Cooper Landing business seal's new deal

Posted: Monday, April 16, 2001

It could be pondered why Popeye the Sailor Man gets so strong after eating a can of spinach, but how much stronger would he have been after eating a Sacketts' Kenai Grill vacuum-packed meal?

Comparing a can of spinach to the Sacketts' meals is like comparing grass to hamburger. One has the opportunity to be tasty and satisfying while the other is -- well, the other is green.

Kenai Peninsula musher Jon Little had an opportunity to do a bit of comparing himself last month as he competed in his third Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. The Kasilof resident got a break from the usual trail food when the Cooper Landing restaurant agreed to sponsor him by supplying a bunch of home-cooked vacuum-packed meals.

"I used to try to make do (on the trail)," Little said of the food he brought with him to the Iditarod in the past. "I took pizza, Snickers bars and whatever friends of mine supplied me with."

Not anymore -- thanks to Glenn and Dannette Sackett of Cooper Landing, the owners of Sacketts' Kenai Grill.

The grill became a 2001 Iditarod sponsor for Little and sent more than best wishes with him onto the trail.

"I tried to put a meat and a starch in each bag," Glenn Sackett said. "They were meals that were vacuum-packed and ready to go, all Jon had to do was throw them in some boiling water."

The meal variety was a lot more than someone could get out of the convenience of a can. Little feasted on prime rib and chicken-fried steak, both with baked potatoes. He also had beef marinara and pasta, pecan chicken, black bean soup and a Dijon chicken pasta that consisted of chicken with a mushroom and cream sauce over fettuccine, Little's favorite.

"There was a really good Dijon chicken," Little said. "It was really tasty with the pasta."

According to Sackett, the vacuum-packed meals are an idea he has been "cooking up" for a while.

"It's been something I've been working on," he said. "Getting these to-go packets of food for fishermen and everybody so they can just put it in a pot of boiling water. That way they can eat different instead of eating canned meat or something."

The meals, which Sackett hopes to have on the menu sometime this summer, are convenient for those with time to boil water and those without.

"You can microwave them too," Sackett said. "A lot of (anglers) head out at 4 or 5 in the morning and no place is open. With these meals, they can just boil some water at 10 if they are hungry. They don't even need to boil water, just leave them on the dash of their car and when they get back to it the meals will be ready to eat."

According to Little, meals on the trail are nothing new to mushers, but he said he is interested in the direction the Sacketts are taking their vacuum-packed meals.

"Mushers have longed for this, seal a meal and there it is waiting for you," Little said. "What I think is interesting is how Glenn is applying it to fishermen and hikers."

One of the biggest assets that Little pointed out is how little space the meals actually take up.

"The trick with mushers is to keep the meal thin," he said. "Glenn just flattened them out and they didn't take up much space. You add a few ounces of weight because of water, but the payoff in flavor and preparation is worth it."

Sure, they are convenient and compact -- but would Little recommend them to his fellow mushers and outdoor enthusiasts?

"I would," he said. "They are really tasty. We don't get out backpacking as much as we like, but we are going to try them this year. I am looking forward to testing them this summer."

According to Sackett, Little only relayed one complaint to him regarding the meals.

"He said a couple of the meals were a little too big for him," Sackett said. "That is my policy, if you give them more then they can eat, you know they are going to come back for more."

The final say in the quality of the meals is a combination of the size, the convenience and the taste, all of which Little said are perfect for the Iditarod. On a scale of one to 10, what would Little's rating be?

"I am tempted to say 10," he said. "The meals are tasty, quick and efficient. Everything a musher needs to be successful. They would be great for hiking, camping and probably fishing, too."

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