Mandy Dixon, pictured here, will travel to St. Louis in October to represent Alaska with its iconic food, reindeer sausage, in a new cooking event called Flavored Nation. She and her family own La Baleine in Homer in addition to lodges in Tutka Bay and northwest of Anchorage. (Photo submitted)

Mandy Dixon, pictured here, will travel to St. Louis in October to represent Alaska with its iconic food, reindeer sausage, in a new cooking event called Flavored Nation. She and her family own La Baleine in Homer in addition to lodges in Tutka Bay and northwest of Anchorage. (Photo submitted)

Homer chef to represent Alaska and “iconic” state dish at national event

Move over kings, sockeyes and pinks — there’s a new iconic Alaska food in town.

Rather than everyone’s favorite omega-3-packed fish, or the time-honored king crab, it’s the unassuming reindeer sausage that will represent the state of Alaska at a new national cooking showcase next month in St. Louis. Homer’s own Mandy Dixon, owner of La Baleine Cafe on the Spit, will be the one to cook it at the three-day event called Flavored Nation.

From Oct. 27-29, up to 12,000 participants will get to placate their palates by tasting a dish chosen to represent each of the 50 states. The event’s organizers determined each state’s most iconic food “through extensive research conducted by a team of culinary experts and food entertainment veterans,” according to a Flavored Nation release.

“It’s really to kind of bring out this iconic food that’s right here in the U.S. to the forefront and to show people what amazing food we have,” Dixon said.

Dixon was approached after Flavored Nation organizers contacted Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, who she has worked with. King crab was originally earmarked to be Alaska’s staple dish, but it was later switched to reindeer sausage, she said. Dixon had thrown salmon pie out as a suggestion, but there are several other states for which salmon is an iconic food, too, she said.

“I actually agree with it, now that I’ve done some research,” she said. “The reindeer story in Alaska’s pretty amazing.”

Reindeer were brought to Alaska from Siberia in the late 1800s in an attempt to make up for the negative impact whaling ships had on marine mammal populations in Alaska, a major food source for many Alaska Natives, according to the University of Alaska Fairbanks Reindeer Research Program. The reindeer were brought over along with Siberian, and later Scandinavian, herders to teach the trade to Alaska Natives in an effort to establish their own sustainable industry. The Reindeer Act of 1937 restricted ownership of reindeer to Alaska Natives to protect that purpose.

The act was later amended to make a distinction between Native Alaska herds and reindeer imported to the state after the year 1937 by non-Native people. Essentially, non-Natives living in Alaska can own non-Native reindeer, but only Alaska Natives can own Native reindeer herds.

While the sausage can often be found in the form of hot dogs in food trucks or stands lining the streets during festivals or fairs, Dixon said there are many ways to prepare the food. Cooks at La Baleine, for example, offer it as a breakfast option and cook it into their chili. The Sourdough Express on Ocean Drive in Homer makes a reindeer sausage pinwheel pastry.

“There’s pizza places in Anchorage that put it on pizza,” Dixon said.

Dixon knew she could participate in Flavored Nation since La Baleine is closed by October, she said. She also helps her family at the Tutka Bay Lodge, which they own in addition to Winterlake Lodge northwest of Anchorage.

“I love representing Alaska in different areas and showcasing different ingredients and cuisine that people, you know, don’t know about,” Dixon said.

Reindeer sausage will appear next to gumbo from Louisiana, chicken fried steak from Texas, pork roll from New Jersey and two kinds of lobster roll, hot with butter from Connecticut and cold with mayonnaise from Maine, according to the Flavored Nation release. Dixon also mentioned that Illinois will bring to the table its famous deep dish pizza, and California its iconic patty melt.

Reach Megan Pacer at megan.pacer@homernews.com.

Reindeer sausage, shown here, has been selected as Alaska’s most iconic dish for the purposes of a national food tasting event, Flavored Nation, coming up in October in St. Louis. Homer’s own Mandy Dixon, of La Baleine, will prepare the dish and represent Alaska in the three-day event. (Photo submitted)

Reindeer sausage, shown here, has been selected as Alaska’s most iconic dish for the purposes of a national food tasting event, Flavored Nation, coming up in October in St. Louis. Homer’s own Mandy Dixon, of La Baleine, will prepare the dish and represent Alaska in the three-day event. (Photo submitted)

More in News

The 2021 elections will be held Oct. 5.
Kenai Peninsula Borough School Board Q&A

On Tuesday, Oct. 5, elections will be held for Homer City Council,… Continue reading

The 2021 elections will be held Oct. 5.
Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly Q&A

On Tuesday, Oct. 5, elections will be held for Homer City Council,… Continue reading

The 2021 elections will be held Oct. 5.
Homer City Council candidate Q&A

On Tuesday, Oct. 5, elections will be held for Homer City Council,… Continue reading

Traffic moves north along the Sterling Highway shortly after a fatal crash closed the highway for several hours Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021. The state is seeking federal funding for a project aimed at improving safety along the Sterling Highway between mileposts 82.5 to 94, or between Sterling and Soldotna. (Photo by Erin Thompson/Peninsula Clarion)
State looks to federal funding for Sterling Highway project

The project is aimed at improving highway safety between Sterling and Soldotna.

Ethan Benton (left) and Laura Walters of Kodiak win the vaccine lottery for the Alaska Chamber's week one vaccine lottery giveaway "Give AK a Shot." (Screenshot)
State names winners in 1st vaccine lottery

A Valdez and Kodiak resident took home checks for $49,000 each.

Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion
A podium marks the beginning of a StoryWalk at Soldotna Creek Park on Tuesday, June 29, 2021 in Soldotna, Alaska. The project was discontinued in August due to vandalism.
Vandalism ends Soldotna library program

The StoryWalk was made possible by a $2,500 donation from the Soldotna Library Friends.

Juneau Empire file
The Coast Guard medevaced a 90-year-old suffering stroke-like symptoms near Ketchikan aboard a 45-foot response boat-medium like this one, seen in Juneau, on Thursday, Sept. 16, 2021.
Coast Guard medevacs man from yacht near Ketchikan

The 90-year-old suffered symptoms of a stroke.

James Varsos, also known as “Hobo Jim,” poses for a photo during the August 2016, Funny River Festival in Funny River, Alaska, in August 2016. (Peninsula Clarion file)
‘Hobo Jim’ opens up about recent terminal cancer diagnosis

Varsos was named Alaska’s official “state balladeer” in 1994.

Most Read