Category Archives: Out and About

Aw, Shucks! The Merroir of PEI Malpeque Oysters

PEI Malpeque Oysters
PEI Malpeque Oysters

Prince Edward Island is well-known for its variety of high quality shellfish – think lobster, mussels, and oysters, in particular.  Today, however, my blog posting is all about the world-famous PEI Malpeque oysters. According to the PEI Government website (https://www.princeedwardisland.ca/en/information/agriculture-and-fisheries/oysters ), the Island is Canada’s second largest oyster producing province and is the largest oyster producing province in the Atlantic region. It’s not uncommon in my travels to find PEI Malpeque Oysters on a restaurant menu.  No matter the variety or brand of oysters from PEI, or what part of the Island they are fished or farmed, they are generally all referred to as “Malpeques”.  How that came to be is, itself, an interesting story.

PEI oysters have a long history with the government issuing leases for oyster fishing back as far as the mid-1800s to those wishing to fish oysters from the ocean seabed.  The oysters were made famous at the 1900 Paris World Fair where, in an oyster-tasting contest, they were crowned the world’s best oysters. The oysters were simply named for Malpeque Bay on the Island’s north shore from where the winning oysters were fished.

However, the oyster industry on PEI was stricken in 1915 when disease wiped out about 90% of the Island’s oyster population. Miraculously, however, the oysters in Malpeque Bay survived.  Seed (which is basically a tiny version of an adult oyster) from these oysters was gathered and spread throughout other bodies of water around the Island and the oyster industry rebounded. To this day, over 100 years later, all oysters produced on PEI are considered to be direct descendants of oysters from Malpeque Bay. So, that’s why all PEI oysters, regardless from what part of the Island they come, or what variety or brand they are, are called “Malpeques”.  Who knew PEI oysters had lineage and a family tree! So, while there is one species – the Malpeques – there can be any number of varieties and brands. A little more about the varieties of “Malpeques” a bit later.

To find out more about the oyster industry on PEI, I paid a visit to the Raspberry Point Oyster Co., one of the Island’s largest oyster growing operators, processors, and exporters.  At the company’s hub operations center in Bayview near Cavendish on PEI’s north shore, I caught up with James Power, oyster connoisseur and manager of the Raspberry Point Oyster Co.

James Power, Manager, Raspberry Point Oyster Co., PEI
James Power, Manager, Raspberry Point Oyster Co., PEI

James lives and breathes oysters and you would be hard pressed to find anyone any more passionate about the oyster industry than James.  And, with good reason.  Oyster sales are brisk for the Raspberry Point Oyster Co., growing year over year.  James tells me that more than 10M oysters are cultured annually from the company’s farming operations in New London Bay, Rustico, and Oyster Bed Bridge/Rustico Bay. While the majority (about 90%) of their sales are in North America (with Montreal, Toronto, and Boston accounting for about 75% of sales), they regularly ship internationally all over the world that includes weekly shipments to the Netherlands as well as regular shipments to places like Belgium, France, Hong Kong, China, and Singapore. Small wonder, then, why it’s generally not too surprising to find PEI oysters on restaurant menus in all corners of the world!

Both oyster fishing and oyster farming exist on PEI.  The traditional method of oyster fishing is done through the use of manually-operated large wooden tongs.

Oyster Fishing on PEI
Oyster Fishing on PEI

If you travel around the shores, bays, rivers, and estuaries of PEI, a common sight from spring to fall will be dozens of little dories each manned by a lone fisher using long wooden tongs with rakes at the ends to scoop up the oysters. These are independent local oyster fishers who buy licenses from the federal government allowing them to fish wild oysters on any public fishing grounds.

Oyster Fishing
Oyster Fishing

These oysters are known as bottom culture oysters that are slow to mature taking, on average, 5-7 years to grow to the desired market size of 3” – 3½“.  Bottom culture oysters grow slowly because there is less natural food available to them. Oysters harvested by these small independent fishers are sold to oyster processing plants.

Oyster Fishing in Summerside, PEI
Oyster Fishing in Summerside, PEI

The other method of producing oysters is to raise, culture, or grow the oysters, a practice commonly known as “oyster farming” and that’s the method used by large commercial growers for mass production needed to meet demands from around the world. Growers lease ground, that is not public fishing ground, in which to grow their oysters.

There are two methods of oyster aquaculture – bottom culture and off-bottom (sometimes known as top, floating, or surface culture) and Raspberry Point Oyster Co. uses both methods. With bottom culture oysters, grown in water depth between 3’ and 8’, the grower spreads the oyster seed on the seabed. James says their top culture oysters are grown in water that is between 8’ and 15’ deep.  The oyster seed is purchased from hatcheries and from oyster farmers who catch wild spat, or larvae in collectors like the ones in the photo below. Once the oysters are big enough, they will be transferred to netted bags to grow, safe from predators like starfish and crabs.

Oyster Spat Collectors
Oyster Spat Collectors

All oysters at Raspberry Point Oyster Co. are started as top culture in floating mesh bags and then some are moved to bottom culture areas. The type of culture (bottom or top) used is often chosen on the basis of local growing conditions. Some parts of leased areas are too shallow for top culture and others might have too soft a seabed for bottom culture oysters. Using the two methods of farming, therefore, allows the Raspberry Point Oyster Co. to maximize the growing areas in their leases and also allows oysters to develop with different flavours, colors (they range from brown/white, gray to green), and appearance. Generally, the larger oyster seed is spread on the seabed because the oysters’ advanced size makes it more difficult for crabs and starfish to get at them.

Colors and Textures of PEI Oysters
Colors, Shapes, and Textures of PEI Oysters

When the bottom culture oysters have grown to market size, specialized oyster harvesters that use water pressure, scoop up the oysters.  The oysters come up from the seabed on to an escalator and those that are of the desired size are harvested while ones not quite of sufficient size are returned to the seabed bottom to allow them to continue to grow.  Bottom culture oysters usually take 5-7 years to grow to market size and this is because there is usually less water flow and food on the sea bed than is available for surface culture oysters. Oyster farmers do not need to provide special food for their oysters as the bivalves draw all the necessary nutrients from their seawater habitat along with naturally occurring plankton and plant life.  So long as the mollusks have clean water and care is taken to limit their predators access, oysters will grow naturally on their own.

The other method of growing oysters is top culture, often referred to as surface or floating culture. With advances in oyster growing technology and methods, today’s floating aquaculture speeds up the rate of maturation allowing for top culture oysters to be grown in about 3-5 years.  There is usually more constant water flow as the result of wave action during tidal changes and more natural food supplies nearer the water’s surface so oysters grown as top culture in floating bags just at or under the water surface are able to grow to market size sooner.  Top culture oyster farming involves growing the oysters in mesh bags that float in basket-like cages around the water surface level.

Floating Cage for Top Culture Oysters
Floating Cage for Top Culture Oysters
Floating Cage for Top Culture Oysters
Floating Cage for Top Culture Oysters

The baskets are constructed so that the water is able to flush through, bringing food to the mollusks and keeping them cleaner than those grown in the mud on the seabed bottom. The baskets are regularly flipped and the water flow and waves rock the baskets and chip away, or manicure, the rough edges of the oysters, giving them a more desirable looking shell. This also allows for seaweed, barnacles, and other organisms that find their way into the baskets to be exposed to sunlight and dry out and not become an infestation to the growing oysters. The bags inside the floating baskets also help to protect the oysters against predators. So, if you see rows of these floating cages in a body of water around the Island, you’ll know they’re filled with growing oysters.

Floating Cages of Oysters in New London Bay, PEI
Floating Cages of Oysters in New London Bay, PEI
Floating Cages of Oysters in New London Bay, PEI
Floating Cages of Oysters in New London Bay, PEI

Once oysters, either bottom or top cultures, have reached their market size, they are brought into the processing plant where they are culled, graded for size and shape, washed, counted, boxed, and are shipped to customers around the world.

Oysters Arriving at the Processing Plant
Oysters Arriving at the Processing Plant
Grading and Sorting Oysters
Grading and Sorting Oysters
Washing the Oysters
Washing the Oysters
Quality Controlling the Oysters Just Before They Are Boxed for Shipping
Quality Controlling the Oysters Just Before They Are Boxed for Shipping
A Box of "Lucky Limes" Oysters from Raspberry Point Oyster Company in PEI
A Box of “Lucky Limes” Oysters from Raspberry Point Oyster Co. in PEI
Inside the Processing Plant at Raspberry Point Oyster Company, Bayview, PEI
Inside the Processing Plant at Raspberry Point Oyster Company, Bayview, PEI
Bags of Oysters at the Raspberry Point Oyster Co.
Bags of Oysters at the Raspberry Point Oyster Co.
Inside the Cold Storage Room at Raspberry Point Oyster Co. in Bayview, PEI
Inside the Cold Storage Room at Raspberry Point Oyster Co. in Bayview, PEI

Because this industry is now year-round, oysters not needed for immediate shipment are put into trays like the ones shown to the left in the photo below and placed back out into shallow water until needed.

Oyster Trays
Oyster Trays

Since they are already graded, counted, and sorted by variety, they can quickly be retrieved and shipped when orders come in year-round.

The barge in the photo below is returning to shore with a load of trays filled with graded and sorted oysters which will soon be on their way somewhere in the world to fill orders!

Barge Returning to Shore with a Load of Oysters Ready for Market
Barge Returning to Shore with a Load of Oysters Ready for Market
Offloading Oysters Ready for Market
Offloading Oysters Ready for Market

Oysters like cold water but, in PEI’s cold winters, they can’t stay up near the water’s surface where they would freeze. So, for top culture/surface grown oysters, the Raspberry Point Oyster Co. sinks aluminum cages filled with oysters into 15’ – 20’ of water each winter. At the time of writing, the company prepared upwards of 1000 aluminum cages that they filled and sunk with 7000 graded and sorted oysters per cage at the end of November. Locations of cages are marked by a metal pole and the oyster harvesters head out over the ice to retrieve the oysters to fill winter shipments, making the Island’s oyster farming a year-round industry.

Preparing to Saw Through Ice to Retrieve Oyster Cages (Photo submitted by James Power, Raspberry Point Oyster Co.)
Preparing to Saw Through Ice to Retrieve Oyster Cages (Photo submitted by James Power, Raspberry Point Oyster Co.)

Sometimes, the ice is so thick that workers have to use a high-powered saw (shown in photo above) to cut through the thick ice so that tethered divers can dive in and locate the cages and hook them up to a hydraulic lift that will pull them out of the water.

Diving Under the Ice to Retrieve Oyster Cages Sunk for the Winter (Photo Submitted by James Power, Raspberry Point Oyster Co.)
Diving Under the Ice to Retrieve Oyster Cages Sunk for the Winter (Photo Submitted by James Power, Raspberry Point Oyster Co.)
Retrieved Oyster Cage Filled with Oysters Ready for Market (Photo Submitted by James Power, Raspberry Point Oyster Co.)
Retrieved Oyster Cage Filled with Oysters Ready for Market (Photo Submitted by James Power, Raspberry Point Oyster Co.)

The oysters are then hauled on a sled towed behind a four-wheeler or, if the ice is sufficiently thick, by a truck, back to the processing and shipping plant.

The varieties of oysters on PEI are often (though not always) named for the body of water in which they are grown. The Raspberry Point Oyster Co. draws its name from a little point of land on the Homestead Trail in nearby Cavendish.  Readers from outside PEI will likely associate the Cavendish name as the setting for famed authoress Lucy Maud Montgomery’s famous Anne of Green Gables series of books. A number of years ago, Scott and Charles Linkletter, the owners of Raspberry Point’s forerunner company, The PEI Oyster Company, had a lease to fish oysters in this area so they renamed the company to the Raspberry Point Oyster Co. Today, still owned and operated by the Linkletter family, Raspberry Point Oyster Co. has six varieties of Malpeque oysters on the market:

  • Raspberry Point – Bearing the company name, this variety of 3” oysters is grown as bottom culture in leases in New London Bay. The Raspberry Point variety is the company’s most popular oyster.
  • Lucky Limes – These are 3” oysters, also bottom grown in a lease along the Homestead Trail in New London Bay. The water in this area is filled with algae and that’s what turns the oyster shells green, thus the “lime” in the name.

    Box of Lucky Lime Variety of Oysters from Raspberry Point Oyster Co.
    Box of Lucky Lime Variety of Oysters from Raspberry Point Oyster Co.
  • Shiny Sea – At 2½“ in size, these are considered to be the “baby brother” of the larger 3” Raspberry Point variety. These bottom cultures are also grown in New London Bay.
  • Pickle Point – These are top-culture oysters as they are grown nearer the water’s surface in floating bags in New London Bay.
  • Daisy Bay – These 3” oysters are top-culture, or surface culture, grown in North Rustico.
  • Irish Point – Considered to be cocktail size oysters, these 2½“ oysters are also surface cultures and are grown in North Rustico.

Controls are in place to ensure sustainability of the Island’s oyster industry. Only so many leases are granted by the government to avoid overfishing.  The mollusks, themselves, help to ensure their species continue to survive as they act as great filters to clean the water of toxins by filtering algae and phytoplankton from the water.

According to James, the nature of the water flow and the shape of the seed oyster will basically determine the final shape of the oyster. While James will say that the perfect oyster is very much an individual’s own taste, he says the perfect shaped oyster, in his opinion, is a rounded tear-drop shape that is 3” long by 2” wide. The perfect flavour should consist of a clean, salty taste and a sweet finish.  The meat should be a little bit, but not too, fatty because nothing should interfere with the natural salty taste.

Power says oysters are like terroir is to wine – the flavour of each variety is built on the content of the bay or stream in which the oysters are grown and each oyster will look and taste a little different from the next one.  Since the oysters are coming from the sea and the French word for sea is “mer”, perhaps the term “merroir”, as some have coined it, might be the best description! Power says true oyster connoisseurs can identify the different flavour profiles in raw oysters.  Oysters grown in waters that have more of a rock base may have a mineral-rich flavour (though none of Raspberry Point oysters have this terroir/merroir) while others grown elsewhere may have a slight vegetable taste picked up from whatever vegetation or algae may be in their water habitat.

Power also says the oyster meat and flavour change with the seasons.  In summer, the oysters are thin and salty – the bivalves are more interested in reproduction than getting fat so keeping their svelte figure is obviously their concern!  In the fall (September – October), the waters are getting colder and the oysters will start building up fat for the cold winter months.  When the water temperature gets down to 5°C, the oysters shut down and hibernate inside their hard shells, living off the fat they built up in the fall. So, if you are eating oysters that come from icy waters, they’re likely to be quite plump and perhaps just a little sweeter.  In the spring, the oysters still stay fat but, as the snow melts, it dilutes the natural salt in the water so the oysters will taste less salty.

Oysters are low in fat, high in protein, and are a good source of iron and zinc.  They are also a source of, amongst others, Vitamins B12 and C along with Thiamin, Magnesium, and Phosphorus.

PEI Oysters
PEI Oysters

Oysters are most often served raw on the half shell on a bed of ice with freshly squeezed lemon or, sometimes, with a peppery shallot mignonette.  Chef Michael Smith often serves oysters with a Bloody Mary Ice seen in the photo below.

Shucked PEI Oysters Served with Bloody Mary Ice
Shucked PEI Oysters Served with Bloody Mary Ice

Oysters are shucked using a special short, blunt knife made for this purpose. Power says he believes oysters are popular, especially eaten raw, because they are an all-natural food, not processed or transformed.  Oyster bars are very popular and an emerging trend is to pair oysters with wines, beers, and whiskey. Fresh oysters are available at most fish markets on PEI as well as the larger supermarkets. On PEI, many restaurants serve raw oysters and, at many Fall Flavours Festival events each September, oysters are a staple, like they were at the 2017 “A Taste of Rustico” event where Chef Michael Smith (in photo below) was busy shucking Raspberry Point oysters.

Chef Michael Smith Shucking Raspberry Point Oysters at "Taste of Rustico" Fall Flavours event 2017
Chef Michael Smith Shucking Raspberry Point Oysters at “Taste of Rustico” Fall Flavours event 2017
Raspberry Point Oysters at Taste of Rustico Event 2017
Raspberry Point Oysters at Taste of Rustico Event 2017

So, the next time you are slurping back one of the plump briny Prince Edward Island oysters, you’ll now know a little bit more about how the Island oysters are produced, the flavour profile of an Island oyster, and you’ll be enjoying a unique terroir (or perhaps it’s “merroir”) taste from waters in and around Prince Edward Island on Canada’s East Coast.

Plump PEI Oysters
Plump PEI Oysters

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Oyster Farming
Oyster Farming

Five PEI Foodies Talk About Their Christmas Food Traditions

Herb-Basted Roast Turkey
Herb-Basted Roast Turkey

Food plays a vital role in Christmas celebrations here in Prince Edward Island. I recently chatted with five Islanders who, in one way or another, have strong food connections. Read on to find out what foods these foodies most associate with Christmas and what foods, if they didn’t have them, it just would not be Christmas for them.

(With the exception of Premier Wade MacLauchlan’s Seafood Pie,   all photos in this posting are from the food blogger’s own stock collection and are not of contributors’ specific recipes mentioned in this article.)

Wade MacLauchlan, Premier of Prince Edward Island

Food factors heavily into Premier Wade MacLauchlan’s Christmas festivities.  The premier, a great cook himself, launches into seafood pie production in mid-December.  He produces some 20 seafood pies filled with mussels, lobster, bar clams, scallops, and some fin fish like salmon, trout, or haddock.

Premier Wade MacLaughlan's Seafood Pie
Premier Wade MacLauchlan’s Seafood Pie

Premier MacLauchlan uses grated potatoes that have been cooked in seafood stock to make a heavy starchy paste which eliminates the need for flour as a thickener for the pie filling.  The ingredients are combined and placed inside a double-crusted pastry and baked.

Premier Wade MacLauchlan's Seafood Pie
Premier Wade MacLauchlan’s Seafood Pie

When asked what he does with all the pies, he tells me he gives them away as gifts. And, for those who aren’t seafood lovers, he makes tourtière and says he usually makes between 6 and 10 of those each December.

Food also plays a part in a Solstice Sunrise Party that the premier has been hosting at his home for almost two decades.  Held annually on the day of the winter solstice, the premier says he simply couldn’t stop it now even if he wanted to because the regulars would just show up anyway! Rising early to make 3-4 dozen muffins and to brew a couple of urns of coffee, the premier opens his doors at 7:30am and people start arriving to watch the sunrise together around 8:00am. It’s not uncommon for 75-80 people to attend. With a commanding view to the east and to the south out over Stanhope Bay, it’s a time for family, friends, and neighbours to visit and re-connect. Everyone brings food to contribute to the potluck event which is set up buffet style.

Christmas Day is spent with immediate family and, on Boxing Day, the larger extended MacLauchlan family gather at the premier’s home for a potluck brunch.

The premier has kindly shared his recipe for his Seafood Pie which is printed here with Wade MacLauchlan’s permission.  The premier says, although the recipe yield is for 20 pies, the recipe is easily scalable.

Wade MacLauchlan's Seafood Pie Recipe
Premier Wade MacLauchlan's Seafood Pie
Premier Wade MacLauchlan’s Seafood Pie

Peter Bevan-Baker, Leader of the Green Party of Prince Edward Island

Communal family cooking has always played a significant part in Peter Bevan-Baker’s life starting when he was a lad growing up in Fortrose, just north of Inverness, in the Highlands of Scotland. The family would all prepare the Christmas dinner together, chopping vegetables and singing Christmas carols.

Member of the Legislature and Leader of the Green Party of PEI, Peter’s first and foremost memory of a food enjoyed at Christmas time is his late father’s vol-au-vent made with leftover turkey from Christmas dinner and served with Sauce Robert, a brown mustard sauce. Sometimes, the vol-au-vents would be served as nibbles but other times as the main for a meal when they would be served with “tatties and neeps”, the Scottish names for potatoes and turnips, respectively.

Plum Pudding
Plum Pudding

When asked what Christmas dinner dessert consisted of, Peter says it was always Christmas Pudding which he did not like at all!  However, he says the arrival of the pudding at the dinner table was quite an elaborate ceremony. Everyone stood up and literally lifted the table off the floor to meet the pudding – it was a true salute to the Christmas pudding! Of course, some alcohol would be heated, poured over the pudding, and the pudding set aflame. Peter claims watching the pudding burn was the best part since he had no liking for the pudding! His father made a brandy butter to serve with the pudding. Peter says another great memory he has of Christmas as a young boy in the Scottish Highlands was visiting a rich family who lived in the area and who served Coca Cola at Christmas which was very special since it was not something he had at home.

Peter’s father was a great cook and modeled to his children that it was okay for men to be in the kitchen cooking. Today, Peter and his wife have four adult children (two of whom are chefs) and cooking remains very much a family event. Vol-au-vents will make an appearance over the holidays in keeping with his long-standing family tradition. While the family usually has a turkey dinner for Christmas, Peter says it will usually be with a contemporary twist of some sort that may include some dishes from other cultures.

Bill Martin, Mayor of Summerside and Owner of the Water Street Bakery

Mayor of the City of Summerside, Bill Martin has very fond memories of waking up on Christmas morning to the scent of meat pies baking.  His mother, a Scottish war bride, had an absolute Christmas morning tradition and that involved homemade meat pies.  The family enjoyed the meat pies, complete with homemade mustard pickles, after opening presents on Christmas morning.  Mayor Martin continues that tradition today. He and his family enjoy Christmas breakfast of bacon, eggs, homefries, and toast along with the meat pie and mustard pickles.  To this tradition, they have also added the Acadian dish, Rapure, a grated potato casserole.

Acadian Rapure
Acadian Rapure

Mayor Martin and his wife have run the Water Street Bakery for the past 29 years. They make meat pies year-round now and, in December alone, they will make more than 2000 meat pies which are made with pork, chicken, turkey, potato, onion, and spices, all covered in a biscuit dough crust.  These pies are in such demand during the Christmas period that the bakery has rented additional freezer space. In fact, on the first Saturday in December, they made 200 meat pies and sold 100 of them the same day. As a bakery owner, the other two most popular items that Martin says never go out of style are the chocolate-covered peanut butter balls and the cherry balls, both of which are available at the bakery only at Christmas which makes them more special treats.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Balls
Chocolate Peanut Butter Balls

Irwin MacKinnon, Executive Chef, Papa Joe’s Restaurant and PEI Chef of the Year 2017

Long-time executive chef at Charlottetown’s Papa Joe’s Restaurant and recently-named PEI Chef of the Year 2017, Chef Irwin MacKinnon says it would not be Christmas in his household without the “Jimmy Jams”.  These delightful cookies have been made by ancestors on his mother’s side for years. Today, his mom is the principle baker of these Christmas treats that his children look forward to each Christmas.  As MacKinnon describes them, Jimmy-Jams are two round shortbread cookies, about 1½“ – 2” in diameter, sandwiched together with plain white icing.  Each sandwiched cookie is iced again on top and then decorated with rainbow-colored sprinkles.

Everyone has his or her own version of the stuffing for the turkey and Chef MacKinnon discovered how important that tradition is when he and his wife married 25 years ago.  On his side of the family, they make what he calls “Grammie’s Stuffing” which is bread-based and the ingredients are bound together by mashed potato and lots of butter and seasoned with onion, summer savory, and salt and pepper.  A bit of brown sugar is added just to give a sweet tone.  On his wife’s side of the family, they make the stuffing (dressing) completely opposite and Chef Irwin classes it as a potato stuffing made with mashed potatoes, onion cooked in butter, and seasoned with summer savory.  This is baked in the oven and there is no bread in this version.  If you are an Islander, you’ll get and appreciate the significance of family recipes for the turkey stuffing/dressing!

Roast Turkey
Roast Turkey

So, whose stuffing recipe will be on the Christmas table in the MacKinnon household this year? You guessed it – Irwin will be making his grammie’s stuffing recipe to go along with the fresh turkey from Larkin Brothers in New Glasgow. To this, he’ll include a wide variety of veggies that include potatoes, turnip, carrots, squash, and brussel sprouts.

For dessert, Chef Irwin’s mother-in-law’s plum pudding will grace the table complemented by Irwin’s rich brown sugar sauce made from a rue of butter and flour with caramelized brown sugar added.  Chef Irwin says a slice of pudding topped with ice cream and a good drizzle of a glossy brown sugar sauce is the ultimate Christmas dinner dessert.

Since he cooks everyday for a living, I asked Chef Irwin if he lets someone else cook the Christmas dinner but he says it’s him that spearheads the dinner at home and one of his greatest joys is to cook for his own family.  Other members of the family pitch in and bring contributions to the dinner as the family melds their different traditions from their blended families.

Glenda Burt, Chef, and former owner of The Home Place Restaurant in Kensington, PEI

For Chef Glenda Burt, the highlight of the Christmas dinner is the plum pudding and warm sauce.  She says that, even though you might be “stuffed to the gills” from the main meal, there is always room for plum pudding!  Glenda makes a rich toffee sauce to serve with her plum pudding, a sauce made with brown sugar, whipping cream, butter, and vanilla.

Plum Pudding
Plum Pudding

Glenda grew up in the family that originally owned Mary’s Bakery in Kensington so baking and candy making are certainly second nature to her. She has very fond memories of the chocolate, brown sugar, and divinity fudges that her mother made at Christmas and how they would appear in a plastic Christmas motif tri-sectioned dish on Christmas Eve. Homemade raisin bread toasted on Christmas morning is an annual tradition in the Burt household. Glenda doesn’t prepare a big Christmas Day breakfast because she says the whole day is spent eating; however, the raisin bread must be present to start the day off.

Other foods that will make their appearance over the holidays will be gingersnaps, dark fruitcake, meat pies (that Glenda says are pure comfort food) and, in deference to our Maritime culture, some kind of seafood which could be lobster in the shell or seafood chowder.

Chef Glenda is hosting her family Christmas on Boxing Day this year and she will be doing the cooking of the traditional Christmas dinner that will include roast turkey, stuffing, and veggies. Glenda will be serving her famous turnip casserole as well. This yummy dish is made with mashed turnip, a white sauce with Parmesan cheese, and topped with buttered bread crumbs.  Of course, all the traditional fixins’ like homemade rolls, pickles, and beets will be on the table to complement the turkey dinner.

 

My thanks to Premier Wade MacLauchlan, Leader of the PEI Green Party Peter Bevan-Baker, Mayor Bill Martin, Chef Irwin MacKinnon, and Chef Glenda Burt for sharing their Christmas food traditions with me.

Rustico Sheep Farm Produces Cheese and Yogurt

On PEI, there are a number of small-scale farmers who are producing artisan-quality food products. Produced on small-scale, it allows the producer to focus on quality and on producing products, or varieties of products, that larger-scale producers might not. I recently paid a visit to the Ferme Isle Saint-Jean in Rustico PEI.

Snack Time at Ferme Isle Saint-Jean, Rustico, PEI
Snack Time at Ferme Isle Saint-Jean, Rustico, PEI

Owned and operated by Deirdre and Gabriel Mercier, the new farmers bravely forged ahead in 2015 with dreams of becoming cheesemakers using sheep’s milk. When Deirdre’s family home and small hobby farm became available for sale, the couple decided the time was right to pursue their entrepreneurship dreams in Deirdre’s home community of Rustico. Gabriel attends to the day-to-day farm operations and the yogurt and cheese making while Deirdre looks after the farm’s bookkeeping.

Isle Saint-Jean Sheep Farm in Rustico, PEI
Ferme Isle Saint-Jean in Rustico, PEI

Currently, the Merciers are milking 104 sheep that produce, on average, between 1 – 1½ litres of milk each a day.  They have two breeds of sheep. The first, East Friesian dairy sheep, originate in northern Germany and are, according to Gabriel, the highest milk-producing sheep. The second breed, the Lacaune, are a dairying sheep breed originating in southern France. The Lacaunes produce less milk than the East Friesians but their milk has a higher fat and protein content.

Sheep Herd
Sheep at Ferme Isle Saint-Jean in Rustico, PEI (Photo courtesy of Isle Saint-Jean Farm)

The farm’s new milking parlour allows for 24 sheep to be milked at once.

Sheep Milk Dairy Milking Parlour
Milking the Sheep at Ferme Isle Saint-Jean Sheep in Rustico, PEI (Photo courtesy Ferm Isle Saint-Jean)

Gabriel is new to a career in farming having spent nearly 10 years in military service. He spent time on a work term on a farm in Quebec followed by a month working in a cheese plant – Nouvelle France Fromagerie – and has taken a course in cheesemaking in Quebec.

Currently, the farm is producing yogurt and cheese by transporting the milk to a cheese factory in Mont Carmel, PEI, where Gabriel goes to make the products. Some cheese is made in a facility in New Brunswick that has an aging room for the cheese, some of which takes time to ripen. In addition, the farm also has lamb sausages available which are made for them by Island Taylored Meats.

Cheese and Yogurt Produced by Ferme Isle Saint-Jean, Rustico, PEI (Photo courtesy of Ferme Isle Saint-Jean)
Cheese and Yogurt Produced by Ferme Isle Saint-Jean, Rustico, PEI (Photo courtesy of Ferme Isle Saint-Jean)

When asked what the biggest challenges are to sheep farming in PEI, Gabriel says operating costs, labour involved, and the long days and 24/7 commitment as the sheep are milked twice a day during lactation for the first 90 days after giving birth then once a day afterwards.

Baby Lambs at Ferme Isle Saint-Jean, Rustico, PEI (Photo courtesy Ferme Isle Saint-Jean)
Baby Lambs at Ferme Isle Saint-Jean, Rustico, PEI (Photo courtesy Ferme Isle Saint-Jean)

Particularly during lambing seasons, the days can be very long as the lambs start arriving in February when it is cold on PEI and so attention is required to ensure they quickly get their first drink and are kept warm.

Young Lambs at Ferme Isle Saint-Jean, Rustico, PEI (Photo courtesy Ferme Isle Saint-Jean)
Young Lambs at Ferme Isle Saint-Jean, Rustico, PEI (Photo courtesy Ferme Isle Saint-Jean)

I love the sentiment captured in the photo below of a mama with her baby lamb!

Mama Poses with her Baby Lamb at Ferme Isle Saint-Jean in Rustico, PEI (Photo courtesy Ferme Isle Saint-Jean)
Mama Poses with her Baby Lamb at Ferme Isle Saint-Jean in Rustico, PEI (Photo courtesy Ferme Isle Saint-Jean)

Despite the work and commitment, the Merciers find great satisfaction in sheep farming.  Gabriel says he has a passion for cheesemaking and enjoys taking a raw product and converting it into something else like yogurt and cheese. The other bonus is he gets to see more of his young family than he would if he worked off the farm.

The three cheeses presently made from the farm’s sheep milk are Alexis Doiron, Blue d’acadie, and Patrick Mercier.  The Alexis Doiron, a firm cheese that is not ripened or aged, is made by Gabriel at the plant in Mont Carmel. Gabriel classes this as a table cheese that he particularly likes grated on eggs.  He says this cheese is grillable and is very good barbequed because it doesn’t actually melt.  He also suggests it can be grated on pizza as well.

Grillable Alexis Doiron Cheese from Ferme Isle Saint-Jean, Rustico, PEI (Photo Courtesy Ferme Isle Saint-Jean)
Grillable Alexis Doiron Cheese from Ferme Isle Saint-Jean, Rustico, PEI (Photo Courtesy Ferme Isle Saint-Jean)

The Blue d’acadie is made in a federally-inspected plant with an aging room in New Brunswick.  It is a semi-firm ripened blue cheese that is suberb on burgers or steak, used in a sauce, or as an addition to a cheese tray.

The newest cheese, Patrick Mercier, is made with unpasteurized sheep’s milk and aged at least four months at the same plant in New Brunswick where the Blue d’acadie is made.

Gabriel produces 200 – 500ml jars of yogurt each week. This yogurt is 100% sheep’s milk plus culture and is available unflavored.  Add some pure maple syrup and toss some granola on top for a special treat or top it on your favorite cereal along with some fresh fruit.

Sheep Yogurt with Blueberries on top of Cereal (Photo courtesy Ferme Isle Saint-Jean)
Sheep Yogurt with Blueberries on top of Cereal (Photo courtesy Ferme Isle Saint-Jean)

What about all the wool on those sheep?  The sheep are sheered once a year, in November, which allows them to grow back a wool coat before the really cold weather strikes PEI.  The wool is transported to MacAusland’s Woolen Mills in Bloomfield, PEI, where it is turned into yarn and woven into blankets.

Sheep Shearing at Ferme Isle Saint-Jean in Rustico, PEI
Sheep Shearing at Ferme Isle Saint-Jean in Rustico, PEI (Photo Courtesy Ferme Isle Saint-Jean)

This past summer, the Merciers opened a retail shop on the farm where the cheeses, yogurt, and lamb sausages can be purchased at source and where customers can enjoy some samples of the yogurt and cheeses.  During the winter months, the shop is open by appointment only.

Gabriel Mercier in his Retail Shop at Ferme Isle Saint-Jean, Rustico, PEI
Gabriel Mercier in his Retail Shop at Ferme Isle Saint-Jean, Rustico, PEI

The farm’s products are currently available in several locations including Riverview Country Market, Kent Street Market, Brighton Clover Farm (all in Charlottetown), as well as at the Charlottetown Farmers Market , the Farmed Market and Craft Butchery and the Summerside Farmers Market, both in Summerside, and Gallant’s Country Market in Rustico. Several Island restaurants, including those in the Rustico area, are serving yogurt and cheeses from the farm as part of their menus.

A visit to Ferme Isle Saint-Jean in Rustico, PEI. Sheep dairy farm produces sheep cheese and yogurt.

An Acadian Lobster Feast

At the PEI Fall Flavours 2017 event, "Le Festin acadien avec homard"
At the PEI Fall Flavours 2017 event, “Le Festin acadien avec homard”

If there is one consolation to summer’s end on PEI, it’s the anticipation that September brings the annual PEI Fall Flavours Festival. The Island’s emerging culinary scene with all its fine foods is showcased each September in an array of culinary events that comprise the festival. What started out in 2008 as a small 10-day festival consisting of a few culinary events aiming to extend the Island’s short tourism season into September, the festival has grown into a full month-long feast extravaganza.

Potato Harvesting in PEI
Potato Harvesting in PEI

September is the perfect month for a PEI food festival as the produce is at its prime, potato harvesting is getting underway, and the fall lobster season is open in certain zones around the Island. We are lucky here in PEI – we have a wonderful array of fresh local foods from the land and sea and the festival is a great celebration of our love of local foods.  Culinary events are spread out in communities across the Island and each tends to highlight foods that come from a particular area and/or that are associated with a certain region’s culture.

The “Festin acadien avec homard” (or lobster feast) at Abram-Village, west of Summerside, is always the first PEI Fall Flavours Festival culinary event of the season and it signals a tasty month ahead. Tickets for this event sell out weeks in advance and it is one Fall Flavours event that is certain to draw a lot of Islanders to the Evangeline area. In some respects, it’s almost like a homecoming weekend as family members travel home to the Island’s Evangeline region for the annual Evangeline Agricultural Exhibition & Acadian Festival.  There is no better way to learn, first hand, about the culture of a region than to partake of the regional foods and entertainment.  “Le Festin acadien avec homard scores high points on both counts.

This year marked the second year that I attended this event – that’s testament to how much I enjoyed it the first time!  While the menu remained almost identical to the previous year, what changed was the entertainment and the headline celebrity chef who, in 2017, was Chef Danny Smiles, Chef de cuisine at Restaurant Le Bremner in Old Montreal. This was Chef Smiles’ debut at the PEI Fall Flavours Festival.

Chef Danny Smiles at the PEI Fall Flavours "Le Festin acadien avec homard" event 2017
Chef Danny Smiles at the PEI Fall Flavours “Le Festin acadien avec homard” event 2017

The lively musical entertainment was provided by Vishten, a trio of talented musicians (two from PEI and one from the Magdalen Islands).  Rooted in traditional music from the two east coast islands, their indie-folk style fuses Acadian and Celtic genres and motivates foot stomping and hand clapping.  The performers are multi instrumentalists and they easily transition between various musical instruments that include violin, guitar, accordian, and keyboard.  The trio tours and performs internationally and has five albums and more than 1000 performances to their credit.

Vishten entertaining at the PEI Fall Flavours "Le Festin acadien avec homard" event 2017
Vishten entertaining at the PEI Fall Flavours “Le Festin acadien avec homard” event 2017

The “Festin acadien avec homard” event has been running for several years and organizers have it well organized and they are very efficient in carrying it out.  MC Georges Arsenault is a very capable and effective Master of Ceremonies.

Georges Arsenault, Master of Ceremonies at the PEI Fall Flavours "Le Festin acadien avec homard" event 2017
Georges Arsenault, Master of Ceremonies at the PEI Fall Flavours “Le Festin acadien avec homard” event 2017

Georges had lots of fun in store for the evening that included a demonstration of different ways that lobster can be cracked and eaten.

Chef Danny Smiles Demonstrates How He Opens A Lobster
Chef Danny Smiles Demonstrates How He Opens A Lobster

Georges selected a young person from the audience who had never cracked open a lobster before, celebrity chef Danny Smiles, and Odette Gallant from the Evangeline area who has been cracking open lobster with her teeth all of her life – yes, her teeth!  I wondered how many sets of teeth she might have gone through because those lobster shells are hard!

Using Teeth to Crack Open a Lobster
Using Teeth to Crack Open a Lobster
Young Man Gets Some Professional Instruction from Chef Danny Smiles on How to Crack Open A Lobster
Young Man Gets Some Professional Instruction from Chef Danny Smiles on How to Crack Open A Lobster

Georges also had audience participation on stage as a member of Vishten taught Chef Danny and others how to step dance.

Stepdancing Lessons at Le Festin acadien avec homard (PEI Fall Flavours Event 2017)
Stepdancing Lessons at Le Festin acadien avec homard (PEI Fall Flavours Event 2017)

All of this entertainment took place in between courses of the meal.  Oh yes, the menu……

As this event took place in the region of the province that has a high concentration of the Island’s Acadian population, it is obvious that the evening’s menu would focus on Acadian fare along with lobster and potato salad since the region is known for its farming and fishing industries.

Serving up Steamed PEI Mussels at Le Festin acadien avec homard (PEI Fall Flavours Event 2017)
Serving up Steamed PEI Mussels at Le Festin acadien avec homard (PEI Fall Flavours Event 2017)

Like many PEI gatherings, the evening started off with steamed PEI mussels.  Patrons were then invited to sample three new soda flavors produced by Upstreet Craft Brewing in Charlottetown.

Sampling New Line of Sodas from Upstreet Craft Brewing of Charlottetown, PEI at Le Festin acadien avec homard (PEI Fall Flavours Event 2017)
Sampling New Line of Sodas from Upstreet Craft Brewing of Charlottetown, PEI at Le Festin acadien avec homard (PEI Fall Flavours Event 2017)

Known for their craft beer, making soda is a new venture for Upstreet.  The event proved to be a great opportunity for the brewery to showcase their new products – Strawberry Rhubarb Basil, Apple Ginger Elderflower, and Malt Spice Cola.

New Line of Sodas from Upstreet Craft Brewing of Charlottetown, PEI at Le Festin acadien avec homard (PEI Fall Flavours Event 2017)
New Line of Sodas from Upstreet Craft Brewing of Charlottetown, PEI at Le Festin acadien avec homard (PEI Fall Flavours Event 2017)

Dinner was served, family style, at long communal tables.  Servers, garbed in traditional Acadian dress, brought bowls or platters of food to both ends of the table and the food was then passed from one diner to the next with each person serving him or herself.

Serving Chicken Fricot at Le Festin acadien avec homard (PEI Fall Flavours Event 2017)
Serving Chicken Fricot at Le Festin acadien avec homard (PEI Fall Flavours Event 2017)

The first course was Chicken Fricot, a traditional Acadian broth stew made primarily of chicken, onion, and potato and seasoned with summer savory.

Chicken Fricot
Chicken Fricot

Every time I have a bowl of this stew, I’m always amazed at how tasty it is given that so few ingredients are in it.  I maintain it’s the summer savory herb that makes this dish.  Summer savory is used a lot on PEI and most Island cooks add it to their poultry dressing/stuffing.

Chicken Fricot
Chicken Fricot

This was followed by the second course comprised of Râpure and Acadian Meat Pie.

Acadian Meat Pie (left) and Rapure (right)
Acadian Meat Pie (left) and Rapure (right)

Some may know the grated potato dish, râpure as “rappie pie”, a name that stems from the French verb “râper” which means “to grate”. The grated potatoes are squeezed through cheesecloth to remove the liquid which is then replaced by adding broth (usually chicken) and baking it, casserole style, with onion, and cooked meat such as chicken or pork. The end result is a hearty and tasty dish.

Acadian Rapure
Acadian Rapure

The second course also included Acadian meat pie or, pâté, as it is sometimes called.

Acadian Meat Pie
Acadian Meat Pie

This is a very common dish in Acadian communities and is an integral part of Christmas Eve celebrations in many Acadian homes on PEI, though it is now commonly served at other times of the year as well.  Molasses is often drizzled on top of the meat pie to add a touch of sweetness to this savory dish.

Acadian Meat Pie with Molasses
Acadian Meat Pie with Molasses

Our server, Velma Durant, was very pleasant and most accommodating to me with my camera clicking away throughout the evening!

Server Arrives at Table with Platter of PEI Lobster (at the Le Festin acadien avec homard event, PEI Fall Flavours Festival 2017)
Server Arrives at Table with Platter of PEI Lobster (at the Le Festin acadien avec homard event, PEI Fall Flavours Festival 2017)

Then, of course, it was time for the pièce d’résistance – PEI lobster in the shell served with true, authentic homemade PEI potato salad – these folks know how to make a perfect potato salad!

PEI Lobster served with homemade Potato Salad (at the Le Festin acadien avec homard event, PEI Fall Flavours Festival 2017)
PEI Lobster served with homemade Potato Salad (at the Le Festin acadien avec homard event, PEI Fall Flavours Festival 2017)

It just would not be a PEI lobster feed without the potato salad!

PEI Potato Salad
PEI Potato Salad

French biscuits were on the table, too, with that good ADL butter!

French Biscuits
French Biscuits

And, for those who still had room, homemade apple pie polished off the evening’s menu.

Apple Pie
Apple Pie

One thing is for sure, no one would have gone away hungry after this mammoth meal!

For stories on other PEI Fall Flavours culinary events I’ve attended, click on the links below:

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)
Toes, Taps, & Taters (2017)
Taste of Georgetown (2017)
Taste of North Rustico – A Rustico Kitchen Party (2017)
Taste of Tyne Valley (2017)

PEI Fall Flavours 2017 Event "Festin acadien avec homard"

A Taste of Tyne Valley, PEI

The month-long PEI Fall Flavours Festival, held annually each September, offers visitors the opportunity to delve into local culture in a unique and tasty way through attending culinary events at various locales across the Island. Originally started as a 10-day festival that could extend PEI’s short tourism season into September, the Festival has grown into a full month of a wide variety of culinary events for every taste.  A popular Festival with foodies, visitors travel great distances and several return each year especially for the Festival.  Now in its 10th year, the Festival puts local food at the forefront of the visitor experience and, in so doing, also builds and strengthens collaboration between food producers, chefs, restauranteurs, local communities and, more broadly, the Island tourism industry.

The PEI Fall Flavours introduced three new culinary events in 2017 – Taste of Georgetown, Taste of North Rustico, and Taste of Tyne Valley. With a view to getting visitors out in to the more rural areas of the province closer to the local food sources, visitors were drawn to experience the different regions of PEI and they also had the chance to connect more directly with food producers and local chefs.

Jeff Noye, Valley Pearl Oysters, Tyne Valley, PEI
Jeff Noye, Valley Pearl Oysters, Tyne Valley, PEI

A growing trend amongst the foodie tourist population is the interest in incorporating good local cuisine and culinary experiences into their travel adventures.  The evolution of food and drink festivals are a driving influence in the culinary tourism aspect of vacation travel. While products like PEI oysters, for example, are shipped all over the world where anyone can have access to them, those consumers will not have the full cultural experience that they can get from eating oysters at a PEI Fall Flavours event. Such events allow consumers to interact directly with the oyster grower who farms the product just up the road and who is the one actually shucking and presenting the oysters right before event attendees. And, of course, it goes without saying that the closer you taste the food to its origins, the fresher and better its taste and the more personal connection you have with the food.

For those who want to experience authentic local culture, there is no better way than to attend a culinary festival, like the PEI Fall Flavours Festival, where regional fare can be sampled and local hospitality and music enjoyed.  These three components are the essential ingredients of a true local food and culture experience of a place.

Island Blue Mussels at the "Taste of Tyne Valley" PEI Fall Flavours 2017 Event
Island Blue Mussels at the “Taste of Tyne Valley” PEI Fall Flavours 2017 Event

This was none more evident than with the recent “Taste of Tyne Valley” culinary event.  This event was also a community-building activity for the Tyne Valley community, located about 20 minutes west of the City of Summerside.  Local food producers and the three restaurants in the heart of Tyne Valley worked collaboratively to provide event goers with an authentic food experience complemented by West Prince hospitality. When we speak of authenticity in terms of food, we are talking about a food trend that involves local fresh food that is simple, natural, and has roots and history in an area. So, when we think of the Tyne Valley and surrounding environs, in particular, we think of local foods with a long history in the area – foods such as oysters, mussels, beef, potatoes, and wild blueberries, all of which were included on the event’s menu.

Tyne Valley, PEI
Tyne Valley, PEI

Organizers report that 110 people attended the Tyne Valley event and, for the first time that I’ve attended a Fall Flavours event, I think the locals may have outnumbered the tourists! When a tablemate, a resident of Tyne Valley, was asked what the population was, she looked around then, with a smile, jokingly said “they’re all here tonight…, well, at least 80% of them”! There were certainly some off-Island visitors at the event, too, and they got to mix and mingle with the locals while enjoying some fine Island foods.

Site of "Taste of Tyne Valley" PEI Fall Flavours 2017 Event
Site of “Taste of Tyne Valley” PEI Fall Flavours 2017 Event

The evening began with a gathering hour in a large tent where Valley Pearl Oysters served up steamed mussels and raw oysters.

Shucking Oysters at "Taste of Tyne Valley" Event 2017
Shucking Oysters at “Taste of Tyne Valley” Event 2017

The mussels were steamed just outside the tent and the oysters were shucked by the oyster growers as people passed through the line. The food just doesn’t get any fresher than that!

Damien Enman Prepares to Steam PEI Blue Mussels at "Taste of Tyne Valley" PEI Fall Flavours 2017 Event
Damien Enman Prepares to Steam PEI Blue Mussels at “Taste of Tyne Valley” PEI Fall Flavours 2017 Event
PEI Oysters
PEI Oysters

Mussels and oysters are popular PEI foods so there was always a steady line-up for them.

Serving up Island Blue Mussels at the "Taste of Tyne Valley" PEI Fall Flavours 2017 Event
Serving up Island Blue Mussels at the “Taste of Tyne Valley” PEI Fall Flavours 2017 Event
Island Blue Mussels at the "Taste of Tyne Valley" PEI Fall Flavours 2017 Event
Island Blue Mussels at the “Taste of Tyne Valley” PEI Fall Flavours 2017 Event

Because food and music are a common combo at PEI gatherings, local music also plays a part in virtually every Fall Flavours Festival event.  During the gathering hour in Tyne Valley, visitors were treated to music provided by local area musicians, Spencer Phillips and Ellen MacQuillan.

PEI Musicians, Spencer Phillips and Ellen MacQuillan, Entertain at the "Taste of Tyne Valley" PEI Fall Flavours 2017 Event
PEI Musicians, Spencer Phillips and Ellen MacQuillan, Entertain at the “Taste of Tyne Valley” PEI Fall Flavours 2017 Event

The format of this event was part roving feast and part sit-down table service meal.  The center of Tyne Valley has three restaurants, all located in close proximity to each other.  After enjoying the mussels and oysters, patrons took their appetizer “passports” and began the short stroll to the three participating restaurants – Backwoods Burger, Dillon’s, and Tyne Valley Tea and Company.

"Passport" to Appetizers at the "Taste of Tyne Valley" PEI Fall Flavours 2017 Event
“Passport” to Appetizers at the “Taste of Tyne Valley” PEI Fall Flavours 2017 Event

The benefit of involving three local restaurants and having event attendees visit each one to sample an appetizer is that it exposed the restaurants to visitors who, if visiting the area, might otherwise have chosen only one restaurant at which to dine. Diners could choose the order in which they visited the restaurants.

Backwoods Burger Restaurant, Tyne Valley, PEI
Backwoods Burger Restaurant, Tyne Valley, PEI
Backwoods Burger, Tyne Valley, PEI
Backwoods Burger, Tyne Valley, PEI

Backwoods Burger (which always reminds me of an English pub), pictured above,  served a slice of their delectable potato and bacon pie which was beautifully presented.

Potato and Bacon Pie from Backwoods Burger, Tyne Valley, PEI
Potato and Bacon Pie from Backwoods Burger, Tyne Valley, PEI

Layers of PEI potatoes are the main ingredient in this delectable pie.

Potato and Bacon Pie from Backwoods Burger, Tyne Valley, PEI
Potato and Bacon Pie from Backwoods Burger, Tyne Valley, PEI
Dillion's Convenience Store and Pizzaria, Tyne Valley, PEI
Dillon’s Convenience Store and Pizzaria, Tyne Valley, PEI

Dillon’s (seen in photo above), a local pizzeria, served the perennial favorite appetizer of bacon wrapped scallops which they served on a bed of greens.

Bacon-wrapped Scallops from Dillion's Pizzaria, Tyne Valley, PEI
Bacon-wrapped Scallops from Dillion’s Pizzaria, Tyne Valley, PEI

Dillon’s also served a choice of wine or punch with their appetizer.

Dillion's Pizzaria, Tyne Valley, PEI
Dillon’s Pizzaria, Tyne Valley, PEI
Dillon's Pizzaria, Tyne Valley, PEI
Dillon’s Pizzaria, Tyne Valley, PEI

The Tyne Valley Tea and Company, a small tea room that opened in 2016, served an Asian-inspired appetizer nestled in a Wonton dish.

Tyne Valley Tea and Company, Tyne Valley, PEI
Tyne Valley Tea and Company, Tyne Valley, PEI

This colorful appetizer featured carrots, garlic, and green onions with a cucumber sweet chili sauce, with many of the ingredients sourced locally from the gardens of the nearby Doctor’s Inn.

Aisan-inspired Appetizer from the Tyne Valley Tea and Company ("Taste of Tyne Valley" PEI Fall Flavours 2017 Event)
Aisan-inspired Appetizer from the Tyne Valley Tea and Company (“Taste of Tyne Valley” PEI Fall Flavours 2017 Event)

Once everyone had made their way back to the tent, dinner service began, family style, at the long communal tables.

At the "Taste of Tyne Valley" PEI Fall Flavours 2017 Event
At the “Taste of Tyne Valley” PEI Fall Flavours 2017 Event
At the "Taste of Tyne Valley" PEI Fall Flavours 2017 Event
At the “Taste of Tyne Valley” PEI Fall Flavours 2017 Event
Party Favour - Silicon Tea Strainer (At the "Taste of Tyne Valley" PEI Fall Flavours 2017 Event)
Party Favour – Silicon Tea Strainer (At the “Taste of Tyne Valley” PEI Fall Flavours 2017 Event)

The main meal was prepared by guest Chef Jesse Vergen who is chef/co-owner of Saint John Alehouse and owner of Smoking Pig BBQ, both in Saint John, New Brunswick.

Jeff Noye, MC (left) introduces Guest Chef, Jesse Verden, at the "Taste of Tyne Valley" PEI Fall Flavours 2017 Event
Event MC Jeff Noye (left) introduces Guest Chef, Jesse Verden,(right) at the “Taste of Tyne Valley” PEI Fall Flavours 2017 Event

A Top Chef Canada All Star, Chef Jesse is no stranger to culinary challenges and, as he puts it, curve ball competitions; in fact, he’ll tell you he thrives on them.  With no existing or mobile kitchen onsite from which to serve 110 meals, Chef Jesse, in his words, was “rocking it out” from the back door of the little pizzeria and convenience store next to the event location!  This is where I caught up with him putting the final touches on the main meal.

Chef Jesse Vergen at the "Taste of Tyne Valley" PEI Fall Flavours 2017 Event
Chef Jesse Vergen at the “Taste of Tyne Valley” PEI Fall Flavours 2017 Event
Chef Jesse Verden Prepares the Main Meal at the "Taste of Tyne Valley" PEI Fall Flavours 2017 Event
Chef Jesse Verden Prepares the Main Meal at the “Taste of Tyne Valley” PEI Fall Flavours 2017 Event
At the "Taste of Tyne Valley" PEI Fall Flavours 2017 Event
At the “Taste of Tyne Valley” PEI Fall Flavours 2017 Event

Bowls of PEI rustic potato salad and heirloom tomato salad arrived at the table.

Potato Salad at "Taste of Tyne Valley" PEI Fall Flavours 2017 Event
Potato Salad at “Taste of Tyne Valley” PEI Fall Flavours 2017 Event

 

Heirloom Tomato Salad at "Taste of Tyne Valley" PEI Fall Flavours 2017 Event
Heirloom Tomato Salad at “Taste of Tyne Valley” PEI Fall Flavours 2017 Event

This was followed by large trays bearing the sliced brisket in the center surrounded by large clam shells filled with mushroom purée, butter-poached bar clams, and stout mayonnaise. These were broiled in the local pizzeria’s pizza oven and were, as Chef Jesse says, “a take on a classic Coquilles Saint Jacques but with a Tyne Valley twist”.

Beef Brisket
Beef Brisket

The brisket had been smoked slowly for 14 hours in a traditional barbeque pit with applewood and Chef Jesse says this long slow cooking process turned the meat into a melt-in-your mouth-like-butter texture.

Trays of Beef Brisket
Trays of Beef Brisket

Many hands make light work! Great motion and energy in the photo below!

Guest Chef, Jesse Verden, and Local Volunteers Prepare the Main Meal at the "Taste of Tyne Valley" PEI Fall Flavours 2017 Event
Guest Chef, Jesse Verden, and Local Volunteers Prepare the Main Meal at the “Taste of Tyne Valley” PEI Fall Flavours 2017 Event

As dessert was arriving, the energetic Gordie MacKeeman and His Rhythm Boys band took to the stage providing lively toe-tapping music.

Island Fiddler, Gordie MacKeeman Performing at the "Taste of Tyne Valley" PEI Fall Flavours 2017 Event
Island Fiddler, Gordie MacKeeman Performing at the “Taste of Tyne Valley” PEI Fall Flavours 2017 Event

This award-winning band has toured extensively, nationally and internationally. Members of the band are Gordie MacKeeman, Peter Cann, Thomas Webb, and Jason Burbine.

Island Musicians Gordie MacKeeman and His Rhythm Boys Band Performing at the "Taste of Tyne Valley" PEI Fall Flavours 2017 Event
Island Musicians Gordie MacKeeman and His Rhythm Boys Band Performing at the “Taste of Tyne Valley” PEI Fall Flavours 2017 Event

Dessert was prepared in the small kitchen of the Tyne Valley Tea and Company just across the road from the event location.  Served in the trendy mason jars, this tasty creation was a take on the traditional English Eton Mess dessert.

Blueberry Dessert at the "Taste of Tyne Valley" PEI Fall Flavours 2017 Event
Blueberry Dessert at the “Taste of Tyne Valley” PEI Fall Flavours 2017 Event

The layered dessert featured Lennox Island blueberries, along with crumbled meringues and scones, all topped with Earl Grey-infused whipped cream. A small ginger cookie, shaped like a teapot, garnished the dessert.

There is no doubt this was a community-building event for the Tyne Valley area and the passion of the local people, restaurant owners, and others who participated, was evident.  Carol Rybinski, owner of the Tyne Valley Tea and Company says the PEI Fall Flavours concept was “right up our alley – locally-sourced dishes and a shared community experience”. 

…the PEI Fall Flavours concept was “right up our alley – locally-sourced dishes and a shared community experience” -Carol Rybinski 

Chef Jesse concurs, saying he was impressed with the event and community collaboration to pull it off.  He says he considers it an honour to have been asked to participate in the Tyne Valley event. One thing is certain – there was lots of fun and laughter to go along with all that fresh local food!

For the entire month of September, visitors to the PEI Fall Flavours Festival can take advantage of all that this amazing small Island on Canada’s east coast has to offer – sample locally-sourced fresh food prepared by talented chefs, listen to lively local music, mix and mingle with the locals, and discover beautiful vistas from one end of PEI to the other. If you’re a true foodie, there is no better time to visit PEI than in the month of September which is filled with dozens of different culinary events offering something for every taste.  PEI has earned a reputation for excellence in food production and is now seen as an authentic food destination. There is a reason why PEI is known as Canada’s Food Island and events like “Taste of Georgetown”, “Taste of North Rustico”, and “Taste of Tyne Valley” prove it.

To read stories about other PEI Fall Flavours events I have attended, click on the links below:

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)
Toes, Taps, & Taters (2017)
Taste of Georgetown (2017)
Taste of North Rustico – A Rustico Kitchen Party (2017)

Taste of Tyne Valley

Taste of Tyne Valley

Taste of North Rustico, PEI – A Rustico Kitchen Party

North Rustico Harbour, PEI
North Rustico Harbour, PEI

Culinary tourism is a steadily growing part of the whole worldwide tourism industry. This has evolved because today’s foodie tourists want to learn more about their chosen vacation destination through experiencing the local food, drink, and culture. Culinary Festivals are quite common in many regions around the world and are a great way for tourists to experience the local cuisine that reflects the authenticity of a destination.  Tourists who seek culinary experiences and adventures are typically looking for food that is simple and rooted with a history in the local area as opposed to gourmet fare that may, or may not, reflect a particular geographic area.

Each year, in September, PEI celebrates its authentic local foods by hosting the PEI Fall Flavours Festival. In 2017, the Festival celebrated 10 years of great gastronomic events. What started as a short 10-day festival to extend the Island tourism shoulder season has now morphed into a full month of culinary events, big and small, that feature PEI’s finest foods….and we certainly are privileged to enjoy an abundance of them.  The Festival lures some of Canada’s best chefs and local culinary stars and these, along with the great PEI food, music, and hospitality, draw thousands of visitors to the Island each September. Many take in three or four of the Fall Flavours culinary events and several return year after year, specifically planning their vacations around the Festival.

In 2017, the Festival introduced three new events – Taste of Georgetown, Taste of Tyne Valley, and Taste of North Rustico.  The idea behind these events is to get visitors out in to some of the smaller Island communities, closer to where our foods are grown, raised, fished, or produced so they can explore that region’s culture, cuisine, and heritage.  It’s also a way to engage local chefs, restaurateurs, and food producers by giving them the opportunity to showcase their products to foodies who are passionate about food and who are interested in learning more about direct food sources and methods of preparation and serving. Many of today’s foodies are looking for an experience to go along with the food.  Each of these three new events provided that experience that combined a glimpse into our local food and music cultural scene. These are the kinds of events that make for great travel memories. Are you ready to have a “Taste of North Rustico” and attend a Rustico Kitchen Party?

North Rustico, PEI
North Rustico, PEI

North Rustico, a fishing town on PEI’s north shore, is a well-known tourist destination during the summer months when the population swells.

North Rustico Beach, PEI
North Rustico Beach, PEI
North Rustico Beach, PEI
North Rustico Beach, PEI

With its beautiful sandy beach, it has long been a mecca for sunbathers as well as for artists and photographers.

Lighthouse at North Rustico, PEI
Lighthouse at North Rustico, PEI

An abundance of picture-perfect scenes abound everywhere in and around the town and it’s always fascinating to watch the fishers heading out to sea and returning with the day’s catch.

Preparing for Setting Day
Eve of Setting Day in the Fishing Village of North Rustico, PEI, Canada

And, after that perfect day of enjoying the sea, sand, and many fine attractions in the area, no doubt appetite is calling. There are a number of seasonal restaurants that operate in North Rustico and which have earned the town a deserved reputation for fine local authentic food, some of which would have been fished earlier in the day and brought to shore by one of the many local fishing boats. North Rustico has long been known, both by Islanders and tourists alike, as a good place to get a great meal. Therefore, it was a very fitting location to host a PEI Fall Flavours culinary event.

Fishing Boats at North Rustico Harbour, PEI
North Rustico Harbour, PEI

With the scenic backdrop of the fishing boats in North Rustico Harbour, the “Taste of North Rustico” event offered tastings from several local restaurants and nearby local food producers and it served up a real old-fashioned kitchen style party complete with local music. A “Taste of North Rustico” proved to be a celebration of the rich culture, authentic food, and heritage of the scenic and bountiful north shore of PEI.

Site of "Taste of North Rustico" PEI Fall Flavours Event
Site of “Taste of North Rustico” PEI Fall Flavours Event
Site of "Taste of North Rustico" PEI Fall Flavours Event
Site of “Taste of North Rustico” PEI Fall Flavours Event

A large tent was erected in a parking lot just beside the harbour and as folks made their way to the tent, their appetites were tantalized by the scent of Island beef and pork sausages cooking over an open fire.

Grilling over a Wood Fire - "Taste of North Rustico" 2017
Grilling over a Wood Fire – “Taste of North Rustico” 2017

Inside the tent, a stage was set up surrounded by numerous round tables.

Tables at Taste of North Rustico Event 2017
Tables at Taste of North Rustico Event 2017

At each place setting, a set of wooden spoons was included as a take-home memento of the evening. These were also put to good use later in the evening to keep time to the lively music.

Taste of North Rustico 2017
Taste of North Rustico 2017

Designed as a “roving feast”, local  chefs, restaurateurs, and food producers had their “grazing” stations set up around the perimeter of the tent where they were serving up delectable food tastings. The 125 patrons who attended were free to choose the order in which they wished to visit the various stations to sample the food options.

Mayor of North Rustico, PEI - Anne Kirk
Mayor of North Rustico, PEI – Anne Kirk

There was certainly passion and pride in place displayed by the town of North Rustico as their mayor, Anne Kirk, greeted patrons at the entrance to the tent.  She, herself, is quite entertaining and she had a lot of fun on stage with Chef Michael Smith, presenting him with bottles of her homemade pickles and beets and coaxing him to sample them to see if they’d be safe to serve to her family and friends!  I later caught her capably playing the wooden spoons to the rhythm of the music.

Chef Michael Smith with the Mayor of North Rustico, PEI - Anne Kirk ("Taste of North Rustico" 2017)
Chef Michael Smith with the Mayor of North Rustico, PEI – Anne Kirk (“Taste of North Rustico” 2017)

This event was very well organized and I did not experience any long line-up at any of the grazing stations.

Raspberry Point Oysters ("Taste of North Rustico" 2017)
Raspberry Point Oysters (“Taste of North Rustico” 2017)

My first stop was at the Raspberry Point Oyster station where Chef Michael Smith was busy shucking oysters.

Chef Michael Smith shucking Raspberry Point Oysters ("Taste of North Rustico" 2017)
Chef Michael Smith shucking Raspberry Point Oysters (“Taste of North Rustico” 2017)

No matter how hard he coaxed (he tried at the Taste of Georgetown event, too), I just could not slurp a raw oyster!   For this, he denounced me for not being a “good Island girl” and, of course, I unwittingly made things worse by asking the unthinkable…”do you ever cook the oysters?”  Let’s just say we need to be thankful Chef Michael didn’t have a coronary on the spot!  I got the evil eye look and was quickly informed that one only cooks inferior quality oysters, never PEI oysters!

Chef Michael Smith shucking Raspberry Point Oysters ("Taste of North Rustico" 2017)
Chef Michael Smith shucking Raspberry Point Oysters (“Taste of North Rustico” 2017)

But, on the upside, I gave him a good grade on his oyster shucking skills! He claims he’s shucked a few……a few thousand oysters that is!

Chef Michael Smith shucking Raspberry Point Oysters ("Taste of North Rustico" 2017)
Chef Michael Smith shucking Raspberry Point Oysters (“Taste of North Rustico” 2017)

I then made my way over to the station of PEI Fisherman’s Wharf Restaurant where they were serving up bowls of piping hot seafood chowder made with scallops, haddock, shrimp, and lobster in a traditional rue base.

Serving up Seafood Chowder from Fisherman's Wharf ("Taste of North Rustico" 2017)
Serving up Seafood Chowder from Fisherman’s Wharf (“Taste of North Rustico” 2017)

Perhaps you have heard of Fisherman’s Wharf Restaurant – they are famous for their traditional PEI lobster supper that also boasts a 60’ long salad bar. This is a very popular destination for many visitors to our Island.

Fisherman's Wharf Restaurant, North Rustico, PEI
Fisherman’s Wharf Restaurant, North Rustico, PEI

I also had to try one of the yummy fish tacos from their Pier 15 restaurant. Made with crispy haddock bits wrapped in corn tortillas and topped with pico de gallo, jalapeno lime slaw, and cilantro sour cream, these were a hot ticket item!

Putting the finishing touches on the Fish Taco from Pier 15 at Fisherman's Wharf ("Taste of North Rustico" 2017)
Putting the finishing touches on the Fish Taco from Pier 15 at Fisherman’s Wharf (“Taste of North Rustico” 2017)
Fish Taco from Pier 15 at Fisherman's Wharf ("Taste of North Rustico" 2017)
Fish Taco from Pier 15 at Fisherman’s Wharf (“Taste of North Rustico” 2017)

My next stop was at the Blue Mussel Café’s station where they were plating up their house-made charcuterie plates.

Preparing the Charcuterie Plates from Blue Mussel Café ("Taste of North Rustico" 2017)
Preparing the Charcuterie Plates from Blue Mussel Café (“Taste of North Rustico” 2017)
House Made Charcuterie Plates from Blue Mussel Café ("Taste of North Rustico" 2017)
House Made Charcuterie Plates from Blue Mussel Café (“Taste of North Rustico” 2017)

This was a very bountiful plate featuring roasted beet salmon gravlax, house smoked mackerel, local cheeses, apple blueberry chutney, pickled harvest vegetables, and a micro green salad.

House Made Charcuterie Plates from Blue Mussel Café ("Taste of North Rustico" 2017)
House Made Charcuterie Plates from Blue Mussel Café (“Taste of North Rustico” 2017)

The Blue Mussel Café is a busy and popular seasonal restaurant located near the North Rustico lighthouse and close to the Rustico beach.

Blue Mussel Café, North Rustico, PEI
Blue Mussel Café, North Rustico, PEI

From there, I made my way to the Yellow House’s station.  The Yellow House is a new restaurant in North Rustico, located right by the harbour. This restaurant has drawn great reviews.

The Yellow House Restaurant, North Rustico, PEI
The Yellow House Restaurant, North Rustico, PEI

You can see why it has quickly become a popular eating spot when you check out their mussel rolls – yes, those are tasty little PEI blue mussels with fennel, orange zest, and dill in a creamy sauce on one of the Yellow House’s signature house rolls.

Mussel Rolls from the Yellow House Restaurant in North Rustico, PEI ("Taste of North Rustico" 2017)
Mussel Rolls from the Yellow House Restaurant in North Rustico, PEI (“Taste of North Rustico” 2017)

They also served mini Acadian meat pies and smoked salmon bubble and squeak with PEI quail eggs but I wasn’t quick enough to get photos!

Jordan Liantzakis from PEI Charcuterie Prepares Trays at "Taste of North Rustico" 2017
Jordan Liantzakis from PEI Charcuterie Prepares Trays at “Taste of North Rustico” 2017

Coming from a little distance away in Westmoreland, near Crapaud, the PEI Charcuterie station was offering all kinds of their house-made charcuterie.

Tray of locally-made Charcuterie from PEI Charcuterie ("Taste of North Rustico" 2017)
Tray of locally-made Charcuterie from PEI Charcuterie (“Taste of North Rustico” 2017)

The folks from Glasgow Glen Farm, home of fine Island-made Gouda cheese, served up a tasty potato corn soup in small mason jars accompanied by buttermilk biscuits.

Homemade Potato and Corn Soup from Glasgow Glen Farm ("Taste of North Rustico" 2017)
Homemade Potato and Corn Soup from Glasgow Glen Farm (“Taste of North Rustico” 2017)

While folks were enjoying the roving feast of appetizers, North Rustico’s own Olivia Blacquiere provided musical entertainment.

Olivia Blacquiere Performing at "Taste of North Rustico" PEI Fall Flavours 2017 Event
Olivia Blacquiere Performing at “Taste of North Rustico” PEI Fall Flavours 2017 Event

The main meats consisted of a wood-fired mixed grill featuring PEI beef and Heritage Breed Berkshire pork sausage served with potato bannock.

Grilling over a Wood Fire at "Taste of North Rustico" 2017
Grilling over a Wood Fire at “Taste of North Rustico” 2017

This was overseen by the event’s guest chefs Connie DeSousa (a Top Chef Canada finalist) and John Jackson, co-owners of the Charcut Roast House in Calgary, Alberta.

Guest Chefs Connie DeSousa and John Jacson, Co-owners of Charcut Roast House in Calgary, AB ("Taste of North Rustico" PEI 2017)
Guest Chefs Connie DeSousa and John Jacson, Co-owners of Charcut Roast House in Calgary, AB (“Taste of North Rustico” PEI 2017)

It took a good trailer of wood to get the grillin’ done!

Firing up the Grill at the ""Taste of North Rustico" Event
Firing up the Grill at the “”Taste of North Rustico” Event
Sample of Grilled Beef and Pork at "Taste of North Rustico" 2017
Sample of Grilled Beef and Pork at “Taste of North Rustico” 2017

Upstreet Craft Brewing representatives were on hand serving up some of their famous microbrewed beer as well as their brand new line of soda pop introduced in 2017 – they currently have three flavours available – Strawberry Rhubarb Basil, Apple Ginger Elderflower, and Malt Spice Cola.

Pouring a sample of Upstreet Brewing Company's new soda - "Taste of North Rustico" 2017
Pouring a sample of Upstreet Brewing Company’s new soda – “Taste of North Rustico” 2017

And, for anyone with room left for dessert, the Blue Mussel Café delighted palates with chocolate bourbon mascarpone tartlets while the Yellow House served mini sugar pies.

Chocolate Bourbon Mascarpone Tartlets from the Blue Mussel Café - "Taste of North Rustico" 2017
Chocolate Bourbon Mascarpone Tartlets from the Blue Mussel Café – “Taste of North Rustico” 2017
Tarte au Sucre (Sugar Pie) from The Yellow House - "Taste of North Rustico" 2017
Tarte au Sucre (Sugar Pie) from The Yellow House – “Taste of North Rustico” 2017

Chef interaction is a big part of these types of culinary events. Unlike going to a typical restaurant where patrons would rarely, if ever, see the chef who prepared their meal, these culinary events are built around connection and direct communication with the chefs.  Not only could patrons chat with the chefs at the various grazing stations but, during the evening, Chef Michael Smith hosted an engaging question and answer period with guest chefs Connie DeSouza and John Jackson.

Chef John Jackson (left), Chef Connie DeSousa (center), and Chef MIchael Smith (right) at "Taste of North Rustico" 2017
Chef John Jackson (left), Chef Connie DeSousa (center), and Chef MIchael Smith (right) at “Taste of North Rustico” 2017

Folks were invited to ask them questions and some fun was had when they were asked to tell what their most embarrassing moments were as chefs and which beef they thought was best – PEI’s or Alberta’s. For the record, they capably and diplomatically handled that question very well!

Guest Chefs John Jackson and Connie DeSousa from Charcut Roast House in Calgary, AB, at "Taste of North Rustico" PEI 2017
Guest Chefs John Jackson and Connie DeSousa from Charcut Roast House in Calgary, AB, at “Taste of North Rustico” PEI 2017

A true North Rustico Kitchen Party would not be complete without some great local music.  Brendon Peters and friends provided lively tunes mixed in with some north shore humour.  Toes were tapping, hands were clapping, and those wooden spoons were put to good use.

Brendon Peters and Friends Performing at the Taste of North Rustico Kitchen Party (PEI Fall Flavours Festival 2017)
Brendon Peters and Friends Performing at the Taste of North Rustico Kitchen Party (PEI Fall Flavours Festival 2017)

The carefully designed and executed menu for this event reflected authentic foods local to the North Rustico and surrounding areas and it capably achieved what it intended – it gave visitors a “Taste of North Rustico” foods, culture, and heritage.

The PEI Fall Flavours Festival has grown to be one of PEI’s most anticipated events that offer visitors the opportunity to discover and experience the vast spectrum of food produced on PEI as the culinary events take them right in to the heart of food source locales, like North Rustico.

As I mentioned earlier, some visitors return each year especially to attend several PEI Fall Flavours events.  In fact, four of my tablemates at this event came from Regina, SK, and two of them have come to PEI for the past 10 years that Fall Flavours has existed.  Something I have observed this year from attending several Fall Flavours events and talking with visitors is the far distance that people travel specifically for this Festival and how many of the events they attend, and how long they vacation on the Island as a result of the Festival.  PEI has now earned its reputation as a fine authentic food destination that offers world class culinary experiences and events.

So, if you’re looking for taste bud tempting travel that will allow you to experience wonderful regional food specialities, musical culture, and a chance to explore our special little corner of the world, September is a great time to visit PEI. You’ll find endless opportunities to experience authentic local culture by indulging in our many fine foods and drinks, seeing spectacular scenery, meeting friendly and hospitable Islanders, and discovering talented local musicians.

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)
Toes, Taps, & Taters (2017)
Taste of Georgetown (2017)

A Taste of Georgetown, PEI

Each year, in September, Prince Edward Island celebrates its many fine local foods through a month-long culinary festival known as the PEI Fall Flavours Festival. The festival brings the hottest names in Canadian gastronomy to be guest hosts at various gourmand events held in iconic Island locations.

The celebrity chefs participate in the menu design and meal preparation that feature several of PEI’s local foods that come from the Island’s red fertile soil and rich marine waters that continue to make PEI a world-renowned food destination.   Each September, more and more foodie tourists make PEI their vacation destination so they can explore and enjoy our food culture and see for themselves where our food comes from by visiting farming communities and fishing villages across our picturesque Island.

Chefs Michael Smith (l) and Paul Rogalski (r) Shuck Oysters at "Taste of Georgetown" Event
Chefs Michael Smith (l) and Paul Rogalski (r) Shuck Oysters at “Taste of Georgetown” Event

In early September 2017, Chefs Michael Smith (of Fireworks Restaurant in PEI) and Paul Rogalski (of Calgary’s Rouge Restaurant) teamed up to celebrate the authentic food culture and heritage of Georgetown, PEI, a small, rural town in the eastern part of the Island, about 40 minutes from the capital city of Charlottetown. In what I’d class as an intimate evening of dining in the town’s theatre, the King’s Playhouse, the culinary duo carefully planned a five-course dinner that showcased local chefs and restaurateurs and, of course, fine meat, seafood, and produce, local to the area. This was “A Taste of Georgetown”.

King's Playhouse, Georgetown, PEI
King’s Playhouse, Georgetown, PEI

Upon arrival at the King’s Playhouse, patrons were offered a complimentary glass of Rossignol wine. Rossignol Winery is PEI’s oldest winery and is located in Little Sands, near Murray River.

Serving Rossignol Wine
Serving Rossignol Wine

The option also existed to sample locally-brewed seasonal blueberry ale from Upstreet Craft Brewing in Charlottetown.

Sampling Blueberry Ale from Upstreet Brewing Company
Sampling Blueberry Ale from Upstreet Brewing Company

And then…..the eating commenced with several appetizer stations both inside the theatre and in a tent adjacent to the Playhouse.

Chef, Amil Zavo, serving up Snow Crab Roulade
Chef, Amil Zavo, serving up Snow Crab Roulade

The Kings Playhouse Chef, Amil Zavo, served up Snow Crab Roulade stuffed with smoked mussels, roasted apples and cranberries, and garnished with cured herring roe, all served on a fennel crostini.

Snow Crab Roulade
Snow Crab Roulade

As patrons sipped on their beverage of choice and sampled the Snow Crab Roulade, they stopped to watch local artist, Margaret Wailes, create a painting of a local rural scene.  One lucky patron was the winner of the painting and went home with a lovely momento of the evening.

Artist, Margaret Wailes, create a painting of a local rural scene at "Taste of Georgetown" Event
Artist, Margaret Wailes, create a painting of a local rural scene at “Taste of Georgetown” Event

To the music of local musician, Taylor Johnson, folks made their way to the tent in the AA MacDonald Memorial Gardens just outside the King’s Playhouse.

PEI Musician, Taylor Johnson, Entertains Patrons at "Taste of Georgetown" Event
PEI Musician, Taylor Johnson, Entertains Patrons at “Taste of Georgetown” Event
AA MacDonald Memorial Gardens, Georgetown, PEI
AA MacDonald Memorial Gardens, Georgetown, PEI
Tent at Kings Playhouse for "A Taste of Georgetown" Culinary Event
Tent at Kings Playhouse for “A Taste of Georgetown” Culinary Event

Here, there were several activities underway that included demonstrations of lobster trap rigging and eel pot mending.  It was also fun to pick out a starfish collection to take home from Tranquility Cove Adventures.

Starfish
Starfish
PEI guitarist and singer, Barry O’Brien, performs at "Taste of Georgetown" Event
PEI guitarist and singer, Barry O’Brien, performs at “Taste of Georgetown” Event

Local guitarist and singer, Barry O’Brien, provided musical accompaniment while patrons checked out the shucking skills of Chef Michael Smith and Chef Paul Rogalski who were busy shucking “Brudenell Bully” oysters harvested from the waters in the Georgetown area.

Chefs Michael Smith and Paul Rogalski Shucking Oysters at "Taste of Georgetown" Event, PEI
Chefs Michael Smith and Paul Rogalski Shucking Oysters at “Taste of Georgetown” Event, PEI

 

Brudenell Bully Oysters from Georgetown, PEI
Brudenell Bully Oysters from Georgetown, PEI
Chef Paul Rogalski shucks Brudenell Bully Oysters at Taste of Georgetown Event
Chef Paul Rogalski shucks Brudenell Bully Oysters at Taste of Georgetown Event
Brudenell Bully Oysters from Georgetown, PEI
Brudenell Bully Oysters from Georgetown, PEI
Brudenell Bully Oysters Served with Frozen Bloody Mary
Brudenell Bully Oysters Served with Frozen Bloody Mary

The chefs kept their assistants on the hop making the tacos over an open fire and stuffing the mini tacos with the eel filling.

Eel Tacos
Eel Tacos
Making Tacos at "Taste of Georgetown" event
Making Tacos at “Taste of Georgetown” event

 

Making Eel Tacos at "Taste of Georgetown" event
Making Eel Tacos at “Taste of Georgetown” event

 

Eel Tacos
Eel Tacos

Tranquility Cove Adventures served fresh shucked bar clam hinges.

Clam Hinges
Clam Hinges

Those are some mighty big clams!

Clams
Clams

The MC for the dinner was Haley Zavo, Executive Director of the King’s Playhouse.

Taste of Georgetown 2017 Menu
Taste of Georgetown 2017 Menu

The five-course dinner was a plated meal served at attractively set tables.

Taste of Georgetown Event 2017
Taste of Georgetown Event 2017
Taste of Georgetown Event 2017
Taste of Georgetown Event 2017

To stimulate the appetite, Eden’s Gate Restaurant prepared the amuse-bouche of a seared scallop with lime aioli on micro greens.

Amuse-bouche: Seared scallop with lime aioli
Amuse-bouche: Seared scallop with lime aioli

This was followed by two starters, the first being a chunky home-made seafood chowder and biscuit from the Georgetown Historic Inn, just a stone’s throw from the Kings Playhouse.

Seafood Chowder
Seafood Chowder

The second starter was a salad with greens, smoked Island trout, diced oranges, almonds, pickled red capers, and goat cheese with a citrus poppy seed dressing, prepared by Eden’s Gate Restaurant.

Salad with Smoked Island Trout
Salad with Smoked Island Trout

The main course, inspired and prepared by guest chef, Paul Rogalski, was chargrilled beef petite filet served with baby PEI potatoes and cauliflower sauce.

Chargrilled beef petite filet served with baby PEI potatoes and cauliflower sauce
Chargrilled beef petite filet served with baby PEI potatoes and cauliflower sauce

The Georgetown Historic Inn and Eden’s Gate Restaurant teamed up to prepare the evening’s dessert finale – PEI blueberry cobbler served with vanilla ice cream and an apple rosette in a puff pastry drizzled with PEI Strait Rum and butter sauce.

Blueberry Cobbler
Blueberry Cobbler

Because this was a small dinner for about 80, it offered more direct interaction between patrons and both the celebrity chefs and local chefs who were involved with the meal preparation. Each of the participating chefs/restaurateurs was invited to explain the dish he or she was preparing and from where the ingredients were locally sourced.

Chef from Eden's Gate explains ingredients in salad
Chef from Eden’s Gate explains ingredients in salad

There were lots of opportunities to pose questions of the guest chefs, both of whom were very obliging in their responses.  There was certainly no problem to see how passionate Chef Michael and Chef Paul are about their chosen vocation and of how important it is for them to source fresh, quality ingredients from local food producers, fishers, and farmers.

"Treble with Girls" quartet entertaining at "Taste of Georgetown" Event 2017
“Treble with Girls” quartet entertaining at “Taste of Georgetown” Event 2017

“Treble with Girls”, a quartet of local talented musicians (left to right: Jolee Patkai, Maxine MacLennan, Sheila MacKenzie, and Norman Stewart) provided lively toe-tapping music throughout the evening, alternating with the accomplished pianist, Max Keenlyside, on piano.

Pianist Max Keenlyside entertains at "Taste of Georgetown" event 2017
Pianist Max Keenlyside entertains at “Taste of Georgetown” event 2017

“Taste of Georgetown” was one of three new Fall Flavours Festival culinary events introduced in 2017 (the other two are Taste of Tyne Valley and Taste of North Rustico – Rustico Kitchen Party).  The intent is that the events draw people to smaller local communities across the Island where they can discover all that makes PEI unique – the food, producers, landscapes, and the local people, particularly those involved in the food and music scene.

Because these culinary events tend to draw people who are already passionate about food, the PEI Fall Flavours Festival events are prime opportunities for the many local food and beverage producers and chefs to showcase their products, culinary skills, talents, and passion for authentic regional food to foodies.  Of course, it’s also a great way to introduce visitors to PEI to the vast spectrum of food and beverages available on the Island.

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)
Toes, Taps, & Taters (2017)

Local foods starred in the 2017 Taste of Georgetown culinary event, part of the PEI Fall Flavors Festival

 

Mead in Wheatley River, PEI – The Island’s New Honey Wine Meadery

Island Honey Wine Company's Wildflower Mead
Island Honey Wine Company’s Wildflower Honey Mead

In the small rural community of Wheatley River, not far from Hunter River in central PEI, the Island Honey Wine Company meadery produces unique wines made with fermented honey, otherwise known as “mead”.

Island Honey Company
Island Honey Wine Company, Wheatley River, PEI, Canada

Charles and Laura Lipnicki opened the doors to their meadery on July 7, 2017. The couple had vacationed on the Island a few years earlier, fell in love with it and its people, and decided they wanted to become Islanders too, so five years ago, they moved to PEI, first to North Rustico then later settling on to the farm in Wheatley River.

Charles and Laura Lipnicki, Owners of Island Honey Wine Company, Wheatley River, PEI, Canada
Charles and Laura Lipnicki, Owners of Island Honey Wine Company, Wheatley River, PEI, Canada

Charles had been making wine as a hobby for 25 years and always had a fascination with yeast.  Laura has a love of lavender and, having seen fields of lavender in Provence, wanted to have her own lavender field. Opportunity presented itself for location amidst the gentle rolling hills in Wheatley River and Laura now has that beautiful field of 1500 lavender plants and Charles has a new career in winemaking which, interestingly enough, merges with the lavender from the couple’s field, wildflowers, and fruits grown on the farm.

Lavender Field
Section of the Lavender Field in Bloom at Island Honey Wine Company, Wheatley River, PEI (Photo Submitted by Island Honey Wine Company)

In addition to the meadery itself, the couple operates a small certified organic farm called “La Serena” where they have six acres of fruit production that include hascaps, elderberries, and apples and they also raise some sheep, hens, and ducks.

The "grasscutting crew" at the Island Honey Wine Company, Wheatley River, PEI
The “grasscutting crew” at La Serena farm, home of the Island Honey Wine Company, Wheatley River, PEI

Charles says he started the meadery because he likes making “a value-added product that originates with products produced on the farm, products like honey, lavender, and fruits such as haskaps”.

Fermentation Tank at Island Honey Wine Company, Wheatley River, PEI
Fermentation Tank at Island Honey Wine Company, Wheatley River, PEI

Now, I have to be honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect in terms of flavor of mead. I say this because, several years ago, I was served a glass of mead in a castle in Ireland and, well, the drink was not to my liking.  However, I went on my visit to Island Honey Wine meadery with an open mind and I was more than pleasantly surprised.  The honey wine from the Island meadery is quite lovely.

Island Honey Wine Company's Wildflower Mead
Island Honey Wine Company’s Wildflower Honey Mead

The Island Honey Wine Company is currently producing four different kinds of meads for sale – lavender, wildflower, haskap, and nectar sweet dessert wine.  The products are presently sold only onsite at the meadery but Charles says they will soon be carried by the PEI Liquor Commission in their retail outlets.

Island Honey Wine Company's Wildflower Honey Mead
Island Honey Wine Company’s Wildflower Honey Mead

Of the four meads, I asked Charles which is the most popular.  He says the Wildflower mead is most popular and he believes this is because a glass of this mead takes one on a journey as flavor notes can be found in each taste based on the many different wildflowers the honeybees have visited which transfers into the flavor of the honey they produce. The wildflower wine is the most food-friendly and versatile of the three meads and I’ll talk a bit more about what that means later.

The quality of the mead produced at the Island Honey Wine Company has recently been validated through the winning of  medals at an International Wine competition in Virginia especially for non-grape wines.  The Nectar Sweet wine, with its sweet and lingering taste, secured a silver medal both the Wildflower and Haskap wines attained bronze medals. I think, once you sample their honey-based wines, you’ll understand why the wines have garnered these awards.

Honey
Honey

Honey, a fermentable sugar, is the base for all the meads and only raw honey is used. While the meadery has some beehives on the farm, they don’t have enough for adequate supply for the mead making.  Therefore, they source honey from other local producers. Most of the honey wine is produced in the winter months. According to Charles, the process for making honey-based mead is not a lot different from making traditional grape-based wines and the honey mead will take about 2½ – 3 months fermentation.

Fermentation Tanks
Stainless Steel Fermentation Tanks

Charles says one of his greatest satisfactions of making mead is seeing how people enjoy something that started just as an idea and that turned into a liquid to be enjoyed. Each of the honey wines has its own benefits and uses for certain times and, as Charles says, “each one is a snapshot in time and place with regards to honey because of the different flowers the bees visit“.

each one is a snapshot in time and place with regards to honey because of the different flowers the bees visit

I asked Charles to tell me how he would suggest pairing the three meads with foods.  Here are his recommendations:

Wildflower – With the broadest notes, this is the most food-friendly of the three meads. Pair this honey wine with poultry dishes, cheese, with desserts such as apple pie, or enjoy as a sipping wine after a day at the beach.

Wildflower Honey Mead from the Island Honey Wine Company, Wheatley River, PEI, Canada
Wildflower Honey Mead from the Island Honey Wine Company, Wheatley River, PEI, Canada
Lavender
Lavender

Lavender – This one-of-a-kind mead lends itself to saltier foods. This honey wine is a lovely accompaniment to PEI lobster, brook trout, sharp cheeses, and desserts like walnut baklava.  It also pairs particularly well with charcuterie trays. Charles says this is a unique and intimate wine reminiscent of the intimate relationship the bees share with the lavender flowers.  This is a versatile wine to be shared with good company or simply enjoyed solo with a good book.

Lavender Honey Mead from the Island Honey Wine Company, Wheatley River, PEI, Canada
Lavender Honey Mead from the Island Honey Wine Company, Wheatley River, PEI, Canada
Lavender Honey Mead (Photo Submitted by Island Honey Wine Company)
Lavender Honey Mead (Photo Submitted by Island Honey Wine Company)

Nectar Sweet – Classed as a dessert wine, Nectar Sweet pairs well with Brie cheese, dairy desserts like cheesecakes, crème brulée, and German chocolate cakes and caramel desserts.

Nectar Sweet Honey Mead from the Island Honey Wine Company, Wheatley River, PEI, Canada
Nectar Sweet Honey Mead from the Island Honey Wine Company, Wheatley River, PEI, Canada

You will also find some local artwork in the meadery’s tasting room along with several lavender products including locally-made lavender shortbread, soap, and similar items.

Island Honey Wine Company, Wheatley River, PEI
Inside the Tasting Room and Retail Shop at the Island Honey Wine Company, Wheatley River, PEI
Lavender Shortbread
Lavender Shortbread
Homemade Soaps from the Island Honey Wine Company, Wheatley River, PEI, Canada
Homemade Soaps from the Island Honey Wine Company, Wheatley River, PEI, Canada

Product tasting is available onsite in the newly-constructed meadery.  The wooden tasting bar is made from repurposed wood that came from one of the large old elm trees that had to be removed from the city of Charlottetown.

Charles Lipnicki pours a sample of one of his honey meads made at Island Honey Wine Company in Wheatley River, PEI
Charles Lipnicki pours a sample of one of his honey meads made at Island Honey Wine Company in Wheatley River, PEI
Island Honey Wine Company, Wheatley River, PEI, is PEI's first meadery dedicated to making mead with fermented honey and flowers and fruits from its own farm

The Island Honey Wine Company’s meadery is located at 820 Millboro Road in Wheatley River, in central PEI. For hours of operation and more information, visit their website at https://www.islandhoneywine.ca/

Tap the Toes and Taste the Taters!

 

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

 

Four Great Places for Breakfast on Prince Edward Island

Given a choice of which meal of the day to eat out, hands down, I’ll choose breakfast every time! I love eating breakfast out and sipping on that first cup of coffee as the tantalizing scents of breakfast preparation waft through the air in the dining room.

Coffee
French-Press Coffee

When I choose a restaurant for breakfast, I’m not looking for greasy diner fare. I’m looking for places that:

  • have a selection of breakfast menu items that extend beyond the standard/usual run-of-the-mill bacon, eggs, hashbrowns, and toast (although, admittedly, that’s sometimes exactly what I crave!);
  • cater to a gluten-free diet since one in our party follows this diet;
  • offer a dining experience which is to say the restaurant has some kind of ambiance – that could be energy and vibrancy, scenery, décor, etc;
  • support local food producers and use fresh, locally-produced ingredients;
  • provide consistency which is to say their food and service are consistently good over several visits; and
  • put some effort into food presentation.

Right out of the gate, I’ll tell you this is not a sponsored post and I wasn’t paid to do it. In fact, the restaurants I’m about to tell you about have no idea I was checking out their restaurants and writing about them on my food blog. So, what follows are my own personal impressions of four (4) great places on PEI that I choose for breakfast and we travel from Summerside to Murray Harbour to find them.

Barbara’s Choices:

  • Samuels Coffee House, Summerside
  • #5 Café, Murray Harbour
  • PEI Preserve Company, New Glasgow
  • Kettle Black, Charlottetown

Samuel’s Coffee House, 4 Queen Street, Summerside

Price Range: $2 – $10  (at time of writing)

I seriously love this place that opened in 2011 and I personally think they have the best coffee on the Island! Their coffee house is small and quaint (yes, you can even eat in the little vault!) but they pack big flavor in their light fare menu items and desserts.

Samuel's of Summerside, PEI
Samuel’s Coffee House, Summerside, PEI

Housed in the former, and now refurbished, Journal-Pioneer building, the large windows allow lots of natural light to permeate the dining area. This is casual style dining. You place your order at the counter, receive a table number and, when the food is ready, a server delivers it to your table. Complimentary Wifi is available.

A good selection of coffee types are available that include espresso, café mocha, café latte, espresso macchiato, cappuccino, and americano. They also, in my view, make the best paninis on the Island using local ingredients. These are perfect for brunch or a light lunch. If you check out their menu board, they’ll often list the food producer’s name by the ingredients they use so you know you are getting good, fresh, local fare.

Breakfast Sandwich
Breakfast Sam at Samuel’s Coffee House, Summerside, PEI

Their “Breakfast Sam” is a great breakfast or brunch choice and it is available in a gluten-free version as well (shown in the photo above).  With eggs, cheddar, ham, tomato, and spinach on a cheese bun (gluten version only with this particular bun; gluten-free is on toasted bread), this is simply a lovely way to start the day. Other breakfast items include their own house-made granola, homemade bread for toast, muffins and cinnamon rolls, and oatmeal.

In the summer months, Samuel’s also operates a coffee house at Avonlea Village in the resort municipality of Cavendish.

Samuel's in Cavendish, PEI
Samuel’s Coffee House Cavendish Location at Avonlea Village

#5 Café, 5 Church Street, Murray Harbour

Price Point: $9 – $11.50 (at time of writing)

Oh, this is a real little gem in the picturesque fishing village of Murray Harbour and absolutely worth the drive to eastern PEI.

#5 Cafe, Murray Harbour, PEI
#5 Cafe, Murray Harbour, PEI

Located in a decommissioned and repurposed church, the owner has kept much of the ambiance of the former church including the matched board walls and ceiling.  The small open- concept kitchen (seen in the photo below) now takes up the former altar and choir loft.

#5 Cafe, Murray Harbour, PEI
Open-concept Kitchen at #5 Cafe, Murray Harbour, PEI

The focus of food preparation at #5 Café is very much on the concept of clean food that is not full of additives and preservatives and that is made from scratch in their own kitchen.

#5 Café offers a wide variety of casual fare items on their menu but, bar none, their omelette is the best I’ve ever had!  Toast is made with their own homemade bread and you’ll often find locals dropping in to buy some of the bread to take home.  Gluten-free bread, though not made in-house, is also available with breakfast items.

Omelette at #5 Cafe, Murray Harbour, PEI
Omelette at #5 Cafe, Murray Harbour, PEI

Regardless the time of day, I’ll bet you can’t leave without checking out their dessert case and large glass jars filled with delectable cookies and other sweets! You just might find some homemade fudge in that dessert case as a sweet ending to breakfast or brunch!

#5 Café, Murray Harbour, PEI
#5 Café, Murray Harbour, PEI

Prince Edward Island Preserve Company, 2841 New Glasgow Road, New Glasgow

Price Point: $6 – $11 (at time of writing)

In operation since 1985, this restaurant is the “go-to” place for many Islanders (including me) for breakie on weekend mornings. You know the old saying “Go where the locals go and you’ll find good food”. Breakfast is served daily until 11:00am.

Prince Edward Island Preserve Company, New Glasgow, PEI
Prince Edward Island Preserve Company, New Glasgow, PEI

Open seasonally from the end of May to early October, be sure to look through the windows to the right as you enter the front doors. Here, most days, you can see the preserve-making process in action. This company is well-known for its production of preserves and spreads and many breakfast menu items are served with their own house-made preserves.

Breakfast Frittata, Prince Edward Island Preserve Company
Breakfast Frittata, Prince Edward Island Preserve Company

The bright open-concept dining room is surrounded by windows. Boasting a phenomenal view of the River Clyde, try to snag a table by the window so you can watch the many different birds at the feeders and fluttering amongst the beautiful flowers of the nearby Gardens of Hope. Complimentary Wifi is available in the dining room.

Breakfast Time!
It’s Breakfast Time for Everybody at the Prince Edward Island Preserve Company, New Glasgow, PEI
View from the window of the Prince Edward Island Preserve Company Restaurant alongside the River Clyde
View from the window of the Prince Edward Island Preserve Company Restaurant alongside the River Clyde
Traditional Country Breakfast
Traditional Country Breakfast at the Prince Edward Island Preserve Company, New Glasgow, PEI

This full-service restaurant has a great menu selection for breakfast and I’ve sampled most of them!

French Toast
French Toast, Prince Edward Island Preserve Company

Many items can be prepared gluten-free or vegetarian. Items range from granola to the standard country breakfast to French toast, pancakes, Belgian waffles, egg croissant to the breakfast frittata which is seriously the best I’ve ever had. Served in an au gratin dish, it’s filled with peppers, green onions, mushrooms, and three cheeses.  Served with sautéed potatoes and toast, this is the full meal deal and you won’t need to eat for the rest of the day!

Breakfast Frittata
Breakfast Frittata at the Prince Edward Island Preserve Company, PEI

Kettle Black, 45 Queen Street, Charlottetown

Price Point: $3.50 – $12 (at time of writing)

Located not far from the Charlottetown waterfront, this independently-owned coffee shop is housed in a refurbished historic building. Look for the bright sunflower yellow store front.

Inside, the exposed brick walls and high ceilings lend a European look and feel. A variety of seating options is available – tables, padded benches, bar stool and counter, and easy chairs.  This is casual dining where you place your order at the register, pick up your beverage, find a table, and a server will then deliver your order to your table. Complimentary Wifi is available.

Breakfast is served all day! Breakfast items range from bagels, Belgian-style waffle, homemade granola and yogurt, and frittata.  Known especially for their types of coffees, they roast organic coffee beans in-house and you can get your lattés, cappuccinos and mochaccinos as well as standard americano coffees here.

My choice at Kettle Black is the frittata that is served with a tasty side salad and toast (gluten-free bread is available).

Breakfast Frittata
Breakfast Frittata at Kettle Black, Charlottetown, PEI

Together, these four establishments offer a wide variety of tasty breakfast fare.

Four Great Places on PEI for Breakfast

 

PEI Foods Featured in President’s Choice “#EatTogether” Campaign for Canada 150

There are basically two common, non-controversial, safe topics that can form the basis of a conversation start with just about anyone – the weather and food! And, food is the one that will bring people together!

On Saturday, May 6, 2017, the Atlantic Superstore in Summerside, PEI, was the venue for a luncheon where 32 people sat down to lunch together. Most did not know each other and had not met before Saturday. They happened to show up at the supermarket on a Saturday morning and found themselves invited to dine at a pop-up luncheon in the midst of the produce section.

"Eat Together"
“Eat Together” Event at Atlantic Superstore in Summerside, PEI

You see, Loblaws has this cool Canada 150 project underway to celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday.  Six of their supermarkets across Canada have been selected to host one of these special events that features the local foods of the region in which the event is held. The locations for the cross-country tour celebrating Canada’s regional cuisines are Ottawa, Calgary, Richmond, Summerside, Wolfville, and Montreal. Summerside was the fourth stop on the tour. Known as the #EatTogether campaign, the overarching theme is to get Canadians to come together, sit down over a meal, engage in conversation, and share stories about their favorite dishes and local cuisine. Talking about PEI foods is never a problem for Islanders because we love our foods and love to talk about them! Fishing and agriculture are two of our primary industries on the Island and both generate drool-worthy foods!

Tracy Moore and Chef Tom Filippou
Cityline Show Host Tracy Moore and PC Executive Chef Tom Filippou at “Eat Together” Event at Atlantic Superstore, Summerside, PEI

President’s Choice (PC) Executive Chef, Tom Filippou, and Cityline show host, Tracy Moore, presented a PEI-themed meal. For readers who are Islanders and those who have visited PEI, you’ll know that PEI food culture revolves around the land and sea.  The Island is known for great food – think potatoes, mussels, and lobsters. I asked Chef Filippou what inspired the dishes they chose to feature for the PEI-themed meal. He said that President’s Choice surveyed Canadians about what foods resonated with them and, when it came to PEI, our potatoes, lobsters, and mussels topped the list. He says those foods are amazing as they are but he put his own stamp on them by, for example, using lobster in a traditional Mac ‘n Cheese dish and cooking the pasta for it in the stock in which the lobster was steamed, thus deepening the lobster flavor in the dish. He says Summerside was a good choice as one of the six venues because the Island has such a rich history of seafood and agriculture and has so much to offer (for a menu that is regionally inspired).

Lobster Mac 'n Cheese
Lobster Mac ‘n Cheese, “Eat Together” Event at Atlantic Superstore in Summerside, PEI

The meal started with big bowls of mussels steamed in local PEI beer, followed by breaded chicken cutlets, potato salad, garlic bread, and the lobster Mac ‘n Cheese.

Chicken
Breaded Chicken Cutlets

This rustic potato salad made with mini potatoes was amazing!

Potatoes
Potato Salad

For dessert, diners enjoyed yummy sticky date pudding with toffee sauce along with butter tarts.

Pudding
Sticky Date Pudding
Chef Tom Filippou
PC Executive Chef Tom Filippou at Eat Together Event at Atlantic Superstore in Summerside, PEI

Asked what inspired the idea for the #EatTogether campaign, Chef Filippou says that food brings people together so the idea of a pop-up dinner party in the middle of a supermarket seemed like a great idea. People lead busy lives and many seem to spend a lot of time on their electronic devices and less time connecting with, and getting to know, each other so the aim is to get people to slow down a bit, take a deep breath, sit down at a table together, and enjoy good food and each other’s company.  What better way to set the example than on a busy Saturday morning with shoppers hurrying about to pick up groceries. Imagine whirling in with a grocery cart and the first thing you come across is a beautifully set long table alongside the produce section! I have to say it was a very impressive sight, especially from the vantage point of the store’s upper level.

Loblaws
Atlantic Superstore, Summerside, PEI

The photo below shows the area of the store where the celebrity meet and greet was held.  Have to love that backdrop of bags of PEI potatoes!

Summer Display at Summerside's Atlantic Superstore
Atlantic Superstore, Summerside, PEI

People live busy fast-paced lives with family members hurrying off to activities in different directions and many live and breathe being connected to their phones and computers/electronic devices. It seems, in many homes, the routine of regular family meal times  where family members all sit down together over a prepared meal, decompress, and discuss the happenings of their day and, well, just get to know one another, may be going by the wayside.  President’s Choice did some research on this topic and learned that only 38% of Canadians eat dinner together 4-6 times a week. 45% watch TV while eating, 15% listen to the radio, and 14% are on the Internet.

So, for the 32 people who dined at the communal table in the produce section of the Summerside Atlantic Superstore on a Saturday morning, it didn’t take long for them to connect with their fellow diners and for the storytelling to begin.  Food arrived on the table and conversations soon turned to food-related subjects and stories about the foods in their kitchens and what food means to special events like birthdays and holidays throughout the year.

Cityline Host Tracy Moore
Cityline Host Tracy Moore (right) shares a laugh with a diner at the Eat Together Event at the Atlantic Superstore in Summerside, PEI

Once the initial photos of the two celebrity hosts were taken, the electronic devices actually disappeared and, dare I say it – wait for it….. were actually forgotten about and strangers simply talked with each other over a tasty meal. Tracy Moore and Chef Tom Filippou proved to be entertaining and  engaging hosts and people easily opened up to them talking about their own culinary influences.

Tom Filippou and Tracy Moore
PC Executive Chef Tom Filippou and Cityline Show Host, Tracy Moore

This was a well executed event and a tip of the hat is due to the PC culinary team that pulled this event together to showcase PEI foods. Well done! To check out the PC #EatTogether video, click on this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vDuA9OPyp6I

Disclosure:  I was invited to attend this event so that I could share my experience with my blog readers. My opinions and impressions of it are my own.

#EatTogether

Setting Day on Prince Edward Island Can Only Mean One Thing

Setting Day
Setting Day, French River, PEI

Setting Day on Prince Edward Island can only mean one thing…..it heralds the opening of the spring lobster fishery and a fresh feed of PEI lobster from the cold Atlantic waters will follow soon after!

Lobster
Lobster in the Shell

 

lobster traps
Lobster Traps at French River, South Landing Wharf, PEI, Canada

Lobster fishers spend many weeks in advance of Setting Day preparing their lobster traps and fishing boats for the upcoming season.

Malpeque Harbour, PEI
Lobster Boats at Malpeque Harbour, PEI, Canada

As the time grows closer to Setting Day, visits to Island wharves are an interesting activity.  Boats, looking all spiffy, are in the water, and wharves are stacked high with traps just waiting to become the deep sea inns for lobster. This year, I visited six Island wharves in the two days leading up to Setting Day.

Lobster Fishing Boats at Malpeque Harbour, PEI, Canada
Lobster Fishing Boats at Malpeque Harbour, PEI, Canada

I like to visit wharves the eve of Setting Day. The boats are heavy laden with traps, fishers are checking and double-checking their gear, and the conversations are animated with excitement and anticipation of the upcoming lobster season.  There will be claims as to who owns the fastest boat, who will sail out first, and so on. The mood is jovial and a lot of good-natured banter can be heard.

Lobster Fishing
Lobster Boats Loaded with Traps for Setting Day, North Rustico, PEI, Canada

 

Lobster Traps
Fishermen at Malpeque Harbour Check Their Lobster Traps in Preparation for Setting Day
Lobster Traps
Double-checking the Lobster Traps, Malpeque Harbour, PEI

I’m not sure I could figure out the ropes of this business but they sure are colorful!

Ropes
Colorful Ropes

So, too, are the many different colors of buoys.

Buoys
Colorful Buoys
Lobster Traps
Traditional Lobster Traps

PEI has two lobster seasons. The first runs from May until the end of June and the second from August until October.  Some claim (and I agree) that the lobster that is caught in the early season is the most tasty and tender as it comes from the colder waters.

Lobster Boats
Lobster Boats, New London Harbour, PEI, Canada

On PEI, the spring fishery tends to get the most attention because these are the boats that are first out of the gate to open the fishery season. There is a lot of hype associated with Setting Day.

Lobster Fishing
Boats Loaded with Lobster Traps for Setting Day, North Rustico, PEI, Canada

North Rustico is one of the more colorful fishing ports and draws a lot of summer tourists who enjoy watching the activity of the fishing boats.

Preparing for Setting Day
Eve of Setting Day in the Fishing Village of North Rustico, PEI, Canada

Regardless whether one is directly involved in the fishery or not, Setting Day is a big deal for many Islanders. This is the day that fishers head out with their boats for the first time in the season to lay the traps to catch the lobsters.

Lobster Boat Loaded with Traps
Trap Setting Day

There are many wharves around the Island and the same common scene plays out – friends, neighbours, and family members get up long before daybreak and head to nearby wharves or beaches to watch the parade of boats as they head out with their loads of traps. It’s a sign of support to the fishers for the work they do.

Waiting for the Lobster Boats
Waiting for the Parade of Lobster Boats on Setting Day in French River, PEI, Canada

The last couple of years, I have headed to French River which is about 45 minutes from Charlottetown.  Boats are not permitted to leave the harbour until 6:00am but spectators need to be in place by about 5:40am as boats pull away from the wharves and get in to position for take-off and they lose no time when the clock strikes 6:00am. As one fisherman told me, come 6:00am, it’s “game on” and it’s very competitive as the boats charge out to sea to the cheers and delight of the bystanders! If you have never stood on a beach on PEI at sunrise and watched dozens of lobster boats heading out to work, you have missed a magical and moving experience.

Parade of Lobster Boats
Early Morning Gathering in French River, PEI, to Watch Parade of Lobster Boats on Setting Day

In 2017, when this article is being written, Setting Day was on Saturday, April 29th. Island lobster fishers don’t fish on Sundays so the first haul from the traps will be on Monday. With the exception of Sundays, fishers check their traps daily during lobster season.  Close to 1000 boats were expected to leave the wharves on Setting Day this year.

Parade of Lobster Boats Heading out to Sea
Heading out to Drop off the Lobster Traps on Setting Day
Lobster Fishing Boats
Heading Out With a Load of Lobster Traps, French River, PEI

A few years ago, I happened to be in North Lake, in the Islander’s eastern part of the province, mid-morning, as the lobster boats were coming back in with their daily catch. It’s a beehive of activity when they all arrive back in port with crates full of lobster!

Lobster Boat
Lobster Boat Loaded with the Day’s Catch, North Lake, PEI, Canada

North Lake is a large harbour and it’s really cool to watch the boats enter the port through this narrow entrance. Sometimes, it’s almost a traffic jam on the “North Lake Freeway” as the boats converge to come into the wharf with their catch.

Lobster Boat
Lobster Boat Arriving Back in Port with the Day’s Catch, North Lake, PEI, Canada

Heading for a “parking spot” to unload the catch.

Fishing Harbour
North Lake Harbour, PEI, Canada

Unloading the day’s catch.

Daily Catch
Unloading the Day’s Catch, North Lake, PEI, Canada

Here’s a look at what’s in those crates!

PEI Lobsters
Fresh Catch of the Day – PEI Lobsters

While there are many recipes that call for lobster as an ingredient, Islanders typically eat the steamed lobster straight from the shell for their first feed of the season.

Fresh PEI Lobster
Steamed Lobster in the Shell
Steamed Lobster
Lobster in the Shell
How to Eat Lobster, PEI Style
Cracking Open the Lobster

Served hot or cold, according to one’s preference, lobster is a divine treat when dipped in melted butter.  On PEI, lobster is most commonly served with potato salad, coleslaw, sometimes other kinds of salads and, of course, homemade rolls.

Potato Salad
My Island Bistro Kitchen’s PEI Potato Salad

You can find my recipe for potato salad here and for my pan rolls here.

Lobster Dinner
Traditional PEI Lobster Dinner

Once I have had that first feed of lobster, I am ready to use it as an ingredient in other dishes. One of my more popular recipes is the one for Lobster Cakes. You can access my recipe for these tasty savory cakes here.

Lobster Cakes
PEI Lobster Cakes

Another favorite recipe for using lobster is Lobster Newburg. It is lovely served in puff pastry shells.  And, of course, there is always the perennial favorite – Lobster Rolls! A couple of great places to get lobster rolls on PEI are Richard’s Seafood Eatery on the wharf in Covehead and at Dave’s Lobster in Charlottetown.

And the great lobster that we enjoy comes thanks to the fishers who head out, sometimes in rolling seas, to fish the lobster.

Lobster Fishing
Lobster Fishing in all weather on PEI

And, other times, the fishers get to see the most amazing sunrises!

Setting Day
Heading Out With a Load of Lobster Traps

Lobster fishing is a big part of the Island culture and way of life. The seafood sector is one of PEI’s main industries. PEI has some very picturesque harbours and wharves like French River seen in the photograph below. It is so popular with photographers that a lookout has been created so that people can safely pull off the road to photograph its beauty.

PEI Fishing Harbour
French River, PEI

As I finish this posting, the first catches of the season are in…..now, where is that lobster bib…….

Lobster Supper
A PEI Lobster Feed

Setting Day marks the beginning of the PEI lobster fishing season as fishers set their lobster traps in the water

Lobster Trap Setting Day on Prince Edward Island

Famous Island Shellfish Featured at PEI Mussels on the Hill Event

On a lovely Sunday afternoon on a hill in beautiful Clinton, PEI, the 2016 PEI Fall Flavours Culinary Festival came to a conclusion with a finale event featuring one of PEI’s finest shellfish – mussels.

The photo below shows an example of the mussel sock in which mussels grow.

Mussel Sock
Mussels in the Sock in Which They are Grown

According to the PEI 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. So, it is only fitting that an Island culinary festival would dedicate an entire event to featuring mussels.

Clinton Hills, PEI
Clinton Hills, PEI

The Clinton Hills venue, frequently used for wedding receptions, proved to be a great location for this function which was hosted by guest celebrity chefs Anna and Michael Olson who are no strangers to the PEI Fall Flavours Culinary Festival. Anna and Michael have been a part of the Festival for many years and often host two to three signature events at the Festival each year.

Chef Anna Olson and Chef Michael Olson
Chefs Anna and Michael Olson

The event began with a large campfire upon which the mussels were steamed.

Steaming Mussels on an Open Fire
Steaming Mussels on an Open Fire

Yes, those tightly wrapped tinfoil packets contain mussels.

Campfire
Tending the Fire

Everything always tastes better cooked over an open fire! Opening up the tinfoil packets revealed these tasty treats. Three options were available: Mussels steamed in white wine, orange juice, or a Caesar mix, all with aromatics added.

PEI Mussels
Steamed PEI Mussels

Mussels and corn on the cob are a great combo!

Mussels and Corn on the Cob
Mussels and Corn on the Cob

Chef Anna is checking out the yummy mussels.

Chef Anna Olson
Chef Anna Olson
Serving up the Steamed Mussels and Corn on the Cob
Serving up the Steamed Mussels and Corn on the Cob

Even chefs, like the rest of us foodies, just have to photograph their food before consuming it!

Chef Anna and Chef Michael Olson
Chef Anna and Chef Michael Olson

Around the campfire….

Around the Campfire
Around the Campfire

Any good party on PEI will have lively music. The strolling musicians were Mark Haines (fiddle) and Brad Fremlin (accordian).

Island Musicians Mark Haines (left) and Brad Fremlin (right)
Island Musicians Mark Haines (left) and Brad Fremlin (right)
Island Musician, Mark Haines
Island Musician, Mark Haines

After enjoying the mussels and corn by the campfire, folks moved over to the large tent just outside the event barn.

Clinton Hills, PEI
Mussels on the Hill Event at Clinton Hills, PEI (2016)

The PEI Brewing Company was serving some of their award winning beer.

PEI Beer
PEI Brewing Company Beer

Nova Scotia’s Benjamin Bridge Winery was the 2016 wine sponsor for the PEI Fall Flavours Culinary Festival.  They were pouring their famous Nova 7 wine. One of the great things about culinary festivals is the opportunity to discover new products. I discovered the Nova 7 wine at the PEI Fall Flavours Culinary Festival events in 2015 when Benjamin Bridge was also the wine sponsor.  This wine is an aromatic light-bodied  effervescent wine with a beautiful salmon or light coral color. Look for appealing aromatics with lovely floral and fruit notes in this wine. The Nova 7 is a very versatile wine, perfect for sipping or for pairing with a variety of foods, including seafood which made it a suitable accompaniment to the mussel dishes served at this event.

Nova Scotia Wine
Benjamin Bridge’s Nova 7 Wine

Making my rounds inside the tent, I started with a bowl of delectable homemade mussel chowder.

Mussel Chowder
Mussel Chowder
Chowder
Mussel Chowder

This was followed by yummy mussel fritters served in slider rolls.

Serving Mussel Fritters
Serving Mussel Fritters

I had not had mussel fritters before and these were super tasty!

Mussels
Mussel Fritters

Mussel Fritters in Slider Rolls
Mussel Fritters in Slider Rolls

Upstairs in the main event barn, lobster poutine was being served. This was one event where you wanted to make sure you left the diet at home!

Poutine
Mussel Poutine

Anna and Michael did a demo of their favorite ways to steam mussels and adding aromatics to enhance the flavor of these tasty morsels. I like when the event also has a learning component to it.

Chefs Anna and Michael Olson at Clinton Hills, PEI (2016)
Chefs Anna and Michael Olson at Clinton Hills, PEI (2016)

Wagon rides around the farm were available throughout the afternoon. This was a rather stylish wagon ride with its benches!

Hayride
Hayride at Clinton Hills

If you are a foodie, then I recommend a trip to PEI in September when the whole month is dedicated to culinary events featuring one or more of the Island’s fine foods. It’s a great way to learn about the foods of PEI, try some new foods or new and different ways to serve them, and hear some great local musicians.

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)

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PEI Fall Flavors Culinary Festival
Chefs Anna and Michael Olson at PEI’s Mussels on the Hill Culinary Event

PEI’s Great Big Barbeque

One of the 2016 signature events for the PEI Fall Flavours Culinary Festival was the Great Big Barbeque.  Hosted by celebrity chef, Mark McEwan, this event was held at the PEI Brewing Company in Charlottetown.

Chef Mark McEwan
Chef Mark McEwan

The Great Big Barbeque was a roving feast with food stations set up around the perimeter of the brewery as well as on the second level.

Roving Among the Food Stations at PEI's Great Big Barbeque
Roving Among the Food Stations at PEI’s Great Big Barbeque

In total, there were nine different food stations each featuring a local Island Chef with a signature dish.

Benjamin Bridge Winery, the 2016 Festival wine sponsor, greeted each patron with a glass of their Nova 7 wine.

Wine
Benjamin Bridge Wine

The PEI Brewing Company was kept busy serving small mugs of their handcrafted Gahan Ale straight from the tank. You can read the story I previously wrote about this brewery by clicking here.

PEI Brewing Company
Gahan Ale fresh from the tank at the PEI Brewing Company
Beer
Locally brewed beer from the PEI Brewing Company

The main event hall was set up with picnic tables.  From here, patrons circulated around the food stations in the order of their choosing.

The Great Big Barbeque at the PEI Brewing Company, Charlottetown, PEI
The Great Big Barbeque at the PEI Brewing Company, Charlottetown, PEI

The Adam MacGregor Band provided lively entertainment for the evening.

Adam MacGregor Band Performing at PEI's Great Big Barbeque
Adam MacGregor Band Performing at PEI’s Great Big Barbeque

Station #1 – PEI Seafood Chowder

Chef Kyle Panton (Simms Corner Steakhouse and Oyster Bar) was kept busy dishing out his award-winning seafood chowder which he served in small glass jars.

Seafood Chowder
Chef Kyle Panton

The chowder was accompanied by homemade biscuits, always a winning combo.

Biscuits
Homemade Biscuits

Station #2 – Lobster Poutine

Chef Brad MacDonald (The Brickhouse Kitchen and Bar) served up a dish featuring Island lobster and potatoes in the form of lobster poutine – hand-cut fries with a lobster veloute and melted cheese curds.

Serving up Lobster Poutine
Serving up Lobster Poutine
Poutine
Lobster Poutine

Station #3 – Glasgow Glen Farm’s Grilled Cheese

Jeff McCourt, chef and cheesemaker, from Glasgow Glen Farm in New Glasgow served an open-faced grilled Gouda cheese sandwich with smoked salmon and apple slaw on baguette slices.

Grilled Cheese Sandwich
Glasglow Glen Farm’s Open-faced Grilled Gouda Cheese Sandwich
Adding the Apple Relish
Adding the Apple Slaw
Grilled Cheese Sandwich
Open-faced Grilled Gouda Cheese Sandwich with Smoked Salmon and Apple Slaw on Baguette Slices

Station #4 – PEI Brewing Company Wood Fire Pizza

The brewery has a wood fire brick oven which was kept hopping with fresh made-to-order pizzas.

Wood-fired Brick Oven
Wood-fired Pizza
Pizza
Wood-fired Pizza

Station #5 – Island Striploin with Lobster Béarnaise

Chefs Cody Wallace (Fishbones Oyster Bar and Seafood Grill) and Jordan Dennis (Sobeys West Royalty) teamed up to present grilled PEI beef striploin with lobster béarnaise.

Steak with Lobster Sauce
PEI Beef Striploin with Lobster Béarnaise
Beef Striploin
PEI Beef Striploin with Lobster Béarnaise
Beef Striploin
PEI Beef Striploin with Lobster Béarnaise

Station #6 – Island Beef Burger

The barbeques were kept busy grilling the slider beef burgers which Chef Brock MacDonald (The Gahan House) presented on cornbread brioche with avocado mayo, pickled red onions, and peppercorn blue cheese.

Station #7 – Marinated BBQ Kabobs

A huge barbeque at the brewery’s side door was filled with veggie kabobs consisting of zucchini, peppers, mushrooms, and tomatoes grilled in a smoky Gahan Iron Bridge Brown Ale BBQ sauce. These were the creation of Chef Andrew Cotton (Merchantman Fresh Seafood and Oyster Bar).

Kabobs
Veggie Kabobs
Kabobs
Veggie Kabobs in a Smoky Gahan Iron Bridge Brown Ale BBQ Sauce

Station #8 – Freshly Shucked PEI Oysters

Sous Chef Alexandre Jolin (The Barrington Steakhouse and Oyster Bar) ensured lots of PEI oysters were shucked and ready for patrons.

Oyster Shucking
Shucking the PEI Oysters
Oysters
Raw PEI Oysters Ready for Slurping!

Station # 9 – S’Mores Dessert Bar

This bar was set up so patrons could toast their own marshmallows to make S’Mores.

S'Mores Dessert Bar
S’Mores Dessert Bar

This was a lively and interactive event and the brewery was an ideal location for this casual barbeque. It was great to see so many local Island chefs featured. We have a lot of great things happening on the food scene on PEI and the barbeque offered the opportunity to sample many of them.

Follow these links for stories I have written on other PEI Fall Flavours Culinary 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)
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)
Le Festin acadien avec homard/Acadian Feast with Lobster (2016)

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Barbeque
PEI’s Great Big Barbeque

PEI Fall Flavors Event: Le Festin acadien avec homard

September heralds the beginning of the annual PEI Fall Flavours 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 Flavours 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 Flavours 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.

PEI Musicians Performing at Le Festin acadien avec homard event, Abram-Village, PEI, 2016
Musicians Performing at “Le Festin acadien avec homard” Fall Flavours event, Abram-Village, PEI, 2016

The event was hosted by celebrity chef, Anna Olson, who is no stranger to the PEI Fall Flavours Culinary Festival as she and her husband, Michael, return to the Island annually to participate in the culinary events.

Chef Anna Olson
Chef Anna Olson at “Le Festin acadien avec homard” Fall Flavours Event, Abram-Village, PEI, 2016

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!

Chef Anna Olson
Chef Anna Olson

Here was the menu for the dinner:

Menu for 2016 Le Festin acadien avec homard
Menu for 2016 Le Festin acadien avec homard

Upon arrival in the dining hall, guests were greeted with a complimentary glass of Benjamin Bridge’s Nova 7 wine.

Benjamin-Bridge Wine
Benjamin Bridge 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.

Benjamin Bridge Wine
Benjamin Bridge Nova 7 Wine

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.

PEI Mussels
Steamed PEI Mussels

The dinner was held in a large community hall and served, family style, at long tables.

PEI Fall Flavors Culinary Festival event
“Le Festin acadien avec homard” PEI Fall Flavours Culinary Festival event 2016 in Abram-Vilage, PEI

Servers, in traditional Acadian attire, brought the prepared dishes to each table.

PEI Fall Flavors Culinary Festival
“Le Festin acadien avec homard” PEI Fall Flavours Culinary Festival Event, Abram-Village, PEI, 2016

Guests then passed the dishes, from one to another, around the table, serving themselves.

Lobster Dinner
Serving lobster at “Le Festin acadien avec homard” in Abram-Village, PEI

The four-course dinner began with a bowl of Chicken Fricot, also known as chicken soup. This is a very popular Acadian dish.

Chicken Soup
Chicken Fricot, a popular Acadian soup

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.

Biscuits
French Biscuits

The second course consisted of two long-time Acadian favorites: Râpure and Acadian Meat Pie.

Acadian Meat Pie and Râpure
Acadian Meat Pie (left) and Râpure (right)

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.

Shellfish
PEI Lobster

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.

Salad
Potato Salad

And, for dessert, fresh blueberry pie made with in-season local berries.

Pie
Blueberry Pie

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 Flavours 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)
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)
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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Lobster
PEI Lobster served at “Le Festin acadien avec homard” PEI Fall Flavors Culinary Festival

Picnic by the Confederation Bridge in PEI

A PEI Picnic
Picnic by the Confederation Bridge

Picnics are a favorite summertime activity for us. We like to do a lot of daytripping around our province discovering and revisiting all that our wonderful Island has to offer.  Prince Edward Island has many great locations that are suitable for picnics.  Our picnic last weekend took us to a scenic location near the Confederation Bridge in Borden-Carleton.

Bridge between PEI and New Brunswick
Confederation Bridge

This bridge transcends the Northumberland Strait linking PEI with New Brunswick. At 12.9km (8 miles) in length, the bridge is the longest bridge in the world that crosses ice-covered water. Our Island winters can be quite harsh and the Strait is covered in thick ice for several months of the year. Building a bridge to withstand these conditions was no easy feat.

Before the bridge opened to traffic on May 31, 1997, the only ways on and off PEI were by ferry or air.  Ferry service does still operate seasonally in the Eastern part of the Province at Wood Islands where ferries transport vehicular traffic between PEI and Nova Scotia.

The Confederation Bridge curves partway across the Strait and has a high navigational span that allows large ships to pass under the bridge.  It’s pretty cool to see the large cruise ships going under the bridge!

Because the Confederation Bridge is an iconic element of PEI, it makes a fitting backdrop for a summertime Island picnic.

Summer Picnic in PEI
Bridge View

So, now that the stage has been set for the location, back to the picnic……I have chosen to go with a black and white theme and I’m a big fan of checkered fabric – checks just seem to speak of picnics. I have chosen to use my plain black dinner napkins and have wrapped the cutlery inside the napkins. This is easy to do before leaving home and it keeps the items together.  To give the classy black napkins a more casual look for a picnic, I have tied each napkin with narrow twine.

To add a punch of color to the table, I selected small bright yellow sunflowers paired with Bells of Ireland.  Whether I am setting the table for an event at home or on the road, I like to see a well set table! These flowers were locally grown at Island Meadow Farm in York, PEI.  They grow the most amazing array of flowers and I like to use them in my summer tablesettings.

Summer Flowers
Sunflowers and Bells of Ireland

Picnics are meant to be casual fare so, while I always try to have a main, a side, some fruit, something sweet, and a beverage, I often like to include some finger/snacking foods as I have done today.  Let’s start with the PEI mussels in the shell. These are steamed mussels to which I have added some red and orange pepper, celery, and red onion. A light dressing of a red wine vinaigrette makes these tasty little morsels.

Mussels
PEI Mussels

Cold cuts, cherry tomatoes, and cucumber are always good nibbling foods (and they add great color to the table).

Cold Cut Tray
The Nibbling Tray

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I wrapped peach wedges inside basil leaves and prosciutto (seen in the photo below). These little picnic hors d’oeuvres add color, texture, and flavor to the menu. They go particularly well with Gouda cheese.