Anchorage, are you okay? I know this mornings news was an eye opener, no matter which side of the fence your opinions lay. Whether you’re self-isolating in paralyzing fear or a hoodie and undies, we all were taken aback by Mayor Berkowitz Emergency Order that was released today. In support of CDC recommendations, Berkowitz asked establishments to cease dine-in services, events, and gatherings of more than 50 people in efforts to #FlattentheCurve.
I’m not here to add to the flood of COVID-19 news and information (or misinformation) that I’m sure is your life. Rather, I’m here to share my knowledge acquired from years of irresponsible coping and a love for small businesses. Let me guide you through the Emergency Order-01 limitations as I present you with a guide to eating locally during COVID-19, enjoy.
As you may know by now, this blog is dedicated to food, thoughts, and my hometown; Anchorage, Alaska.
Lately my mind has been flooded with support, love and the less supportive current politcal climate of the state. After sharing Benji’s Bakery & Cafe on all the platforms, I noticed I’m reaching more of the community than usual and the response has been nothing but positive. With this growing audience I feel it’s important to share my message and highlight Food for Thought’s purpose. To do so, I want to make sure I preface this article with the positive part of FFT’s mission: Share and celebrate small, local businesses in the community and encourage economic growth by empowering the consumer to vote with their dollar.
I’ve had the pleasure of witnessing so much of that growth this summer with all the expansions happening in town. Wild Scoops was able to open a new midtown Scoop Shop. Kava’s Pankcake House brought us another location on Fireweed. The Phonatic family blessed Anchorage with Benji’s, a new bakery & cafe serving up boba tea and bahn mi sandwiches with a Cali vibe. All of it truly has validated my belief that we don’t have to have deep pockets or be a shareholder to invest in our community.
Unfortunately, it feels like the people holding spaces with the most power have decided that Alaskans and healthy communities are no longer worth the investment. After Govenor Dunleavy released his 444 million dollar budget cut, I couldn’t escape the hopeless feeling knowing how heavy this will all hit the community- MY COMMUNITY. It seems these efforts to give Alaskans a “balanced budget” have blatantly unleveled the playing field with no regard for students, medicaid recipients, or Alaskans experiencing homelessness or domestic violence. Servely cutting funding (in some cases removing it entirely) to programs already struggling to serve Alaska’s robust needs to fufil the unrealistic, unsustainable promises this govenors campaign was won on, was this administration giving Alaskan’s the finger LOUD & CLEAR.
So, as I type this and stuff my face with garlic fries, I look around Bears Tooth and see my city. I see the different people from all over town brunching, or grabbing lunch. I see the college student hosting to pay for her tuition that was increased by 40% last year for a program that most likely wont be there next semester. I see the seven-year-old folding his napkin into a plane as I think about his class size that will double this fall. I think of the woman sleeping at the bus stop I passed on the way in and how her access to safe shelter and healthcare was traded for stroked ego and $3,000 in October.
Anchorage is so unique in the sense that we’re industrialized enough to have a need/want for unique businesses and specialty services but also small enough that factors like healthcare and housing have a direct effect on businesses and the economy. By voting with our dollar, we get to play a role in either funding an out-of-state coporation getting another tax cut, or supporting a local family. But what happens when it’s not worth it anymore? When university programs are no longer accredited. When cost of living outweighs your salary. Will the PFD be worth it when police departments can’t afford to respond to your robbery because they’re triaging the overwhelming calls to 3rd Avenue. Will it be worth it when there is no more worth celebrating? When there are nomore constituents to blindly lead?
This is my food for thought today. Please research and reachout to your repsresentives. Your community needs the support its govenring body refuses to provide.
I had the pleasure of meeting up with Elissa, owner of Wild Scoops, and finally got to know the business beyond my waffle cone addiction. Her energy was down-to-earth and welcoming, much like the vibe you get walking into the Scoop Shop and Test Kitchen. For those of you who aren’t familiar with this gem, let me catch you up to speed.
Wild Scoops launched in 2015 after Elissa moved to Anchorage with her husband and noticed a lack of local ice cream in town. Begining as a hobby at home, hosting monthly custom ice cream tastings, Wild Scoops was created to highlight quality local flavors around the Last Frontier. Originally from California, this transplant’s love and appreciation for the “scrappy, underdog” community she has rooted herself in has earned her cred as an Alaskan business owner. Now nestled into downtown Anchorage, this ever evolving micro-creamery had to laydown its own roots before setting up shop. After two years of pop-ups and local farmer’s markets, even leasing kitchen space from Mad Myrna’s, Wild Scoops opened their first brick and mortar location just last summer.
The Downtown Scoop Shop between Fat Ptarmigan and Hard Rock Cafe, can be recognized by the line of both tourists and locals tracing the block in the summer. To avoid those crowds, check out the Test Kitchen and see where Wild Scoops craft and package all their magic. On 15th and Gamble the kitchen opens its doors to the public every Thursday, between 4-6:30pm, sampling flavors and selling pre-packed pints. Meanwhile, open Tuesday-Sunday, the cozy little shop downtown carries a rotation of different pints, vegan and gluten free ice cream sandwiches, and if you’re in luck, tundra tacos.
In the case are 8 of the 200+ flavors Wild Scoops has crafted thus far. You can try them in a cup, sugar cone, or fresh warm waffle cone. Ask to make it a Baked Alaska and the Scooper will pipe handmade marshmallow fluff on your cone and torch it on the spot. If you can’t decide on a flavor and need some variety, the Sampler Flight encourages you to explore four wild flavors. My personal favorite, the Frozen Nachos, offers three scoops of ice cream on a bed of their handmade cinnamon + star anise waffle chips, topped with hot fudge sauce and chipotle nuts.
By now, I’m sure your mouth is watering and you’re already checking out Wild Scoops online, ready to get those bomb ass frozen nachos I just told you about. But, this isn’t just another put-on to good food around town. This company, like the many others I support, is deeply rooted in and dedicated to its community. With such a grassroots upbringing, the business’s success obviously depends on the customers it services. While others play it safe and cater to tourists, Wild Scoops crafts adventurous flavors Alaskans can appreciate. Locally sourcing most of their ingredients, choosing local vendors and collaborating with other local businesses (Kaladi Brothers, VooDoo Jams, Alaska Pure Sea Salt Co. and Dipper Donuts to name a few), WS continues to stand by their community. With Elissa’s background in teaching, she couldn’t help but bring Wild Scoops to the Anchorage School District, hosting annual ice cream classes at schools like Fairview Elementary. Keep an eye out for raffles and collaborations with other companies an organizations in the future, like the upcoming Olympic Scoop Loop, a family friendly 5K with Olympian Rosie Frankowski.
Though the gig is literally sweet, sometimes it’s not so simple bringing wild flavors to the land of the midnight sun. Locally sourcing ingredients is great for the local economy but can be tough on overhead. Finding reliable farmers and vendors can be difficult, not to mention an unpredicatble demand and the fluctuating nature of produce. Being so far from the lower 48 can affect shipping times and delay production. The price of commerical property in Anchorage is becoming outrageous, so the thought of expansion can be deterring. Nevertheless, Wild Scoops continues to provide amazing ice cream and outstanding service to Alaskans because they believe it takes a village to make a flavor, and the challenges of business won’t compromise that.
So, if you love empowering small businesses (or simply like good ice cream) and want to see this amazing company grow:
Grab a cone, buy a hoodie, and share this post!
BTW- Wild Scoops is currently hiring if you want to join a team of passionate, positive, and responsible Alaskans making good stuff.
Growing up here in Anchorage, Alaska has been a blessing in many lenses. When I was younger the city seemed warm, in a sense that nobody was truly a stranger. Which ever side of the city you claimed as stomping grounds, there was undoubtedly a Mom & Pops, a restaurant, and a candy or ice cream shop (all locally owned) that you and your friends frequented. The owners and employees knew you and what you were up to. It was more than a transaction. It became an experience, an interaction with the community.
Time passed and the city has changed. Local store owners struggle to compete with larger corporate companies and rising operating costs; silently vanishing in their shadows. More Alaskans are leaving home and more transplants are moving in; adapting the culture and economy. Crime has become uncontrollable and unresponsive legislators add to the negligence thats began to engulf Anchorage. Most will agree that Alaska is a gorgeous sight, an experience everyone should be blessed with at least once. But, as a community it seems we’ve grown a little colder, became more guarded or selfish, and in some cases down right careless.
As I watched a line of cars go around me while I single handedly pushed a small Toyota out of an ice patch after spinning it’s tires for two traffic lights, it dawned on me. This city has gone to shit. And again, when a victim of poor journalism and stagnant justice reform became a ‘villain’ over night. It was then that I realized how much I yearn for the times when we didn’t hesitate to pull over and help. I crave an Anchorage that makes room for the little guy, as long as they’re good guys. I want my kids to grow up and live in the cozy Anchorage that promotes camaraderie and creativity. An Anchorage that speaks up and shows out for what’s right; not chastising those who do.
Times passed and the city has changed but, despite the odds, some pretty amazing businesses, projects, and people keep my optimism alive. For those who know me personally know I am a mental health advocate and local/small business supporter. Basically, I cope by eating and shopping. For a while I liked to think of it as empowering Alaskan entrepreneurs & enriching my economy (and hoodie collection). But to truly make the change I want to see, it can’t stop at me and my frivolous spending. It has to reach the community.
My hope is to use this platform as an outlet and tool to enlighten my community to all the amazing entrepreneurs and craftsmen woven into Anchorage, bringing their own bit of magic to the city. So, this ode is to everyone who’s pushed me to reach out and share these experiences; validating them for more than just bomb munchies, a dope hoodie assortment, and good taste in restaurants. This is to every ass busting and dedicated store owner, employee, and vendor who bring that nostalgic, warm energy back to Anchorage. To every fellow foodie, deeply rooted Alaskan, or simply curious tourist, this Food for Thought is a gift to you.