Tap the Toes and Taste the Taters!

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PEI is Canada's Food Island
PEI is Canada’s Food Island

Well, what’s a potato farmer on Canada’s Food Island to do if he has a big warehouse empty and waiting for this fall’s crop to be dug from the rich red soil of Prince Edward Island?  Might as well have a party in that warehouse and may as well include a couple of hundred people and a celebrity chef too!

That’s exactly what potato producer, Alex Docherty of Sherwood Produce Inc., did on September 8, 2017, when he provided the host location for a big potato-themed kitchen-style party.  For anyone who wanted to hobnob with a culinary celebrity, chow down on some good PEI food, and enjoy some fine traditional PEI music, this event offered the perfect way to indulge all three.

Dinner in the Warehouse
Dinner in the Warehouse

Toes, Taps, and Taters is an annual event that is part of the PEI Fall Flavours Culinary Festival.  I had attended this event in 2013 when it was held in the Potato Museum in O’Leary and it was a rollicking good time (click here for the link to that story).  This year, the location changed to a potato warehouse in Canoe Cove on the Island’s South Shore, about a 20-25 minute drive from Charlottetown and organizers pulled out all the stops! Toes, Taps, and Taters is a signature event of the Festival which means that a celebrity chef is in the house as guest host; this year, that was Chef Chuck Hughes who is quite the character! There is never a dull moment when Chef Chuck is at a culinary event!

Chef Chuck Hughes
Chef Chuck Hughes

I arrived at the location around 5:15pm on a beautiful, sunny September evening, one of those late summer days that is just made for a fun party with outside activities.  As folks arrived, they were greeted with the evocative skirl of bagpipes from a lone piper just up the hill from the warehouse.

Piper
Piper at Toes, Taps, and Taters – PEI Fall Flavours 2017

Of course, Tate, the PEI potato mascot, was on hand and loved to have his photo taken.

Tate
Tate – The mascot for the PEI Potato Industry

Anyone wishing to go and experience digging his or her own potatoes was welcome to board the haywagon and go for a hayride to the potato field.

Off to the Field to Dig Potatoes!
Off to the Field to Dig Potatoes!

Take a gander at the size of that little tractor!

Hayride
Hayride to the Potato Field

Just at the entrance to the warehouse, well-known local chef and cheesemaker, Jeff McCourt from Glasgow Glen Farm, was cooking up a storm and the scent of food cooking over an open fire was an automatic draw to see what he was up to. He brought along some of the Gouda cheese he makes and tantalized taste buds with his Island-style Raclette.

Raclette
Island-style Raclette

Raclette, of Swiss-German origins, involves heating cheese over an open fire then scraping it with a knife over cooked (usually boiled) potatoes. Well, you had me at melted gouda! And, those sweet little multi-colored PEI baby potatoes!

PEI Baby Potatoes
PEI Baby Potatoes

That’s a gooda Gouda!

Raclette
Raclette in the making

The potatoes were cooked in cast iron pots over free-standing burning logs and the cheese was carefully melted over similar log fires under the watchful eye of Chef Jeff.

Cooking Potatoes Over an Log Fire
Cooking Potatoes Over an Log Fire

Part of the experience of attending culinary events is to see and learn different ways of cooking and experience traditional foods like potato and cheese turned into a different form.

Melting Cheese for Raclette
Chef Jeff McCourt melts Gouda cheese over open fire for Raclette

Why does food cooked outdoors always seem to smell and taste sooooo good?

Oyster Bay Bubbly
Oyster Bay Bubbly

Upon entering the warehouse, diners were greeted with a glass of Oyster Bay bubbly. They also had the opportunity to sample blueberry ale brewed by Upstreet Craft Brewing of Charlottetown.

Upstreet Brewing Company's Blueberry Ale
Upstreet Craft Brewing’s Blueberry Ale

Several stations with hors d’oeuvres were set up and folks moved around the stations at their leisure.

Toes, Taps, and Taters Reception (2017)
Toes, Taps, and Taters Reception (2017)

Potatoes, of course, featured prominently in most of the hors d’oeuvres starting with Russet Potato Risotto Style.

Russet Potato Risotto with Aged Island Gouda and Pickled Red Onion
Russet Potato Risotto with Aged Island Gouda and Pickled Red Onion

These two guys were kept busy preparing the tasty Risotta!

Making Russet Potato Risotto
Making Russet Potato Risotto

With hand pies being a trendy item, the Bacon-Leek Potato Hand Pies served with sour cream and chives proved to be a popular stop on the hors d’oeuvres circuit.

Bacon-Leek Potato Hand Pies served with sour cream and chives
Bacon-Leek Potato Hand Pies served with sour cream and chives

There were, of course, lots of options to try from the PEI charcuterie table.

PEI Charcuterie Table
PEI Charcuterie Table

Zillions of fries are made each year from PEI potatoes so, naturally, French Fries would have to factor in somewhere during the event.  Islanders love their mussels and their fries so Chef Irwin MacKinnon (pictured below) combined the two and served the mussels with roasted garlic aioli. At this point, little did I know that this guy was also in charge of catering the main meal, too!

Moules Frites
Chef Irwin MacKinnon serves up Mussels and Fries with Roasted Garlic Aioli

Yes, these Moules Frites were “right some good”!

Moules Frites (Mussels with Fries)
Moules Frites (Mussels with Fries)

There can’t be a good party on PEI without great music and Sheila MacKenzie on fiddle and Norman Stewart on guitar provided lively toe-tapping music throughout the reception preceding the dinner. It was traditional PEI ceilidh style music.

Entertainers Sheila MacKenzie (fiddle) and Norman Stewart (guitar)
Entertainers Sheila MacKenzie (fiddle) and Norman Stewart (guitar)

They were also joined by two very talented and energetic step dancers, Alanna and Shelby Dalziel.

Entertainers Sheila MacKenzie (fiddle) and Norman Stewart (guitar)
Entertainers Sheila MacKenzie (fiddle) and Norman Stewart (guitar) with step dancers Alanna and Shelby Dalziel

Rob Barry proved to be an entertaining MC and he and Chef Chuck Hughes kept the evening lively with lots of banter and audience engagement.

Celebrity Chef Chuck Hughes (left) and MC Rob Berry (right) at Toes, Taps & Taters PEI Fall Flavors Culinary Festival Event (2017)
Celebrity Chef Chuck Hughes (left) and MC Rob Barry (right) at Toes, Taps & Taters PEI Fall Flavours Culinary Festival Event (2017)

Part of the evening included the swearing in of everyone in attendance as honorary Islanders for the evening which involved the citing of the Potato Oath and, of course, a little swig of, umm, perhaps potato vodka, to make it official. This was followed by a rousing chorus of Stompin’ Tom’s “Bud the Spud”.

Potato Oath
Potato Oath

Part of the warehouse was transformed into a large country dining room with tables attractively set with red and white checkered tablecloths.

Toes, Taps, and Taters Dinner - PEI Fall Flavors Culinary Festival 2017, Canoe Cove
Toes, Taps, and Taters Dinner – PEI Fall Flavours Culinary Festival 2017, Canoe Cove

Creative centerpieces were mason jars filled with multi-colored baby PEI potatoes and mini lights.

PEI Baby Potatoes Light up the Tables
PEI Baby Potatoes Light up the Tables

Here’s a closer look at one of the tables.

Close-up of one of the tables at Toes, Taps, and Taters Dinner, Canoe Cove, PEI (2017)
Close-up of one of the tables at Toes, Taps, and Taters Dinner, Canoe Cove, PEI (2017)

Can you imagine that this was all taking place in a huge potato warehouse in which, up to three weeks previous, had tons of potatoes in it? It’s true.

Toes, Taps, and Taters Dinner 2017
Toes, Taps, and Taters Dinner 2017
Placesetting at Toes, Taps, and Taters Dinner 2017
Placesetting at Toes, Taps, and Taters Dinner 2017

And, here was the menu:

Menu for 2017 Toes, Taps, and Taters Dinner
Menu for 2017 Toes, Taps, and Taters Dinner

As you might guess, the dinner was a potato feast and potato was featured in each of the courses starting with the appetizer which was a delectable salmon-haddock potato fish cake that was served with marinated Island Blue Mussel salad and lemon caper dill. This was plated very attractively. (Apologies for the quality of these photos as they don’t do the meal justice but this was all taking place inside a huge cavernous warehouse that was eating up the light so studio quality photography wasn’t an option. Hopefully, though, the photos will give readers a ‘flavour’ for the menu items.)

Appetizer - Salmon Haddock Potato Fish Cake, Marinated Island Blue Mussel Salad, Lemon Caper Dill (Toes, Taps, and Taters Dinner 2017)
Appetizer – Salmon Haddock Potato Fish Cake, Marinated Island Blue Mussel Salad, Lemon Caper Dill (Toes, Taps, and Taters Dinner 2017)

The main course consisted of slow-roasted certified Island beef prime rib cooked to perfection and served with red wine Rosemary jus, beef drippings Yorkshire pudding, roasted garlic-horseradish whipped PEI potatoes, sweet pea purée, roasted squash stuffed with seasonal vegetables. This was a potato and beef lover’s dream meal!

PEI Prime Rib, Yorkshire Pudding, Whipped PEI Potatoes, Sweet Pea Purée, and Seasonal Vegetables Stuffed in Roasted Squash (Toes, Taps, and Taters Dinner 2017)
PEI Prime Rib, Yorkshire Pudding, Whipped PEI Potatoes, Sweet Pea Purée, and Seasonal Vegetables Stuffed in Roasted Squash (Toes, Taps, and Taters Dinner 2017)
PEI Prime Rib, Yorkshire Pudding, Whipped PEI Potatoes, Sweet Pea Purée, and Seasonal Vegetables Stuffed in Roasted Squash (Toes, Taps, and Taters Dinner 2017)
PEI Prime Rib, Yorkshire Pudding, Whipped PEI Potatoes, Sweet Pea Purée, and Seasonal Vegetables Stuffed in Roasted Squash (Toes, Taps, and Taters Dinner 2017)

And, for dessert, a delectable wild blueberry cobbler was served in a mason jar and garnished with a chocolate-dipped potato chip and whipped cream. Yes, even the dessert had potato in it!

Blueberry Cobbler with Chocolate Dipped Potato Chip and Whipped Cream (Toes, Taps, and Taters Dinner 2017)
Blueberry Cobbler with Chocolate Dipped Potato Chip and Whipped Cream (Toes, Taps, and Taters Dinner 2017)

Now, you might wonder how such an elaborate meal could be served in a potato warehouse for some 200 people.  Well, Chef Irwin MacKinnon from Papa Joe’s Restaurant in Charlottetown was in charge of the meal preparation and the mobile kitchen in the photo below is the one he brought into the warehouse to use for the meal preparation.

PEI Chef, Irwin MacKinnon, Caterer to the 2017 Toes, Taps, and Taters Dinner in Canoe Cove, PEI
PEI Chef, Irwin MacKinnon, Caterer to the 2017 Toes, Taps, and Taters Dinner in Canoe Cove, PEI

Can you imagine the amount of organization and coordination that would have been involved to prepare and serve this meal and it was all done in a trailer/mobile kitchen inside a potato warehouse!

Behind the Scenes at Toes, Taps, and Taters Dinner 2017
Behind the Scenes at Toes, Taps, and Taters Dinner 2017
Behind the Scenes at Toes, Taps, and Taters Dinner 2017
Behind the Scenes at Toes, Taps, and Taters Dinner 2017

The evening ended with a performance by Trinity Bradshaw, an up and coming country music artist from Summerside, PEI.

Islander and Upcoming Country Music Artist, Trinity Bradshaw, Performs at the 2017 Toes, Taps, and Taters Dinner in Canoe Cove, PEI
Islander and Upcoming Country Music Artist, Trinity Bradshaw, Performs at the 2017 Toes, Taps, and Taters Dinner in Canoe Cove, PEI

This event was the full-meal deal – great food and entertainment. It was very well coordinated and the attention to detail by organizers and chefs ensured this was a first-rate event.  The passion and pride of the PEI potato farming community was displayed at every turn.

Toes, Taps, and Taters Dinner in Canoe Cove, PEI (2017)
Toes, Taps, and Taters Dinner in Canoe Cove, PEI (2017)

I have always said two of the best ways to experience the culture of a place are to check out the local food and regional music. Visitors can learn a lot about a place through the food a place produces and the genres that form the local music scene. There were a large number of visitors from off-Island who sought out this event with the farthest coming from Belgium.  Some attendees schedule their entire vacations around the festival and return year after year.  In fact, at my table, there were new visitors from Ontario and repeat visitors from Western Canada and this was their fourth year coming for the Fall Flavours Festival.  This year they attended three culinary events, including the popular Lobster on the Beach event for their third time.  A testament to the calibre of the PEI Fall Flavours events that showcase the wonderful food of this very special food island on Canada’s east coast.

To read stories I have written about other PEI Fall Flavours Culinary Festival events, follow these links:

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 International 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)
Le Festin acadien avec homard/Acadian Feast with Lobster (2016)
The Great Big Barbeque (2016)
Mussels on the Hill (2016)

Photos and story about the 2017 Toes, Taps, and Taters culinary event that was part of the Prince Edward Island Fall Flavors Festival

 

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