Tag Archives: Chef Michael Smith

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

 

Dinner at Chef Michael Smith’s New PEI Restaurant, “FireWorks”

If you are a fan of Chef Michael Smith, one of Canada’s top celebrity chefs and noted cookbook author, you probably know he and his wife, Chastity, bought The Inn at Bay Fortune in eastern Prince Edward Island late last spring.  This was the Inn where Chef Michael once worked and where his first TV show, The Inn Chef, was filmed.

The Inn at Bay Fortune, PEI, Canada
The Inn at Bay Fortune, PEI, Canada

Early in the summer, Chef Michael completely renovated and transformed the kitchen and dining experience at the Inn.  Named for its newly-constructed 25-foot brick-lined, wood-burning fire over, through, and about which the meal is cooked, FireWorks Restaurant  opened for the 2015 tourist season to rave reviews.

On Sundays this fall, the Inn celebrates the harvest season by hosting what the culinary team refers to as “Islander Day“.

Offered on a slightly different scale and lower price point than their usual evening feast (which is priced at $80 per guest + HST at time of writing), the Sunday event offers a three-course (I’d say it’s four courses, counting the salad) harvest menu that includes fresh bread baked in their wood-fired brick oven served with brown butter, turkey-vegetable soup, green salad, a choice of entree (Beef Stew, Pork Loin, or Halibut) served with garden-fresh vegetables and, as a finale, a freshly-baked harvest dessert. Reservations are not accepted for the Sunday event but the meal is served continuously, on a first come first served basis,  from 12 noon until 7pm.  The restaurant has the capacity to serve about 50 people at a time. The cost for the Sunday meal is $40 per adult guest and $20 per child under age 12 + HST.

At the beginning of this year, we made a commitment to, once a month, dine at a restaurant we’ve not eaten at before and we’ve stuck to it so, this past Sunday, my mom and I made our way to the new FireWorks Restaurant at the Inn at Bay Fortune which is about a 45-50 minute drive east from Charlottetown.  And, the experience did not disappoint, especially since Chef Michael himself was in the kitchen on this particular day! This is one busy guy who travels a lot so we were quite thrilled that he was on the Island in his FireWorks kitchen on the day we chose to dine at his new restaurant.

Chef Michael Smith
Chef Michael Smith

While I don’t normally write restaurant reviews per se on my food blog or write about my dining-out experiences, I felt this one is in keeping with my blog’s focus of eating local foods when possible and is sufficiently unique that it merits a blog posting so, here goes!

We arrived mid-afternoon to find a large limo and several cars in the parking lot so we weren’t the only ones who decided to head to the small country community of Bay Fortune to dine at FireWorks in the middle of a Sunday afternoon in late October.

We were greeted by a very personable and friendly hostess who explained how the meal experience would unfold and she was quick to point out that we were to be sure and take all kinds of photos if we wished and we were invited to roam freely about the kitchen which was at the end of the long closed-in sunporch dining room.

This is quite extraordinary to be offered this opportunity because this is a working kitchen and there were a number of  the team cuisine and servers busy at their work. It was a beehive of activity and no one made me feel like I was in their way as I scurried about taking photographs.

Learning from the master! I think there was a good bit of knowledge transfer and training taking place in the kitchen on Sunday and who better to learn from!

Dinner is served, family-style, at long communal block-style tables so, if you are looking for a private table for two or four, you won’t find that at FireWorks. Guests are seated as they arrive and as space is available at any of the four large tables. Two of the long tables are situated on the front of the Inn in a closed-in sunporch that overlooks Bay Fortune.

One of the tables is actually in the kitchen so you really get the feeling that dining is family style and non-pretentious.

I almost felt like I was simply dining in a friend’s home kitchen…well, except for the fact that most of us don’t have a professional culinary team catering to us nor do many of us have a brick oven or an open fire….but, other than that….

The fourth table seats eight and is in a more private dining room just off the kitchen and behind the sunporch.

I don’t mind this communal style of dining as I am quite accustomed to it as I am a regular cruiser where I’m often seated at tables for 8 or 10 with people I don’t know. On this Sunday evening, we lucked in as a group of four ladies soon joined us at one of the long tables in the sunporch and were very open to dinner conversation making for a pleasant meal and overall dining experience.

We were no sooner seated than a server brought a small loaf of fresh-baked 12-grain red fife sourdough bread and a small jar of butter. Lots of Mason jars are visible on the table as the larger ones are used as water glasses.

In keeping with FireWorks’ focus on local and regional fare, all of the vegetables used in the meal were grown onsite in the Inn’s gardens and the meat and fish locally sourced. The entire meal was cooked over an open fire or in the large brick oven.

Roasted Cauliflower Emerging from the Brick Oven
Roasted Cauliflower Emerging from the Brick Oven

The kitchen makes use of lots of heavy cast-iron pots for cooking over the open fire seen in the background in the photo below.  In keeping with the rustic theme, note the blocks of wood that are used for stationing the hot pots.  Use of natural wood in the decor is prevalent, even on the tables.

Chef Michael soon arrived at the table with bowls of piping hot turkey vegetable soup accompanied by a light and flaky biscuit hung over the soup bowl rim.

Turkey Vegetable Soup
Turkey Vegetable Soup

This was followed by a small green salad that I neglected to take a photo of but here is a list of the salad’s ingredients that was posted on the wall.

I wandered into the kitchen area just as Chef Michael was plating our meal. I just had to check up on him (lol)!

 

Satisfied he was doing a great job, I hurried back to the table in time for Chef Michael to arrive with our dinners. And, no, my dinner did not slide off the plate….it’s just the split second that I captured the photo of Chef Michael serving my dinner that makes it look like it’s about to slide off the plate!

We each chose to have the smoke house pork belly and loin with apple sauce which was served with brown butter rösti potatoes which were ever so tasty. Side vegetables included roasted cauliflower straight from the wood-fired brick oven, slightly charred cherry tomatoes, and braised red cabbage.

And, for dessert, we had a very seasonal dessert: Wood-fired apple cranberry crisp that was served with cranberry ice cream and pumpkin seed brittle.

Throughout the meal, Chef Michael’s wife, Chastity, accompanied by musicians Reg Ballagh and Jon Rehder, provided dinner music from the vantage point of the Inn’s nearby cozy sitting room.

So, I would class this experience as the full meal deal!  If you find yourself on Prince Edward Island on a Sunday between now and November 15, 2015, and are looking for a unique dining experience, I recommend a visit to FireWorks Restaurant at the Inn at Bay Fortune.  And, if you are planning a vacation on our lovely Island next summer, FireWorks plans to re-open in early May when they will be offering their daily full-scale feast each evening for which reservations are taken.

For more information on dining at FireWorks, visit the Inn at Bay Fortune website.

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Chef Michael Smith at his FireWorks Restaurant in Bay Fortune, PEI
Chef Michael Smith at his FireWorks Restaurant in Bay Fortune, PEI

“Taste of New Glasgow”, A PEI Fall Flavours Signature Culinary Event

New to the 2015 roster of the Prince Edward Island Fall Flavours Culinary Festival  was the “Taste of New Glasgow” event. New Glasgow is a small rural community in the central part of the province. Despite its small size, it has a number of fine restaurants, chefs, and food producers and they brought their A-game to ensure festival goers had a fine “Taste of New Glasgow”, despite the challenges that the weather presented.

September 11th dawned with gray skies that, by late afternoon, resulted in a torrential downpour for the 2015 Festival kick-off event.

DSCN1141

Organizers had planned to hold the event outside in the Gardens of Hope at the Prince Edward Island Preserve Company in New Glasgow, PEI. However, Mother Nature had other ideas.

An alternative plan of action was implemented and a huge tent was erected in the parking lot of the Prince Edward Island Preserve Company and, instead of outdoor open firepits as originally planned, chefs improvised and used barbeques and other cooking appliances adjacent to the big tent.

While the rain certainly changed location plans, it did not dampen the enthusiasm of event goers or the participating chefs but umbrellas and rain gear were certainly the order of the day.

This event was classed as a signature festival event meaning it was hosted by a celebrity chef who in this case was PEI’s own Chef Michael Smith.

Chef Michael Smith, Celebrity Chef Host at "Taste of New Glasgow", A PEI Fall Flavours Signature Culinary Event
Chef Michael Smith, Celebrity Chef Host at “Taste of New Glasgow”, A PEI Fall Flavours Signature Culinary Event

“Taste of New Glasgow” was a roaming feast which meant that several participating local restaurants/chefs/food producers each had a station where they served food to patrons who made their way, at their leisure, around the tent to sample the offerings. Participating restaurants/chefs/food producers were Prince Edward Island Preserve Company, Glasgow Glen Farm, New Glasgow Lobster Suppers, The Mill in New Glasgow, The Culinary Institute of Canada, Larkin Brothers, and Carr’s Oyster Bar. In addition, there were four Beverage Stations featuring local beers and wines – Barnone Brewery, Upstreet Craft Brewing, Prince Edward Island Brewing Co., and Matos Winery.

To give you a flavour of the feast, here’s a sampling of what was on the menu:

New Glasgow Lobster Suppers served up lobster salad on their famous homemade rolls alongside steamed PEI mussels and, for dessert, offered lemon meringue tarts reminiscent of their mile high lemon meringue pie.


The Mill in New Glasgow offered Larkin Brothers chicken with rhubarb cranberry chutney and a blueberry mousse for dessert.

Carrs Oyster Bar hosted an oyster station and also offered lots of steamed bar clams, too.

Glasgow Glen Farm had lots of breads and spreads along with a cheese fondue. They also served Florrie’s Pride Goat Cheese Cake with smoked tomato aioli, garden cherry and tomato salad, all in a small mason jar. Their dessert offering was a blackberry and honey tart with bee pollen and chokecherry syrup.

Location host, the Prince Edward Island Preserve Company, served spice-encrusted smoked pork ribs and, for dessert, offered a popular ginger cookie sandwich which was filled with homemade vanilla bean ice cream.


The Culinary Institute of Canada offered a charcoal beef brisket served with roasted onion aioli on a milk bun while Larkin Brothers provided grilled turkey sausage.


Chef Michael Smith and his crew from his new restaurant, “Fireworks”, at the Inn at Bay Fortune served up wood-fired crusted Island halibut from Victoria-by-the-Sea.

Chef Michael had a portable wood-fired oven which he used to cook the halibut near his serving station.

The halibut was accompanied by saffron tomato broth and sea rocket slaw (and, on yes, the miniature PEI flag, of course!).

Ever personable and engaging, Chef Michael had a very long line up all evening at his station as foodie fans arrived with the chef’s cookbooks in hand ready for autographing as they picked up a sample of the halibut.

But, make no mistake about it, the master was still overseeing the preparation and presentation of the halibut.

A good PEI party includes two things:  Good food and entertainment.

The event was also an occasion for a local food producer to create awareness with people about the source of some of the food they enjoyed during the evening.  Florrie Sanderson from Island Hill Farm in Hampshire, PEI, raises a herd of some 60 goats and milks 10 goats.

Florrie Sanderson and “Bae”

Florrie sells her goat milk to Chef Jeff McCourt of Glasgow Glen Farm who uses it to make cheese, some of which was used in a feature dish at the Glasgow Glen Farm station.

Florrie brought along one of her goats, “Bae”, who quickly became a celebrity and photo star throughout the evening. “Bae” drew many smiles and chuckles throughout the evening and she was exceptionally well-behaved!

"Bae"
“Bae”

So, this event featured many PEI flavours – from both the rich PEI soil and the waters that surround our Island. One of the advantages of a roaming feast event is that you get to sample food prepared by different chefs, restaurants, and local food producers all in one venue. Often, it is an occasion to try foods and beverages you may not have tried before so it’s an opportunity to sample something new or, alternatively, perhaps it’s a familiar food but prepared in a new and innovative way.

For more information on the PEI Fall Flavours Culinary Festival and information on tickets and upcoming culinary events, visit their website.

To read stories about other Fall Flavours Culinary Events I have attended, click on 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 Int’l Shellfish Festival) (2014)

Beef and Blues (2014)

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Feast and Frolic Dinner at PEI’s International Shellfish Festival

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

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

Liam Dolan
Liam Dolan

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

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

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

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

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

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

These disappeared fast!

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

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

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

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

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

These Island Blue Mussel Spring Rolls were divine!

Island Blue Mussel Spring Rolls
Island Blue Mussel Spring Rolls

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mussel Chowders
Mussel Chowders

Mussel Chowders

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

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

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

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

PEI Lobster!
PEI Lobster!

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

Making Summer Berry Shortcake
Making Summer Berry Shortcake

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related Stories:

Story on PEI International Shellfish Festival

Story on PEI Fall Flavours Festival

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Test-driving recipes

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

Nutty Seedy Granola

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

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

Granola Muffins

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

 

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

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

A Pan of Pork Chops with Marmalade Mustard Pan Sauce

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

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

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

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

Disclosure:

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

Fall Flavours Festival – A Month-long Feast of Fine PEI Flavours

When I travel, I am often asked “when is the best time to visit Prince Edward Island?”  Being an Islander who loves her home province, I admit to being somewhat biased (okay, ALOT biased) because anytime, in my opinion is a good time to be in PEI.  However, if you are a foodie, then September on PEI is the special month for you! That’s when the bountiful diverse harvest from our land and sea come together for the month-long annual Fall Flavours Festival with dozens of food-related events, big and small, across this beautiful Island.  This year’s Festival runs from September 5th -28th and it is chock-a-block full of food events and activities.

The Fall Flavours Festival began in 2008 as a 10-day project of the former Tourism Charlottetown group. According to Tracey Singleton, who was the Director of Marketing for Tourism Charlottetown at the time, the project had two objectives: 1) Capitalize on the growing trend of culinary tourism, and 2) extend the fall tourism season on PEI. Originators of the Festival had a clear vision for Fall Flavours: To create a fall culinary product that would highlight PEI’s key exports and drive tourism while establishing PEI as a culinary destination.

Cracking open the lobsters at the Lobster Party on the Beach at Cedar Dunes Park, West Point, PEI (2013)
Cracking open the lobsters at the Lobster Party on the Beach at Cedar Dunes Park, West Point, PEI (2013)

PEI has long been known for its fine foods, chief amongst them seafood and potatoes, as well as the Island hospitality…and oh, yes, the fabulous beaches that surround our Island. So, it’s a logical fit to combine our Island foods, culture, spectacular scenery, and hospitality into a month-long celebration.  Some events, like the Lobster Party on the Beach held at Cedar Dunes Park in West Point, even include dining in a tent right on the beautiful sandy beach.

Tents on the beach at Cedar Dunes for the Lobster Party on the Beach
Tents on the beach at Cedar Dunes for the Lobster Party on the Beach

There is no doubt that Fall Flavours is a success story that has grown from a 10-day Festival to the month-long extravaganza it is today. 

Singleton says, “PEI is becoming a Mecca for culinary tourism.”

Singleton says “PEI is becoming a Mecca for culinary tourism. Our artisan producers, our chefs, the reputation and awareness of PEI mussels, oysters, lobster, and potatoes have contributed to the [Festival’s] reputation as well as the relationship with Food Network Canada and its chefs have helped build credibility [of the Festival]”.

PEI lobsters and corn on the cob being cooked in a sandpit on the beach
PEI lobsters and corn on the cob being cooked in a sandpit on the beach

When deciding what events will be part of Fall Flavours and what local foods will be profiled, organizers focus on the five key food exports of PEI – lobster, oysters, mussels, beef, and potatoes.

At Toes, Taps & Taters in O'Leary, PEI (2013)
At Toes, Taps & Taters in O’Leary, PEI (2013)

One of the biggest challenges for Fall Flavours organizers is how to keep the Festival fresh and not continually repeat the same events in the exact same way year after year with the same celebrity chefs. Some events remain so popular, however, that they do repeat yearly – for example, the Lobster Party on the Beach, Chef on Board, A Taste of the North Shore, and Toes, Taps, and Taters. To keep those events fresh, organizers change the menu, entertainment, and celebrity chef host so the event has a new look and feel each year. Chef Anna Olson, returning for her third year at the Fall Flavours Festival, enjoys the opportunity to return to PEI for the Festival each year to host different events. She says it keeps her creative, gives her the chance to connect with guests in different ways and to make connections with so many people on the Island, hear their stories and the inevitable recipe-sharing that happens, too.

Applelicious (2013)
Gourmet dining at Applelicious (2013)

New events are added annually, some are retired, and others are put on hiatus for a year or two. Some of the new events this year (2014) include Oysters on the Pier in Northport, Lamb Luau on the Beach at Crowbush, and Feast of the Fathers in Charlottetown to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Charlottetown Conference where the now famous Fathers of Confederation met to lay the groundwork for what would later become Canada. Savour Victoria is back after a year off in 2013. Look for other returning favorites such as The Great Grilled Cheese Challenge and Beef and Blues.

One of the entries in the Great Grilled Cheese Challenge (2013)
One of the entries in the Great Grilled Cheese Challenge (2013)

Organizers tell me that patrons to Fall Flavours events are about 50/50 Islanders and tourists. Tourists come for Fall Flavours events to taste great Island food, meet acclaimed celebrity chefs, and experience the Island culture and way of life. Many are repeat visitors year after year. According to Singleton whose company, Versatile Management Group Inc., is now the event organizer for the Festival, over 12,000 tickets were sold for Fall Flavours events in 2013, an increase of 16% in ticket sales from the previous year.

Chef Massimo on Stage at the Great Grilled Cheese Challenge in North River, PEI (2013)
Chef Massimo on Stage at the Great Grilled Cheese Challenge in North River, PEI (2013)

There are several different categories of events that form part of the Fall Flavours Festival – there are Signature Events, Culinary Events, Culinary Adventures, and Restaurant Dining. Each year, there are a certain number of events that are classed as “Signature Events” – in fact, this year, there are 11 of them. An event classed as “Signature” means it will feature a celebrity chef host from Food Network Canada. Many of the events are interactive with opportunities to meet and greet the celebrity chefs.

Chef Lynn Crawford autographing her cookbook at the Toes, Taps & Taters Signature Event in O'Leary, PEI (2013)
Chef Lynn Crawford autographing her cookbook at the Toes, Taps & Taters Signature Event in O’Leary, PEI (2013)

Most will also have a cooking demonstration by the celebrity chef host. If the chefs are also cookbook authors, their books will be available for sale onsite and there will be opportunities to have the books signed by the chefs. Making appearances at this year’s Fall Flavours Festival Signature Events are Food Network Canada Celebrity Chefs Lynn Crawford, Anna Olson, Corbin Torraszeski, Chuck Hughes, Michael Smith, Mark MacEwan, and Massimo Capra. It’s a star-studded line-up!

Chef Anna Olson autographing her cookbooks at the 2013 Applelicious Event in Arlington, PEI
Chef Anna Olson autographing her cookbooks at the 2013 Applelicious Event in Arlington, PEI

In addition to the Signature Events, there are a number of culinary events and culinary adventures happening across the Island in September. There is a wide range of activities to suit all tastes.

As Chef Olson says, “I think PEI has achieved the impossible: offering “something for everyone”! The range of events and locations makes this Festival a truly delicious testament to the spirit of PEI.”

As Chef Olson says, “I think PEI has achieved the impossible: offering “something for everyone”! The range of events and locations makes this Festival a truly delicious testament to the spirit of PEI.”So, look for culinary events and adventures like the Beer Festival, clam brunches, roaming feasts, harvest meals, heritage dinners, Farm Day in the City, and culinary demonstrations and cooking classes at Holland College’s Culinary Boot Camps at the Culinary Institute of Canada. As well, several of the Island’s leading restaurants will feature special fall-inspired menus in September to coincide with the Fall Flavours Festival.

Some of the entries in the seafood chowder challenge at the PEI Shellfish Festival (2012)
Some of the entries in the seafood chowder challenge at the PEI International Shellfish Festival (2012)

Ticket sales are brisk for 2014 events, says Singleton. In fact, she says sales are up 100% over the same period last year and the Festival is still one month away. So, if you are interested in taking in any of the Fall Flavours events, best not delay getting your tickets. Many of the events sell out.

Prices for the signature events range from $19.00 + HST for The Great Island Grilled Cheese Challenge to $139. + HST for the gala Feast and Frolic dinner that is part of the Shellfish Festival. Prices for the culinary events and adventures vary in price. For a complete list of Fall Flavours activities and prices, visit their website at www.fallflavours.ca

Event organizers for Fall Flavours continue to amaze me each year with their creativity and attention to detail in carrying out the events. I can’t wait to see what they have in store for patrons this year. Whatever it is, I know it will exhibit the “WOW!” factor!

Interior of the tent set up in the middle of the apple orchard in Arlington, PEI, for the Applelicious Event (2013)
Interior of the tent set up in the middle of the apple orchard in Arlington, PEI, for the Applelicious Event (2013)

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

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

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