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Kitchens of Alaska: McDonald Spit

By | September 11, 2012 - 11:45 am

Meg Simonian and Eric Brudie with Tess, Henry, Eivan, Milo and Neve. Photograph by Kathleen Metcalfe

Owners: Eric Brudie and Meg Simonian

Hikers Looking Down on McDonald Spit. Photograph by Kathleen Metcalfe

Where: McDonald Spit is a long narrow strip of sand and gravel projecting out into Kachemak Bay. It’s south of Homer on Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula near Seldovia. To get to McDonald Spit from Homer if you don’t have your own boat, take a water taxi, ferry, or airplane to Seldovia. Drive 7 miles from Seldovia to The Spit, then walk or four-wheel 1 1/2 miles to Eric and Meg’s property.

Evening at McDonald Spit, Mt. Iliama in Background. Photograph by Kathleen Metcalfe

The property overlooks mountain-ringed Kasitsna Bay and has clear views of volcanoes Augustine, Iliamna and Redoubt. The spit is full of wildlife: whales, sea otters, and eagles are abundant; seals cruise fishing nets for evening meals; loons feed constantly; and, occasionally, black bear and coyotes come for a visit.

Eric Brudie and Meg Simonian’s Property on McDonald Spit. Photograph by Kathleen Metcalfe

Designers: Eric Brudie, Weatherport and Nature.

Meg Simonian and Eric Brudie’s House and Weatherport Kitchen. Photograph by Kathleen Metcalfe

Kitchen: When Eric owned the property as a single man, he lived in a fabric tension structure on a wooden platform called a Weatherport. After Eric and Meg married and had five children, they started building a house and converted the Weatherport into a kitchen.

Work Area in McDonald Spit Remote Kitchen. Photograph by Kathleen Metcalfe

Storage: Meg and Eric use stainless steel counter tops and wire shelves stocked with standalone plastic drawer units for storage. Hooks on tent poles hold utensils and hot pads.

Water: Until recently, the site had no water. Eric hauled in jugs of water from a nearby creek using a four-wheeler. The water went into a large holding tank plumbed for hot water and running water to the sink. Last June, McDonald Spit property owners extended the City of Seldovia’s water line to their properties.

Appliances and Food Storage at McDonald Spit. Photograph by Kathleen Metcalfe

Equipment: The Weatherport houses a three-burner propane Coleman stove, small microwave, toaster oven, and under-counter refrigerator. There isn’t an oven, so meals are cooked on the Colman stove or gas grill.

Outside Deck at McDonald Spit. Photograph by Kathleen Metcalfe

The outside deck holds a gas grill and a kitchen sink with hot and cold running water. Dishes dry on shelves above the sink. Platforms surrounding the deck hold large coolers.

Cleaning 6 of 85 Sockeye Salmon Snagged at Tutka Bay 2012. Photograph by Kathleen Metcalfe

Labor of Love: Smoking Salmon for Winter. Photograph by Kathleen Metcalfe

A smoker, vacuum-packer, and freezer help preserve wild edibles, including salmon and berries, for the winter.

Back Wall of Weatherport with Ventilation and Food Storage. Photograph by Kathleen Metcalfe

Lighting: The Kitchen has fluorescent overhead lighting inside and outside flood lights to make dish washing easier.

Compost Halibut Heads or Save For the Best Soup Ever. Photograph by Kathleen Metcalfe

Recycling and Composting: All recyclables are put in buckets. Coolers come to The Spit full of food and leave packed with recycling. Guests bring wine in boxes and beer in cans to limit the amount of waste. Meg and Eric use biodegradable products whenever possible, and burn non-recyclable paper products. Crows, Stellar jays, eagles, seagulls, voles, squirrels and an occasional mink love food waste. As a result, humans at The Spit are diligent about tightly covering the compost bucket and completely closing the trashcan lid. If necessary, extra food waste is spread at the tide line, well away from sleeping quarters, to prevent loud crows and Stellar jays from waking everyone up first thing in the morning.

Halibut Ready to Fillet (Note Foot on Bottom Right For Size Perspective). Photograph by Kathleen Metcalfe

Groceries: Basic groceries are available in nearby small-town Seldovia. Kasitsna Bay and nearby waters provide abundant bounties of halibut, salmon, and clams. Fresh oysters from Mike Nakada’s oyster farm in Jackalof Bay are a skiff ride away. Plentiful salmonberry and high-bush blueberry bushes surround the property.

Very Small Part at the Spit. Photo by Kathleen Metcalfe.

Eric and Meg are accomplished cooks, and regularly prepare elaborate meals at The Spit. They pack most of the necessary ingredients into coolers before leaving Anchorage. When groups in excess of 30 gather at the spit (Eric and Meg have large families and many friends), they ask guests to bring groceries: fresh herbs, vegetables of all kinds, specialty ingredients, and meat.

Everyone Digs Clams at McDonald Spit. Photograph by Kathleen Metcalfe

Recipes: Meg shared two favorite family recipes with us, using seafood gathered from the spit and its surrounding waters: Clam Linguine and Halibut Ceviche. Both dishes are delicious, and I’ll make them again and again.

Click the photo to see the recipe.

Click the photo to see the recipe.

About Laurie Constantino

Have you ever been stopped at customs with 30 pounds of cheese in your suitcase? It’s a regular occurrence for Laurie Constantino, a passionate home cook, and her husband, Steven. Each year the pair travel between their homes in Anchorage, Alaska and Limnos, a rural Greek island in the northern Aegean Sea.

Laurie’s love affair with Mediterranean cooking began 30 years ago when she met Steven, a Greek-American, in Bethel, a remote Eskimo community, where she was working as the District Attorney.

In 1987, Laurie and Steven traded the windswept tundra of Bethel for the sun-bleached beaches of Limnos to live in the home they inherited from Steven’s grandmother.

In 2007, Laurie’s book Tastes Like Home: Mediterranean Cooking In Alaska, containing 182 fully-tested recipes, was published; a revised edition adding new recipes came out in 2011.

Today, Laurie dishes up Mediterranean home cooking inspired by her travels, and her collection of 3500 cookbooks, and writes about it at laurieconstantino.com.

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