Monday, December 5, 2016

Mesa, AZ - Cinnamon Rolls on the Alaska Hwy

One of the great urban legends about traveling the Alaska Highway is that there are lots of places that serve cinnamon rolls or sticky buns or what ever you want to call them. One of our goals was to try lots of them. Gotta have goals, especially ones that are as tasty as these. However, we found that it was more hype than reality: there weren’t as many cinnamon rolls places as we thought but here’s our report.

So, in no particular order, here we go. First up: strawberry rhubarb coffee cake at the Creekside Inn, just south of Denali on the Parks Hwy. This is not really on the Alaska Hwy but - what the heck - it’s still on our journey. Cold morning and we were ready for hot coffee, a warm treat and a cozy atmosphere. All here. Lots of cars there - this is not a hidden gem. We walked up to the counter and saw these mouth-watering goodies, right out of the over, just ready for our plates.
Oh, wait a minute, next to them, yummm, strawberry rhubarb coffee cake, their specialty. Now, we realized that strawberry rhubarb coffee cake is not a cinnamon roll - we know the difference. But they were both on top of the counter and we decided to bypass the cinnamon roll (we can have those later) and took not one, but two pieces of this coffee cake. It came to us warm with a strudel topping, dollops of whipped cream and sliced strawberries on top. Share? Not a chance.

The Creekside Inn Restaurant is just off the the highway and serves not only those who stay at the inn but those who stay in the youth hostel across the highway. It has a cozy, warm atmosphere and serves a full breakfast too. On the menu, we saw skillet skillet breakfasts with mushrooms, cheddar, and reindeer sausage - Yelp tells us that it was amazing. They had blueberry pancakes. Everything that passed our noses and eyes smelled and looked good. For us: Strawberry coffee cake - 5, ambiance - 5, haircut - 0.

OK, let’s try some of the cinnamon rolls, after all, that’s what this blog is about. Further on down the road we had breakfast at Johnson’s Crossing. We had stayed over night in Whitehorse and, if you are a reader of this blog, you know that we’ve had our fill of Whitehorse. (On the way up to Alaska, we spent a ‘bonus’ week there waiting for Freightliner to fix our RV and, after they ‘fixed’ it, they had to re-fix it. Needless to say, we got a refund for the first ‘fix.’) So, we skedaddled out of there, knowing that delicious cinnamon rolls awaited us about 20 miles down the road. Their ad says that they have ‘The Best Cinnamon Buns.’

Not only that but out the window is this great view of the Teslin River Bridge, the third longest water span on the highway. It’s so high above the water since they wanted steamers of the British Yukon Navigation Co to pass under it en route from Whitehorse to Teslin. Before the highway was built during WWII, all freight and supplies for Teslin traveled this route to Whitehorse. After the highway was built, the company ceased operations.
Well, while our buns were being warmed up, we admired the bridge but, when they came, we were otherwise occupied.

And, this is a picture of Gary with our cinnamon buns. Big, sugary, swirled tightly to hold the sweetness in, they were quite good - except that they were a bit doughy in the middle. Shucks - I thought I had found Nirvana. View - 5, Buns - 3
Then, of course, we had to try the ‘Cinnamon Bun: Center of the Galactic Cluster’ - whatever that meant - I’m thinking they must be otherworldly good. These are served at the Testa River Services Campground. We parked and entered the inn. Quaint with a fire blazing. Lots of stuff for sale and you can see some of it behind me. Hand-knit sweaters and caps, fur-lined slippers, gloves, lots of books and trinkets. If they could sell it, it was here. Our roll came and the first thing I noticed was the cellophane. Ummm - that usually means that it’s not really fresh and has been sitting for a while. But, we’ll try it. Note that it is HUGE. But, unfortunately, it was a bit tasteless. My food theory is: food only has so much taste and if it’s spread out over a HUGE area, each bite has only a little bit of the taste. A smaller roll and each bite has lots more of the taste. (Do you think that this theory will make it into the culinary books?) But, it was true here. Too big, too little taste. Notice how wide the swirls are: too much dough. Cellophane, huge swirls, hmmm. Atmosphere - 3, cinnamon rolls - 3, haircut - 3.
Well, we’re not done. There’s lots of Alaska to go and, as the Carpenters sang: ‘We’ve only just begun.’

We found this tasty looking goody further down the road, near, well, I’ve forgotten by now but I’ll have to admit that this took the prize for the biggest cinnamon roll we found. Pretty good and lots of sugar and cinnamon spread through the swirls so that the taste didn’t diminish into just baked flour. We shared this one.

And that’s about it for cinnamon rolls on the Alaska Hwy. I’m sure there might be more but we didn’t find them and we were searching hard. But, I’ve heard others say that Alaska Hey cinnamon rolls are more hype that reality also so we’re not the only ones disappointed. The Alaska Hwy is all about the history, the scenery, the animals and the journey. It’s not just all about the eating.

Well, this is neither a cinnamon roll nor did we find it along the Alaska Hwy. But it looks just as good as it tasted and I thought I’d end with this. It is a Peach coffee cake with steusel crumbles and powdered sugar sprinkled on top. Just about nearly perfect. We found this in a small town called Chimacum, WA. on the western side of Puget Sound. Nice small local restaurant which specializes in its baked goods and in serving locally grown organic food. You order your food at the counter, you bus your own table. Pretty cool. Coffee cake - 5, atmosphere - 4

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