Ma Vie En Rose: Summer Gems in Fairbanks, Alaska

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Sitting Under the Birch Trees at the Farmer’s Market. Fairbanks, Alaska. Photo by JAH.

Anyone who has been a resident of this small city will tell you that when summer time rolls around, we appreciate every sunny second. For every rain drop that may occur on any given day, we are thankful that it isn’t snow. For every 90+ sweltering heat kind of day that will last 24 hours, we’d say “at least it’s not negative 50 degrees.”

Before I moved up here, I rarely spoke nor wondered about what the weather would be like. Living in California those many years ago, hot is hot—cold is cold.  I had no idea what below zero meant or how negative 50 in the middle of January felt like.

I learned about that shit quickly though.

Fairbanks summers—there is nothing nor will there be any comparison to waking up at 6 a.m. and it’s sunny outside–and then to going to bed at midnight and it is still sunny outside.

Although, I must say that with age (I wonder if I write as if I am 90 years old sometimes?) has given me the luxury to appreciate routines. I look forward to Saturday mornings—not to sleep in—but to run some errands that I have grown fond of throughout the years.

Gone are the Saturdays when one sleeps in till 11:00 a.m. with an IDGAF attitude.

We all know that Saturdays really begin when we all leave the office at 5:00 p.m. For us, this sometimes mean a dinner at a local Thai Restaurant. One of the husband’s favorite is Pad Thai located on College road and a frequent stop for many university students, faculty, and staff. It’s a hole in the wall, but their food is pretty amazing and a local favorite.

A Saturday morning often consists of a visit to the Farmer’s Market as soon as it opens at 9 a.m. This is so one can beat the crowd to finding a parking spot, and to also have the first pickings. There are also numerous stalls where local food is featured—local and yet internationally represented. I’m not kidding. There’s Vietnamese food, Chinese Food, Thai Food, Crepes, French Bakery (with a Filipina-American pastry chef) cupcakes, and Tacos. In a matter of a few steps, you would have sampled a variety of international goodness.

Of course, soon after that—I eventually find myself at the Fairbanks Co-op Market, where I’ve perused the organic vegetables and grocery items that often found at the local Fred Meyers.

It was just recently that a close friend of mine informed me of Mid Town Market, a local meat market specializing in locally grown meats.  A couple of Saturdays ago, the carnivoric husband decided to pay a visit at the market, and chatted with the butcher about their products. And so 30 minutes which included me talking to the first born on the phone, a slab of bacon, and two rib eyes later—we finally walked out of the market. The husband glowing with excitement at trying out locally raised meat—while, I, on the other hand, wondered if that cow or pig was once someone’s little pet.

By midday, a pit stop is made to Marlo’s Bakery to check out the pastries that Cathy (the head pastry chef) may have concocted for the day. She also has her little stand at the Farmer’s Market. The table there is laden with pastries: pain au chocolat, butter croissants, and wouldn’t you know it—pan de ube! I spoke to Cathy last summer and we chatted about ube and how she’s been wanting to make some pastries with the purple delight. I usually reserve the pastries for a Sunday breakfast.

Of course, the ambitions of making Sunday breakfast may change a bit when I wake up with a side of otiose-ness. And, as much as I believe I know Fairbanks quite well—I’ll find a gem hidden of all these years, but not really.

One of them is the Crepery on 2nd avenue. The Crepery offers a variation of crepes filled with various ingredients of your choice. The menu consists of breakfast crepes filled with scrambled eggs and selection of vegetables and meats. Or, there’s the traditional sweet crepes filled with good ‘ol Nutella and berries. One particular Sunday, all three of us decided to grab breakfast there. I ordered the traditional Nutella with strawberries and blueberries. Chloe ordered the Mediterranean—which was filled with mozzarella cheese, Kalamata olives, basil, and some greens. While, the husband (no surprise here) ordered the Italian—which was basically cheese and a variation of deli meats (pepperoni, salami, you get the picture).

I being the “sharer” of the family shared bites of my crepe—while I had to beg the other two for bites of theirs, and even though I only wanted a taste—it still required some bartering on my part. The Crepery attracts many of tourists who visits the downtown area. It’s location is snuggled between several stores that feature Alaskan souvenirs, and one might think how odd to have a non-Alaskan kind of food nestled among those stores.  But, it works, and when one bites into one of those crepes—you somehow forget for a blip second that you’re in Fairbanks, Alaska.

At the end of the day though, one doesn’t really forget Fairbanks…

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Pad Thai’s fresh spring rolls. Fairbanks, Alaska. Photo by JAH.
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Pad Thai’s Garlic Chicken. The husband’s favorite. Fairbanks, Alaska. Photo by JAH.
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Pad Thai’s udon noodles. Fairbanks, Alaska. Photo by JAH.
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Pad Thai’s pad thai (Ha!). Fairbanks, Alaska. Photo by JAH.
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Under the birch trees. Farmer’s Market. Fairbanks, Alaska. Photo by JAH.
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Performer at the Farmer’s Market. Gurl–hats off to you! I’d be sweltering under all that gray metal make-up! Fairbanks, Alaska. Photo by JAH.
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Street Tacos from El Sabor at the Farmer’s Market. Fairbanks, Alaska. Photo by JAH.
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Kale and more kale. Farmer’s Market. Fairbanks, Alaska. Photo by JAH.
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Bulk Radish from the favorite Co-Op. Fairbanks, Alaska. Photo by JAH.
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The Mid Town Market. Fairbanks, Alaska. Photo by JAH.
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Locally grown meat. Mid Town Market. Fairbanks, Alaska. Photo by JAH.
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Locally grown pork. Mid Town Market. Fairbanks, Alaska. Photo by JAH.
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Marlo’s Bakery. A favorite pit stop. Fairbanks, Alaska. Photo by JAH.
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Croissants. Marlo’s Bakery. Fairbanks, Alaska. Photo by JAH.
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Treat. Marlo’s Bakery. Fairbanks, Alaska. Photo by JAH.
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Cathy’s display. Marlo’s Bakery. Fairbanks, Alaska. Photo by JAH.
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2nd Avenue Downtown. Fairbanks, Alaska. Photo by JAH.
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Cappucino. The Crepery. Fairbanks, Alaska. Photo by JAH.
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Nutella and Berries. The Crepery. Fairbanks, Alaska. Photo by JAH.
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All that Italian meat in a crepe. From the Crepery. Fairbanks, Alaska. Photo by JAH. Ignore that Bills’ shirt in the background.
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The Crepery. Fairbanks, Alaska. Photo by JAH.
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Before. The steaks from Mid Town Market. Fairbanks, Alaska. Photo by JAH.
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After. The steaks served with farro asparagus salad.. and yep, you guessed it.. ube! Fairbanks, Alaska. Photo by JAH.

And just because it was perfect timing that Croatia and France played at the World Cup before I posted this blog… Here’s my homage–the brekkie from this morning:

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Allons-y France! Way to go France! Sunday morning. Pain au Chocolat from Cathy’s Marlo’s Bakery.

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