Lady Baker’s Tea Trolley

If you are a regular patron of the Charlottetown Farmers’ Market and happen to be a tea drinker, chances are you are familiar with Katherine Burnett and the Lady Baker’s Tea Trolley brand of teas and tea bar at the market.

Lady Baker's Tea Trolley Tea Bar at the Charlottetown Farmers Market
Katherine Burnett, owner of Lady Baker’s Tea Trolley Tea Bar at the Charlottetown Farmers Market

I recently sat down with Katherine for brunch at the farmers’market to learn more about her tea business.

Katherine Burnett, Owner, Lady Baker's Tea Trolley
Katherine Burnett, Owner, Lady Baker’s Tea Trolley

Katherine grew up on PEI but lived off Island for many years before returning in 2006. In 2001, while living in Charlotte, NC, Katherine began hosting tea parties as a ministry for the elderly. She named her afternoon tea party business “Lady Baker’s Tea Trolley” as a tribute to the memory of a friend, Irene Baker, who enjoyed the finer things in life, like afternoon tea. Interest in the tea parties grew to the point where Katherine was soon hosting afternoon teas for corporations, churches, and even the opera.

As her tea party business grew so, too, did her interest and knowledge in all things tea-related. She pursued online courses in tea blending and attended specialty tea conferences and is now at level 3 (of 4) of the process to be designated a tea sommelier. Katherine is also a member of the Tea Association of Canada.

In the fall of 2007, with just 16 varieties of tea and 2 tea-making machines, Katherine set up a tea bar at the popular Charlottetown Farmers’ Market. The teas come from the major tea-producing countries of India, China, Japan, Sri Lanka, South Africa, and Taiwan. The imported teas follow strict guidelines, are low in pesticides, and most come from members of the Ethical Tea Partnerships.

Katherine blends some of the teas herself and now sells some 60 varieties of loose tea.

She tells me her most popular blend, which incidentally is her personal favourite, is a black tea she calls the Lady’s Slipper Blend, aptly named after PEI’s official provincial flower. Her pumpkin spice blend enjoys popularity as well with her patrons who favour it for lattes. At the Lady Baker’s Tea Trolley bar at the market, look for specialty tea blends like Abegweit Lullaby to aid sleep and Pink Lady Grey which is an eye-appealing blend featuring Earl Grey tea and pink rose petals. Who knew where a small, modest personal collection of 13 china cups and saucers would lead Katherine!

Since there are several options to brewing tea (e.g., tea bags, loose leaf with infuser or loose tea directly in the tea pot), I asked Katherine for her preference. She says she prefers to brew loose leaf tea in an infuser in the tea pot. Katherine also recommends that the water for the tea first be filtered and then brought to a boil. If brewing green tea, let the water sit until it drops to the proper temperature (85°) before adding and brewing the tea leaves.

I asked Katherine if she sees any trends emerging in tea drinking. She says she is noticing a renewed popularity in tea drinking with specialty tea shops opening and with the wide variety of tea-brewing equipment and stylish infuser mugs readily available. As well, she notices an increased interest in green teas with information and research on its health benefits becoming more widely known. Additionally, there seems to be a new market for teas – those of high school and college age. In fact, this year Katherine prepared special tea packages to be included in the UPEI student welcome kits. With the university being located just across the street from the farmers’ market, it’s likely some of the students will visit the Lady Baker’s Tea Trolley bar on Saturday mornings. Katherine also sees more tea being used in ways other than as a beverage. For example, Chai and Matcha are now often used in baked goods such as muffins and energy bars. In fact, Katherine sells yummy homemade tea energy bars at her booth. Tea lattes are also becoming very popular — ⅔ cup of a strong tea topped up with ⅓ cup of foamed milk. Iced teas remain popular in the hot summer months when many find the drink hydrating and refreshing. Fruit blends of green teas, such as Katherine’s Island Strawberry blend, have become very popular iced teas.

Tea, like coffee, is an enduring popular drink. It’s a beverage that is moving with the times. With its various varieties and blends along with new ways of drinking tea and using it in baking, it’s proof of tradition blending successfully with modern trends.

In addition to being available at the farmers’ market, Lady Baker’s teas are available across PEI at specialty shops and are also found served in many of the Island’s finest restaurants and at select bed and breakfasts. The teas may also be ordered online via the Lady Baker’s Tea Trolley website at http://www.ladybakersteatrolley.com/

Now, it’s time for tea!

I decided to try the Lady’s Slipper tea blend for a late summer afternoon tea. This is a lovely, mellow tea blend with hints of vanilla.  I have some pieces of Lady’s Slipper china so it seemed only fitting to feature them with this blend of tea.

The quintessential tea time sandwiches of egg salad and cucumber were served on my Lady Slipper plate.

I used two different styles of Lady’s Slipper china cups and saucers.

The great thing about afternoon tea is that several different pieces of china can be blended and used with success.  Not everything has to match perfectly on the table.  It just needs to blend.

These dainty little pink glasses blend well with the china and are the perfect size for an afternoon tea table.

The little pottery Lady’s Slipper vase in the photo below was a gift from an elementary school teacher.  We had gone on an end of year school outing to a local theme park which had a small gift shop in a flying saucer (readers on PEI will likely guess which theme park I’m referring to).  The teacher told us each to pick out something we wanted and it was her gift to us.  Even as a small child, I liked pretty things and opted for a vase instead of a toy!  I won’t tell you how many years ago that was but let’s just say it wasn’t yesterday!  The lovely flowers in the vase are from Island Meadow Farms in York, PEI.

Fresh blueberry pie and vanilla ice cream for dessert!

I always say the sign of a true homemade pie is when some of the filling bubbles out 🙂  (Well, that’s my story anyway and I’m sticking to it!)

The blueberries for the pie came from Murray’s U-pick in North Tryon.  They grow wonderful high bush blueberries.

I hope you have enjoyed meeting the lady behind Lady Baker’s Tea Trolley and dropping by for a spot of her Lady’s Slipper tea blend.

I will be joining Sandi at Rose Chintz Cottage for Tea Time Tuesday this week.

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Thank you for visiting “the Bistro” today. There are lots of ways to connect with “the Bistro” through social media:

Join My Island Bistro Kitchen on Facebook
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Find the Bistro on Pinterest at “Island Bistro Kitchen
Follow along on Instagram at “peibistro

 

Beef and Blues 2014 – A PEI Fall Flavours Signature Event

Please Note: Due to low lighting conditions at this event venue, it was very difficult to capture quality photos for this posting.

Several of the “signature” events of PEI’s Fall Flavours Festival focus on certain foods.  The recent “Beef and Blues” event in Summerside was all about Island beef.

Food Network’s Corbin Tomaszeski was the celebrity guest chef who hosted the evening.  You may recognize him from Food Network’s shows “Dinner Party Wars“, “Restaurant Makeover” and “Restaurant Takeover“.  On this night, however, Chef Corbin was found “working the crowd” in the lobby of Credit Union Place before the event venue was open.

Chef Corbin Tomaszeski
Chef Corbin Tomaszeski

The ice surface of Credit Union Place was transformed into a blues-themed venue for the sold-out event.

The evening began with Joe MacMillan providing blues music to set the tone for the evening.

Joe MacMillan
Joe MacMillan

 

“Beef and Blues” was structured differently from other signature events of the Fall Flavours Festival that I have attended which, typically, have chefs from the Culinary Institute of Canada or a particular restaurant preparing the food. In the case of “Beef and Blues”, 12 Island restaurants each had stations at which they featured a dish prepared with Island Beef. Island restaurants participating were: Island Stone Pub, Gentleman Jim’s, Sims Corner Steakhouse & Oyster Bar, Rodd Mill River Resort, The Landing, The Catch, Anson’s Restaurant & Bar, Brother’s 2, Five Eleven West, The Big Orange Lunchbox, the Lobster House Restaurant & Oyster Bar, and Pendergast’s PEI Food. In addition, three restaurants or local food producers provided desserts: Sweet Things, Samuel’s Coffee House, and Five Eleven West.

Here’s a small sampling of some of the featured dishes.

The Brother’s 2 Restaurant in Summerside featured the hushpuppy and meatball skewer.

"Hushpuppy & Meatball Skewer" from the Brother's 2 Restaurant in Summerside
“Hushpuppy & Meatball Skewer” from the Brother’s 2 Restaurant in Summerside

 

This buttermilk chicken fried steak with tomato and corn salsa came from Anson’s Restaurant & Bar in Summerside.

"Buttermilk Chicken Fried Steak with Tomato & Corn Salsa" from Anson's Restaurant & Bar
“Buttermilk Chicken Fried Steak with Tomato & Corn Salsa” from Anson’s Restaurant & Bar

Guests were free to circulate, in any order they wished, amongst the stations to sample their offerings.  At each placesetting at the tables, was a “Passport to Taste”.

"Passport to Taste"
“Passport to Taste”

Guests carried their “passport” as they visited the stations and checked off each sample they tried.  At the end of the evening, guests could drop their “passports” into a ballot box for a draw for a three-course dinner prepared by PEI’s Chef Illona Daniel.

The Big Orange Lunchbox from Charlottetown featured dry roast beef ribs with waffle chips and marshmallow dip (yes, marshmallow dip!)

The Big Orange Lunchbox from Charlottetown featured dry roast beef ribs with waffle chips and marshmallow dip
“Dry Roast Beef Ribs with Waffle Chips and Marshmallow Dip from the Big Orange Lunchbox

 

Events such as these put consumers in direct touch with local chefs whom they would probably not see at a restaurant.

No event would be complete without something for the sweet tooth!   Christine Gallant from Sweet Treats in Summerside offered these delectable peach cobbler tartlets.

Peach Cobbler Tartlets from Sweet Treats
Peach Cobbler Tartlets from Sweet Treats

 

The table from Samuel’s Coffee House in Summerside was also a busy spot as the whoppie pies proved to be a popular item.

Whoppie Pies from Samuel's Coffee House
Whoppie Pies from Samuel’s Coffee House

 

This event offered the opportunity for local chefs to be extra creative with Island beef and gave patrons a good sampling of the many delicious ways in which Island beef can be prepared.

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PEI Shellfish Festival (2012):
Farm Day in the City (2012):
Savour Victoria (2012):
Toes, Taps, and Taters (2013)
Lobster Party on the Beach (2013)
Applelicious (2013)

The Great Island Grilled Cheese Challenge (2013)
Feast of the Fathers (2014)
Lamb Luau at Crowbush Cove (2014)

Feast and Frolic Dinner (PEI Int’l Shellfish Festival) (2014)

Thank you for visiting “the Bistro” today. There are lots of ways to connect with “the Bistro” through social media:

Join My Island Bistro Kitchen on Facebook
Follow the Bistro’s tweets on twitter @PEIBistro
Find the Bistro on Pinterest at “Island Bistro Kitchen
Follow along on Instagram at “peibistro

Just A Little Farm: Growing Produce the Natural Way

This being national organic week in Canada, I thought it was timely to pay a visit to a farmer who grows vegetables the natural way without chemicals. So, our visit today takes us to Just A Little Farm on the Green Road, near Bonshaw, PEI, where we meet farmer Jessica Vos.

Jessica Vos of Just A Little Farm in Bonshaw, PEI
Jessica Vos of Just A Little Farm, Green Road, PEI

When asked why she chose life as a farmer, Jessica explains that she grew up on a farm, worked in community gardens while in university, owned a landscaping business in Western Canada, is genuinely interested in food, and is happiest when outside working in the soil. Jessica has a degree in Human Ecology with a minor in nutrition and she is currently studying holistic nutrition.

View of part of the gardens at Just A Little Farm
View of part of the gardens at Just A Little Farm

It’s amazing how many varieties of vegetables and herbs Jessica grows. It would be a shorter list if you ask her what she doesn’t grow than what she does! In particular, Jessica grows a lot of lettuce and, by a lot, I mean a small field!

The Lettuce Field
The Lettuce Field at Just A Little Farm

All the lettuce plants are started in Jessica’s small greenhouse and then transplanted.

New Lettuce Plants
New Lettuce Plants

Throughout the growing season, she has an ongoing planting cycle of seedling plants one week and transplanting the next.

Lettuce Plants Ready for Transplanting Outside
Lettuce Plants Ready for Transplanting Outside

Jessica grows 5-6 varieties that have proven successful in PEI’s climate and she has fresh lettuce available until November.  How I wish we had access to this on PEI all winter!!!

Because she does not use any chemicals, I asked Jessica how she controls for weeds. She says she uses the old-fashioned method of weeding by hand and hoe. The other method she has found success with is planting the vegetables close to each other to suffocate the weeds.

There are challenges to any kind of farming, especially in the control of pests that also find the produce tasty. In particular, the cucumber beetle, cabbage moth, and slugs pose problems. Jessica has had success using netting to cover vegetables most often attacked by the pests.

Netting to control for pests
Netting to control for pests

This year, she is also using crushed up crab shell meal as a way to control for slugs.

Crushed Crab Shells
Crushed Crab Shells

Placed in proximity to the plants slugs like to attack (such as basil, for example), the rough shells are a deterrent for slugs which don’t find them very comfortable to crawl over.

Crushed Crab Shells to Control Slugs
Crushed Crab Shells to Control Slugs

Despite the challenges which Jessica jovially refers to as “part of the fun”, there are also sources of satisfaction she finds in her farming. As she says, when her produce grows well and her customers are happy, Jessica is happy knowing she has produced and supplied them with chemical-free, healthy and nutritious produce.

Look at these gorgeous, healthy basil plants!  I can attest they made some mighty fine basil pesto!

Love the dragon tongue beans on the right in the photo below!

A dragon tongue bean, anyone?

Jessica with her dragon tongue beans
Jessica with her dragon tongue beans

All of Jessica’s produce is hand-washed before leaving the farm.  Her new cooler storage unit is to the right in the photo below.

Jessica's Washing Station and Cooler Unit
Jessica’s Washing Station and Cooler Unit

Throughout the growing season, you can find Jessica’s produce in nearby local stores like Gasses General Store in New Haven and Harvey’s in Crapaud.

Every Saturday morning in July and August, Jessica can be found direct-marketing her produce at the small farmers’ market in the  seaside village of Victoria-by-the-Sea. She also supplies several local restaurants with fresh produce as well.

Jessica Vos at the Victoria-by-the-Sea Farmers' Market
Jessica Vos at the Victoria-by-the-Sea Farmers’ Market
At the Victoria-by-the-Sea Farmers' Market
At the Victoria-by-the-Sea Farmers’ Market

 

Like many organic farmers, Jessica also sells her produce through Community Shared Agriculture Boxes (CSA Boxes). This is where individuals (known as CSA members and sometimes referred to as shareholders) buy shares in her farm – i.e., at the beginning of the season, they sign a contract with Jessica and pay a certain sum of money upfront. In return, Jessica commits to do the best job she can to provide them with high-quality vegetables. Then, once harvest season begins, CSA members get a regular share of the vegetables from the farm as they are available. Currently, Jessica has about 15 CSA members who either receive a share of veggies weekly or bi-weekly. Jessica first tested the CSA method in the fall of 2013 and found a demand for it so this year, once a week, she fills her share boxes with whatever produce and herbs are currently available and heads to Victoria-by-the-Sea where her CSA members meet her to pick up their supply of fresh farm produce.

To contact Jessica and find out more about her chemical-free produce, visit Just A Little Farm’s website at http://www.justalittlefarm.com/

Earlier, I shared a recipe for Basil Pesto using fresh basil from Just A Little Farm. Today, I am featuring my recipe using pattypan squash from Jessica’s farm. This is a tasty side dish that combines pork sausage, mushrooms, basil pesto, and cheese with the pattypan squash.

Pattypan Squash and Sausage Casserole
Pattypan Squash and Sausage Casserole

Pattypan Squash and Sausage Casserole

Ingredients:

1 large sausage (e.g., Italian Sweet, Chorizo, Sun-dried Tomato)
2 tsp olive oil
½ cup chopped mushrooms

Apx. ¾ lb of small pattypan squash
2 tsp olive oil
2 – 3 tbsp basil pesto (homemade or store-bought)
2 – 3 tbsp grated mozzarella cheese
¾ cup fine bread crumbs
1½ tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
1½ – 2 tbsp melted butter

Method:

Heat oil in frying pan. Remove sausage from casing and discard casing. Crumble sausage into frying pan and scramble fry over medium low heat for about 5 minutes. Add chopped mushrooms. Cook for 3-4 minutes.

page 1 - Sausage

Slice pattypans about ⅛” thick . Toss in a bowl with apx. 2 tsp olive oil.

In greased 8½“ x 6½“ pan, lay a layer of pattypan slices, overlapping slightly to cover bottom of pan.

Loosely dob about 2 tbsp basil pesto over the squash.

Spread the sausage and mushroom mixture over the squash.

Sprinkle with Mozzarella cheese.  Add another layer of squash, again, overlapping the slices to cover casserole.

In a small bowl, combine the bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, and melted butter. Stir with a fork to mix. Sprinkle over squash.

Bake for approximately 35-40 minutes, until squash is fork-tender when tested.

Yield: 4 servings

Pattypan Squash and Sausage Casserole
Pattypan Squash and Sausage Casserole
Pattypan Squash and Sausage Casserole
Pattypan Squash and Sausage Casserole

 

Thank you for visiting “the Bistro” today. There are lots of ways to connect with “the Bistro” through social media:

Join My Island Bistro Kitchen on Facebook
Follow the Bistro’s tweets on twitter @PEIBistro
Find the Bistro on Pinterest at “Island Bistro Kitchen
Follow along on Instagram at “peibistro

Feast and Frolic Dinner at PEI’s International Shellfish Festival

The third weekend in September signals the Prince Edward Island International Shellfish Festival.  Seafood lovers from all over the world converge on Charlottetown for a weekend full of everything related to seafood, lots of great PEI food and entertainment.  Now in its 19th year, this Festival continues to grow in popularity each year.

This Festival was the idea of local restaurateur, Liam Dolan, who saw it as a way to extend the PEI tourism season into the late summer.

Liam Dolan
Liam Dolan

The weekend kicked off on Thursday evening with a grand feast and frolic dinner hosted by celebrity chef, Michael Smith.  This dinner was held in a gigantic tent on the Charlottetown Event Grounds and this annual event always sells out early.  Some 500 people attended this year’s dinner which was beach themed.

Chef Michael Smith, host of the Feast and Frolic Dinner at the PEI International Shellfish Festival, Charlottetown, PEI
Chef Michael Smith, host of the Feast and Frolic Dinner at the PEI International Shellfish Festival, Charlottetown, PEI

The four-hour evening began with a meet and greet with Chef Smith — lots of autographs and photo opps.

Meet and Greet Chef Michael Smith
Meet and Greet Chef Michael Smith

The competition for the best oyster grower on the Island was also underway during the reception hour where there were lots of opportunities to watch oyster shucking and taste all the different PEI oysters.

Oyster Shucking at the PEI International Shellfish Festival
Oyster Shucking at the PEI International Shellfish Festival

These disappeared fast!

Some of the oyster competitors for the Oyster Grower of the Year Award.

Competitors in the Oyster Grower of the Year Competition
Competitors in the Oyster Grower of the Year Competition

The oysters were formally being judged by a panel but guests also had the opportunity to vote for the peoples’ choice.  This year, both honours went to Colville Bay Oysters of Souris, PEI.

Oyster Grower Award & Peoples' Choice Award - Colville Bay Oysters
Oyster Grower Award & Peoples’ Choice Award – Colville Bay Oysters

Lots of hors d’oeuvres were served by waiters who continuously circulated amongst the crowd with trays of tasty appetizers.

These Island Blue Mussel Spring Rolls were divine!

Island Blue Mussel Spring Rolls
Island Blue Mussel Spring Rolls

Now, when you walk into a large tent and see beautifully set tables with a black and white theme, you’d probably think you’re going to a formal sit down dinner with a plated meal.  Well you are, well…sort of…..but you may be doing the plating and serving!  You see, this event is an interactive dinner and every guest participates in some event at some point during the evening.

A Maitre’D was selected from each table and was presented with a package of information, including roles to be assigned to table guests.  Yes, each table had a bartender, a member of the paparazzi, beefiest cook, best cook, fastest cook, a beachcomber, and a rock star.  Guests really embraced the concept and soon every one was fully engaged in the fun.

First, Chef Michael took the bartenders from each table aside to explain how to make Caesars.

Each bartender collected a kit of supplies and returned to their tables to make the Caesars tableside and then serve them to their tablemates.

Our table's bartender mixing some Caesars
Our table’s bartender mixing some Caesars
Serving up the Caesars
Serving up the Caesars

Biscuits were on the table to accompany the chowder course but….no butter!  That’s because, the fastest cook at each table had to actually make the butter.  Lots and lots of shaking of a Mason jar full of milk and, voilà, freshly-made butter for the biscuits!  Yup, you really did need to work for your dinner at this event!

Next came three versions of chowder – one cold and two hot, served in glass jars and presented in these cool wooden trays.

Mussel Chowders
Mussel Chowders

Mussel Chowders

Chef Michael then took all the “beachcombers” off to an onsite man-made beach to go combing for hidden beer caps.  Once they found beer caps, they were each presented with a bucket of beer to bring back to their tables.

Then, we sent our table’s “Beefiest Cook” off with Chef Michael and back our cook came with a tray of slow roast striploin which he carved tableside and served to each guest at the table.

Carving and Serving the Slow Roast Striploin
Carving and Serving the Slow Roast Striploin

Wait staff delivered large bowls of PEI lobster to each table along with bowls of garden-fresh vegetables and brown butter mashed PEI potatoes.

PEI Lobster!
PEI Lobster!

Our “Best Cook” assignee joined Chef Michael at the back of the tent to learn how to plate food.  He returned to the table with the makings for a summer berry shortcake – cowberry ice cream, fruit compotes, and biscuits.

Making Summer Berry Shortcake
Making Summer Berry Shortcake

Then our “Best Cook” wowed us with his plating skills!

Meanwhile, our “Rock Star” assignee was responsible for coaching us on our singing skills so we could sing the theme song, “A Day on a PEI Beach” at the end of the evening.  Yours truly was the “Paparazzi” for our table.

While each table actually provided their own entertainment with all their assigned tasks, lively musical entertainment throughout the evening was provided by Mark Haines and Brad Fremlin.

Brad Fremlin (l) and Mark Haines (r) provided musical entertainment throughout the evening
Brad Fremlin (l) and Mark Haines (r) provided musical entertainment throughout the evening
Chef Michael Smith with musicians Mark Haines and Brad Fremlin
Chef Michael Smith with musicians Mark Haines and Brad Fremlin

This was a very unique way to serve dinner and it sure got people involved and interacting with others at their table.  It kept the evening lively and moving along.  Executing this kind of adventure for some 500 guests at a location where the only kitchen is a mobile one and where literally everything had to be brought in — food, equipment, tables, chairs, linens, dishes, etc. — is no small task.  The sheer planning for this event would have been a monumental undertaking.  Kudos go to Chef Michael Smith and the large team of chefs, waiters, hospitality and support staff from the Culinary Institute of Canada, and others for a phenomenal event.

Parade of large cuinary team from the Culinary Institute of Canada who prepared the meal
Parade of large culinary team from the Culinary Institute of Canada who prepared the meal

If you ever have the opportunity to go to this annual dinner, I highly recommend it — but, fair warning, it will be full of hijinks and hilarity and come prepared to be an active participant, not just a spectator!

Related Stories:

Story on PEI International Shellfish Festival

Story on PEI Fall Flavours Festival

Review of Chef Michael Smith’s 7th Cookbook, “Family Meals”

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Thank you for visiting “the Bistro” today. There are lots of ways to connect with “the Bistro” through social media:

Join My Island Bistro Kitchen on Facebook
Follow the Bistro’s tweets on twitter @PEIBistro
Find the Bistro on Pinterest at “Island Bistro Kitchen
Follow along on Instagram at “peibistro

Click on the links below to read stories I have written in the past about individual Fall Flavours events:

PEI Shellfish Festival (2012):
Farm Day in the City (2012):
Savour Victoria (2012):
Toes, Taps, and Taters (2013)
Lobster Party on the Beach (2013)
Applelicious (2013)

The Great Island Grilled Cheese Challenge (2013)
Feast of the Fathers (2014)
Lamb Luau at Crowbush Cove (2014)

 

 

 

“Lamb Luau” – A PEI Fall Flavours Event at Rodd Crowbush Golf and Beach Resort

Event Tent at Rodd Crowbush Resort for "Lamb Luau"
Event Tent at Rodd Crowbush Resort for “Lamb Luau”

If you’re in PEI in the month of September and see huge white tents with mobile kitchens nearby along with chefs bustling about, chances are there’s a Fall Flavours Festival event happening.

On Sunday, September 14, 2014, I traveled to the Rodd Crowbush Golf and Beach Resort in Morell, PEI.  That’s where the sold-out Fall Flavors signature event, “Lamb Luau” hosted by celebrity chef, Chuck Hughes, was being held.  This event was a partnership of Island East Tourism Group and the Rodd Crowbush Resort.

The main entrance to the hotel was decorated for fall.

Guests were greeted inside the hotel’s reception area and each presented with a lei and a Strait Shine® signature drink.  Rum Mai Tai Punch with Myriad View Shine, anyone? (yes, the legal kind!).

Myriad View Rum Mai Tai Punch with Myriad View Shine
Myriad View Rum Mai Tai Punch with Myriad View Shine

Guests then circulated throughout the Resort’s lobby, visiting four canape stations.

Serving Seafood Ceviche
Serving Seafood Ceviche alongside the Mai Tai Punch

Ever tried a pickled mussel?

Pickled Mussels
Pickled Mussels

Kerri Wynne MacLeod (pictured below), who co-hosted the event along with Patrick Ledwell, signalled when it was time for guests to make their way to the large tent on the Resort’s grounds where the main event was taking place.

Kerri Wynne MacLeod from Ocean 100, one of the co-hosts of "Lamb Luau"
Kerri Wynne MacLeod from Ocean 100, one of the co-hosts of “Lamb Luau”

Guests were seated at round tables in the centre of the tent with food stations set up around the outside edges of the tent.

The evening’s program:

Program for "Lamb Luau"
Program for “Lamb Luau”

Food stations were themed.  There was a seafood station, carving station, hot station, salad and vegetable station, potato station, and dessert station and each station was color-coded (yes, the colors of leis that guests selected mattered!).  For the first “go” at the buffet, guests were directed to go to the station that had a colored ribbon that matched the color of their lei so that not everyone converged on the same station at the same time and so that everyone could quickly be served food without long delay of waiting as tables were individually called to start.  After the first “go-round”, guests were free to choose the food stations at their leisure in any order they so chose.

While Island lamb was a highlight of the event, there were many other Island foods featured as well.  Lots of seafood including mussels, oysters, lobster, and scallops; BBQ pulled pork; duck; Island corn on the cob; various salads; roasted PEI potatoes, to name but a few.  Take a look at the menu:

"Lamb Luau" Menu
“Lamb Luau” Menu

A good PEI food event will feature Island spuds, of course!

Potato Station
Potato Station

What would a PEI food event be without some oyster shucking!

Oysters

Take a look at this yummy lobster and mussel bruschetta.

Mussel and Lobster Bruschetta
Mussel and Lobster Bruschetta

This being a signature event of the PEI Fall Flavours Festival, a Food Network celebrity chef was in attendance.  Chef Chuck Hughes circulated throughout the evening, posing for photographs and signing copies of his cookbooks which were also on sale during the event.

Celebrity Chef Chuck Hughes at the "Lamb Luau" PEI Fall Flavours 2014 Event
Celebrity Chef Chuck Hughes at the “Lamb Luau” PEI Fall Flavours 2014 Event

(When you see Chef Hughes, be sure to ask him about all his food-themed tatoos, some of which he got on PEI during his visit for the Lamb Luau event.)

Musical entertainment was provided by Dylan Menzie and Band followed by a presentation of the Down East Dancers and a limbo demonstration.

Some desserts to finish off the evening — Whiskey ice cream proved popular as did the chocolate mousse and pumpkin crème brulée.

Desserts
Desserts

Fall Flavours events, such as this one, are a great way to become acquainted with the many fine foods grown or produced on PEI.  It’s also a chance to try foods you may not have tried before or maybe some familiar foods but prepared in a new or different way.

Rodd Crowbush Resort provided a stunning location for this event overlooking the famous Links at Crowbush Cove.

Thank you for visiting “the Bistro” today. There are lots of ways to connect with “the Bistro” through social media:

Join My Island Bistro Kitchen on Facebook
Follow the Bistro’s tweets on twitter @PEIBistro
Find the Bistro on Pinterest at “Island Bistro Kitchen
Follow along on Instagram at “peibistro

Click on the links below to read stories I have written in the past about individual Fall Flavours events:

PEI Shellfish Festival (2012):
Farm Day in the City (2012):
Savour Victoria (2012):
Toes, Taps, and Taters (2013)
Lobster Party on the Beach (2013)
Applelicious (2013)
The Great Island Grilled Cheese Challenge (2013)

Feast of the Fathers (2014)

 

Review of Chef Michael Smith’s “Family Meals” Cookbook

Chef Michael Smith's Family Meals Cookbook, published 2014
Chef Michael Smith’s Family Meals Cookbook, published 2014

 

Title: Family Meals
Author: Chef Michael Smith
Price: $32.00 (CDN$)
Pages: >250
Available: Bookstores across Canada and online

Penguin Canada has offered me the opportunity to conduct a review of Chef Michael Smith’s latest cookbook, Family Meals. Michael Smith is a celebrity chef and Food Network Canada star who makes his home in Prince Edward Island on Canada’s East Coast. Known for his love and promotion of fresh, local ingredients, this is Smith’s 7th published cookbook.

The book is clearly influenced by Smith’s cooking for his own family in his home kitchen as the book contains many photos of his family in the kitchen and around the dining table. The focus of his book is to get the entire family cooking and eating together.

The book features 100 recipes that range from smoothies to sandwiches, snacks like kale chips, salads, soups, side dishes, and maritime mussel chowder, to old world chicken cacciatore and flaming banana splits. The book is well organized and categorized with chapters on breakfast and brunch; lunchbox and snacks; simple salads; soups, stews & casseroles; slow cookers & pressure cookers; family meals in minutes; meatless Mondays; vegetables & whole grains, and sweets and treats. One chapter is dedicated to slow cooker meals to encourage families to plan ahead and prepare meals in advance of arriving home hungry at mealtime with no idea what to put on the table quickly. And, yes, you’ll even find some lentil recipes, too, from the lentil hunter. Smith has also included tips in the book on, for example, ways for families to cook together, plan meals, organize the kitchen, and prepare lunchbox contents.

While the book has a broad range of recipes, some do call for ingredients that may be less familiar or accessible for some – e.g., wasabi peas, edamame, nori seaweed, miso paste. Several of Smith’s recipes veer toward the spicy category as he makes liberal use of lots of spices and garlic for flavouring many dishes. There are several innovative recipes in the book to encourage families to try new foods, or familiar foods in new ways, to add variety to their meals. However, that would be contingent upon how adventuresome family members are to try new or different foods. That said, the book does contain some more well-known, traditional family-style recipes like beef stew, spaghetti and meatballs, and baked beans. Smith also includes recipes that cross various cuisines – for example, there are Asian, Italian, Kenyan, and Greek-inspired recipes which would help to introduce children to foods and dishes from other countries and cultures.

The recipes are well laid out with instructions using the ingredients in the order in which they are listed. I found the instructions complete and easy to follow; however, in my opinion, some familiarity with cooking would be beneficial when making recipes from the book as novice cooks could find some challenging.

What I like most about this book is the full page color photo that accompanies each recipe. As we all know, we eat first with our eyes. If I see a color photo of an appetizing dish, I am more likely to be motivated to make it. This book scores high marks for the beautifully-executed photography. The photos are simplistic, clean, and are not overdone with props and excessive styling. The focus is on the food as it should be. Quality photos give the cook a point of reference of what he or she is aiming for and what his or her version of a recipe should look like.

The book itself is beautiful, printed on high quality paper giving it a distinctively professional look and feel. Weighing in at some 3 pounds, though, this is not a cookbook you would balance in one hand while stirring a pot with the other! However, it is a lovely collector’s book for anyone with a cookbook collection and is in keeping with the size and style of Smith’s earlier published cookbooks.

Test-driving recipes

It’s one thing to leaf through a cookbook filled with photos of appetizing-looking dishes but the real test comes when you make some recipes out of the book. I selected three: Nutty Seedy Granola (p. 4), Granola Muffins (p. 51), and A Pan of Pork Chops with Marmalade Mustard Pan Sauce (p. 167).

Nutty Seedy Granola

Nutty Seedy Granola from Chef Michael Smith's "Family Meals" Cookbook
Nutty Seedy Granola from Chef Michael Smith’s “Family Meals” Cookbook

Beyond a doubt, this is the best granola I have ever had! It was easy to make and I chose to include many of the different suggested ingredients Smith gave for the content and I think that’s what made it so darn tasty. My version (photo above) turned out very similar to the one in the book’s photograph.

Granola Muffins

Granola Muffins from Chef Michael Smith's "Family Meals" Cookbook
Granola Muffins from Chef Michael Smith’s “Family Meals” Cookbook

 

Granola Muffins from Chef Michael Smith's "Family Meals" Cookbook....made in my square muffin tins
Granola Muffins from Chef Michael Smith’s “Family Meals” Cookbook….made in my square muffin tins
Granola Muffins from Chef Michael Smith's "Family Meals" Cookbook
Granola Muffins from Chef Michael Smith’s “Family Meals” Cookbook

Because I had made the granola, I chose to then make the granola muffin recipe. These muffins are, in a word, yummy! With some granola in the muffins themselves and then some on top of the muffins, these are a real treat. They also freeze well. I made half the recipe the first time, liked them so much that I turned around and made the full batch. This recipe will now become part of my go-to muffin recipe collection. My muffins (see 3 photos above) very closely resembled the ones pictured in the cookbook.

A Pan of Pork Chops with Marmalade Mustard Pan Sauce

"A Pan of Pork Chops with Marmalade Mustard Pan Sauce from Chef Michael Smith's "Family Meals" Cookbook
“A Pan of Pork Chops with Marmalade Mustard Pan Sauce from Chef Michael Smith’s “Family Meals” Cookbook

I found this recipe easy to make and it uses common ingredients I already had in the kitchen. This is a very tasty way to present pork chops and I would definitely make the recipe again. My version (in above photo) of the sauce turned out a little darker than the photo in the book, probably because I used my own peach marmalade which was deep in color to begin with.

Concluding Thoughts
This book portrays the laid-back personality of Chef Michael Smith and his casual approach to cooking – look for phrases like “a splash or two of …”, “handfuls of fresh herbs”, “toss/stir the works together”, “a bottle of big beefy red wine” throughout the book. It shows his chatty, conversational style that those who follow Smith know is his style of cooking whether on television or in front of a live audience at events such as the Prince Edward Island International Shellfish Festival which he hosts each year.

In my view, this book would be most suitable for individuals who have some familiarity with cooking, home chefs who are adventuresome in meal preparation, families willing to try some, perhaps, less common or less traditional ingredients and, of course, for fans of Chef Michael Smith.

Disclosure:

I received a copy of the Family Meals cookbook for review from Penguin Canada.  I received no compensation for this review and was under no obligation to provide a positive review. The opinions are my own.

Blueberry Bread Pudding with Grand Marnier Sauce

Blueberries are still in season on PEI as I write this posting.  In fact, on the news last week, it was reported that there is an over-abundance of blueberries this year — is there such a thing as too many blueberries????

High bush blueberries
High bush blueberries

I love blueberries and, this year, we have been very fortunate in that the Murray family has a large field of U-pick high-bush blueberries in North Tryon, PEI.

Tryon U-pick Field of High Bush Blueberries
Tryon U-pick Field of High Bush Blueberries

Suffice it to say, I’ve had a steady diet of blueberries for the past several weeks from their U-pick where they grow several varieties.

I have also frozen a good many to have for winter use in my baking.

High bush blueberries are very easy and quick to pick.

Earlier I shared my recipe for blueberry muffins.  Today, I am sharing my recipe for blueberry bread pudding, an old-fashioned comfort food.  This pudding is so tasty, it is hard to believe it is made with little else but bread, milk, and eggs!  But, with a bit of extra flavoring, yummy blueberries, and a Grand Marnier sauce, this makes one luscious, decadent dessert!

Some cube the bread, place it in a pan, and then pour the custard sauce over top.  The method I use is different in that I tear up the bread into bite-size pieces, put it into a bowl, pour the milk over it and let it sit for about 15 minutes before hand-crushing the mixture.  I find this technique makes for a smoother textured pudding.

I have baked bread pudding both in a water bath and without.  I find baking it in the hot water bath makes for a more moist pudding and the edges don’t tend to dry out.  To bake a pudding in a water bath, you will need two sizes of pans – one to bake the pudding in and another larger pan that will accommodate the pudding pan.  Fill the exterior pan with enough hot water that it comes up to about 1/2 way on the pan which holds the pudding.

This is an easy pudding to make and does not take a lot of ingredients or complicated methods.  It also freezes well so, if there happens to be leftovers, they can be stowed away for a later treat.

I like to serve a warm brown sugar sauce (or a variation thereof, such as Grand Marnier sauce) with this pudding.  However, it would also be tasty with a dollop of lemon curd, crème fraiche, or ice cream.

Blueberry Bread Pudding

Ingredients:

4 cups whole milk
1 – 1 pound loaf of soft French bread

4 eggs
⅔ cup sugar
½ tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla
2 tsp grated orange rind
½ tsp cinnamon
⅛ tsp nutmeg
2 tbsp maple syrup
3 tbsp melted butter

2 cups high-bush blueberries, fresh or frozen

Method:

Assemble ingredients.

Preheat oven to 325°F.

Grease or line 9”x13” pan with greased tin foil.

In large bowl, break the French bread into small pieces, crusts and all. Pour 4 cups of milk over the bread. Cover and let sit for 15 minutes then hand-crush mixture until well blended.

In a separate bowl, beat the eggs well. Add the sugar and beat again.

Add the salt, vanilla, grated orange rind, cinnamon, nutmeg, maple syrup, and butter. Blend well.

Pour over bread-milk mixture and mix well.

Lastly, gently fold in the blueberries being careful not to break the berries.

Pour into prepared pan. Smooth batter evenly in pan. Place pan inside a larger pan. Place on oven rack in upper part of oven. Carefully pour hot water into the exterior pan until the water reaches about ½ way up the sides of the pudding pan.

Bake for about 45-50 minutes or until top of pudding is nicely tanned and it springs back to a light touch and a cake tester (or toothpick) inserted into 2-3 places in the pudding comes out clean.

Remove from oven and water bath and transfer pudding pan to a rack to rest for 20 minutes.

DSC06282

Slice into 12 pieces and serve warm with a brown sugar sauce (or my Grand Marnier sauce below), lemon curd, crème anglaise, or ice cream.

Yield: 12 servings

Grand Marnier Brown Sugar Sauce

Ingredients:

1 cup brown sugar
3 tbsp cornstarch
dash of salt
2 cups boiling water
2 tbsp corn syrup
1½ tbsp Grand Marnier
2 tsp vanilla
¼ cup butter

Method:

In microwave safe bowl, mix the brown sugar, cornstarch, and salt together well. Add the boiling water, corn syrup, Grand Marnier, and vanilla together. Mix well. Add butter. Microwave until sauce boils and reaches desired consistency. Serve over blueberry bread pudding.

Yield: Apx. 2½ cups

Blueberry Bread Pudding
Blueberry Bread Pudding

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