You might want to look at the menu the next time you fly Alaska Airlines.
No, I’m serious. I’ve tried the latest highlights – at least some of the main menu items that will be flying around in the coming months – and I can attest that they’re all on a scale of pretty good to very good.
According to Jessica Johnston, Alaska Airlines’ senior product manager of food and beverage, there are typically around 30 entrée options for first class in any iteration of Alaska’s menus, but that number will increase to closer to 45 when the spring/summer menu is released in May.
Taking a step back: I frequently receive pitches about airlines improving their in-flight catering. According to Johnston, the carrier changes its menu every three months to reflect seasonal food trends. So, when Alaska contacted me to inform me that they had new food items to share, I dutifully informed my editor, assuming he’d tell me to skip.
Instead, he instructed me to go eat. My mother would be overjoyed.
So I contacted Alaska Airlines and asked if they could fly me to John F. Kennedy International Airport to sample some of their locally sourced cheeses and fresh produce-based salads and sides.
The airline arranged for me to visit its Terminal 7 lounge for a multi-course tasting menu. I’m glad I went to the gym that morning because I had a lot to eat (though not quite the full menu).
The first course was a winter squash and apple frittata with roasted butternut squash and bacon for sides, and a shakshuka of stewed tomatoes and peppers with a poached egg and crostini over black lentils. Meal service is available in first class on most flights of 550 miles or more.
First, a disclaimer: I’m not a big fan of squash.
The rest, on the other hand, was excellent! Both dishes were flavorful and filling, with the egg on the shakshuka satisfyingly runny.
According to Johnston, the shakshuka, in particular, has long been a customer favourite and has been requested by passengers since it was replaced during the pandemic.
“If people like it, let’s give it to them,” she said during the tasting.
A ranchero egg bowl with chicken chorizo sausage and a turkey sausage breakfast sandwich with a Tillamook cheddar and apple spread are two other new breakfast options.
Pre-ordering unheated main cabin meals is available on most Alaska flights of 775 miles or more. According to Johnston, they typically cost $7.50 to $10.50.
Keep in mind that supplies in the main cabin are limited, and food must be preordered. The menu is also a little more limited. While first-class options vary according to flight direction, many main cabin standbys are usually available on every flight. This spring, Alaska will add directional variability to the main cabin menu.
They also served me a refrigerated ginger beef wrap, which Johnston explained was a popular customer request, as well as a “healthy resolutions salad” with fresh produce.
What could possibly go wrong with cheese and sous vide beef? Everything was delicious.
Other dishes are available for preorder in the main cabin, including a candied orange Greek yoghurt protein platter for breakfast on morning flights.
Jerk chicken with cilantro lime rice, marinated kale, roasted peppers, and a jerk sauce on the side was served for dinner.
“This is getting amazing feedback right now,” Johnston said. “The flavour on that is really strong, and I think it translates really well in the air,” where people’s sense of taste is typically diminished.
Our Travel team is divided on chicken breasts, so when I saw the jerk chicken breast, I knew we’d all have something to say about it. In our group chat, I am firmly on team dark meat – yes, this is a thing, and yes, you should be jealous – and was sceptical about what was on my plate. However, as Johnston stated, the dish is popular, and while I question the ability of the chicken breast to stay moist at altitude, there are other good alternatives if you share my concerns.
A vegan, gluten-free “Southwest vegetarian bowl” with grain mix, marinated pinto beans, roasted sweet potatoes, and sautéed arugula and spinach was also on the menu. This was very flavorful, and I’d order it again even though I’m not vegan or gluten-free.
Depending on the length of the flight, first-class dinner entrées may include side salads, bread, mixed nuts, and desserts. Braised beef with fennel is another main course option on Alaska’s new menu.
I had Salt & Straw vanilla ice cream for dessert. According to Johnston, the company is a regular partner for Alaska, but the flavours served onboard change.