49 Voices: Ylli Ferati

Alaska, Audio, Spenard, Uncategorized

Originally published on Alaska Public Media

FERATI: When I first got into it, I got thrown behind the bar, and people come in, they order whiskey and ask you questions of how does it taste, what do you think, this and that. I didn’t like whiskey at first, so throughout the days, I just started trying different things and came across a certain bottle, the Balvanie, and decided, “Wow, I really like this stuff.” It took me a while.

A couple years ago, say about five years ago, I had a guy from Diageo come in, and he was a master of whiskey. And he walked into the bar with their reps, and he takes a stop and he looks left and right.And the first words out of his mouth were, “I can’t believe this is in a neighborhood bar in Spenard.

People come now and they want to try new things. I do classes and stuff like that. They just love it; they want to learn. They love to learn. And that’s kinda propelled my whiskey knowledge.

As far as I know, nobody’s ever came to say [otherwise], but we have the biggest whiskey collection in Alaska. I was just put in a Thrillist arcticle for top whiskey bar in the state. Pretty honorable. It’s still growing, there’s bottles added every week.

We want you to relax, enjoy, have a good time. Especially if you’re at the bar. Meeting my regulars, and everybody… it makes the bar seem fun. It makes my job fun to ee everybody else happy.

For TNL: Homemade fettuccine in the Widgeon II

Alaska, food, Print, Uncategorized

Originally published in The Northern Light

I just got home from spending the weekend at Tutka Bay Lodge, a remote lodge in Kachemak Bay. The lodge is home to a remote cooking school. The Widgeon II is a historic boat that went from a World War II vessel to a crabbing boat, and was drug up on to the beach of the remote lodge and transformed into the cooking school it is today. Unique and rustic, the cooking school is without running water and an oven. I was sponsored by UAA’s Department of Journalism to attend a food writing retreat hosted by Alaska’s own Julia O’Malley and New York Times Food editor Sam Sifton at the lodge. We ate, cooked, and wrote the weekend away. Here’s the homemade fettuccine recipe I derived  from this weekend.

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Homemade fettuccine

Hearing the word homemade followed by something you’ve only ever thought ywould buy can be daunting. I’ve made homemade pasta once in my life as part of a ‘culinary boot camp’ my parents put me in one summer as a kid. In the class we learned knife skills and basic cooking repertoire. Of all the things we did that week making pasta seemed to be the most time consuming and tedious task of them all. Flash forward a decade later in the Widgeon II, a remote cooking school in Kachemak Bay, I’m assembled with a small team consisting of a fellow writer and a gifted cook. Tasked to work with the ingredients at hand, we are inspired to make pesto, and the idea of pasta soon follows. Investigating to see if fettuccine was available, we were greeted without pasta, but with a clunky metal machine that I spent numerous afternoons avoiding as a kid. The ominous crank wasn’t enough to deter my hunger. I turned the crank and helped to feed the pasta through. Shocked at how little time it took to make such a small amount of flour go so far, I was having a revelation. Maybe making pasta isn’t as annoying as I thought? Maybe everything seems to take hours as an 11 year old? When the water was boiled and the pasta was done I tasted for doneness and it clicked. The kneading, feeding, and cranking was worth it for the delicate, melt-in-your-mouth, almost buttery consistency of the pasta. Create a taste you can’t buy from a store.

Ingredients:

2 ½ Cups of All-purpose flour

½ Tablespoon of kosher salt

6 Egg yolks

1 Egg

1 Tablespoon olive oil

 

Directions:

1.       In a large mixing bowl incorporate 2 cups of flour and salt. Create a well in the center of the flour.

2.       Place the olive oil, egg yolks and the egg into the well and with two fingers whisk the eggs into the flour until a tacky dough is formed.

3.       Knead the dough  for about 7 – 10 minutes. Set aside and cover with plastic. Allow to rest for a minimum of 20 minutes.

4.       While dough is resting set up pasta roller and cutter per manufacturer’s instructions.

5.       After the dough has rested cut into even thirds. Set the excess two aside, keeping them covered, and work with the first third by flattening the leading edge until it reaches about ½ inch in thickness.

6.       Feed the flattened dough through the pasta roller on the widest setting. Once the dough has been fed through, take the stretched dough and fold into thirds. Dust the pasta dough with flour if tacky.

7.       Repeat step 6 ten times, folding the pasta into thirds each time, creating layers.

8.       Once the layers are created, proceed to thinning and stretching the pasta dough. Reducing the width of the rollers each pass through until you have reduced the width 8 times. Dust the dough with flour as needed.

9.       Add the pasta cutter attachment to the pasta making machine per manufacturer’s instructions. With the widest pasta cutter setting or the fettuccine setting, feed the pasta sheet through the cutter. Once pasta has been cut dust liberally with flour and form the pasta into a small nest, set aside and cover with plastic.

10.   Follow steps 5 – 9 with the other two pasta dough thirds.

 

Directions to cook pasta:

1.       Fill a large deep pot with 2 quarts of water and bring to a boil.

2.       Once the water has been brought to a boil, toss in 3 – 4 tablespoons of salt.

3.       Shake the remaining flour off the pasta before placing the pasta into the boiling water.  Sir the pasta until the water has returned to a boil, and allow to cook until desired doneness, approximately 2 – 4 minutes.

4.       Once pasta has reached desired doneness, reserve a cup of the cooking water for later. Drain the water and serve.

Time: 1 hour

Yield: 6 – 8 servings

College Cookbook: Aphrodisiac Alaskana

Alaska, college cookbook, food, Print, Uncategorized

Originally published in The Northern Light.

 It seems like the last thing college kids need is a list of foods that will make them horny. Aren’t our hormones rampant enough already? The desire for sex is evident across all cultures spanning over thousands of years; as has the desire to find the perfect potion to get anyone in the mood.

An aphrodisiac is considered to be any substance that’s consumed to increase libido. Popular aphrodisiacs you may have heard of before include oysters, dark chocolate and red wine. With little research on the effect of aphrodisiacs, most evidence is subjective. Whether it’s a placebo effect or the real deal, a delicious aphrodisiac inspired meal this Valentine’s Day is sure to please any date, in or out of the bedroom.

From the dangerously delicious to the down-right disgusting, aphrodisiacs vary and may even be counter-intuitive. Balut, the Filipino delicacy that is fertilized duck egg, is famous for its aphrodisiac qualities. In my travels to the Philippines, I tried Balut, and the only desire I had afterwards was to vomit. If you’re curious, or desperate, you can find Balut at the New Sagaya Midtown Market.

For an Alaskan themed Valentine’s dinner, focus on fresh seafood, especially oysters. Make your way over to the Bubbly Mermaid in downtown Anchorage where they have a monopoly on the best oysters and champagne in town, creating the perfect recipe for a romantic evening. Legend has it that Aphrodite arose from the sea in an oyster shell as the Goddess of love and fertility. Salmon is said to have aphrodisiac elements as well. For the adventurous eater, crushed up caribou antler and bear claw are sought out by the Far East as a powerful aphrodisiac. I do not recommend trying to get your hands on it, but the oosik bone — the baculum or penal bone of walruses, seals, sea lions and polar bears — is sold on the black market by Native Alaskan’s to buyers in Asia who prize the bone as an aphrodisiac, according to Jeremy Sacks, author of “Culture, Cash or Calories: Interpreting Alaska Native Subsistence Rights.”

Champagne and red wine is a Valentine’s Day classic, but don’t totally rule out the power of beer. Before beer was made with hops it was produced using gruit, a collection of herbs used to bitter and flavor beer. The use of gruit was left to the wayside when the puritan and protestant brewers wanted to phase out the, apparently, aphrodisiac qualities that gruit supposedly possess. Using hops grew in popularity and has been the norm in beer ever since. However, modern brewers are looking to this old fashioned way of making beer as a unique way of flavoring their ales. Breweries in Alaska, in fact, are venturing into the gruit world. Alaska Brewing Company’s Alaska Winter Ale, is made with a combination of gruit and hops, as is the Baranof Island Brewing Company’s Sitka Spruce Tip Ale. The aphrodisiac qualities of these specific beers are unknown, but it’s worth a shot.

Whether fact or fiction many of the above mentioned foods will make for a great dinner, snack or even conversation starter.

Inspired by a recipe I found on Pinterest, this recipe was posted on the food blog “With food+love” and was titled Pomegranate brownies with cacao nibs and sea salt. I decided to give it the college student spin and make it for myself. I used a box brownie mix and dark chocolate chips instead of cacao nibs and bought pomegranate seeds already harvested from the fruit, which made the process much simpler. I also opted out of the sea salt as I felt there was already so much going on with the brownie as is. Don’t forget to account for the ingredients needed as part of the box brownie mix. This usually includes one or two eggs and oil.

Red wine and dark chocolate brownies with pomegranates.

Ingredients:

One box of brownie mix and ingredients that correspond with the mix (I used a dark chocolate brownie mix)

1 and 1/2 cup of dark chocolate chips

1 cup of red wine (I used a red blend)

1 pomegranate or 1 package of pomegranate seeds

Directions:

1. Spray the baking pan with cooking oil and preheat the oven to the temperature indicated on the box.

2. Prepare the brownie mix as indicated on the box.

3. Pour one cup of the chocolate chips into the brownie batter and stir them in until mixed well.

4. Pour the entire bowl of batter into the oiled baking pan until all the batter is evenly distributed into the bowl.

5. When the oven is preheated cook the brownies for the time indicated on the box.

6. Check the brownies periodically by putting a fork in the brownies and seeing if the fork comes out clean.

7. When the brownies are done immediately sprinkle the 1/2 cup of dark chocolate chips over the brownies.

8. Sprinkle the pomegranate seeds over the brownies.

9. Let brownies cool for about 15 minutes and serve to the one you love.