Strawberry and Ice Cream Socials on PEI

A Sunday Strawberry Social

Summertime strawberry and ice cream socials (“socials”) are prolific on PEI in July and always herald Summer on the Island.  From churches to community groups to historical museums to Women’s Institute groups, socials are common Summer events on PEI.  Even local politicians gather around strawberries and ice cream and host Summer socials as a way of connecting with their constituents.  Who would have thought strawberries would gain and hold such notoriety as the star attraction at so many local Summer social gatherings!

Strawberry Shortcake

While I was unable to trace definite origins of these Summer socials on PEI, local historian and curator of History and Exhibits with PEI Museums and Heritage, Boyde Beck, tells me the earliest recording that he could find of such an event was in 1871 when the public was invited to a strawberry festival with refreshments on the grounds of the Wesleyan Academy, an event that also involved croquet and games for the young.  Then, in 1896, there is a recording of an ice cream and strawberry banquet held after a 13-mile bicycle race from Brackley Beach to Charlottetown under the auspices of the Charlottetown Wheel Association.  I think it would be safe to say that these early events would have involved homemade vanilla ice cream churned by hand in a wooden crank-style freezer and the strawberries most likely would have been wild as opposed to the cultivated variety.

Today, most socials still follow the traditional strawberry shortcake recipe — a tea biscuit split in two with a scoop (or two!) of vanilla ice cream on top and drizzled with  strawberries (usually crushed) and a dollop of whipped cream.  Most often, a beverage is included (tea, coffee, or lemonade) and many organizations also offer homemade squares and cookies as well, particularly if the event is held indoors and if table seating is provided.  You can expect to pay in the vicinity of $5-7 for the event.

Dishing Up the Goods!

When they originally began, the primary purpose of the events was purely social — to bring together people in a community or church, for example, so they could get to know their neighbours or renew old acquaintances – hence the use of the word “social” in connection with the event.  Apart from those organized by politicians for the purpose of meeting and greeting constituents, today’s socials are seen as a good way to raise money for organizations’ causes and some argue this is now more the key objective with hosting the events.

My earliest recollection of attending an ice cream social was in the early 1970s.  One July evening, my Mother suggested we go to a “Strawberry Social” being held on the grounds of Howatt’s Fruit and Vegetable Farm in Tryon, PEI, not far from the banks of the Tryon River.  I have to admit, as a youth, I found it bizarre to make a connection between strawberries and something social!  Nevertheless, off we went and I can recall it being a lovely, warm Summer evening and the beautiful manicured grounds with a canopy of several weeping willow trees on the lawns providing a lovely venue for the early evening event.  Today, most socials are held indoors so that weather is not a restricting factor.

On Sunday afternoon, July 22, 2012, I was in Bideford, near Tyne Valley, PEI, in the Western part of the Province where the Bideford Parsonage Museum was hosting its 13thannual Strawberry Social.

Strawberry Social at Bideford Parsonage Museum

This house, now museum, was the former Methodist Parsonage where famed authoress, Lucy Maud Montgomery, boarded with Rev. John F. and Mrs. Ada Estey from 1894-95 when she was in her first teaching position at Bideford No. 6 School.  Members of the local historical society were blessed with a beautiful sunny day as they hosted the Sunday afternoon event outdoors on the Museum grounds.  For the modest price of $5.00, visitors received a large bowl of strawberry shortcake, and tea, coffee, or lemonade.  Homemade sweet tea biscuits, fresh Island strawberries, and PEI-produced ADL ice cream proved a combo hard to beat on a hot day!

Sunday Afternoon Strawberry Social

Local musicians provided the afternoon’s entertainment as hosts, in period costume, mingled about the grounds.  While many churches, halls, and parks across the Island are the scene of socials throughout the Summer, the lovely designed and maintained Bideford Parsonage Museum with its immaculate grounds encased in a white picket fence sets a beautiful backdrop for a Summer social.

Bideford Parsonage Museum, Bideford, Prince Edward Island, Canada

You can certainly let your mind wander to a more tranquil and genteel era when this kind of social would have been held in the late 1800s and you can easily imagine how such a summer social would have been a hugely anticipated  event in rural PEI.  On a sunny 28ºC Sunday afternoon in July 2012, ice cream and seasonal berries proved to be a perfect refreshing treat just as I am sure they would have been more than a century ago!

Lots of Strawberry and Ice Cream Socials on PEI!

Whether you are a local Islander or a tourist visiting PEI in July, be sure to stop by one of the many strawberry and ice cream socials.  On an almost daily basis in July, local newspapers carry advertisements for these events held at various locations across PEI so, no doubt, there would likely be one not far from where you are on the Island!

Bideford is about a 35-minute drive from the City of Summerside, PEI.   Visit the museum’s website at http://www.bidefordparsonagemuseum.com/

 

 

 

Strawberry Time on PEI

Fresh PEI Strawberry Jam on Tea Biscuits

There is nothing quite like the scent of newly picked strawberries straight from the field!  It’s a hallmark of Summer, particularly in climates with short growing seasons such as that on PEI.  Some years, we are lucky to get a couple of weeks out of the “strawberry season” but, this year, weather conditions have permitted it to be extended to about a month.

Fresh From the Field PEI Strawberries

I remember when I was growing up, the early morning take-offs to the nearby U-pick berry field so we would be in the line-up for its 6:00am opening for fear of not being in time to get the best “pickings” of berries.  Out would come the big, huge plastic bowls, hats, and bug spray and off to the field we’d go to get berries for eating, for jamming and, of course, “to put away” which meant crushing and freezing them for uses throughout the year.  There was no such thing as imported strawberries in the Winter from other countries as there is today….although I’ll argue those don’t have the flavour our local ones do!  Indeed, there would always be the “reviews” as to the quality of the berries – “they were so large, they had no flavour”, “they were so small, they were “poor” this year and not worth picking”, or “they had too hard a core in the center” – and, of course, the weather was never quite right for their growing no matter the conditions!  It seemed there was no “perfect” berry!  Yet, people picked pounds and pounds and buckets of them every year.  Going to the berry field was somewhat of a social event because that’s where everybody in nearby communities congregated in early July to get those berries!

I don’t freeze a lot of berries and take up freezer space with them but I do purée some for specific recipes I know I am likely to make throughout the year.  I freeze them in recipe-specific proportions and label them with the recipe name.  I like to make strawberry jam – sometimes I think more for the wonderful scent in the kitchen when it is cooking than for the need to have several bottles of jam available – although that’s a nice side benefit!  When I make my jams, I use smaller bottles – i.e., the 1-cup and ½-cup sizes.  These are ideal sizes for sharing and gift-giving and, let’s face it, who minds getting a treat of homemade jam.  Even if you make your own, isn’t it always nice to taste another cook’s jam?

I like strawberry jam on toast, scones, as a dollop on warm custard and, yes, even in my dark fruitcake that I make in the Fall.  But, one of the most marvelous ways to enjoy strawberry jam is on fresh homemade biscuits still warm from the oven.  For some reason, the flavour of strawberry jam always seems more true when the jam is served on a plain tea biscuit along with a nice cup of freshly brewed tea.  Perhaps this is why, of all the varieties of jams available, strawberry is typically the quintessential variety found on traditional afternoon tea tables.

 

Strawberry Jam Ingredients

The recipe I used to make strawberry jam this year comes from Anna Olson of the food network. This recipe does not make a large batch of jam – it yields approximately 6 cups.  It is a fairly sweet jam and I think the amount of sugar could be reduced by ½ cup to 3½ cups (instead of 4 cups the recipe calls for).  However, degree of jam sweetness is one of personal preference and much depends on the variety of strawberries being used and how much natural sugar the berries already contain.  This is not a super-thick jam and it does not use pectin.  I found I had to boil it longer than the recipe directions said.  In fact, I boiled it near an hour to get it thick enough for my liking.  The flavour is really good and authentic.  One thing I do is use a potato masher to crush up some, but not all, of the berries because I like some chunks of berries in my jam but not so many that it makes it difficult to spread.

Preparing Ingredients for Strawberry Jam

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Making Strawberry Jam

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bottles of PEI Strawberry Jam

 

One of my favourite pastimes is to relax and enjoy an afternoon tea.  No better way than with a cuppa, fresh tea biscuits, and newly made strawberry jam.  It’s a great way to enjoy the fruits of jam-making labour!

Fresh Strawberry Jam on Tea Biscuits

Sangria on the Verandah on a Saturday Afternoon in July

“Island Sangria”

It has been some years since I have had sangria.  The last time would have been in London, England.  I have never made sangria before but the gift of a couple of bottles of a friend’s homemade Pinot Noir prompted me to make it and it has now become my 2012 signature summer drink.

Sangria is really nothing more than a wine punch.  It is typically associated with Spain, Portugal, and Mexico but is also popular now in other areas of the world as well, particularly as a summer time drink.  While it can be made with white or rosé wines, classic sangria is made with red wine.  A small amount of brandy is also a common ingredient.  Chopped fruit — often citrus –  is also a usual ingredient and what you add to it basically consists of what you have available.  Lemonade or orange juice can also be added and the addition of a sweetener, such as sugar or honey, is included in the list of ingredients, too.  These ingredients get mixed together and left for an hour or two to allow the flavours to blend.  Sangria can be drunk without the addition of a carbonated soda but adding lemon-lime soda, Sprite, 7-Up, or gingerale, certainly adds fizz and spark to the drink and I think makes it more refreshing.

Sangria – A Refreshing Summer Drink

Mix the sangria in a lovely glass pitcher so that you can enjoy the deep burgundy-red color of the drink as well as the mixture of fruits floating in the punch.  I like to serve the sangria over ice in tall pedestal flutes.

Glass of Island Sangria

Island Sangria

By Barbara99 Published: July 14, 2012

  • Yield: 4 Servings
  • Prep: 1 hr 30 mins

A deep, rich burgundy-red wine punch

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Chop fruit. Set aside.
  2. Pour wine, orange juice, and brandy in to a glass pitcher. Add sugar and salt. Stir.
  3. Add chopped fruit. Let stand for at least an hour at room temperature to let flavours blend. Then, refrigerate for 30-60 minutes to cool. Add the carbonated soda at time of serving. Serve over ice in pedestal flutes. Enjoy!

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A Tour of Newman Estate Winery in Gladstone, PEI

Newman Estate Winery, Gladstone, PEI, Canada

Today, I’m visiting a new PEI winery in Gladstone, PEI.  Located near Murray River in the eastern part of PEI, Gladstone is approximately a one-hour drive from the Island’s capital of Charlottetown.

Route from Charlottetown to Gladstone, PEI (via scenic Montague)

As I head through the quiet little village of Murray River and turn on to the Gladstone Road, I pass along a rural country road lined with many wild rose bushes in full bloom in various hues of pink.  The paved road ends and I am on a narrow red dirt road crossing a small bridge over a tranquil water inlet.  Then, suddenly I come upon a sign for Newman Estate Winery.

Newman Estate Winery

As I turn in, I see a long red dirt lane leading past rows of grapevines to a tall, modern-shaped simplistic building which I’ll soon discover is the winery including a tasting room.  The rows of grapevines are neatly marked with the various grape varieties – like Marechal Foch, Lucie Kuhlmann.

 

Varieties of Grapes

 

 

 

 

 

 

As I arrive at the winery and open the car door, I sense a peaceful tranquil setting.  Birds are twittering and dew is still on the grass and I think what a wonderful living and working environment.  I am met by owner and winemaker, Mike Newman, and my tour begins in the vineyards.

 

Vineyard in the Early Morning

On this early July day, the vines are in their flowering stage so it will be a few more weeks before clusters of grapes will be seen hanging from the vines.  Harvesting is expected in early September when the sugar concentration is optimum.

Flowering Grape Vines

 

The vineyard is nestled in between large groves of tall trees that border the winery’s property and shelter the grapevines.

Rows of Grapevines

Because PEI, located in northeastern Canada, is prone to somewhat harsh winters, one of the first questions I ask Mike is what effect the weather has on grape production.  To my surprise, he tells me his hybrid vines can tolerate temperatures as low as -27C.  Our winters rarely get colder than that.  Growing grapes is labour-intensive and time-consuming work with a lot of staking and pruning of the vines.  Mike tells me his property has good sandy soil which is suitable for grape growing.

Grapevine

 

We move into the winery where there are six large stainless steel tanks for the wine fermentation process and Mike explains the laborious wine-making process from the crushing of the grapes through to fermentation, filtering, bottling, corking, and labelling.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Winemaking at Newman Estate Winery

Upstairs, on the veranda outside the wine-tasting room, you get a beautiful panoramic view of the vineyards.

View of Vineyard from Veranda of Wine-tasting Room at Newman Estate Winery
Newman Estate Winery Wines

Inside, you’ll find a mix of rustic and modern décor in the wine-tasting room that can accommodate up to 24 people.  Mike takes the time to explain the difference and importance of color to wines and how, for example, the colors of red wines differ substantially based on how long the grape skins have remained in contact with the grape juice during the fermentation process – the longer the contact, the darker the wine.

Red Wine

Mike planted his first grapevines in 2008 and produced the first wine for market in 2011 with a production of approximately 13,000 litres.

Wines Produced at Newman Estate Winery, Gladstone, PEI

Today, the winery has 7500 vines covering 10 acres and is completely organic.  Mike tells me his four-year old vines will generate six to seven clusters of grapes per plant and will be considered a full harvest.  Fruit from year three vines will be considered an early crop.  So, apart from being labour-intensive, wine-making also takes patience.

Veranda at Newman Estate Winery

The winery is small.  Currently, it operates with Mike as the winemaker and seven part-time staff.  Mike is a young entrepreneur, well-educated with an engineering degree, an MBA, and is currently working on his Winemaker’s Certificate. He is very committed to his winery and, when you speak with Mike, his passion for his vocation is very evident.  What started out as a hobby has turned into a career for Mike.  His goals are to enjoy doing what he does, generate local jobs, make a good quality wine at a reasonable price, and get Islanders to buy locally-produced wine.  Supporting local producers is always a good thing in my books.

Currently, Newman Estate Winery is producing both a red and a white wine with plans of expanding production.  The wines are very competitively priced at $12.50/litre (CDN$) and you can find them in PEI Liquor Retail Stores and at the winery.

I personally like Newman’s wines.  After my visit to the winery, I chose a menu for our evening meal that would feature one of Newman’s wines.  I chose the Chardonnay Seyval Blanc and paired it with pan-fried haddock, fingerlings, and maple-glazed carrots.  I found the wine was light-tasting, refreshing, and was a nice compliment to the seafood meal.

Seafood Dinner Served with Newman Estate Winery’s Chardonnay Seyval Blanc

On August 20, 2012, I visited the winery again and found these delightful clusters of grapes clinging to the vines.

Grapes on the Vine at Newman’s Vineyard in Gladstone, PEI, 20 August 2012

Newman Estate Winery is located at 2404 Gladstone Road, Murray River, PEI.  The winery is open for tours Monday – Saturday, 11:00am – 5:00pm.  If you are in the Murray River area, I recommend you take the short drive out to Gladstone to visit Newman Estate Winery and have a tour of their operation.  You can check out their website at http://www.newmanestatewinery.com/  or call the winery at 902-962-4223.

Newman’s Wine Goes Great With Grapes, Cheese, and Baguette

A Visit to Liquid Gold Tasting Bar & All Things Olive

Liquid Gold Tasting Bar & All Things Olive

In a red brick building on the corner of Queen and Dorchester Streets in Olde Charlottetown, PEI, you will find a very unique shop called “Liquid Gold Tasting Bar & All Things Olive”.  Opened now on the Island for a year (they opened one year ago today on July 4, 2011), this is one of three Liquid Gold shops in the Maritimes (the other two are in Halifax, NS, and in Saint John, NB).

Liquid Gold, Charlottetown, PEI

I recently sat down with the Charlottetown store manager, Amy Ingram, to find out just what Liquid Gold Olive Oils is all about.  That is when I found out it’s a foodie’s paradise that sells fresh, pure extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegars.  Patrons can taste any of the oils and vinegars onsite that they want.  This tasting bar experience allows shoppers to explore flavours before making a purchase choice.

I asked Amy what prompted the idea for a store that sells exclusive olive oils and vinegars.  Amy tells me her Mom, Myrna, lived in Arizona for awhile where they had an olive oil tasting bar.  When she returned to Nova Scotia, she found a supplier that imported quality extra-virgin olive oils and balsamic vinegars from around the world and she opened her first store.

So, what will you find when you walk into a Liquid Gold store?  You will find rows of pristine stainless steel fustis filled with a large, extensive variety of extra virgin olive oils and both dark and light balsamic vinegars.  Fustis are small kegs with spigots that provide tight, dark conditions in which to store the oils and vinegars.

A Tasting Bar

Beneath the rows of fusti, you’ll find dark-tinted bottles in two sizes and these get filled to your request by any of the staff of four.  Dark bottles are essential because the darkness helps to protect the oil from oxidation that will occur if the oil is exposed to light.  The store also carries gourmet oils like truffle and sesame along with mustards, salsas, and pastas, and olive-oil based body products.

Rows of Empty Bottles Waiting to be Filled

 

I asked Amy who their typical customers are.  She tells me they range from everyday at-home cooks to chefs-in-training from the Culinary Institute of Canada a few blocks away to professional chefs – all looking for high quality products with health benefits.  On the day I visited, the store was a beehive of activity.  Two chefs-in-training were getting a supply of oils (yes, by a box full of bottles!), a passenger from the ms Maasdam in port for the day was picking up bottles filled with product and having them gift-wrapped as take-home souvenirs of her visit to Charlottetown, a local at-home budding cook was making a return visit and deliberating on his next choices of oils and vinegars, and a number of other visitors were obviously fascinated by the tasting bar experience.

Bottles are Filled at Time of Purchase

 

Extra-Virgin Olive Oil

Olive oil is made from crushing and pressing olives.  The oils in Liquid Gold stores are imported from small estate farms and olive groves in many different countries that include Italy, France, Greece, and Argentina, to mention just a few.  I remember having dinner in Tivoli, Italy, some years ago, high on a hill overlooking groves of gnarled olive trees for as far as the eye could see.  I suspect these would be the kind of olive grove estate farms that would, no doubt, produce and export quality olive oils, such as those found at Liquid Gold.

Health Benefits of Extra-Virgin Olive Oil

Amy says the health benefits of extra virgin olive oil are many – they are rich in antioxidants, anti-inflammatory properties, vitamins K and E, and aid in digestion.  Some research also suggests olive oil may reduce cancer risk, have properties to reduce risk of heart disease, and improve cognitive function.  Of all olive oils, extra-virgin olive oil is said to have the most health benefits along with the most delicate and true flavour.

What to Look for When Tasting and Purchasing Olive Oil

Amy advises, when choosing a quality olive oil, to consider what use you are purchasing the oil for and look for a nice, rich flavour that “makes all your taste buds happy”.  Look for subtle flavours of grass, fruit, or pepper that give a degree of spiciness to the taste buds.  By contrast, old or poor quality oils will have a flat, musty, waxy crayon taste and a rancid smell.

According to my own research, I learned there are, generally speaking, three categories of olive oil – delicate, medium, and robust.  Delicate oils are considered suitable for foods like seafood.  Medium oils go well with salads and poultry.  Robust oils blend well with red meats and dishes with a tomato base.

Storing Olive Oil

Store oils in cool, dark spaces, away from any direct or indirect heat sources as this can cause rancidity.

 

Balsamic Vinegars

Balsamic vinegars are made from crushed grapes that are boiled down to reduce most of the water in the grapes, producing a concentrate or “must”.  This is then fermented in barrels made of various woods where the vinegar undergoes a slow aging process that can take many years.  The wooden barrels contribute to the flavour of the balsamic vinegar.  Some vinegars are aged 3-5 years, others 6-12 years, and still others much longer.  Younger-aged vinegars are lighter in taste and are typically used on salads.  Middle-aged vinegars are good in sauces and pasta dishes.  Older-aged vinegars compliment meat and poultry dishes well and are especially good drizzled on fresh fruit and ice creams – who knew a good balsamic vinegar would taste great on fruit and ice cream…..but it does!

Health Benefits of Balsamic Vinegars

The health benefits of balsamic vinegars are significant.  From my research, I found they are reported to be a source of iron, calcium, manganese, and potassium, are low in salt and saturated fat and are cholesterol-free.  The vinegar’s antioxidant properties are said to help prevent heart disease and cancer.  Balsamic vinegar may also aid in digestion and be good for the circulatory system.  Additionally, its properties may aid in healing cuts and open wounds.

What to Look for when Tasting and Purchasing Balsamic Vinegars

Good quality balsamic vinegars, according to Amy, should exhibit a sweet and tart blend along with a thick and rich taste.  The vinegars should have sweetness to them and a wood flavour (from the barrels in which they were aged) should be evident.  If you only get a bitter taste, then it is poor quality balsamic vinegar. A good quality balsamic vinegar should have a somewhat syrupy texture to it.

Storing Balsamic Vinegars

Store bottles of balsamic vinegar in a cool dark place.  There is no need to refrigerate them.

 

I questioned Amy on why customers should buy their olive oils and vinegars at Liquid Gold as opposed to at the local supermarket.  She cited four reasons:  First, Liquid Gold’s  oils are fresh, real extra-virgin olive oils that carry all the health benefits.  Second, because the oils and vinegars are produced on smaller estate farms and groves around the world as opposed to mass manufactured by large corporations, buyers are helping to support small local farmers around the world.  Third, the customers can come into the store and consult with knowledgeable staff who will educate them on oils and vinegars and their health benefits and help them select a product specifically for a purpose – for example, I was looking for a balsamic vinegar I could drizzle over ice cream and Liquid Gold sales staff were able to guide me to an appropriate selection and explain to me how I could heat and reduce the vinegar to make an even more tasty ice cream drizzle.  Fourth, a particular emphasis is placed on providing assistance to customers to find oils and vinegars that compliment the many flavours of local PEI foods.

Product Prices

We’ve all seen supermarket sales on huge bottles of olive oils but are we really getting “a deal” and is the quality there?  Amy tells me I really can’t compare Liquid Gold’s prices with supermarket prices because it is quality of product that is the true comparison factor, not price point.  Bearing in mind it takes 5 pounds of olives to produce 375ml of olive oil, don’t look for quality oils to be cheap. The labour-intensive and lengthy aging periods for good quality balsamic vinegars also means their prices will not be cheap either.  Liquid Gold (at time of writing in July 2012) sell their oils and vinegars for $18.00 for a 375ml bottle and $11.00 for a 200ml bottle.  As a foodie and at-home chef, I can honestly say there is a definite difference between good quality olive oils and balsamic vinegars and that difference is evident in the final food product you create with the oils and vinegars.

I decided I would put their olive oil and balsamic vinegar to the test to see if I could detect a genuine difference between their products and what I would normally purchase at a supermarket.  For me, a true test of an oil and balsamic vinegar is best determined by using it uncooked so I made a simple balsamic vinaigrette dressing for a green garden salad.  I don’t like heavy salad dressings because I find they smother the salad ingredients and mask their flavour.  So, I purchased a bottle of Liquid Gold’s cranberry-pear white balsamic vinegar and a bottle of Arbosana extra-virgin olive oil.  I added a bit of garlic, Dijon mustard, shallots, a few herbs from the garden and a dash of salt and sprinkle of pepper.  I have never had such an extraordinary salad – the vinaigrette was so flavourful and pure and did not detract from the salad’s ingredients – in fact, I’d go so far as to say it brought out the flavours of the lettuce, tomato, and cucumber more true, pure, and intense.

Cranberry-Pear Balsamic Vinaigrette

This store is a real treasure trove for foodies.  It offers a fantastic selection of quality fresh extra-virgin olive oils and balsamic vinegars, knowledgeable staff, and a good location in Charlottetown.  But, no worries if you don’t live near a Liquid Gold Store – they offer online shopping through their website and ship in Canada and the United States.

Whether you are an Islander or a visitor to our fair city of Charlottetown, be sure to  include a stop at Liquid Gold if for no other reason than to marvel at the varieties of olive oils and balsamic vinegars available on the market and to learn more about the products and their health benefits.  Taste them, though, and if you are a foodie like me who likes high quality food products, I am guessing you may very well find it hard to come away without purchasing some of the products.

Now that I have discovered Liquid Gold, I might have to build extra cupboards to store the varieties I’ll no doubt be investing in!  Indeed, I have already made a repeat visit to purchase a chocolate balsamic vinegar which I reduced and drizzled over my homemade strawberry ice cream and fresh berries – divine perfection!

Liquid Gold Tasting Bar & All Things Olive is located at 72 Queen Street in Charlottetown, PEI, and may be reached at (902)370-8809.

Happy 1st Anniversary, Liquid Gold, of operating your store in Charlottetown, PEI!

 

Liquid Gold, Charlottetown, PEI

Annie’s Table Culinary Studio – A Unique Culinary Experience on PEI

Annie’s Table Culinary Studio

Tucked away in the tidy little rural community of New London, PEI, on the Island’s north side, a new culinary adventure awaits you.  Housed in the former, and now decommissioned,  New London United Church which has been repurposed and transformed, Annie’s Table Culinary Studio offers unique, hands-on cooking classes for all culinary skill levels.

On Saturday, June 30, 2012, I was privileged to be invited to attend the official opening of Annie’s Table Culinary Studio.  Guests were treated to a wonderful afternoon hosted by owner, Annie Leroux.  Guests sipped Island-produced wines from Matos Winery of St. Catherine’s, Rossignol Estate Winery, Little Sands, and from Newman Estate Winery, of Murray Harbour, PEI, as well as the Island’s newest produced beer, Beach Chair Lager or, for the teetotalers, a refreshing Ginger Cordial.

PEI-Produced Wine and Beer Served at Official Opening of Annie’s Table Culinary Studio

 

Fresh PEI Oysters

Located right beside the beverage bar was a huge tub of fresh PEI Oysters that were being shucked, ready for guests to savour.  Throughout the afternoon, we sampled delightful offerings from Chef Norman and his staff that included such savories as mushroom-stuffed and seafood spring rolls, tasty bite-sized meat pies, and divine mussel-stuffed mushroom caps.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Savory hors d’oeuvres

 

Owner Annie Leroux and Chef Norman Zeldon at the Official Opening of Annie’s Table Culinary Studio

Following the brief speeches, Annie arranged for a culinary challenge – men against women – seated at the 12’ culinary table.  The names of six men and six women were randomly drawn and yours truly ended up in the challenge!  We started off with some short snappers of culinary trivia and then down to the business at hand.  As each competitor completed his/her food challenge, s/he had to dash to the head of the table to ring the bell.  My challenge was to chow down three huge, bacon-wrapped scallops which I did not do so well on!  Others had such challenges as declawing and eating two lobster claws, peeling a turnip, drinking Beach Chair lager or wine through a straw, making a kebob, making a salsa, and you get the idea!  While we women might hate to admit it, the men did win the challenge as first over the finish line!

Culinary Challenge at the Harvest Table

Many small rural Island churches have been demolished over recent years and it is so nice to see one that has been preserved and repurposed.  Annie has done a great job at maintaining the façade of the church, built in 1953, and incorporating several elements of the church’s interior into the architectural design for her studio.  For example, the pulpit makes a wonderful focal piece for the loft seating area that overlooks the huge harvest table in the center of the building.

Loft at Annie’s Table Culinary Studio

A tasteful selection of carefully gathered and preserved antiques lend themselves well to the ambiance of the studio.  The small tower of the church has been preserved and is reachable via a circular staircase.

The Tower at Annie’s Table Culinary Studio

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the main level, you will find a 12’ table that has been crafted from old attic boards from the house which Annie recently restored in New London also.  At the rear of the church, is the kitchen where students attending the classes can learn various cooking techniques.

 

 

 

 

 

Teaching Kitchen at Annie’s Kitchen Culinary Studio

I asked Annie where the idea came from for Annie’s Table Culinary Studio.  She tells me it is a combination of her passions – she likes to interact and socialize with people, she has a love of the Island and local foods, and has a passion for collecting antiques.  Annie says “I wanted to create a beautiful venue for people to come and experience Island foods -  not to just sit in a restaurant and enjoy lobster, etc., but learn all about them (huge educational component here)  and then learn different methods of preparing them in a fun, social atmosphere and then be able to sit and enjoy what they have been taught.”   Annie’s hope is that people will leave the table and  say “I had a ball and I met some new friends and I learned lots about the Island and, wow, would I love to live here….”  “That to me would say that I’ve offered them hospitality, knowledge, and a desire for more of the same”, says Annie.  As to why she chose the New London location, Annie says it has access to so many locally-produced or available foods nearby – oysters, mussels, lobster, and the list goes on, it’s the perfect location for her business.

While Annie’s is not a restaurant, students who register and attend one of her cooking classes do get to sit together at the big harvest table at the end of the class to enjoy their cooking creations.  Classes are available on a number of subject areas and are by reservation only.  Classes are small and intimate, generally restricted to 15 students although some events, such as the Oyster Extravaganza, can accommodate up to 40 people who want to learn how to shuck oysters.  While I am going to direct you to Annie’s website for a full listing of her 2012 classes, you can expect to find classes that focus heavily on traditional Island foods such as clams, oysters, mussels, lobster, artisan bread, and apple pie.  With a professional sommelier on her team, look for class offerings on wine tasting.  From time to time, classes will be offered on specialized cooking such as Thai and Latino culinary delights.  Annie is supported by Chef Norman, a talented Red Seal Chef who brims with personality and culinary knowledge.  From time to time, look for special guests leading culinary workshops at Annie’s.

Of particular interest to “Anne of Green Gables” fans  is the “Food Trip Down Memory Lane” class that recreates a meal similar to what would have likely been found on Lucy Maud Montgomery’s table in the late 1800s or early 1900s.  Included in this class is a tour of the nearby home where the famed author of the Anne of Green Gables series of books was born.  Also included is a private viewing of Annie’s own home across the street from the Birthplace of L. M. Montgomery which was the home of the mid-wife who delivered Lucy Maud.  So, if you are a Lucy Maud Montgomery fan, this day-long (10am – 3pm) class is for you.  Price for the day is $139./person.

Classes in the Culinary Studio or other food events offered by the Studio range from 1.5 – 5 hours in length and are priced between $20. and $139.  Some are offered during the day while other classes are scheduled for evenings.  Annie’s Table Culinary Studio operates seasonally from June to October so, whether you are a local Islander or a tourist, this is a unique culinary experience.  Gather together a family group, co-workers, or friends who like to cook and head out to beautiful New London, PEI, for a fun and learning vacation experience.

You can find Annie’s Table Culinary Studio in picturesque New London, PEI, at 4295 Graham’s Road on Route 8 (902-886-2070) – just look for the little white church!

Happy Canada Day!

Happy Canada Day!  This is the day we celebrate the birth of our great nation.  There are so many ways to celebrate Canada Day from picnics to barbeques to afternoon teas.

Canada Day Cupcakes

 

Here are some photographs from our red and white Canada Day Tea on the front verandah on this beautiful, sunny 26C day in Prince Edward Island, Canada’s smallest province and the birthplace of the Canadian Confederation.

Canada Day Tea

 

On the menu were tomato and cucumber tea sandwiches, watermelon cut in the shape of the maple leaf, Canada Day cupcakes, rhubarb-almond tart, and tea, of course!

 

The Maple Leaf – A Symbol of Canada

 

Keeping the red and white theme going!

 

Everything Red and White for Canada Day!

 

 

Canada Day Tea on the Verandah

 

 

Canadian Flags

 

 

Happy Canada Day!

 

 

Thanks for visiting my site today.  Enjoy your day!