A new food truck opened in Sitka last week — one that steers clear of the usual suspects like black cod tips or grilled halibut. CastAway is dishing out Puerto Rican and Cuban classics. But that’s not all: co-owners Nina Vizcarrondo and Brittany Dumag have plans to guide Sitkans on a world tour through food.
CastAway is parked at Fortress of the Bear most days of the week. Vizcarrondo shows me around the kitchen. She takes the lid off a pot of stewed pork butt and pork shoulder. “It’s been cooking for twelve hours,” Vizcarrondo says. Pots of rice and beans cover the counter in the truck. Vizcarrondo starts with dried red kidney beans. “Then I just softened it up with some ham hock.”
Vizcarrondo and Dumag opened CastAway just last week. The team — they call themselves captains — wanted to bring the flavors of a different kind of island life to Sitka. Vizcarrondo is from Puerto Rico and Dumag lived in Key West, Florida for a while. Their menu focuses on the flavors of those places: Cubanos, stewed pork with rice and beans, and plenty of plantain chips.
“We decided to take off with that and add a little different kind of flavor to Sitka,” Vizcarrondo said. But local food matters to both of them, too. Where possible, they wanted to cook with products from Alaska. That meant a lot of legwork. Not that many people raise livestock here and moving stuff from point A to point B presents plenty of challenges.
Eventually, they struck gold: a pig farmer and slaughterhouse in North Pole, Alaska. “It’s Alaska local,” Vizcarrondo said. She and Dumag figured out how to fly the pork to Sitka. “We actually get ‘em pretty fast through Alaska Air.”
But not all fixtures of tropical cuisine can grow in Alaska. Like plantains. And plantain chips, which can be hard to find in Alaska. “I called the company straight up,” Vizcarrondo said. “The guy was like…Alaska?” She assured him that the USPS delivers here, too, and proceeded to order some 68 pounds of plantain chips.
The logistics are part of the fun. And speak to the bigger motivation behind the food truck: giving locals an avenue to experience what the world beyond Sitka tastes like. “It kind of just broadens everyone’s diversity and taste of palate,” Dumag said. “Just to experience different cultures here in Sitka I think it’s really important.” She hopes CastAway will be a means to bring new experiences and flavors to locals.
Vizcarrondo and Dumag came up with the idea for Castaway just two months ago. They quickly got off the ground thanks to a $1500 grant from the Sitka Local Foods Network. The co-owners met in the Coast Guard where Vizcarrondo was a cook and Dumag ran ordering. “She ordered the goodies, I cooked the goodies,” Vizcarrondo said.
And then Sitkans eat the goodies. Vizcarrondo and Dumag have found their strongest support so far in the local community. So far, tourists haven’t been all too interested in Alaskan pork. “We’re kinda carving our own path right now as far as just not doing Alaskan seafood,” Dumag said. “We’re here for locals and our main goal is just to feed families here.”
Vizcarrondo and Dumag have yet to decide where the CastAway kitchen heads next. For now, Sitkans can island hop with Alaskan pork, Caribbean-style.