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|Vol. 15, Ed. 39 Sept. 28 - Oct. 4th 2006|
- By Kirsten Richardson
Relatively new to the Anchorage breakfast and lunch cafe scene is Doriola's. While I never noticed this establishment in the nine months it has been open (despite driving countless times past the strip mall it's located in), many other people have. According to the wait staff, vacant tables are hard to come by during weekday lunch hours, forcing some diners to eat in the windowless, "private party" rooms in the back of the restaurant.
Sisters, owners and operators, Vivian and Janet Hickok, named the restaurant after their beloved mother, as the story tells you on a sign next to the entrance and on their website. Family photos, collectibles and watercolor paintings are scattered about, creating a homey and comforting setting. A small gift shop allows visitors to browse antiques, jewelry and Janet's cookbook. Grizzlies, Glaciers and Gourmet is a collection of recipes and photos she amassed over 18 years working as a chef at Newhalen Lodge in the Alaskan Bush. The two times I visited Doriolas, both friendly sisters were there - one taking our order and clearing tables, the other behind the counter or in the kitchen. Other family members help with bookkeeping and shopping.
My first visit was after the lunch rush, so finding a table was not a problem (though I was temped to sit in one of the cozy-looking couches near the windows). Other than seven fresh and grill-pressed sandwiches, the lunch menu at Doriola's changes daily with various soup, salad, sandwich and quiche options. And if you can't decide on just one - try any combination of the above for the chefs are accommodating and portioning allows for variety.
Doriola's use of herbed oils, flavored mayonnaises, smoke-infused meats, roasted vegetables, relishes and various cheeses has created a flavorful, rich and something-to-please-everyone menu. Vegetarians will not go hungry and children have options of their own.
Famished and wanting to sample it all, my companion and I restrained ourselves to Quiche Lorraine ($7.50), Pork, Apple and Rosemary Stew ($4 for a cup, $5.50 for a bowl) and the Robust Rueben ($8.50 for a whole). Their "tender crust, rich, creamy custard combined with shredded cheeses and mouth-watering fillings" quiche description was no lie in my eyes. While some may argue the quiche to be overpoweringly rich and a little sloppy, I found it to be one of the richest, best-baked quiches around. With countless recipes for quiche fillings, do I dare inquire about theirs (heavy whipping cream in place of milk and extra yolks I wonder) or just ignore the intake of fat and enjoy the apple-wood smoked bacon, Swiss cheese, egg and dairy combination?
Our warm, grill-pressed Rueben was a generous serving of sliced pastrami, Swiss cheese, onions and cabbage sauteed in red wine vinegar and Thousand Island dressing between slices of swirled pumpernickel bread. A touch more of the tangy onions and cabbage would have made this the perfect Rueben.
The soup was a hearty combination of baked pork bits, carrots, onions, garlic, potatoes, rosemary and sweet apples. While flavorful and cooked well, its richness (in addition to the quiche and Rueben) kept us from finishing our cup-sized serving and made us jealous of our neighbor's beautiful, fresh-looking, mixed green salad.
Although we were full and satisfied with our lunch, we couldn't resist the complimentary cookies that came with the bill and even added a Russian teacake to the sampling.
Later that day I scouted the breakfast menu online and decided to give it a try it for my second visit. I invited my friend Thea and her 6-month-old, Noah to come along. Unfortunately, Noah couldn't have a chair of his own for highchairs did not exist - odd since there was a play room in the back and a section of the menu designed just for kids.
Famished once again, we ordered the Shrimp (later to find out it was flavored with dill and lemon as well) Quiche ($6.50), Gooberlicious Granola Parfait ($5.50) and Bagel Frenchie ($5.50). When the granola arrived, we were informed that they were out of the overnight-soaked bagel French "toast." We opted for the Vegetarian Bagel Melt ($5.00) instead.
Layered with yogurt in a pint glass the well-baked combination of oats, peanut butter, honey, pumpkin, sesame and flax seeds, assorted nuts and fruits made for a hearty meal all on its own. No additional sweeteners were needed and the ratio of yogurt to granola was just how I like it.
Since Thea loves quiches (and is a baker) I was anxious to hear what she thought of this one. The microwave heating method (too hot in the middle), "sloppy" appearance and richness were observed, making this not her favorite. Point taken, I would happily go back and order this again, preferably for lunch with a salad on the side.
The bagel melt was bland and uneventful - slices of raw zucchini, red onions and Swiss cheese atop a plain bagel just didn't cut it for us. Was it the addition of mustard we craved? A slathering of pesto? Or would toasting the bagel first and melting the cheese just a bit more have satisfied us? Despite our critical critique, we managed to eat nearly everything, leaving only a bite or two of our fruit garnish.