokehouse is not vented intentionally by smoke does escape from the roof as intended.
We used plywood on the floor over 2×6 floorboards and 2x2s to build the rack system. The racks are rectangular in shape and were special order from a supply company back east. We also have a rack system that is used in smaller metal-type smokers that we use for jerky and white fish.
Our friend, PeeWee passed away a couple years after we build our smokehouse and we have honored him with a small plaque above the door. Now each time we use our smokehouse we pay a bit of gratitude to our dear friend.
Question: What do you use the smokehouse for primarily?
Forto: We use the smokehouse mainly for fish that we catch dip netting every July here in Alaska. Almost always it is Sockeye (Red) Salmon from the Kasilof River. Each resident in Alaska is allowed to use a dip net and catch 25 fish for head of household and 10 for each additional family member.
Over the last few years we have smoked briskets, chicken wings, turkeys, chickens, ribs, other fish like halibut and rock fish, and even a 1/4 pig.
Question: Can you share your recipe for your smoked salmon?
Forto: Sure! Here it is: Smoking Alaskan Salmon
Question: Can you share a recipe for smoked chicken?
Forto: Here is one: Chicken in the Smokehouse
We took everyone’s advice on YouTube and added a wood-stove to the outside of the smokehouse and it works great!
More to come…
Here is some photos too!
I am sure you know the story by now, I have talked about it many times before. Long story short, Nicole was given the choice to move here or to stay in Denver. She texted her mom who was still in Denver while we were up here looking. She said, “Mom, we are moving to Alaska!” Nothing like leaving the biggest purchase in your life in the hands of a 12 year old.
I moved up a couple weeks later and got to work. It was in a sorry state of repair and it would test our construction skills, our financial well being, our family dynamic and even our marriage.
I was here almost a year by myself while the family stayed in Denver for a couple reasons; school for the kids and our dog training business.
My son, Tyler moved up in June 2011 and Michele followed in September, with Nicole around Christmas time.
Over the last three years it truly has been a labor of love and much a labor of necessity. We have fixed, repaired, replaced and remodeled most of what you see in the before and after pictures.
We couldn’t do this with out the help of some great friends–Marvin “Pee Wee” Rankin has not only become a good friend but also his expertise has helped so much in our daily projects to make our house a home here in the Great White North.
While there are still tons to do around our property we are happy to report that a lot of things are checked off the list.
There are still things on the wish list that we will get to in our short summer months. We are realized that we can tackle two or three major projects a year. Upcoming are:
Thanks to all of my rabid readers that have been along with me during this journey. Your advice and encouragement has been very helpful. Stay tuned for more to come!
My daughter, Nicole is playing on the varsity squad as a sophomore for Houston High School here in the Mat-Su Valley.
We are playing Colony High (Palmer) starting at 6:00 for the junior varsity game followed by the varsity game at 7:45. We started the evening with our little annual picnic, the Forto way–Subway sandwiches in the truck as we wait for the games to begin.
Nicole is wearing number 5 this year. The number I wore all through my sports career. She has also been recruited as a somewhat of a junior coach helping the younger players on their skills. Nicole is one of the few girls that has played softball most of her life.
She started the game in right field–reason being she can back up first base–whom doesn’t have a lot of experience at the position.
At her first at bat of the season Nicole hit a single and eventually ran into home. Second at bat, same thing. Not a bad way to start off!
The Hawks ended up with a tie 12-12.
This will be a bittersweet season for Nicole. She probably won’t play next year because she was accepted into the Alaska Middle College–a hybrid high school and college program offered through the University of Alaska-Anchorage. In this program she will earn credits for graduation of high school but also an Associates degree. We left it up to her and she chose college classes over staying at Houston. She will be allowed to play next year according to the college program through her home high school but we will have to see, that is a year away.
Until then we will cheer on our little girl and the team! Up next, games on the Kenai peninsula this weekend. I plan on driving down to watch the team play!