August 7, 2008

Gull Island & Otter Cove

Well it had been some time since we've done some serious birding, and we discovered another interesting coupon in the "Tour Savers" book (which is a great value!)....the day boat trip to Gull Is. From the moment we step aboard Capt Roark Brown's ship, we realize he's pretty serious about not only the birding, but everything he does. It wasn't until later in the trip we found out that he owns & operates the Otter Cove Lodge & Rookery Resturant where we are to have lunch. Our journey would take us westward across Kachemak Bay, past a series of small islands, then northward into the Cove and back.

As we pull up to Gull Island, it becomes immediately obvious why it got it's name. Literally thousands of birds, mostly terns inhabit these tiny blips of rock in the middle of Kachemak Bay. Approaching closer to one of the "islets" one notices that, just like with us humans, top floor condos are the most desirable, every square inch of that most prized real estate occupied.
A surprise though is that all species seem to be satisfied at this top level living within inches of one another, something we humans have not been able to master....

We see our old friends the Tufted Puffin both high up near the grassy tops (where they like to nest) and out at sea. Along with them are countless examples of Mew Gulls & Black-Footed Terns, and even a few Palegic Cormorants.

As we headed into Otter Cove, we see examples of those playfull creatures for which it's named. Although they look like they are sunbathing (on their backs) they actually use this technique to help them stay warm.... you can learn more about these guys at: at:

We pull up to the dock and a short walk up to the Lodge where we are greeted by an eager to serve staff, beautiful window seat and an outstanding lunch! We highly recommend this package to any of you if you find yourself in Homer.

After that fine meal, we look across the Cove to see a sailboat moving briskly along across the blue-green waters.

With the warm sun on our backs, looking to our right, down the shoreline, one could swear we're in a tropical paradise!

"NEW" The Samovar Cafe

We first heard of the Samovar Cafe while on a tour boat to Otter Cove. Our guide told us one of the most fun things to do in the area was to go have an authentic Russian meal at the cafe - complete with an authentic atmosphere.

I made a call that afternoon for reservations. I could barely understand the lady who answered the phone in a thick Russian accent. That's when I knew we were in for a good time.

The cafe sits on the edge of an old Russian believers village north of Homer, AK. The Russian village Nikolaevsk was founded in 1968. The old believers left Russia in the days of Stalin to escape communism. You can get a more complete story on this group of people at this website:

Arriving at the cafe's doorstep, we were greeted by the owner Nina Fefelov in full Russian costume. We were ushered inside where immediately Mrs. Fefelov began offering her complete selections of meal types in her broken english. Basically, we were given the choice of the full blown version with costume, pictures, music and the ability to ask questions or just the food. I figured since I will probably never get to Russia, I wanted to experience the full blown version.

Before we could be seated at the counter surrounding the kitchen, we had to dress for dinner! I was given a skirt, shirt, scarf and shawl while Sam was given a Russian tunic and hat! Now that we looked the part - pictures had to be taken.

The next part involved choosing a lacquered spoon from which we were to eat our Borsch. The soup is thick with cabbage, beets, potatoes, tomatoes and celery. A spiral of sour cream and a sprinkling of dill floating on its surface. Mmmm - delicious!

Nina lovingly described ingredients in each dish. In spite of the resulting wide range of flavors, all the selections share one common ingredient - "Love", she says.

Next came the main course. Piroshoks are dumplings that can be filled with meat or made to fit a vegetarian diet by stuffing them with rice, mushroom and vegetable mixture. Pelimeny are Siberian dumplings filled with beef and boiled in chicken broth ''until they float.'' As with the borsch, sour cream and dill make a perfect topping.

As satisfying as all that may be, Nina then brings out dessert - cream puffs topped with cherries, chocolate, and whipped cream. My mouth waters thinking about it many months later!

After dinner, cups of Russian tea, a mild mixture of raspberry, strawberry, mint and fireweed blossoms, prove a perfect finale.

By the end of the evening, my mouth hurt from smiling. I have to admit that even though I felt silly part of the evening, I had a very enjoyable time. The food was absolutely delicious. If I were to pay a visit to this fine establishement again, it would be just for the food. I highly recommend the full blown version for those visiting for the first time.

One thing I've failed to mention is that when you choose the full blown version of your meal - you are the solitary devotion of her attention. No one else was even in the cafe while we were there.

Afterwards we were told to go visit the church in town. I was told I would need a skirt. Nina graciously lent me one to wear while I was there. She told me just the place to leave it when we were finished. Don't miss it when you're in town.