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Thursday, June 3, 2010

Cafe Cups: Artistic Dining in Homer, AK

After asking around through websites, social media, and amongst the locals, the most common answer to where I should make sure to dine in Homer, Alaska resoundingly and emphatically had to be Cafe Cups.  This hip dinner-only restaurant is run in the front by Jen and in the kitchen by her husband Dave.  The cafe is as artistic as it is local.  Meanwhile, the environment produces an ideal small setting with personal service and very original, unique, and custom decor.

Cafe Cups in Homer, AK

Eusebio, Matt, Eric, and I went out for dinner one evening to see just what Cups had to offer.  The restaurant certainly had a very unique quality to it and a terrific ambiance.  We arrived at about 8:30 pm and the place didn't have an empty table anywhere.  Jen greeted us and told us it would be just a few minutes so we patiently waited for a table.

The Inside of Cafe Cups and a Cup of Coffee

While Cafe Cups is certainly more of a casual fine dining restaurant, I still could not resist starting my evening meal with a cup of coffee.  The java came in a regular old mug like you'd find in people's kitchens, and after looking around I realized that all the coffee mugs were a little different.  I though that was a pretty cool touch. While it may not have been Community Coffee, the brewed beans in Alaska were pretty darn good.

Kachemak Bay Oysters, Chargrilled and Raw

Since Eusebio and I are such lovers of good old Gulf of Mexico oysters that we get in Baton Rouge and New Orleans, we thought we ought to try the Alaskan variety.  Cups delivered some fantastic oysters, though they were far different than those from the warm, muddy waters in Louisiana.  The Kachemak Bay (where we were, right around Homer, AK) oysters tasted just like the sea.  They were clean, salty, and noticeably pure compared to our beloved mollusks.  In this case, however, pure does not mean better.  There is something to say about the flavor of oysters from the Louisiana coast.  The river-silt laden waters give the oysters a totally different taste that I've become so accustomed to that it is weird to taste an oyster from other waters.  I'm sure that some of the taste difference also comes from the cold waters of Alaska vs the warm waters of Louisiana.  Still, I enjoyed both oyster varieties and was glad I got to experience the difference.   

Pulled Pork Empanadas and B.R. Cohn Cabernet

The special appetizer of the day happened to be pulled pork empanadas.  Down here in Cajun Country we would just call it a pie, just like a crawfish pie or a meat pie.  In Spanish and Portuguese cuisine, empanada is just a term that means stuffed bread or pasty.  These pulled pork empanadas tasted absolutely delightful.  They were my favorite dish of the evening despite only getting to eat one of them.  They were served with a deliciously spicy lime-chili sauce that complemented the seasoned pork very nicely.  The B.R. Cohn wine also went great with the cuisine of the evening.  The fruity red came from Sonoma Valley.  Cabernet is one of my favorite grapes for its full bodied and fruity tendencies while typically remaining dry and never overly sweet.  This 2007 California wine hit the spot!

Barbecued Ribs and Mashed Potatoes

The ribs at Cups disappointed me.  They were alright at best.  The main problem is that they were dried out and chewy.  I like a rib that is still moist and tender.  They are best when the meat pulls off the bone with a gentle tug of the teeth and then practically melts in our mouth.  These ribs did not succeed in doing that.  The mashed potatoes were also nothing special.  They were rather bland and did not have enough seasoning for my tastes.  

Tiger Prawns

Eric had a ribeye that looked pretty good, but nothing incredible.  Eusebio had an order of Tiger Prawns which were served with their signature honey habanero sauce.  They might have been decent sized shrimp for Alaska, but compared to Louisiana shrimp they also didn't blow me away (though they were by no means bad either).  The best meal of the night was the lamb shank special that Matt ordered.  The lamb had a succulent flavor with superbly cooked, moist meat and excellent seasoning.  

Creme Brulee, Strawberry Cheesecake, and Mint Chocolate Ice Cream

For dessert I gave the strawberry cheesecake a try.  This homemade sweet had a great cookie crust and creamy, lush cheesecake filling.  The strawberries did not seem fresh, but I guess you can't get everything straight off the vine when you're in Alaska in May!  Eusebio's creme brulee also passed the test, as did the homemade mint chocolate ice cream!  Other than the empanadas, the dessert was probably my favorite part of the meal.  In the end, I left Cafe Cups satisfied but not in awe.  Still, for a town with a population of 5,000 people year round the restaurant was impressive.  I really enjoyed the atmosphere of the cozy cafe, and while the food has room for improvement, it still was worth a visit!

Cafe Cups on Urbanspoon

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