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A Prince Edward Island-Inspired Menu for Food Day Canada 2014

PEI Mussels Steamed in Beer
PEI Mussels Steamed in Beer

It’s Food Day Canada today (August 2, 2014). This is a day to celebrate and enjoy all the great food that is grown, fished, or otherwise produced in Canada. Coming from Prince Edward Island, we are truly blessed with the abundance and variety of fresh food at our disposal.

As those of you who are regular followers of my food blog know, my focus is on eating local food whenever possible and supporting local food producers, be they farmers, fishers, or other food producers. And, this I do more than one day a year.  It’s a regular occurrence in our household.

Today, I am pleased to share with you the menu and photographs of what is on my table today for Food Day Canada 2014 and where the food came from. The menu includes foods that come from the waters that surround our Island and from the rich, red soil of our land.

Food Day Canada Menu 2014

Starter

PEI Mussels steamed in beer
and dipped in melted butter
Served with Multigrain Bread

Main

PEI Scallops pan-seared in butter
Boiled PEI potatoes
Medley of steamed yellow string beans, broccoli, and carrots

Dessert

Haskap Shortcake
Whipped cream and a rich haskap sauce
sandwiched between layers of old-fashioned sponge cake
with a drizzle of haskap sauce on top

 Wine Pairing

Chardonnay Seyval Blanc, Newman Estate Winery, Gladstone, PEI

Starter

Products & Sources: Mussels – Prince Edward Aqua Farms Inc., Springbrook, PEI
Beer – Gahan’s Sir John A’s Honey Wheat Ale from the Prince Edward Island Brewing Co., Charlottetown, PEI
Bread – Multigrain from the Whole Grain Bakery, Freetown, PEI
Butter – Amalgamated Dairies Limited (ADL), Summerside, PEI

I love mussels! PEI mussels are world famous and my mussels today came from Prince Edward Aqua Farms in Springbrook, on the North side of the Island.

There are many ways in which mussels can be prepared. They can be steamed in water, wine, beer, apple juice, or in just about any liquid that strikes your fancy. The key is to use just a small amount of liquid as too much liquid dilutes the flavour of the mussels. It is the steam that opens the mussel shells, not the amount of liquid used.

While I am not a beer drinker, my preferred liquid for steaming mussels is beer. Today, I am using Gahan’s Sir John A’s Honey Wheat Ale, brewed by the Prince Edward Island Brewing Co. in Charlottetown, PEI (click here to read the story I wrote on the Brewery).

While nothing other than the beer is really required for steaming the mussels, I like to add some herbs, spices, a bit of garlic, onion, carrots, and celery to the steaming liquid for additional flavour. It usually takes only about 7-10 minutes to steam a pot of mussels. The amount of liquid needed will, of course, depend on the size of the pot you are using and how many mussels you are steaming at a time. Remember to discard any shells that have not opened during the steaming process – do not pry them open. If they haven’t opened via the steaming process, they are not considered safe for consumption.

Dip the mussels in good PEI-churned butter (I’m using ADL butter today) and they are simply delicious. Some also like to use the steaming broth in which to dip bread, soaking up the flavors. My recipe for steamed mussels follows at the end of this posting.

Multigrain Bread from the Whole-Grain Bakery in Freetown, PEI
Multigrain Bread from the Whole-Grain Bakery in Freetown, PEI

The bread I am serving with this appetizer comes from the new Whole-Grain Bakery in Freetown, in the central part of the Province. This bakery uses locally-grown organic wheat which the baker grinds just at the time of the bread making. The bread on the table today is a multigrain bread that has a lovely dense texture and exceptionally good flavour. It makes a fine accompaniment to the steamed mussels.


Main Course

Products and Sources: Sea Scallops, fished off East Point, PEI, sourced from MR Seafoods, Charlottetown, PEI
Potatoes – Farm of Brent Craig, Tryon, PEI
Vegetables – Jewel’s Country Market, Marshfield, PEI

Scallops have long been a favourite of mine. Today’s scallops were fished off of East Point in the Eastern end of the Island and were sourced through MR Seafoods in Charlottetown. While there are a host of ways in which sea scallops can be prepared, sometimes I like them simply pan-seared in butter which is how I am serving them today – sear 1½ – 2 minutes on each side, in a hot pan with butter, and this is a quick, easy, simple, and tasty way to prepare scallops.

Pan-searing Sea Scallops in Butter
Pan-searing Sea Scallops in Butter

Add a sprinkle of chopped fresh parsley and serve with a lemon wedge or your favourite tartar sauce, if desired.

Pan-seared PEI Scallops
Pan-seared PEI Scallops

With the early PEI potatoes now on the market, they were a logical choice to serve with the scallops. Just a slather of butter is all that is needed for these! The round white Island spuds come from the farm of Brent Craig of Tryon.

And here is the complete main course, all products of PEI.

This time of the year, there are so many fresh-from-the-garden veggies available. I chose the yellow-orange-green color scheme to add color to the plate: yellow string beans, carrots, and broccoli, which came from Jewel’s Country Market in Marshfield, PEI.

Dessert

Product: Haskap berries – Farm of Lynn and Becky Townshend, Rollo Bay, PEI

For dessert, I headed east to Rollo Bay for haskap berries to make a rich and sumptuous haskap shortcake. I recently shared my recipe for this delightful dessert and you can find the recipe by clicking here.

Haskap Shortcake
Haskap Shortcake

Wine Pairing

My wine of choice for my meal is a Chardonnay that comes from Newman Estate Winery in Gladstone, near Murray River in the Eastern part of PEI. Click here to read the story I previously wrote about my visit to this winery.


It’s so easy to prepare a tasty meal when local foods are sourced. The ingredients are super fresh because they haven’t traveled many miles for many days before they reach the dinner plate.

What’s on your menu to celebrate Food Day Canada today?

Steamed Mussels – My Island Bistro Kitchen Style

Ingredients:

1 cup Gahan’s Sir John A’s Honey Wheat Ale
½ cup onion, chopped
2 tbsp carrots, diced
2 tbsp celery, diced + some celery leaves
½ tsp puréed garlic
⅛ tsp coriander
⅛ tsp fennel
⅛ tsp thyme
⅛ tsp basil
½ tsp parsley
1 lb PEI mussels

Method:

Assemble ingredients.

In 5-litre pot, place all ingredients, except the mussels.

Bring mixture to a boil and boil gently over medium-low heat for 4-5 minutes.

Add mussels.

Increase heat to medium. Cover. Let steam for 7-10 minutes until shells have opened.

Scoop mussels into serving bowl(s). Serve hot with melted butter and your favourite bread which may also be dipped into the steaming broth that was used to steam the mussels.

Yield: 2 appetizer-sized servings.

 

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True Confessions of an Island Foodie’s Love Affair with Local Prince Edward Island Foods

Happy Valentine’s from Prince Edward Island!

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:

Starter

Island Mussels

(steamed in apple cider and herbs and dipped in Island-churned butter)

Soup

Jeff McCourt’s PEI Seafood Chowder

(a rich, smooth, and creamy chowder filled

with a variety of PEI seafood and Island potatoes)

Main

Lobster Newburg served in a patty shell accompanied by a crisp green salad

(lobster and mushrooms in a rich sherry and cheese sauce)

Dessert

Chocolate Potato Cake

Wine Pairing:  Rossignol’s Little Sands White Wine (PEI)

PEI Mussels
PEI Mussels

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.

Seafood Chowder
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.

Lobster
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 Newburg
Lobster Newburg

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
Lobster Newburg

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.

Rossignol's Little Sands White Wine
Rossignol’s Little Sands White Wine

To compliment the tablesetting, I chose locally-grown tulips from Vanco Farms’ greenhouses in Mount Albion, PEI.  Aren’t they beautiful flowers!

Vanco Tulips
Vanco Tulips

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!

Lobster Newburg

Ingredients:

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

pinch nutmeg

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

Method:

Assemble ingredients.

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

Thank you for visiting “the Bistro” today.

Be sure to visit my Facebook page at My Island Bistro Kitchen.  You may also wish to follow me on twitter @PEIBistro, on Pinterest at “Island Bistro Kitchen”, and on Instagram at “PEIBistro”.

Toes, Taps & Taters: A Barn Dance and Kitchen Party in O’Leary, PEI

Ever been to a huge PEI barn dance/kitchen party?  That was the theme for the Toes, Taps & Taters Fall Flavours culinary event in O’Leary, PEI, on September 27, 2013.

This was the first year for this signature Fall Flavours event.  The location was a logical and fitting one at the Canadian Potato Museum in O’Leary, in the center of one of the largest potato-growing regions on PEI.  Attached to this museum is a large new machine shed which made an ideal venue for a spud party.  And, what a perfect location it turned out to be for an event that was all about showcasing the versatility of Island spuds.  It was a toe-tapping good time with lots of music, dancing and, of course, great food featuring – you guessed it — PEI potatoes.

While the Museum proved to be an ideal location, it also meant a huge amount of work for organizers as they had to move all the big, heavy historical potato equipment to make room for tables, stage, bar, and transform it into a party atmosphere.

Out of all of the Fall Flavours events, this one sold out of its 250 tickets very early.  I asked Kendra Mills, Marketing Director of the PEI Potato Board that was behind the event why she thought this first-time event had been so popular to sell out a month before it was being held.  She believes several factors were at play.  The price point ($49.99/pp – CDN$) made it affordable, the location inside a potato museum also incited interest and, of course, the celebrity guest chef, Lynn Crawford, was also a huge draw.

Because this was a signature class Fall Flavours event, that meant a celebrity chef was host for the evening.  Distinguished international chef, cookbook author, and Food Network (FN) star, Chef Lynn Crawford proved to be an excellent choice as the event’s celebrity host.  You may know Lynn from the FN series, “Pitchin’ In” or you may have seen her on the popular series “Iron Chef America.  Indigo bookstore was also on hand during the evening selling Chef Lynn’s books and she was very obliging to autograph copies.

The evening started out with time for photo opps with Chef Lynn who greeted guests  just outside the door to the Museum.  This was followed by a meet and greet cocktail party with delicious hors d’oeuvres, wine from PEI’s Newman Estate Winery, and local entertainment.

Each guest was presented with one of these aprons as a souvenir of the event (and, no, the potato harvester wasn’t posing for the photograph – the farmer just happened along to dig the field of potatoes beside us as I was preparing to photograph the apron the morning after the event).

Here was the mouth-watering menu attendees enjoyed throughout the evening:

Historical Favourites:
Lobster salad potato roll
Potato fishcakes with chow chow and scrunchions
Crisp potato gaufrette with mussel and tomato salad
PEI Potato pasty
Chef Lynn’s Crispy PEI potato flatbread, Avonlea cheddar and herb pesto

Out with the old and in with the new:
Braised PEI certified short rib and Cows cheddar perogies
PEI Potato blinis with smoked salmon and green onion crème fraiche
PEI Potato chowder complimented by the finest local seafood
21st century
French Rapure

Roast:
Pig roast on a spit with fall apple chutney, aligot and mixed seasonal vegetables

Late night:
French fries with tomato/fennel ketchup, truffle aioli, cheese curds and gravy.

Chocolate PEI potato bar that included: chocolate covered PEI potato chips, chocolate cake and mousse, PEI potato after eight mints, and PEI potato truffles

Is your mouth watering yet?

 

Chef John Pritchard from the Terre Rouge Bistro in Charlottetown, was in charge of the meal preparation and was assisted by staff from his Bistro as well as restaurant and wait staff from the nearby Rodd’s Mill River Resort.

The tables were effectively set with burlap runners on white linen, mason jar glasses, and centerpieces of miniature colored potatoes and seasonal sunflowers in mason jars wrapped with, yes, more burlap.

The MC for the event was Rob Barry from Morell, PEI, who kept the evening alive with his humour and potato trivia.  Music was supplied by the Ellis Family Band from Summerside, PEI, and Dance Virtuoso was on hand to teach folks how to do the two-step.

What would a party featuring potatoes be without a potato peeling contest!  This proved to be a fun event as two teams of four competed in a relay race – Chef Lynn’s team and Chef Rob’s team (or as he referred to them as “Team Awesome”) —  to see who would be the fastest potato peelers on the Island.  MC Rob declared his “Team Awesome” the winner (even after Chef Lynn kept trying to distract his team)!

When asked what having this event as part of the Fall Flavours Festival means to the PEI potato industry, Kendra Mills had this to say:  “If agriculture is the fabric of the Island, then potatoes are the threads.”  She also said the PEI Potato Board was looking forward to having the opportunity to have guests learn more about the potato industry and the farmers who grow the spuds that eventually make it to consumers’ tables.

During the evening, everyone repeated a Potato Farmer’s Oath and was sworn in as honorary potato farmers.

Of course, this swearing-in ceremony included libation in the form of potato vodka distilled in Hermanville, PEI, by Prince Edward Distillery (see my previous story on the Distillery here).  A rousing chorus of “Bud the Spud” was sung with great gusto to complete the ceremony.  Each attendee was presented with a certificate certifying them as an Honourary PEI Potato Farmer.

As a finale to the evening, out came the French fries along with the PEI potato chocolate bar.

This event was well done and offered attendees a glimpse into what a downhome PEI barn or kitchen party entails….and there were many people from off Island in attendance; in fact, I think they might just have outnumbered the Islanders present.  It also provided the opportunity to try potato in ways people might never have had them before.  This included Chef Lynn’s Crispy PEI potato flatbread with Avonlea clothbound cheddar and herb pesto.

And then, of course, came the pièce de résistance of the evening — huge bowls of “Cow Chips”, milk chocolate-covered potato chips produced right here on the Island by Anne of Green Gables Chocolates.

As the evening wound to a close, each attendee was presented with a 5 lb. bag of “Bud the Spud” potatoes as well as a sample of potato fudge.

This was my fourth and last Fall Flavours event for 2013 and it certainly was a big party as the month’s culinary events on the Island draw to a close this weekend.  If you are an Islander, I highly encourage you to consider taking in Fall Flavours events in 2014.  If you live off-Island and are wondering what the best time of the year would be to visit PEI, I recommend you consider September if you are a foodie because the month is jam-packed with many food and culinary events and visiting celebrity chefs.  Some events are repeated year-to-year because of their popularity and organizers will often add some new variety events as well.  Be sure to check out the Fall Flavours website throughout the year for news on upcoming Fall Flavours events.

Thank you for visiting “the Bistro” today.

Be sure to visit my new Facebook page at My Island Bistro Kitchen You may also wish to follow me on twitter @PEIBistro and on Pinterest at “Island Bistro Kitchen”.

Can You Say Cheese? You Could if You Were at The Great Island Grilled Cheese Challenge in PEI

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.

Preparing Chef Massimo's Grilled Cheese and Oyster Sandwich
Preparing Chef Massimo’s Grilled Cheese and Oyster 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.

Different Ways to Grill a Cheese Sandwich
Different Ways to Grill a Cheese Sandwich

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 Autographing Cookbook
Chef Massimo Autographing Cookbook

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.

Winning Entry from Chef Dwayne MacLeod, Gahan House
Winning Entry from Chef Dwayne MacLeod, Gahan House

Chef Andrew Smith from Red Shores placed second (yes, this was the entry that had Island lobster in the sandwich).

Second Place Entry from Andrew Smith from Red Shores
Second Place Entry from Chef Andrew Smith from Red Shores

And, Chef Jane Crawford from the Redwater Rustic Grill was the third place winner as well as the People’s Choice winner.

Third Place Entry from Chef Jane Crawford of Redwater Rustic Grille
Third Place Entry from Chef Jane Crawford of Redwater Rustic Grille

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!

Thank you for visiting “the Bistro” today.

Be sure to visit my new Facebook page at My Island Bistro Kitchen You may also wish to follow me on twitter @PEIBistro and on Pinterest at “Island Bistro Kitchen”.

Prince Edward Island’s New Festival of Wines 2013

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.

Sangria
Sangria

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.

Island Wineries

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.

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

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A Tour of Newman Estate Winery in Gladstone, PEI

Newman Estate Winery, Gladstone, PEI, Canada

Today, I’m visiting a new PEI winery in Gladstone, PEI.  Located near Murray River in the eastern part of PEI, Gladstone is approximately a one-hour drive from the Island’s capital of Charlottetown.

Route from Charlottetown to Gladstone, PEI (via scenic Montague)

As I head through the quiet little village of Murray River and turn on to the Gladstone Road, I pass along a rural country road lined with many wild rose bushes in full bloom in various hues of pink.  The paved road ends and I am on a narrow red dirt road crossing a small bridge over a tranquil water inlet.  Then, suddenly I come upon a sign for Newman Estate Winery.

Newman Estate Winery

As I turn in, I see a long red dirt lane leading past rows of grapevines to a tall, modern-shaped simplistic building which I’ll soon discover is the winery including a tasting room.  The rows of grapevines are neatly marked with the various grape varieties – like Marechal Foch, Lucie Kuhlmann.

 

Varieties of Grapes

 

 

 

 

 

 

As I arrive at the winery and open the car door, I sense a peaceful tranquil setting.  Birds are twittering and dew is still on the grass and I think what a wonderful living and working environment.  I am met by owner and winemaker, Mike Newman, and my tour begins in the vineyards.

 

Vineyard in the Early Morning

On this early July day, the vines are in their flowering stage so it will be a few more weeks before clusters of grapes will be seen hanging from the vines.  Harvesting is expected in early September when the sugar concentration is optimum.

Flowering Grape Vines

 

The vineyard is nestled in between large groves of tall trees that border the winery’s property and shelter the grapevines.

Rows of Grapevines

Because PEI, located in northeastern Canada, is prone to somewhat harsh winters, one of the first questions I ask Mike is what effect the weather has on grape production.  To my surprise, he tells me his hybrid vines can tolerate temperatures as low as -27C.  Our winters rarely get colder than that.  Growing grapes is labour-intensive and time-consuming work with a lot of staking and pruning of the vines.  Mike tells me his property has good sandy soil which is suitable for grape growing.

Grapevine

 

We move into the winery where there are six large stainless steel tanks for the wine fermentation process and Mike explains the laborious wine-making process from the crushing of the grapes through to fermentation, filtering, bottling, corking, and labelling.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Winemaking at Newman Estate Winery

Upstairs, on the veranda outside the wine-tasting room, you get a beautiful panoramic view of the vineyards.

View of Vineyard from Veranda of Wine-tasting Room at Newman Estate Winery
Newman Estate Winery Wines

Inside, you’ll find a mix of rustic and modern décor in the wine-tasting room that can accommodate up to 24 people.  Mike takes the time to explain the difference and importance of color to wines and how, for example, the colors of red wines differ substantially based on how long the grape skins have remained in contact with the grape juice during the fermentation process – the longer the contact, the darker the wine.

Red Wine

Mike planted his first grapevines in 2008 and produced the first wine for market in 2011 with a production of approximately 13,000 litres.

Wines Produced at Newman Estate Winery, Gladstone, PEI

Today, the winery has 7500 vines covering 10 acres and is completely organic.  Mike tells me his four-year old vines will generate six to seven clusters of grapes per plant and will be considered a full harvest.  Fruit from year three vines will be considered an early crop.  So, apart from being labour-intensive, wine-making also takes patience.

Veranda at Newman Estate Winery

The winery is small.  Currently, it operates with Mike as the winemaker and seven part-time staff.  Mike is a young entrepreneur, well-educated with an engineering degree, an MBA, and is currently working on his Winemaker’s Certificate. He is very committed to his winery and, when you speak with Mike, his passion for his vocation is very evident.  What started out as a hobby has turned into a career for Mike.  His goals are to enjoy doing what he does, generate local jobs, make a good quality wine at a reasonable price, and get Islanders to buy locally-produced wine.  Supporting local producers is always a good thing in my books.

Currently, Newman Estate Winery is producing both a red and a white wine with plans of expanding production.  The wines are very competitively priced at $12.50/litre (CDN$) and you can find them in PEI Liquor Retail Stores and at the winery.

I personally like Newman’s wines.  After my visit to the winery, I chose a menu for our evening meal that would feature one of Newman’s wines.  I chose the Chardonnay Seyval Blanc and paired it with pan-fried haddock, fingerlings, and maple-glazed carrots.  I found the wine was light-tasting, refreshing, and was a nice compliment to the seafood meal.

Seafood Dinner Served with Newman Estate Winery’s Chardonnay Seyval Blanc

On August 20, 2012, I visited the winery again and found these delightful clusters of grapes clinging to the vines.

Grapes on the Vine at Newman’s Vineyard in Gladstone, PEI, 20 August 2012

Newman Estate Winery is located at 2404 Gladstone Road, Murray River, PEI.  The winery is open for tours Monday – Saturday, 11:00am – 5:00pm.  If you are in the Murray River area, I recommend you take the short drive out to Gladstone to visit Newman Estate Winery and have a tour of their operation.  You can check out their website at http://www.newmanestatewinery.com/  or call the winery at 902-962-4223.

Newman’s Wine Goes Great With Grapes, Cheese, and Baguette

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”

Annie’s Table Culinary Studio – A Unique Culinary Experience on PEI

Annie’s Table Culinary Studio

Tucked away in the tidy little rural community of New London, PEI, on the Island’s north side, a new culinary adventure awaits you.  Housed in the former, and now decommissioned,  New London United Church which has been repurposed and transformed, Annie’s Table Culinary Studio offers unique, hands-on cooking classes for all culinary skill levels.

On Saturday, June 30, 2012, I was privileged to be invited to attend the official opening of Annie’s Table Culinary Studio.  Guests were treated to a wonderful afternoon hosted by owner, Annie Leroux.  Guests sipped Island-produced wines from Matos Winery of St. Catherine’s, Rossignol Estate Winery, Little Sands, and from Newman Estate Winery, of Murray Harbour, PEI, as well as the Island’s newest produced beer, Beach Chair Lager or, for the teetotalers, a refreshing Ginger Cordial.

PEI-Produced Wine and Beer Served at Official Opening of Annie’s Table Culinary Studio

 

Fresh PEI Oysters

Located right beside the beverage bar was a huge tub of fresh PEI Oysters that were being shucked, ready for guests to savour.  Throughout the afternoon, we sampled delightful offerings from Chef Norman and his staff that included such savories as mushroom-stuffed and seafood spring rolls, tasty bite-sized meat pies, and divine mussel-stuffed mushroom caps.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Savory hors d’oeuvres

 

Owner Annie Leroux and Chef Norman Zeldon at the Official Opening of Annie’s Table Culinary Studio

Following the brief speeches, Annie arranged for a culinary challenge – men against women – seated at the 12’ culinary table.  The names of six men and six women were randomly drawn and yours truly ended up in the challenge!  We started off with some short snappers of culinary trivia and then down to the business at hand.  As each competitor completed his/her food challenge, s/he had to dash to the head of the table to ring the bell.  My challenge was to chow down three huge, bacon-wrapped scallops which I did not do so well on!  Others had such challenges as declawing and eating two lobster claws, peeling a turnip, drinking Beach Chair lager or wine through a straw, making a kebob, making a salsa, and you get the idea!  While we women might hate to admit it, the men did win the challenge as first over the finish line!

Culinary Challenge at the Harvest Table

Many small rural Island churches have been demolished over recent years and it is so nice to see one that has been preserved and repurposed.  Annie has done a great job at maintaining the façade of the church, built in 1953, and incorporating several elements of the church’s interior into the architectural design for her studio.  For example, the pulpit makes a wonderful focal piece for the loft seating area that overlooks the huge harvest table in the center of the building.

Loft at Annie’s Table Culinary Studio

A tasteful selection of carefully gathered and preserved antiques lend themselves well to the ambiance of the studio.  The small tower of the church has been preserved and is reachable via a circular staircase.

The Tower at Annie’s Table Culinary Studio

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the main level, you will find a 12’ table that has been crafted from old attic boards from the house which Annie recently restored in New London also.  At the rear of the church, is the kitchen where students attending the classes can learn various cooking techniques.

 

 

 

 

 

Teaching Kitchen at Annie’s Kitchen Culinary Studio

I asked Annie where the idea came from for Annie’s Table Culinary Studio.  She tells me it is a combination of her passions – she likes to interact and socialize with people, she has a love of the Island and local foods, and has a passion for collecting antiques.  Annie says “I wanted to create a beautiful venue for people to come and experience Island foods –  not to just sit in a restaurant and enjoy lobster, etc., but learn all about them (huge educational component here)  and then learn different methods of preparing them in a fun, social atmosphere and then be able to sit and enjoy what they have been taught.”   Annie’s hope is that people will leave the table and  say “I had a ball and I met some new friends and I learned lots about the Island and, wow, would I love to live here….”  “That to me would say that I’ve offered them hospitality, knowledge, and a desire for more of the same”, says Annie.  As to why she chose the New London location, Annie says it has access to so many locally-produced or available foods nearby – oysters, mussels, lobster, and the list goes on, it’s the perfect location for her business.

While Annie’s is not a restaurant, students who register and attend one of her cooking classes do get to sit together at the big harvest table at the end of the class to enjoy their cooking creations.  Classes are available on a number of subject areas and are by reservation only.  Classes are small and intimate, generally restricted to 15 students although some events, such as the Oyster Extravaganza, can accommodate up to 40 people who want to learn how to shuck oysters.  While I am going to direct you to Annie’s website for a full listing of her 2012 classes, you can expect to find classes that focus heavily on traditional Island foods such as clams, oysters, mussels, lobster, artisan bread, and apple pie.  With a professional sommelier on her team, look for class offerings on wine tasting.  From time to time, classes will be offered on specialized cooking such as Thai and Latino culinary delights.  Annie is supported by Chef Norman, a talented Red Seal Chef who brims with personality and culinary knowledge.  From time to time, look for special guests leading culinary workshops at Annie’s.

Of particular interest to “Anne of Green Gables” fans  is the “Food Trip Down Memory Lane” class that recreates a meal similar to what would have likely been found on Lucy Maud Montgomery’s table in the late 1800s or early 1900s.  Included in this class is a tour of the nearby home where the famed author of the Anne of Green Gables series of books was born.  Also included is a private viewing of Annie’s own home across the street from the Birthplace of L. M. Montgomery which was the home of the mid-wife who delivered Lucy Maud.  So, if you are a Lucy Maud Montgomery fan, this day-long (10am – 3pm) class is for you.  Price for the day is $139./person.

Classes in the Culinary Studio or other food events offered by the Studio range from 1.5 – 5 hours in length and are priced between $20. and $139.  Some are offered during the day while other classes are scheduled for evenings.  Annie’s Table Culinary Studio operates seasonally from June to October so, whether you are a local Islander or a tourist, this is a unique culinary experience.  Gather together a family group, co-workers, or friends who like to cook and head out to beautiful New London, PEI, for a fun and learning vacation experience.

You can find Annie’s Table Culinary Studio in picturesque New London, PEI, at 4295 Graham’s Road on Route 8 (902-886-2070) – just look for the little white church!