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.
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.
“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 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!
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:
As many of you know, I am part of the year-long Canadian Food Experience Project. Each month, food blogger participants are prompted by a prescribed theme upon which to base a posting on their individual blogs. The February theme is “My Canadian Love Affair”.
What follows is the menu and description of my Valentine’s dinner 2014, using several of my favorite Island food products. In order to meet the timelines of the Project, I have prepared my dinner a week early so it can be included in the Project’s monthly round-up. My Canadian Love Affair is all about the great local food produced on Prince Edward Island, Canada’s smallest province.
When I think of foods that I love, well….there are many! But, coming from an Island blessed with rich red fertile soil and surrounded by the sea, I would have to say that seafood and potatoes would rank high on my list. So, for my Valentine’s dinner, I have incorporated both but the potatoes in one of the recipes may be presented in a form that could surprise some of you. Here’s a taste to whet your appetite ….
The following is the four-course menu for my Valentine’s Dinner which features some of my favorite Island products:
(steamed in apple cider and herbs and dipped in Island-churned butter)
Jeff McCourt’s PEI Seafood Chowder
(a rich, smooth, and creamy chowder filled
with a variety of PEI seafood and Island potatoes)
Lobster Newburg served in a patty shell accompanied by a crisp green salad
(lobster and mushrooms in a rich sherry and cheese sauce)
Chocolate Potato Cake
Wine Pairing: Rossignol’s Little Sands White Wine (PEI)
It would be hard to surpass PEI mussels. They are shipped all over the globe and are world renowned. There are many ways to prepare mussels and there are many different liquids in which they can be steamed, each of which will give a slightly different flavor to the mussels. The important thing about steaming mussels is to use very little liquid. Using too much liquid will diminish the flavor of the mussels. It is the steam from the liquid that forces the mussel shells open, not the amount of liquid itself. These delicacies take very little time to cook – they are cooked when the shells open, a process that generally takes about 5-7 minutes. Be sure to discard any shells that have not opened during the steaming process.
Today, I have steamed the mussels in a small amount of apple cider enhanced by a sprinkle each of lemon thyme, parsley, and basil all dried from our garden last summer. How much liquid is needed is based, of course, on how many mussels are being steamed. Because I was only steaming about 15-20 mussels for these two appetizers, I only used about 2 tbsp of apple cider.
While mussels are used in various recipes, including mussel chowder, the most common way to eat mussels on the Island is dipped in melted butter (oh-là-là!). Mussels are a common food found at many get-togethers because they are quick and easy to prepare and are so very tasty.
For the second course, I couldn’t bypass an all-time favorite of mine – a good seafood chowder.
This recipe comes courtesy of the Culinary Boot Camps at the Culinary Institute of Canada in Charlottetown. This award-winning recipe was developed by Chef Jeff McCourt who was the chef instructor at the one-day “Island Flavors” Boot Camp that I attended a couple of years ago. This chowder was one of the dishes that participants made at the Boot Camp. The Culinary Institute kindly gave me permission to share the seafood chowder recipe as part of the story I was writing on the Boot Camps. If you find yourself on PEI during the summer/fall seasons when the Culinary Boot Camps are operating, this is a fantastic way to learn about cooking with local Island products and flavors. Click here to see my story on the Boot Camps and to get the PEI Seafood Chowder recipe.
I have made many seafood chowder recipes but have not found any that I liked better than this one. It is filled with a great variety of delectable Island seafood along with PEI potatoes and has a rich, tasty chowder base. Seafood chowder is a great way to sample several different kinds of local seafood all in one dish. This recipe suggests a variety of seafood that includes lobster, oysters, clams, mussels, scallops, and crab. On PEI, we would typically serve the seafood chowder with crusty rolls, biscuits, or baguette slices.
For my main course, I simply had to choose lobster! Lobster is still the seafood king on the Island and Islanders love their lobster.
The most typical way Islanders enjoy their lobster is straight out of the shell, dipped in melted butter, and served with potato salad, coleslaw, and rolls. A jellied salad and slices of tomato and cucumber are also often included.
There are numerous enterprises around the Island that, seasonally, serve lobster suppers that generally consist of mussels, seafood chowder, lobster in the shell, salads, rolls, and a selection of pies and other desserts. There are three main lobster supper venues on PEI. Saint Anne’s Church Lobster Suppers in Hope River, not far from Cavendish, PEI, began in 1963 when a priest came up with the idea to have lobster suppers as a means to raise money to pay off the $35,000 mortgage on the church. New Glasgow Lobster Suppers in New Glasgow, in operation since 1958, and Fishermen’s Wharf Restaurant in North Rustico also serve full lobster suppers as well. A traditional lobster supper at one of these establishments is a must-stop for lobster lovers visiting PEI. In addition, most restaurants on the Island will feature lobster in one form or another on their menus. Last summer, I crisscrossed the Island in search of the best lobster roll on PEI since these are a common menu item for many restaurants. Click here to read about which one was my favorite.
The popularity of lobster is somewhat ironic. Today, it is a high-priced food, often considered by many a luxury and reserved for special occasions. However, on PEI, that was not always the case. I remember speaking with an Island woman who grew up about 65 years ago in an Island fishing community where her father was a lobster fisherman. She remembers being embarrassed opening her lunch at school and revealing a lobster sandwich since lobster was associated with poor people! My, how times have changed!
As a child, I had no interest in eating lobster. In fact, when my family was having a “feed of lobster” at home, my mother always roasted me a chicken! They would coax me to try the lobster but it just didn’t appeal to me. Finally, as a young adult, I gave in and tried a bite of lobster….well, let’s just say that’s when my love affair with lobster began and I’ve been making up for all the years I didn’t eat it!
So, it would be a logical choice that I would choose lobster as the main course for a special Valentine’s dinner. I have opted to go with a traditional Lobster Newburg served in light and airy patty shells accompanied by a crisp green salad.
Lobster is fished in PEI from spring through to fall so we have no winter lobster fishing season on the Island. Many of us freeze lobster meat when it is in season to enjoy in recipes, like Lobster Newburg, throughout the remainder of the year. My recipe for Lobster Newburg can be made with either fresh or frozen lobster meat.
Lobster Newburg, although it is often considered an elaborate menu item, is really quite easy to prepare. It’s also a good way to stretch lobster to increase the number of servings you can get from the meat of a lobster. What makes Lobster Newburg so tasty and silky in texture is the sauce. This is a rich, creamy cheese and sherry sauce so large portion sizes are not necessary. I traditionally serve Lobster Newburg in patty shells. However, it can also be presented over toast points or served over a bed of steamed rice. Or, it may be served in small individual casserole dishes with a side of steamed asparagus spears. The recipe for my Lobster Newburg follows at the end of this posting.
Much as Islanders have an enduring love affair with food that comes from the sea that surrounds us, we also have a special fondness for our famous PEI potatoes. For the past two years, I have followed a couple of potato farmers from the planting of the crop to the harvesting process. To read these stories and get a couple of my favorite potato recipes, here are the two links to the postings for Smith Farms of Newton, PEI and Eric C. Robinson Inc., of Albany, PEI.
I have chosen to serve a Chocolate Potato Cake as a finale to my Valentine’s dinner. Yes, potatoes in a cake! It’s amazing how many different ways potatoes can be served. Earlier this week, I posted my recipe for Chocolate Potato Cake on my food blog.
To make this feast truly a PEI dinner, I chose a white wine from PEI’s Rossignol Winery in Little Sands, PEI. The Island has three wineries – the other two are Newman Estate Winery in Gladstone and Matos Winery in St. Catherine’s, PEI. Each makes fine wine that is a great accompaniment to any meal.
To compliment the tablesetting, I chose locally-grown tulips from Vanco Farms’ greenhouses in Mount Albion, PEI. Aren’t they beautiful flowers!
So, this is my local flavors Valentine’s dinner for 2014, featuring some of my favorite and most loved local PEI foods and wine. I hope you enjoy them, too!
4-5 oz cooked lobster (either fresh or frozen)
1 tbsp butter
3 oz mushrooms, sliced
1 tbsp butter
1½ tbsp flour
⅛ tsp paprika
¾ cup whole milk or half-and-half
2 tbsp grated cheddar cheese
1 egg yolk, slightly beaten
½ tbsp sherry
1½ tsp brandy
1 tsp liquid chicken bouillon
salt and pepper, to taste
Melt first amount of butter in a medium-sized saucepan. Add and sauté mushrooms for approximately 2 minutes. Set aside.
In separate saucepan, melt remaining tablespoon of butter. Add flour, paprika, and nutmeg. Whisk in the milk until mixture is smooth. Add cheese. Stir mixture constantly until slightly thickened.
Add approximately 2 tbsp of the hot sauce to the egg yolk to temper the egg so it won’t curdle when added to the hot sauce. Add the tempered egg to the sauce in the pan.
Cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly, then add the lobster meat and mushrooms.
Add the sherry and brandy and cook and stir slowly for 1-2 minutes to heat the lobster and mushrooms. Add salt and pepper to taste, if desired.
Serve immediately in baked patty shells or over toast points or steamed rice.
Yield: 2-3 servings
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Well, Christmas has come and gone again for another year. I hope you had a joyous and peaceful holiday. I thought I would share with you the traditional components of my Christmas dinner. Guests were greeted with a glass of Sparkling Cranberry Apple Juice from Verger Belliveau Orchard in Memramcook, New Brunswick.
I like to set a pretty table. This year, I used a gold-colored tablecloth, a couple of gold-colored glass Christmas trees and some gold and ivory Christmas balls and used them to start building the tablescape. The gold theme seemed to blend in nicely with the tree and mantle in my dining room.
I kept the tablescape fairly simplistic and uncluttered since my dining room table is not large. It can seat six but four, more comfortably.
I like to add a bit of bling to the tablesetting. These blingy napkin rings were a find a couple of years ago. Napkin rings are very useful when you want to keep the napkin fold simplistic or when you are in a hurry and don’t have time to fold napkins into designs.
My choice of centerpiece was seasonally-inspired. The gold container and piks were in keeping with the gold theme and gold charger plates.
The Star of Bethlehem flower was the focal point of the centerpiece.
The holly berries came from one of my holly trees just outside my front door.
Since I couldn’t bring the snow indoors, bursts of Baby’s Breath gave the illusion of snow drops throughout the centerpiece.
Christmas Dinner was a four-course meal. The appetizer was a red pear drizzled with a pomegranate molasses dressing.
I love the burst of flavor in each of the pomegranate arils.
Not only do the arils add flavor but they also add texture and color to the plate.
Some Islanders have roasted parsnips as a traditional vegetable on their Christmas dinner plate. Parsnips were not a traditional vegetable for Christmas dinner in our home. However, I have included parsnips in the Parsnip and Apple Soup.
A dollop of sour cream surrounded by a drizzle of good quality olive oil dresses up this flavourful soup.
The soup’s golden color continues the gold-colored theme.
I love this little soup tureen I came across a couple of years ago.
Of course, the star of the show is the roasted turkey!
There is nothing like an old-fashioned roast turkey dinner! I dressed the turkey platter with a citrus theme of orange, lemon, and lime wedges along with green grapes and cranberries.
My choice of wine for this year’s Christmas dinner was Chardonnay that came from Matos Winery, St. Catherine’s, PEI.
We are very traditional in the components of the Christmas dinner – turkey, stuffing (dressing), mashed potatoes with homemade gravy (no gravy mix for me!), carrots, turnip casserole, and peas. Condiments included my homemade cranberry sauce along with mustard pickles and pickled beets that I made earlier in the fall.
Plum pudding is the traditional Christmas dinner dessert in our household.
There are various toppings that are served with the steamed plum pudding; however, in our home, the brown sugar sauce (served hot) reigns supreme!
When presenting the plum pudding on a glass pedestal plate at the table, I kept the citrus theme going and added some fresh raspberries for color.
Plum pudding with a good cup of coffee – a fitting finale to a wonderful Christmas dinner!
I hope you have enjoyed a glimpse into our 2013 Christmas dinner. Best wishes to you and yours for a wonderful holiday season.
To view other Christmas and New Year’s Tablesettings, click on the links below:
On a beautiful, warm and sunny Sunday afternoon in September, I went to the 2nd Annual Great Island Grilled Cheese Challenge event on the grounds of the COWS CREAMERY in North River, PEI. This was a signature event of the annual Fall Flavours Festival that has been happening across PEI this entire month.
A large white tent was erected and this gigantic Holstein kept guard outside the sold-out event (350 tickets available) which was held to celebrate great Canadian cheeses.
Chefs from some of the Island’s restaurants competed to see who would take home the top prize of $2000 and bragging rights for having created the best grilled cheese sandwich on PEI. The three judges for the event were: Phil Belanger from Dairy Farmers of Canada, Celebrity Chef Massimo Capra, and Myles MacKinnon from Hot105.5.
Once the judging was completed, ticket holders entered the tent and the sampling began.
Each of the competitors had to prepare 400-500 samples of his/her grilled cheese sandwich for ticket holders to sample. Trust me, these were not your average ‘cheese slice between two slices of bread’ kind of grilled cheese sandwiches! These were gourmet fare. Some included lobster, others had smoked oysters while others had pears in the sandwich.
Many kinds of different breads were used including potato bread, rosemary focaccia, and raisin bread.
And the cheeses! Well, of course, that’s what makes a great grilled cheese sandwich!
The Maritime Provinces have some mighty fine cheese makers and several were on hand with samples as well – COWS CREAMERY, ADL, Cheeselady’s Gouda, and Jolly Farmers.
There were many different methods used to grill the sandwiches as each chef brought his or her own unique style to the challenge.
Our three PEI wineries — Rossignol, Matos, and Newman — had booths set up with samples of their fine wines and the PEI Brewing Co. provided beer samples.
This being a signature event of Fall Flavours, a celebrity chef was part of the event. Chef Massimo Capra joined the Sunday afternoon festivities. Chef Massimo is currently one of the chef-hosts on Food Network Canada’s “Restaurant Takeover”. The “3 chefs – The Kitchen Men” cookbook he authored with Michael Bonacini and Jason Parsons was also for sale at the Indigo booth inside the event tent and Chef Massimo autographed numerous copies of the popular book throughout the afternoon.
Chef Massimo then demonstrated how he makes his grilled cheese sandwich using smoked oysters, shredded COWS CREAMERY extra old cheddar, green tomato relish, potato chips, all between sour-dough bread slices and topped with grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.
Throughout the afternoon, the Dairy Farmers of Canada presented 30-minute “All You Need is Cheese” seminars showcasing award-winning cheeses from the Canadian Cheese Grand Prix. Ticket holders could also take a free tour of the COWS CREAMERY where their delectable ice cream and cheeses are made. Ticket holders received 50% off COWS ice cream and 50% off admission to “That Fun Place” for the afternoon. The kids enjoyed this because it included a bouncy house and crafts, lots to keep them entertained after they sampled yummy grilled cheese sandwiches.
Lively, toe-tapping musical entertainment for the afternoon was provided by the Avonlea Showband (Mike Pendergast on accordion and vocals; Leon Gallant on guitar, fiddle, and vocals; Remi Arsenault, stand-up bass, acoustic guitar, and background vocals; and Brendon Peters on percussion and spoons).
This was a wonderful afternoon event. It was great fun watching the chefs prepare the grilled cheese sandwiches onsite. Jennifer Caseley, event manager, says “The event is owned by the PEI Association of Chefs and Cooks and was created to promote regional/Canadian cheese makers, Island Dairy Products, to educate about the dairy industry, highlight the Canadian cheese processors through the Grilled Cheese Challenge, increase public awareness of regional cheeses, and support cheese makers in their search for excellence and in the development of new products.”
Tickets for the event were $18. + tax (CDN$) for adults and $5. for children.
So, whose grilled cheese sandwich took top prize this year? That went to Chef Dwayne MacLeod from the Gahan House.
Chef Andrew Smith from Red Shores placed second (yes, this was the entry that had Island lobster in the sandwich).
And, Chef Jane Crawford from the Redwater Rustic Grill was the third place winner as well as the People’s Choice winner.
Now, here is a close-up look at this year’s entries:
Is your mouth watering yet?
Each entry was unique in its own way as chefs brought their creativity to the sandwich filling and bread used.
Look how the red and green dress this club sandwich!
Pickled cucumbers garnish this rustic grilled cheese sandwich.
I love the PEI red rock used for presentation of this entry!
So many different breads used to create these yummy sandwiches.
An artist’s palate is what this visually-attractive entry reminds me of!
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The New Festival of Wines Prince Edward Island is a signature springtime event on the Island. Now in its 19th year, this is the first time the PEI Liquor Control Commission has hired a private event management company, Versatile Management Group, to manage the Festival. Versatile has pulled out all the stops to make this a high-end event.
This year, there are 39 booths providing samples of 225 wines from twelve different countries. Many of these wines are new to PEI and are not currently sold in local liquor stores. These wines will, however, be available for sale at the onsite Wine Boutique during the Festival. The New Festival of Wines also includes a juried wine competition where six judges, blind testing, chose the top wines and runners-up in five categories. These wines are also available for sampling during the event.
If you are a wine connoisseur, or simply a lover of fine wines, you will not want to miss this premier event. The Grand Tasting event allows patrons to explore and sample new wines and learn more about them. For wineries or their agents, it’s a chance to introduce and present their wines. Says Jennifer Caseley of Versatile Management Group, “depending on sales at the event’s Wine Boutique, those wines may eventually be listed products at local liquor stores“.
Yes, even Sangria made an appearance at this year’s Grand Tasting event! In addition to samples, Verano Wines also shared their recipe for this tasty Spanish drink.
Look for attractively displayed booths at the event.
Each year, a wine-producing country is selected to have its wines featured for the event. This year, it is France, one of the oldest and most renown wine-producers in the world. That doesn’t mean that there won’t be wines from other wine-producing countries – they are there too.
And, of course, our three Island wineries are participating as well – be sure to seek out the Matos, Newman, and Rossignol booths as you make your rounds at the Festival.
On PEI, it’s almost inconceivable to have an event of any kind without food! There is a whole new food element to this year’s Festival. As you walk into the event, you are greeted with a Raspberry Point oyster from the PEI International Shellfish Festival and along with a glass of champagne.
Be sure to hang on to the wineglass and carry it with you throughout the evening as you will need it to sample wines as you tour the booths.
Each evening, there are food stations set up inside the venue. These stations serve four different appetizers. Last evening, Chef Andrew Smith of “Top of the Park” Restaurant at the Red Shores Racetrack and Casino created BBQ Pulled Chicken Bruschetta, House Spiced Turkey Meatballs, Seafood Fritters, and Lemon Curd Filled Phyllo Cups for patrons. This evening, Chef Jane Crawford from the Red Water Rustic Grille will tempt palettes with four tasty appetizers as well.
What would wine be without cheese! The Dairy Farmers of Canada along with PEI’s award-winning Cows Creamery, are serving samples of their fine cheeses that pair so well with wine. This afternoon, there is an ancillary event (separate tickets required) sponsored by the Dairy Farmers of Canada and PEI’s Rossignol Winery that will focus on the art of wine and cheese pairings.
Be sure to also check out Blossoms’ booth. Blossoms is a new local business on the Island that specializes in making fresh fruit bouquets. Their colourful and tasty offerings of chocolate dipped strawberries and other fruits were making a hit at the Festival last evening.
Organizers have thought of all the details! They even offer a wine check so patrons do not have to carry around heavy bottles of wine they have purchased at the Wine Boutique. Their purchases may be shipped for pick-up at any one of the PEI Liquor Control Commission’s 18 corporate retail outlets across the Island.
This two-day extravaganza is held at the Charlottetown Civic Centre on Kensington Road on May 24-25, 2013. Tickets to the Grand Tasting event are $44. per person (taxes incl) – note you must be 19 and over to attend the Festival. The event can accommodate over 1000 guests per evening and tickets are also available day-of at the Civic Centre box office. The Festival’s hours of operation today are from 7:00pm – 11:00pm. The Wine Boutique, run by the PEI Liquor Control Commission and from which wines may be purchased, operates from 3:00pm – 10:30pm today. Tickets are not required to enter the Wine Boutique.
A complimentary shuttle service is available to transport patrons between the Civic Centre and the downtown area. This service runs from 6:00pm – 11:00pm this evening. Please enjoy the Festival but do drink responsibly and use the provided shuttle service or a designated driver or taxi.
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The farmers on PEI are busy with their various harvests these days and taking full advantage of the great weather we have been having. I stopped by Matos Winery in St. Catherines, PEI, last Wednesday as they were picking the grapes. I had visited the winery in early September and toured the vineyards but delayed posting the story until harvest time because I wanted to visit the winery when the grapes were being picked and processed.
When I first met Jim and Heather Matos on an early September Saturday afternoon, Jim had just finished the painstaking work of netting all the grapevines in an effort to keep the birds at bay. Despite Jim’s best efforts and the addition of noise maker squawkers, the birds did pose a problem this fall as they figured out a way to still get at the grapes despite the netting. This meant a loss of some of the grape crop.
Matos is a new winery in its second year having opened for business on June 24, 2011. The Matos’ bought the St. Catherines property near Cornwall and prepared the soil in 2006. They then did their first vine planting in 2007 followed by three years of labour-intensive work that culminated in their first grape harvest in October, 2010.
I asked Heather what brought them to PEI to open their winery as the Island is not known as a wine-making region (we currently have only three wineries operating on the Island). She tells me they came to PEI on a holiday in 2004 and fell in love with the Island. When they decided to open a winery, they looked at locations as far away as Europe and the United States but were still drawn back to PEI. In fact, after hearing about the harsh, cold winters (often with a lot of snow) on the Island, Jim came to PEI for a visit in the dead of winter to see if the conditions would be conducive to grape-growing. Finding them suitable, the couple settled on a property in St. Catherines that had a certain slope, angle, and close proximity to a waterway – all conditions Jim was looking for in a location for a vineyard. Jim says grapes require good sandy soil and they do well in hot, dry summer conditions like we had in 2012.
The vineyard itself covers 11 acres and is home to 16,000 grapevines imported from France. The species of grapevines are vitis vinifera which means they are not as hardy as hybrid vines. Vinifera vines are more susceptible to disease and require more care but Jim maintains they produce a better quality of wine than hybrids.
Two varieties of grapes are grown in the vineyard – Chardonnay and Gamay.
From these grapes, Matos produces five kinds of wine – Chardonnay, Gamay-Noir, Rosé, Wildberry Gamay, and Strawberry Chardonnay. The Matos tell me they produced approximately 18,000 bottles of wine last year.
Jim is no stranger to winemaking. He comes from a long history of vintners. His family had a vineyard and made wine in the Acores, Portugal. After coming to Canada, the Matos ran a U-brew business importing wine-making supplies in Ontario for 20 years before deciding to start their own winery.
Walk with Jim through the precise, neat, and meticulously cared for rows of grapevines in the vineyard and it is easy to see and hear his passion for winemaking and dedication to high quality. A perfectionist, he is more concerned about producing quality products versus quantity. The Matos also have a keen eye for different products so much so that they are also distilling a couple of unique spirits, too. Using the skins of the grapes left over from winemaking, Matos is producing Bagaço which is a Portuguese version of Italian Grappa, sometimes referred to as moonshine. They are also producing Anisette, a licorice-flavoured liqueur that is a popular drink in France.
On a beautiful warm October 17th, a small crew was assembled in the vineyard and busy hand-picking the clusters of grapes.
Large blue bins of the grapes were seen throughout the vineyard before being gathered up by the tractor and trailer moving carefully amongst the rows of carefully-tended vines.
After transport to the winery, the grapes were put through the grape crusher destemmer, a machine that uses an auger to remove and discard the stems from the grapes then drops the fruit into the crusher where the grapes are crushed.
Using a peristaltic pump, the crushed fruit is then pumped through a hose into a membrane bladder press which extracts the juice but doesn’t harm the seeds or break the skins of the grapes.
The juice is then transported via hose into the large unoaked stainless steel fermentation tanks and the fermentation process starts with Jim controlling the temperature in the tanks and monitoring the sugar content and status and progress of the fermentation.
Jim tells me the white wine will ferment for 14 days and the red for 7 days but the entire processing and filtering of his white wines take 4-5 months before they are ready for bottling and the red wines take about 6-8 months.
Wine-making is a lengthy process that takes a lot of time, patience, labour, and attention to detail and that’s only after all the painstaking pampering and pruning that has gone into the growing and care of the grapevines and grapes.
Matos wines are fine quality products. After only one year in production, Matos’ Gamay-Noir won the prestigious silver medal at the 2011 Canadian Wine Awards, chosen second from among 1117 entries. Most recently, in October 2012, the Gamay-Noir won bronze at the 2012 Canadian Wine Awards, ranking third out of 1260 entries. Matos Winery was competing with wineries from all across Canada, including the well-known Canadian wine-producing regions of Niagara, ON, and several in BC. That’s not only impressive but a validation of the high quality product the winery is producing in its young days.
The Matos wines were also recently featured at the “Savour Victoria” event which was part of the PEI Fall Flavours Culinary Festival (see my blog entry of October 4, 2012, on this event).
Matos’ Chardonnay is a very versatile wine that pairs well with chicken, seafood like PEI lobster, pastas with cream sauces, or vegetarian dishes. The Gamay-Noir goes well with steak and tomato-based dishes, including pizza. The Rosé is a lovely compliment to either turkey or chicken and the Wildberry pairs particularly well with dark chocolate.
The Matos wines are competitively priced between $14.95 – $16.95 and are sold onsite in the winery’s gift shop, in Island liquor stores, and are served in many PEI restaurants.
Tours and wine-tasting are available at the winery which is located at 3156 West River Road, St. Catherines PE, C0A 1H0. Cost is $5.00 per person. In the summer months, the winery gift shop is open seven days a week. During the fall months, the gift shop is open on Saturdays from 10am-5pm and Sundays 1pm-5pm (Oct – Dec).
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While the heavens opened and poured rain on Victoria-by-the-Sea, PEI, on Saturday, September 29th, it didn’t dampen the enthusiasm that was evident at “Savour Victoria” or the great local food that diners enjoyed throughout the evening. As Richard LaGrange of the Orient Hotel says, “Victoria hospitality really can make up for a little rain” (well, okay, it really was a LOT of rain!).
This was the last signature event of “Fall Flavours”, PEI’s annual Culinary Festival. The small seaside village of Victoria on the Island’s south shore proved to be an ideal venue for the event. Pam Beck, Tourism Development Manager for Central Coastal Tourism Partnership, says Victoria was chosen because of its special qualities and quaintness. In the summer, Victoria swells with tourists who leisurely stroll around the tiny village of less than 200 year-round inhabitants, visiting local shops and restaurants and watching the lobster fishing boats unloading their day’s catch. Pam says organizers wanted to make the event “a celebration of Victoria, our Island, and all its beauty and bounty”. I’d say mission accomplished on that front!
The village is small and neatly laid out in a square shape. Everything is within easy walking distance and that is a good thing given the inclement weather and the fact that there were five venues for diners to visit during the evening – four for appetizers and drinks and one for dinner. Victoria does not have any really large restaurants and the ones it does have only operate seasonally. Some of the Fall Flavours events elsewhere on the Island have used big tents on location but organizers of “Savour Victoria” devised a plan that would use and promote establishments that already exist so that, when people come back to Victoria in the future, the venues will still be there for them to return to.
“Savour Victoria” was produced by Central Coastal Tourism Partnership, a new (2011) organization dedicated to promoting tourism development in the central part of the Island. Because “Savour Victoria” was classed as a signature event, it meant a celebrity chef was part of the activities. Bob Blumer, cookbook author (several times over) and creator and host of his own TV shows on the Food Network “Glutton for Punishment”, “Surreal Gourmet”, and “World’s Weirdest Restaurants”, spent the weekend in Victoria overseeing and participating in the Savour Victoria event. Bob was actively engaged in the preparations for the dinner which featured as much locally produced food as possible and was presented in unique and creative ways that Bob is known for.
Here is how the evening worked. Everyone first checked in at the Victoria Playhouse where they picked up a gift bag that contained an engraved “Savour Victoria” souvenir wine glass and a map of the Village. From there, people headed out, donned in raincoats and carrying umbrellas, to the different venues that were serving appetizers and pre-dinner drinks.
Four venues opened for the “Wandering Appetizers with Wine & Beer Tastings” portion of the evening which began at 6:00pm. These included Coach House Antiques, By-The-Sea Kayaking, Red Sand Jewelry, and Island Chocolates.
Four local eating establishments then opened to serve a sit-down dinner at 7:30pm. These were the Victoria Village Inn, Landmark Café, Lobster Barn Pub & Eatery, and the Orient Hotel. When diners purchased their ticket, they selected which of the four venues they wished to go to for the sit-down dinner.
Each of the restaurants served exactly the same meal. Local chefs from the restaurants prepared the meal and were assisted by chef support from the Culinary Institute of Canada, Charlottetown, PEI. The featured wines of the evening were all local and came from nearby Matos Winery in St. Catherine’s, PEI.Just take a look at this great menu that was collaboratively chosen by the local chefs and Bob Blumer:
Wandering Appetizers with Wine & Beer Tastings
Coach House Antiques: Smoked Ham from Island Taylored Meats & COWS Creamery Cheese. PEI Brewing Company Beer Tastings.
By-the-sea Kayaking: Raspberry Point Oysters. Matos Vineyards Wine Tastings.
Red Sand Jewelry: Cajun-seared Atlantic Scallops, Carmelized Onions & Cream Cheese on Baguette Matos Vineyards Wine Tastings.
Island Chocolates: Roasted sweet peppers on chocolate crostini with goat cheese and a dusting of cocoa . Matos Vineyards Wine Tastings.
Seated Dining Menu
Course 1: Kim Dormaar’s Medallion Smoked Salmon Course 2 – Bob Blumer’s Fire-roasted Corn Chowder with sweet corn and garlic from nearby fields, local cream, and Island Taylored Meats double-smoked bacon. Fresh-baked bread. Matos Vineyards wine pairing.
Course 3 – Bob Blumer’s Lobster-Filled Cupcake topped with creamy, buttery superior organic potatoes, seasoned with fresh local herbs and served with a medley of greens from Just a Little Farm on the Appin Rd, and dressed with balsamic and black truffle oil vinaigrette. Matos Vineyard wine pairing.
Course 4 – Panna cotta made with white and dark chocolate from Island Chocolates, served with an almond lace cookie. Matos Vineyard wine pairing.
After sampling the appetizers, it was off to the venue of choice for the sit-down dinner. I dined at the Orient Hotel. The Hotel does not operate a restaurant but does open a tea room in the summer months. In fact, the Orient Hotel had closed its tearoom doors for the season and re-opened especially for this event. Just look how elegantly this cozy dining room was dressed!
Throughout the evening, Bob circulated amongst the venues, chatting with patrons, and signing copies of his cookbook. He says he hasn’t been on the Island since a memorable bike trip in his teens so he jumped at the opportunity to come back. Says Bob, “During my too-short stay, I fell in love with Victoria-by-the-Sea, and with all of the incredible/eccentric/gregarious people who live there. Dinner was a real community effort (with some imported talent from Charlottetown) – and the community really rocked it.” Asked what the most memorable thing is that he will take away from his Island experience, Bob tells me, “the camaraderie, the lobster and, of course, the incredible beauty of the land.” Great endorsement, Bob!
Pam Beck says organizers aimed for a reasonably-priced event ($85/pp) for sampling four appetizers, drinks, a four-course sit-down dinner, and wine. The event was sold out – all 150 tickets — and Pam says it was about 50/50 split between Islanders and tourists.
This was a very enjoyable evening and it really makes me appreciate the wonderful foods we produce right here on PEI. I asked Richard LaGrange what, from the perspective of a host restaurant, he thought made the event so successful – it was, after all, a huge undertaking to carry out this kind of event using eight small venues, none of which have large kitchens. Richard says, in his view, the event’s success was due to the team effort that went into it, the entire community coming together, and the attitude and professionalism shown by members of the Culinary Institute of Canada. Richard says the most memorable aspect of the “Savour Victoria” experience for him was watching the chefs and the other food staff working together so seamlessly and guiding the rest toward a common goal.
I think this event may be a catalyst for Victoria to consider hosting similar events in the future. They proved they can do it! Richard LaGrange sums it up best when he says: I would hope that the Islanders who attended and who hadn’t been to our village for a while will have been reminded of all the reasons people flock to Victoria, and that those who were visiting us for the first time had their appetites whetted and will be back for seconds.” Hmmmm, “seconds” are good – yes, I’ll have another one of those yummy, savory lobster cupcakes, please!
(Mostly) PEI and Maritime Food – Good Food for a Good Life!