Last updated: 09:00 PM ET, Tue November 10 2015

Opinion Home | Far-Sighted Field Notes

  • Rosalind Cummings-Yeates | November 10, 2015 9:00 PM ET

    Bizarre Bites: Yukon Culinary Treats

    Bizarre Bites: Yukon Culinary Treats

    Photos by Rosalind Cummings-Yeates

    The Yukon's pristine arctic wilderness attracts loads of travelers interested in viewing landscapes and wildlife not seen anywhere else in the world. The beauty is startling, especially when you consider the brutality of the frigid climate, where only the hardiest organisms can survive.

    But my visit to the Yukon didn't focus on the natural wonders — I was actually there for the annual Yukon Culinary Festival. The four-day event showcases local food and regional specialties prepared by hometown chefs.

    While sampling the dishes, I quickly realized that the food included some unusual and … offbeat flavors and ingredients (kind of like the territory itself). If you travel to the Yukon, make a point of checking out these delicacies:

    Elk Heart

    I spotted elk ribs, lasagna and pizza on a few menus, but I was flabbergasted to learn that elk heart is an especially prized portion of meat. I actually got to witness a chef sautee three pounds of elk heart in butter and serve it up to dozens of appreciative foodies. Apparently, it's very tender and tastes like highly marbled beef.

    Elk is a staple in the region, and the meat is supposed to supply the necessary protein and iron to help withstand the daunting winters. I don't think I could live in a place that required me to nibble on an animal's heart for survival, but that's just me.


    Another Yukon staple is caribou meat. I first saw caribou in the supermarket, packaged as breakfast sausages. But I also saw caribou burgers and yes, stuffed caribou heart. Caribou, elk and moose meat is popular in the region because it doesn't have to be shipped from anywhere. When I found out that another name for caribou is “reindeer,” imaging Rudolph as a tasty meal was almost too much to bear.

    Moose Nose Soup

    You'll see moose everywhere in the Yukon, from stuffed heads, to moose fur hats. But moose meat is used in a plethora of dishes. I saw moose ribs, moose lasagna and moose pizza.

     But a local explained that moose nose soup was the preferred preparation. The nose or mouffle, is reportedly the most delicious part of the meat. It is is boiled in a broth, often with potatoes and carrots. I never saw moose nose soup offered at any of the restaurants, but I'm betting that you could make a special request for this local fave.

    Sourtoe Cocktail

    I can't even fathom why this gruesome drink even exists, except to chalk it up to the craziness of the Yukon. Wildly popular in Dawson City, it’s a cocktail of hard liquor garnished with a blackened human toe, and travelers visit from all over the globe to give it a try.

    Legend has it that the tradition started over 40 years ago when the alcohol-preserved amputated toe of a miner was found in an old cabin. As a ghoulish drink garnish, the toe is preserved in salt and lasts about four years before another has to be used. Numerous toes have touched the lips of Sourtoe imbibers (a requirement for full-fledged Sourtoe status), and watching people drink shot glasses filled with vodka and a slimy digit has to top all of the bizarre Yukon dishes.

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Rosalind Cummings-Yeates Far-Sighted Field Notes

Rosalind Cummings-Yeates Rosalind Cummings-Yeates is a journalist, author and blogger who specializes in travel and culture topics. She loves guiding readers through the richness of various cultures and discovering the essence of a destination. Her travel and culture blog, Farsighted Fly Girl, offers travel insights through the music, food, art and history of various countries and cultures. Join her on the journey at www.Rosalindcummingsyeates.
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