On a lovely Sunday afternoon on a hill in beautiful Clinton, PEI, the 2016 PEI Fall Flavors Culinary Festival came to a conclusion with a finale event featuring one of PEI’s finest shellfish – mussels.
The photo below shows an example of the mussel sock in which mussels grow.
According to the PEI Mussel Industry Council of PEI, the Island produces about 45 million pounds of mussels each year. This translates into approximately 80% of the entire mussel production in Canada. So, it is only fitting that an Island culinary festival would dedicate an entire event to featuring mussels.
The Clinton Hills venue, frequently used for wedding receptions, proved to be a great location for this function which was hosted by guest celebrity chefs Anna and Michael Olson who are no strangers to the PEI Fall Flavors Culinary Festival. Anna and Michael have been a part of the Festival for many years and often host two to three signature events at the Festival each year.
The event began with a large campfire upon which the mussels were steamed.
Yes, those tightly wrapped tinfoil packets contain mussels.
Everything always tastes better cooked over an open fire! Opening up the tinfoil packets revealed these tasty treats. Three options were available: Mussels steamed in white wine, orange juice, or a Caesar mix, all with aromatics added.
Mussels and corn on the cob are a great combo!
Chef Anna is checking out the yummy mussels.
Even chefs, like the rest of us foodies, just have to photograph their food before consuming it!
Around the campfire….
Any good party on PEI will have lively music. The strolling musicians were Mark Haines (fiddle) and Brad Fremlin (accordian).
After enjoying the mussels and corn by the campfire, folks moved over to the large tent just outside the event barn.
The PEI Brewing Company was serving some of their award winning beer.
Nova Scotia’s Benjamin Bridge Winery was the 2016 wine sponsor for the PEI Fall Flavors Culinary Festival. They were pouring their famous Nova 7 wine. One of the great things about culinary festivals is the opportunity to discover new products. I discovered the Nova 7 wine at the PEI Fall Flavors Culinary Festival events in 2015 when Benjamin Bridge was also the wine sponsor. This wine is an aromatic light-bodied effervescent wine with a beautiful salmon or light coral color. Look for appealing aromatics with lovely floral and fruit notes in this wine. The Nova 7 is a very versatile wine, perfect for sipping or for pairing with a variety of foods, including seafood which made it a suitable accompaniment to the mussel dishes served at this event.
Making my rounds inside the tent, I started with a bowl of delectable homemade mussel chowder.
This was followed by yummy mussel fritters served in slider rolls.
I had not had mussel fritters before and these were super tasty!
Upstairs in the main event barn, lobster poutine was being served. This was one event where you wanted to make sure you left the diet at home!
Anna and Michael did a demo of their favorite ways to steam mussels and adding aromatics to enhance the flavor of these tasty morsels. I like when the event also has a learning component to it.
Wagon rides around the farm were available throughout the afternoon. This was a rather stylish wagon ride with its benches!
If you are a foodie, then I recommend a trip to PEI in September when the whole month is dedicated to culinary events featuring one or more of the Island’s fine foods. It’s a great way to learn about the foods of PEI, try some new foods or new and different ways to serve them, and hear some great local musicians.
To read stories I have written about other PEI Fall Flavors Culinary Festival events, follow these links:
One of the 2016 signature events for the PEI Fall Flavors Culinary Festival was the Great Big Barbeque. Hosted by celebrity chef, Mark McEwan, this event was held at the PEI Brewing Company in Charlottetown.
The Great Big Barbeque was a roving feast with food stations set up around the perimeter of the brewery as well as on the second level.
In total, there were nine different food stations each featuring a local Island Chef with a signature dish.
Benjamin Bridge Winery, the 2016 Festival wine sponsor, greeted each patron with a glass of their Nova 7 wine.
The PEI Brewing Company was kept busy serving small mugs of their handcrafted Gahan Ale straight from the tank. You can read the story I previously wrote about this brewery by clicking here.
The main event hall was set up with picnic tables. From here, patrons circulated around the food stations in the order of their choosing.
The Adam MacGregor Band provided lively entertainment for the evening.
Station #1 – PEI Seafood Chowder
Chef Kyle Panton (Simms Corner Steakhouse and Oyster Bar) was kept busy dishing out his award-winning seafood chowder which he served in small glass jars.
The chowder was accompanied by homemade biscuits, always a winning combo.
Station #2 – Lobster Poutine
Chef Brad MacDonald (The Brickhouse Kitchen and Bar) served up a dish featuring Island lobster and potatoes in the form of lobster poutine – hand-cut fries with a lobster veloute and melted cheese curds.
Station #3 – Glasgow Glen Farm’s Grilled Cheese
Jeff McCourt, chef and cheesemaker, from Glasgow Glen Farm in New Glasgow served an open-faced grilled Gouda cheese sandwich with smoked salmon and apple slaw on baguette slices.
Station #4 – PEI Brewing Company Wood Fire Pizza
The brewery has a wood fire brick oven which was kept hopping with fresh made-to-order pizzas.
Station #5 – Island Striploin with Lobster Béarnaise
Chefs Cody Wallace (Fishbones Oyster Bar and Seafood Grill) and Jordan Dennis (Sobeys West Royalty) teamed up to present grilled PEI beef striploin with lobster béarnaise.
Station #6 – Island Beef Burger
The barbeques were kept busy grilling the slider beef burgers which Chef Brock MacDonald (The Gahan House) presented on cornbread brioche with avocado mayo, pickled red onions, and peppercorn blue cheese.
Station #7 – Marinated BBQ Kabobs
A huge barbeque at the brewery’s side door was filled with veggie kabobs consisting of zucchini, peppers, mushrooms, and tomatoes grilled in a smoky Gahan Iron Bridge Brown Ale BBQ sauce. These were the creation of Chef Andrew Cotton (Merchantman Fresh Seafood and Oyster Bar).
Station #8 – Freshly Shucked PEI Oysters
Sous Chef Alexandre Jolin (The Barrington Steakhouse and Oyster Bar) ensured lots of PEI oysters were shucked and ready for patrons.
Station # 9 – S’Mores Dessert Bar
This bar was set up so patrons could toast their own marshmallows to make S’Mores.
This was a lively and interactive event and the brewery was an ideal location for this casual barbeque. It was great to see so many local Island chefs featured. We have a lot of great things happening on the food scene on PEI and the barbeque offered the opportunity to sample many of them.
Follow these links for stories I have written on other PEI Fall Flavors Culinary Events:
The PEI Fall Flavours Culinary Festival introduced a new culinary event in 2015. While still classed as a “signature” event, the “Cooking with Chefs Anna and Michael Olson”, was a small, intimate, casual gathering of about 50 people on a sunny Sunday afternoon at the Rodd Brudenell River Resort in Prince Edward Island. The Olsons’ relaxed and authentic style along with their sense of humour made for a lovely and informative afternoon.
The afternoon started out with a tutoring session on beer and cheese pairing (plus one wine and cheese pairing).
Locally-brewed beers from PEI breweries were used to pair against locally-made cheeses (with the exception of the Brie cheese which came from New Brunswick because there is no Brie currently made on PEI).
The cheeses were from Glasgow Glen Farm in New Glasgow and COWS Creamery in North River on the outskirts of Charlottetown.
By way of example, some of the Chefs’ pairing suggestions included: Aged Gouda from Glasgow Glen Farm and COWS Creamery Avonlea Clothbound Cheddar pair well with the PEI Brewing Company’s “Island Red” ale. COWS Creamery Appletree Smoked Cheddar teams well with the PEI Brewing Company’s “Sydney Street Stout”.
The Olsons also suggested some food pairings with the beer. They suggest Upstreet Craft Brewing’s “Rhuby Social Strawberry Rhubarb Witbier” pairs well with seafood – in particular, mussels, clams, and white fish. “Island Red” ale compliments roasts, ribs, and barbequed foods. Chef Michael referred to the “Sydney Street Stout” as the “red wine of beers” so suggested it could be paired with a wide variety of foods including oysters, roast beef, rich cheeses, and desserts. In particular, he says that onions and stout are a great combination to make a rich sauce for meat.
The Olsons offered a cheese and wine pairing suggestion using wine from Benjamin Bridge Vineyards in Nova Scotia which was this year’s wine sponsor for the Culinary Festival. They suggest that the “Nova 7” wine, that has a hint of sweetness, pairs particularly well with double cream Brie.
The second half of the afternoon was devoted to a cooking demonstration. Three dishes were prepared: PEI Mussels steamed in Ale with Mustard; Apple and Cheese Scones, and Schnitzel Sliders. As they demonstrated the food preparation, Chefs Anna and Michael offered cooking and baking tips.
And, yes, we did get to sample the food, too!
The event was also a good occasion to purchase cookbooks authored by Chefs Anna and Michael Olson and have them autographed.
I liked this culinary event because it was casual and interactive with the chefs and it was educational. As a foodie, I am always looking for new and different ways to prepare local foods so including this type of event into a culinary festival is very appealing to me. I hope more of this type of event is included in the future.
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 PEI Fall Flavours Culinary Events I have attended, click on these links:
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!
Thank you for visiting “the Bistro” today.
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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!