Holiday-shopping sanity-saver

by • December 17, 2013 • ApresComments (0)214

Take a break with classy-restaurant indulgence

Very few people actually like holiday shopping. Finding the perfect gift? Awesome. Seeing the joy on a recipient’s face? Priceless. But claustrophobic parking lots, long lines, congested aisles – ugh, right? Which is why, after a long day playing Santa, you deserve indulgent R&R. Some of Anchorage’s best venues for tasty treats and creative cocktails are conveniently close to its major malls and shopping districts.

If you’re on the southside, within the buzzing vicinity of the mega-shopping sprawl of the Dimond Center Mall, visit Suite 100. Suite has done well since opening more than six years ago, standing out amid the big-box chain restaurants and quick-stop lunch counters that otherwise populate this area. The large restaurant area accommodates reservations, and the bar in back provides stool seating, tall tables and couches. The ambiance is warm and modern, with splashy statement art and crimson, gold and copper coloring.

Katie and sister Erin Pesznecker enjoy some wine at Crush Bistro, one of Anchorage’s hippest wine bars, located conveniently close to shopping.

Katie and sister Erin Pesznecker enjoy some wine at Crush Bistro, one of Anchorage’s hippest wine bars, located conveniently close to shopping.

Rotating food specials spice up a menu that is otherwise largely unchanged since Suite’s opening day. I love the finely cooked filet served with a bourbon demi glaze (8 oz. $28, 12 oz. $34). Their inventive salads are a real steal, all under $7, with fancy cheeses, candied nuts and house-made croutons, with the option of adding protein like grilled chicken or seared scallops. Pair that with the perfect cocktail, like the honeydew bellini, a sweet, bubbly mix of champagne and pureed melon, and you will leave feeling like one refreshed and happy camper.

Downtown’s shopping staple the 5th Avenue Mall is surrounded with stopping-off options for winding down post-shopping, including two of my favorites: Ginger and Crush Bistro.

The very popular Ginger has carved out a niche for creative Asian-influenced Alaska cuisine. The bar offers a classy and accessibly sophisticated space, with open space, subtle lighting, lots of seating at the bar, and small booths circling the perimeter. The full dinner menu is available in the bar, but Ginger also offers a supplemental bar menu of irresistible appetizers, such as risotto balls with a sweet chile dipping sauce ($7) and spicy soba chicken noodles ($7).

The bartenders at Ginger are artists. Skip your staple cocktail and embrace something more interesting, like the ginger pear mojito, the sweet Balken spy with its skewer of gummy bears, or the simple house martini that comes with Ginger’s own blue cheese-stuffed olives.

Crush is for wine lovers. The mood is leisurely in a European way. Staff members are patient, unhurried and well versed in everything vino. The simple space is flush with natural light and local art, and tiny details everywhere – the bottle chandeliers, the wine barrel bar top, the cork curtain rod stoppers – speak to Crush’s all-out crush on wine. With so many interesting options, why choose just one? Instead, order a flight (three pours, $12).

The food at Crush is simple and elegant, with small portions meant to be savored course-by-course. I love the prosciutto-wrapped feta-stuffed dates in a balsamic drizzle ($5) and the baked macaroni and cheese ($6) that has a subtle heat to it. The lasagna Bolognese ($19) is hearty and satisfying.

After a relaxing sojourn at Crush, you may feel ready to shop again – in which case you need look no further than up. Atop the bistro, Crush also operates a shop where you can buy wines and handcraft, imported and Alaskan beers. It’s the perfect place to find the gift for the wine lover in your life.

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