Sourcing food sustainably and with integrity

FROM THE MOMENT of embarkation on Quark Expeditions’ newest ship, Ultramarine, in Iqaluit, Nunavut, I was hungry to learn about the culture and history of the Inuit people in the Arctic and soaked in the presentations by the cruise line’s onboard experts. “Tundra to Table” amplified my learning with a gastronomic exploration of culture and tradition.

Available only on select Arctic sailings on Ultramarine, the Indigenous culinary experience is one I was lucky to get to savour. The four-course dinner also involved learning about sustainability and ethical consumption through the lens of two Inuit chefs, Miki Siegstad and Peter Berthelsen, from Sisimiut and Nuuk, Greenland. Trained in Greenland, chefs Miki and Peter shared personal stories about the Inuit fusion cuisine they meticulously crafted as each course was presented. 

The author, Judi Cohen

The author, Judi Cohen

At the heart of the Tundra to Table experience were the sustainably sourced local ingredients: meat and fish harvested by Inuit hunters and fishermen; flowers and herbs gathered on the land; and traditional Inuit tableware. Miki and Peter assembled our appetizer course of prawns served on chunks of sea ice. Using tweezers, they placed each flower, herb and crouton just so on top of prawns, pickled red onions and roasted Arctic thyme mayo. An equally impressive appetizer on another night was snow crab served with snow crab bisque, and crudité of beets, fennel and flowers.

Our culinary adventure was narrated by Miki, who pointed out that the main ingredients in our meal are organic and have been living in the wild. Fresh baked bread with flower- and sea salt-crusted chilled butter served on a flat stone were placed on each table, which was set with  seal-fur napkin rings and driftwood. The next course was thyme-smoked Atlantic cod with pickled angelica, broken gel of beetroot and turnip crudité. A refreshing herb snow was placed on top.

 Inuit chefs, Miki Siegstad and Peter Berthelsen,

Inuit chefs, Miki Siegstad and Peter Berthelsen

For our main course, we had a choice of Arctic red fish or muskox confit with honey glazed carrots, risotto, mushroom purée and a blanquette sauce. On another evening, the main course options were slow-cooked reindeer with Greenlandic thyme, with baby onions, king trumpet mushrooms and fresh crème and herb oil. While animals like sheep and lamb can mostly be found in South Greenland, reindeer and muskox are hunted everywhere except for South Greenland.

Dessert was a traditional apple cake served with apple compote and burnt white chocolate, salted caramel, white chocolate sauce with Arctic Labrador tea. Peter commented that apple cake is a tradition for birthdays and celebrations that was adopted from Danish culture and every household has their own recipe. His grandparents baked apple cake to welcome guests into their homes.

Following a hearty standing applause and loud expressions of gratitude for our chefs’ creativity and candid sharing of stories about Inuit foods, Miki and Peter stayed to engage with guests and share their personal journeys. I was intrigued by Peter’s distinct tattoos on his arms and fingers. He explained how tattoos have been part of Inuit culture for centuries and each one has personal, cultural and symbolic meaning. He pointed to his fingers and knuckles and explained that each Inuit symbol represented elements of his personal life history and his connection to community and family. His arm tattoos symbolized his personal achievements, spiritual beliefs and rites of passage.  

A few days later, as Miki and I stood on Beechey Island (where Sir John Franklin’s Northwest Expedition wintered, and the bodies of three crewmen are buried), Miki shared how important it is for him to share his Greenlandic Inuit culture. His family lives in Sisimiut, Ilulisatt and Nuuk. Miki shared his earliest memories of watching his parents prepare for the holidays, and fishing with his father for Arctic char and cod. He recalled hunting with Peter for reindeer in their 20s and bringing the entire reindeer  back to Nuuk to share with Peter’s family.

They met in 2011 at culinary school and have cooked together since. Aside from the food, one of the highlights at each Tundra to Table experience is sitting down afterwards with guests for questions and answers. They are looking forward to this year’s Arctic season ( June to September) on Ultramarine when they will return, along with Canadian Inuit chefs, to delight and educate passengers with their Inuit fusion creations. Miki and Peter bring soul and meaning to the food at Tundra to Table. It was a privilege to dine at their floating table aboard Ultramarine in the Canadian High Arctic and to learn so much from them throughout the expedition.

WHEN You Sail: Quark Expeditions’ Ultramarine is a 199-passenger ice-class expedition ship. The company has been a global leader in polar adventures for more than 30 years. Tundra to Table can be booked and paid for ahead of your expedition or on the ship.


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