September heralds the beginning of the annual PEI Fall Flavors Culinary Festival and what better way to start it off than with a feast featuring lobster and Acadian fare! Le Festin acadien avec homard event was held on September 2, 2016, in conjunction with the annual Evangeline Area Agricultural Exhibition and Acadian Festival in Abram-Village in the western part of Prince Edward Island.
The PEI Fall Flavors Culinary Festival features signature events hosted by celebrity chefs and the main events feature one or more of the Island’s locally-produced foods. If you follow the links at the bottom of this posting, you will find stories and photos from past events that featured Island beef, lamb, lobster, potatoes, etc. I especially like the events that feature both regional fare and entertainment and “Le Festin acadien avec homard” scored high on both counts. For visitors to PEI (and many do come in September especially for the Fall Flavors Culinary Festival), it’s an opportunity to learn about local culture and sample locally-produced foods.
PEI’s Acadian population in Abram-Village sure knows how to throw a good party with great food and lively entertainment. A quartet of talented local musicians comprised of Louise Arsenault (fiddle), Hélène Bergeron (keyboard/guitar/stepdancer), Caroline Bernard (singer/keyboard/guitar), and Rémi Arsenault (bass) provided toe-tapping Acadian music throughout the evening.
The event was hosted by celebrity chef, Anna Olson, who is no stranger to the PEI Fall Flavors Culinary Festival as she and her husband, Michael, return to the Island annually to participate in the culinary events.
Anna hosts three cooking programs on Food Network Canada: “Bake with Anna Olson“, “Fresh with Anna Olson“, and “Sugar“. Ever the good sport, Anna was put through her paces before MC Georges Arsenault declared she had passed the test to be made an honorary Acadian. She learned some French and she was taught some stepdancing moves!
Here was the menu for the dinner:
Upon arrival in the dining hall, guests were greeted with a complimentary glass of Benjamin Bridge’s Nova 7 wine.
Benjamin Bridge Winery from Gaspereau Valley, Nova Scotia, was this year’s Festival Wine Sponsor as it was in 2015 when I discovered their delightful Nova 7 wine. The Nova 7 is a beautiful light-bodied effervescent wine with a gorgeous pinkish color, and appealing aromatics with lovely floral and fruit notes. It’s a great wine for sipping or for pairing with a wide range of foods from seafood to spicy foods to desserts. It made a fine accompaniment to the foods served at this dinner.
Fresh steamed mussels were served as hors d’oeuvres. According to the Mussel Industry Council of PEI, the Island produces about 45 million pounds of mussels each year. This translates into approximately 80% of the entire mussel production in Canada. In fact, fresh PEI mussels are shipped to the USA and as far away as Hong Kong, Japan, and Kuwait. It’s very common at PEI gatherings to serve steamed mussels.
The dinner was held in a large community hall and served, family style, at long tables.
Servers, in traditional Acadian attire, brought the prepared dishes to each table.
Guests then passed the dishes, from one to another, around the table, serving themselves.
The four-course dinner began with a bowl of Chicken Fricot, also known as chicken soup. This is a very popular Acadian dish.
The Fricot contains very few ingredients and I believe it is the summer savory that gives this brothy soup its wonderful tasty flavor. Made only with chicken, onion, potatoes, water, summer savory, salt, and pepper, it’s hard to believe just how tasty this soup really is! It was especially good with the French biscuits that were in baskets on the tables! French biscuits (Galettes blanches) are a cross between a yeast roll and a traditional tea biscuit.
The second course consisted of two long-time Acadian favorites: Râpure and Acadian Meat Pie.
Both are made with simple easy-to-come-by ingredients. The Râpure is made with pork and/or chicken, onions, potatoes (both mashed and raw grated), eggs, summer savory, coriander, salt and pepper. The ingredients are mixed together, placed in a greased baking dish and baked in the oven.
Traditionally, Acadian meat pie was made with pork. Today, however, it is common to have a mixture of meats in the pie – pork, beef, chicken, and/or hare, for example. Again, the ingredients for the pie filling are very basic – the meat, onion, summer savory, cloves, salt and pepper, and some flour for thickening. The filling is encased in pie pastry and baked in the oven. Molasses is often served with the meat pie. Meat pies are common fare for Acadians on Christmas Eve although, on PEI, the pies are commonly now eaten throughout the year as well.
The third course was Island lobster in the shell served with homemade potato salad.
It’s very traditional on PEI to serve potato salad with lobster and this salad was a true old-fashioned homemade PEI potato salad full of flavor.
And, for dessert, fresh blueberry pie made with in-season local berries.
This was a fantastic evening of fabulous food and lively music. I thoroughly enjoyed this event and it was an opportunity for me to try some Acadian foods I had not had before.
Follow these links for other stories I have written on previous Fall Flavors Culinary Festival 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)
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)
Beef and Blues (2014)
A Taste of New Glasgow (2015)
Beef ‘n Blues (2015)
Chef on Board (2015)
Cooking with Chefs Anna & Michael Olson in Brudenell, PEI (2015)
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