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Taste of North Rustico, PEI – A Rustico Kitchen Party

North Rustico Harbour, PEI
North Rustico Harbour, PEI

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

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

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

North Rustico, PEI
North Rustico, PEI

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Taste of North Rustico 2017
Taste of North Rustico 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To read stories I have written about other PEI Fall Flavours Culinary Festival events, follow these links:

PEI Shellfish Festival (2012)
Farm Day in the City (2012)
Savour Victoria (2012)
Toes, Taps, and Taters (2013)
Lobster Party on the Beach (2013)
Applelicious (2013)
The Great Island Grilled Cheese Challenge (2013)
Feast of the Fathers (2014)
Lamb Luau at Crowbush Cove (2014)
Feast and Frolic Dinner (PEI International Shellfish Festival) (2014)
Beef and Blues (2014)
A Taste of New Glasgow (2015)
Beef ‘n Blues (2015)
Chef on Board (2015)
Cooking with Chefs Anna & Michael Olson in Brudenell, PEI (2015)
Le Festin acadien avec homard/Acadian Feast with Lobster (2016)
The Great Big Barbeque (2016)
Mussels on the Hill (2016)
Toes, Taps, & Taters (2017)
Taste of Georgetown (2017)

A Taste of Georgetown, PEI

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

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

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

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

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

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

Serving Rossignol Wine
Serving Rossignol Wine

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

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

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

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

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

Snow Crab Roulade
Snow Crab Roulade

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

Eel Tacos
Eel Tacos

Tranquility Cove Adventures served fresh shucked bar clam hinges.

Clam Hinges
Clam Hinges

Those are some mighty big clams!

Clams
Clams

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

Taste of Georgetown 2017 Menu
Taste of Georgetown 2017 Menu

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

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

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

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

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

Seafood Chowder
Seafood Chowder

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

Salad with Smoked Island Trout
Salad with Smoked Island Trout

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

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

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

Blueberry Cobbler
Blueberry Cobbler

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To read stories I have written about other PEI Fall Flavours Culinary Festival events, follow these links:

PEI Shellfish Festival (2012)
Farm Day in the City (2012)
Savour Victoria (2012)
Toes, Taps, and Taters (2013)
Lobster Party on the Beach (2013)
Applelicious (2013)
The Great Island Grilled Cheese Challenge (2013)
Feast of the Fathers (2014)
Lamb Luau at Crowbush Cove (2014)
Feast and Frolic Dinner (PEI International Shellfish Festival) (2014)
Beef and Blues (2014)
A Taste of New Glasgow (2015)
Beef ‘n Blues (2015)
Chef on Board (2015)
Cooking with Chefs Anna & Michael Olson in Brudenell, PEI (2015)
Le Festin acadien avec homard/Acadian Feast with Lobster (2016)
The Great Big Barbeque (2016)
Mussels on the Hill (2016)
Toes, Taps, & Taters (2017)

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

 

Tap the Toes and Taste the Taters!

 

PEI is Canada's Food Island
PEI is Canada’s Food Island

Well, what’s a potato farmer on Canada’s Food Island to do if he has a big warehouse empty and waiting for this fall’s crop to be dug from the rich red soil of Prince Edward Island?  Might as well have a party in that warehouse and may as well include a couple of hundred people and a celebrity chef too!

That’s exactly what potato producer, Alex Docherty of Sherwood Produce Inc., did on September 8, 2017, when he provided the host location for a big potato-themed kitchen-style party.  For anyone who wanted to hobnob with a culinary celebrity, chow down on some good PEI food, and enjoy some fine traditional PEI music, this event offered the perfect way to indulge all three.

Dinner in the Warehouse
Dinner in the Warehouse

Toes, Taps, and Taters is an annual event that is part of the PEI Fall Flavours Culinary Festival.  I had attended this event in 2013 when it was held in the Potato Museum in O’Leary and it was a rollicking good time (click here for the link to that story).  This year, the location changed to a potato warehouse in Canoe Cove on the Island’s South Shore, about a 20-25 minute drive from Charlottetown and organizers pulled out all the stops! Toes, Taps, and Taters is a signature event of the Festival which means that a celebrity chef is in the house as guest host; this year, that was Chef Chuck Hughes who is quite the character! There is never a dull moment when Chef Chuck is at a culinary event!

Chef Chuck Hughes
Chef Chuck Hughes

I arrived at the location around 5:15pm on a beautiful, sunny September evening, one of those late summer days that is just made for a fun party with outside activities.  As folks arrived, they were greeted with the evocative skirl of bagpipes from a lone piper just up the hill from the warehouse.

Piper
Piper at Toes, Taps, and Taters – PEI Fall Flavours 2017

Of course, Tate, the PEI potato mascot, was on hand and loved to have his photo taken.

Tate
Tate – The mascot for the PEI Potato Industry

Anyone wishing to go and experience digging his or her own potatoes was welcome to board the haywagon and go for a hayride to the potato field.

Off to the Field to Dig Potatoes!
Off to the Field to Dig Potatoes!

Take a gander at the size of that little tractor!

Hayride
Hayride to the Potato Field

Just at the entrance to the warehouse, well-known local chef and cheesemaker, Jeff McCourt from Glasgow Glen Farm, was cooking up a storm and the scent of food cooking over an open fire was an automatic draw to see what he was up to. He brought along some of the Gouda cheese he makes and tantalized taste buds with his Island-style Raclette.

Raclette
Island-style Raclette

Raclette, of Swiss-German origins, involves heating cheese over an open fire then scraping it with a knife over cooked (usually boiled) potatoes. Well, you had me at melted gouda! And, those sweet little multi-colored PEI baby potatoes!

PEI Baby Potatoes
PEI Baby Potatoes

That’s a gooda Gouda!

Raclette
Raclette in the making

The potatoes were cooked in cast iron pots over free-standing burning logs and the cheese was carefully melted over similar log fires under the watchful eye of Chef Jeff.

Cooking Potatoes Over an Log Fire
Cooking Potatoes Over an Log Fire

Part of the experience of attending culinary events is to see and learn different ways of cooking and experience traditional foods like potato and cheese turned into a different form.

Melting Cheese for Raclette
Chef Jeff McCourt melts Gouda cheese over open fire for Raclette

Why does food cooked outdoors always seem to smell and taste sooooo good?

Oyster Bay Bubbly
Oyster Bay Bubbly

Upon entering the warehouse, diners were greeted with a glass of Oyster Bay bubbly. They also had the opportunity to sample blueberry ale brewed by Upstreet Craft Brewing of Charlottetown.

Upstreet Brewing Company's Blueberry Ale
Upstreet Craft Brewing’s Blueberry Ale

Several stations with hors d’oeuvres were set up and folks moved around the stations at their leisure.

Toes, Taps, and Taters Reception (2017)
Toes, Taps, and Taters Reception (2017)

Potatoes, of course, featured prominently in most of the hors d’oeuvres starting with Russet Potato Risotto Style.

Russet Potato Risotto with Aged Island Gouda and Pickled Red Onion
Russet Potato Risotto with Aged Island Gouda and Pickled Red Onion

These two guys were kept busy preparing the tasty Risotta!

Making Russet Potato Risotto
Making Russet Potato Risotto

With hand pies being a trendy item, the Bacon-Leek Potato Hand Pies served with sour cream and chives proved to be a popular stop on the hors d’oeuvres circuit.

Bacon-Leek Potato Hand Pies served with sour cream and chives
Bacon-Leek Potato Hand Pies served with sour cream and chives

There were, of course, lots of options to try from the PEI charcuterie table.

PEI Charcuterie Table
PEI Charcuterie Table

Zillions of fries are made each year from PEI potatoes so, naturally, French Fries would have to factor in somewhere during the event.  Islanders love their mussels and their fries so Chef Irwin MacKinnon (pictured below) combined the two and served the mussels with roasted garlic aioli. At this point, little did I know that this guy was also in charge of catering the main meal, too!

Moules Frites
Chef Irwin MacKinnon serves up Mussels and Fries with Roasted Garlic Aioli

Yes, these Moules Frites were “right some good”!

Moules Frites (Mussels with Fries)
Moules Frites (Mussels with Fries)

There can’t be a good party on PEI without great music and Sheila MacKenzie on fiddle and Norman Stewart on guitar provided lively toe-tapping music throughout the reception preceding the dinner. It was traditional PEI ceilidh style music.

Entertainers Sheila MacKenzie (fiddle) and Norman Stewart (guitar)
Entertainers Sheila MacKenzie (fiddle) and Norman Stewart (guitar)

They were also joined by two very talented and energetic step dancers, Alanna and Shelby Dalziel.

Entertainers Sheila MacKenzie (fiddle) and Norman Stewart (guitar)
Entertainers Sheila MacKenzie (fiddle) and Norman Stewart (guitar) with step dancers Alanna and Shelby Dalziel

Rob Barry proved to be an entertaining MC and he and Chef Chuck Hughes kept the evening lively with lots of banter and audience engagement.

Celebrity Chef Chuck Hughes (left) and MC Rob Berry (right) at Toes, Taps & Taters PEI Fall Flavors Culinary Festival Event (2017)
Celebrity Chef Chuck Hughes (left) and MC Rob Barry (right) at Toes, Taps & Taters PEI Fall Flavours Culinary Festival Event (2017)

Part of the evening included the swearing in of everyone in attendance as honorary Islanders for the evening which involved the citing of the Potato Oath and, of course, a little swig of, umm, perhaps potato vodka, to make it official. This was followed by a rousing chorus of Stompin’ Tom’s “Bud the Spud”.

Potato Oath
Potato Oath

Part of the warehouse was transformed into a large country dining room with tables attractively set with red and white checkered tablecloths.

Toes, Taps, and Taters Dinner - PEI Fall Flavors Culinary Festival 2017, Canoe Cove
Toes, Taps, and Taters Dinner – PEI Fall Flavours Culinary Festival 2017, Canoe Cove

Creative centerpieces were mason jars filled with multi-colored baby PEI potatoes and mini lights.

PEI Baby Potatoes Light up the Tables
PEI Baby Potatoes Light up the Tables

Here’s a closer look at one of the tables.

Close-up of one of the tables at Toes, Taps, and Taters Dinner, Canoe Cove, PEI (2017)
Close-up of one of the tables at Toes, Taps, and Taters Dinner, Canoe Cove, PEI (2017)

Can you imagine that this was all taking place in a huge potato warehouse in which, up to three weeks previous, had tons of potatoes in it? It’s true.

Toes, Taps, and Taters Dinner 2017
Toes, Taps, and Taters Dinner 2017
Placesetting at Toes, Taps, and Taters Dinner 2017
Placesetting at Toes, Taps, and Taters Dinner 2017

And, here was the menu:

Menu for 2017 Toes, Taps, and Taters Dinner
Menu for 2017 Toes, Taps, and Taters Dinner

As you might guess, the dinner was a potato feast and potato was featured in each of the courses starting with the appetizer which was a delectable salmon-haddock potato fish cake that was served with marinated Island Blue Mussel salad and lemon caper dill. This was plated very attractively. (Apologies for the quality of these photos as they don’t do the meal justice but this was all taking place inside a huge cavernous warehouse that was eating up the light so studio quality photography wasn’t an option. Hopefully, though, the photos will give readers a ‘flavour’ for the menu items.)

Appetizer - Salmon Haddock Potato Fish Cake, Marinated Island Blue Mussel Salad, Lemon Caper Dill (Toes, Taps, and Taters Dinner 2017)
Appetizer – Salmon Haddock Potato Fish Cake, Marinated Island Blue Mussel Salad, Lemon Caper Dill (Toes, Taps, and Taters Dinner 2017)

The main course consisted of slow-roasted certified Island beef prime rib cooked to perfection and served with red wine Rosemary jus, beef drippings Yorkshire pudding, roasted garlic-horseradish whipped PEI potatoes, sweet pea purée, roasted squash stuffed with seasonal vegetables. This was a potato and beef lover’s dream meal!

PEI Prime Rib, Yorkshire Pudding, Whipped PEI Potatoes, Sweet Pea Purée, and Seasonal Vegetables Stuffed in Roasted Squash (Toes, Taps, and Taters Dinner 2017)
PEI Prime Rib, Yorkshire Pudding, Whipped PEI Potatoes, Sweet Pea Purée, and Seasonal Vegetables Stuffed in Roasted Squash (Toes, Taps, and Taters Dinner 2017)
PEI Prime Rib, Yorkshire Pudding, Whipped PEI Potatoes, Sweet Pea Purée, and Seasonal Vegetables Stuffed in Roasted Squash (Toes, Taps, and Taters Dinner 2017)
PEI Prime Rib, Yorkshire Pudding, Whipped PEI Potatoes, Sweet Pea Purée, and Seasonal Vegetables Stuffed in Roasted Squash (Toes, Taps, and Taters Dinner 2017)

And, for dessert, a delectable wild blueberry cobbler was served in a mason jar and garnished with a chocolate-dipped potato chip and whipped cream. Yes, even the dessert had potato in it!

Blueberry Cobbler with Chocolate Dipped Potato Chip and Whipped Cream (Toes, Taps, and Taters Dinner 2017)
Blueberry Cobbler with Chocolate Dipped Potato Chip and Whipped Cream (Toes, Taps, and Taters Dinner 2017)

Now, you might wonder how such an elaborate meal could be served in a potato warehouse for some 200 people.  Well, Chef Irwin MacKinnon from Papa Joe’s Restaurant in Charlottetown was in charge of the meal preparation and the mobile kitchen in the photo below is the one he brought into the warehouse to use for the meal preparation.

PEI Chef, Irwin MacKinnon, Caterer to the 2017 Toes, Taps, and Taters Dinner in Canoe Cove, PEI
PEI Chef, Irwin MacKinnon, Caterer to the 2017 Toes, Taps, and Taters Dinner in Canoe Cove, PEI

Can you imagine the amount of organization and coordination that would have been involved to prepare and serve this meal and it was all done in a trailer/mobile kitchen inside a potato warehouse!

Behind the Scenes at Toes, Taps, and Taters Dinner 2017
Behind the Scenes at Toes, Taps, and Taters Dinner 2017
Behind the Scenes at Toes, Taps, and Taters Dinner 2017
Behind the Scenes at Toes, Taps, and Taters Dinner 2017

The evening ended with a performance by Trinity Bradshaw, an up and coming country music artist from Summerside, PEI.

Islander and Upcoming Country Music Artist, Trinity Bradshaw, Performs at the 2017 Toes, Taps, and Taters Dinner in Canoe Cove, PEI
Islander and Upcoming Country Music Artist, Trinity Bradshaw, Performs at the 2017 Toes, Taps, and Taters Dinner in Canoe Cove, PEI

This event was the full-meal deal – great food and entertainment. It was very well coordinated and the attention to detail by organizers and chefs ensured this was a first-rate event.  The passion and pride of the PEI potato farming community was displayed at every turn.

Toes, Taps, and Taters Dinner in Canoe Cove, PEI (2017)
Toes, Taps, and Taters Dinner in Canoe Cove, PEI (2017)

I have always said two of the best ways to experience the culture of a place are to check out the local food and regional music. Visitors can learn a lot about a place through the food a place produces and the genres that form the local music scene. There were a large number of visitors from off-Island who sought out this event with the farthest coming from Belgium.  Some attendees schedule their entire vacations around the festival and return year after year.  In fact, at my table, there were new visitors from Ontario and repeat visitors from Western Canada and this was their fourth year coming for the Fall Flavours Festival.  This year they attended three culinary events, including the popular Lobster on the Beach event for their third time.  A testament to the calibre of the PEI Fall Flavours events that showcase the wonderful food of this very special food island on Canada’s east coast.

To read stories I have written about other PEI Fall Flavours Culinary Festival events, follow these links:

PEI Shellfish Festival (2012)
Farm Day in the City (2012)
Savour Victoria (2012)
Toes, Taps, and Taters (2013)
Lobster Party on the Beach (2013)
Applelicious (2013)
The Great Island Grilled Cheese Challenge (2013)
Feast of the Fathers (2014)
Lamb Luau at Crowbush Cove (2014)
Feast and Frolic Dinner (PEI International Shellfish Festival) (2014)
Beef and Blues (2014)
A Taste of New Glasgow (2015)
Beef ‘n Blues (2015)
Chef on Board (2015)
Cooking with Chefs Anna & Michael Olson in Brudenell, PEI (2015)
Le Festin acadien avec homard/Acadian Feast with Lobster (2016)
The Great Big Barbeque (2016)
Mussels on the Hill (2016)

Photos and story about the 2017 Toes, Taps, and Taters culinary event that was part of the Prince Edward Island Fall Flavors Festival

 

Summer Seashells Tablesetting

Summer Seashells Tablesetting
Summer Seashells Tablesetting

Weather permitting, alfresco dining makes for a pleasant dining experience. On Prince Edward Island (PEI), our season for outside dining is quite short but we make the most of it. Summer lends itself to so many tablesetting options. Living on PEI, surrounded by water, it’s easy to draw inspiration from the sea which is what I have done with today’s summer seashells tablesetting.

The color theme I have chosen is very soft and pastel – the pale blue shades to represent the sea and sky complimented by shades of beige and pale salmon pink to represent the color of the sand on the beaches and sand dunes around PEI.

Greenwich National Park
The pink sand dunes of Greenwich National Park, Prince Edward Island, Canada

We Islanders love our beaches! Many tourists visit our Island each summer to enjoy our miles and miles of pristine beaches – the pale salmon pink sand common to the north shore beaches in contrast to the deep rusty red shade of sand typically found on our south shore beaches. Our shores are bordered by the rich red-colored cliffs like those to the left in the photo below.

Darnley Beach, Prince Edward Island, Canada
Darnley Beach, Prince Edward Island, Canada

So, as you can see, it’s not hard for me to find inspiration for sea-themed tablesettings when I am so fortunate as to live in close proximity to such natural beauty.

Summer Seashell Tablesetting
Summer Seashell Tablesetting

I rarely use patterned table linens. I find they can be a bit tricky to work with because the pattern can be busy and somewhat limiting in terms of other decor items. My preference is to use the blank canvas of a solid-colored tablecloth and add color and design features through other elements like centerpieces, napkins, candles, and so forth. However, for a change (and a challenge), I have chosen a matching tablecloth and napkins that have a seashell theme.  They actually match quite well with my pale blue seashell dinnerware by Nantucket Home.

Summer Seashells Tablesetting
Summer Seashells Tablesetting

I would not use this patterned tablecloth for a formal setting but it is quite charming for a casual meal, particularly when we live near the water and when I am serving a seafood-themed dinner outside.

Nautical-themed Wine Bottle Holder
Nautical-themed Wine Bottle Holder

In terms of a centerpiece for a patterned tablecloth like this one, I recommend going with something very plain and simple, especially when this is a tablesetting for a casual dinner. What I have used here is a rustic wine holder which does double duty as a centerpiece and for actually holding the wine.  This is also a great idea if the table is not large – you still have something as a focal point in the table center but it does not overpower the setting. The nautical look of the wine holder compliments the sea theme and is a great conversation piece.

Summer Seashells Tablesetting
Summer Seashells Tablesetting

Folding patterned napkins when the tablecloth background is also patterned can be a challenge. Rather than using a formal napkin fold, I have simply knotted the napkins in the center and placed them over the soup/salad bowls. This keeps the look casual and also adds a bit of lift and color to the plain dishes.

Summer Seashells Tablesetting
Summer Seashells Tablesetting
Simple knotted napkin for a seashell-themed tablesetting
Simple knotted napkin for a seashell-themed tablesetting

I have kept the glassware quite simple using plain wine glasses complimented by my antique water glasses. The cutwork in these glasses sparkle in the sunlight.

Summer Seashells Tablesetting
Summer Seashells Tablesetting

Regardless whether you live near the sea or not, a seaside ambience can be created using seashell dinnerware and sea-themed table linens.

It’s pretty. It’s pastel. It’s summery and this tablesetting definitely has a distinctive romantic coastal feel.

Summer Seashells Tablesetting
Summer Seashells Tablesetting
This Summer Seashells Tablesetting draws its inspiration from the seashell dinnerware.
Summer Seashell Tablesetting
Summer Seashell Tablesetting

Now, it’s time to prepare the dinner! Curious as to what is on the menu for my PEI seafood dinner? I am serving PEI mussels steamed in Upstreet Craft Brewing’s “Rhuby Social” beer followed by my mussel chowder which I will serve with my homemade rolls. The main will be Island lobster in the shell accompanied by my yummy PEI potato salad. And, for dessert?  Homemade Blueberry Cheese Pie will be tonight’s finale! I think all of these foods will look great on this sea-inspired table!

To view photos of another of my sea-inspired tablescapes, click here.

My Island Bistro Kitchen’s PEI Mussel Chowder

My Island Bistro Kitchen's PEI Mussel Chowder
My Island Bistro Kitchen’s PEI Mussel Chowder

Mussels are a favorite shellfish of mine and, while I love them steamed in various different broths, today I am presenting them in the form of Mussel Chowder and I’m sharing my own personal recipe.

Steamed PEI Mussels
PEI mussels steamed in basil pesto with white wine, onion, and garlic

PEI mussels are world famous and PEI is the country’s largest mussel cultivator. According to the Mussel Industry Council of Prince Edward Island, the Island produces some 45 million pounds of mussels annually and grows 80% of Canada’s mussel production.  Fresh PEI mussels are shipped to the USA, Hong Kong, Japan, and Kuwait. We may be Canada’s smallest province but mussel farming on PEI is big “muscle” and big business. I love checking out restaurant menus when I travel around the world and seeing PEI mussels on the menu!

PEI Mussels Steamed in Beer

The blue mussels that come from PEI are farmed mussels meaning they don’t come from the sea bottom but, rather, they are grown in mesh sleeves, known as “socks”.

Mussel Sock
Mussels in the Sock in Which They are Grown

On the day I publish this mussel chowder recipe for the first time, it is Food Day Canada, a day set aside each year to celebrate all the great Canadian foods we enjoy.  Here, in PEI, I have no shortage of local food options to choose from but, this year, it’s all about the mussels.

PEI Mussels
PEI Mussels Steamed in Rhuby Social Beer from Upstreet Craft Brewing

Mussels are more tender than clams and less gritty.  They are readily available on the Island at seafood outlets and supermarkets and are commonly served at gatherings on PEI.

PEI Mussels Served at Many Gatherings
Steamed PEI Mussels Served at Many Gatherings

Mussels are an affordable seafood and are quick, easy, and fast to prepare.  Steam them in liquid (even plain water) for 7-10 minutes, till the shells open. Dip these tasty little morsels in melted butter and oh-là-là! I like them steamed in beer, white wine, or apple juice with some garlic and fresh herbs.

PEI Mussels

Mussels are a great power food. They are low in fat and rich in vitamins and minerals.  They are also gluten-free and are a good source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids.

There are many different styles of mussel chowder and just as many ways to make it.  My mussel chowder is luxuriously rich, thick, creamy, and packed with wonderful flavor.

Begin by sweating some onion, celery, carrot, and garlic in butter to release the wonderful aromatics.  Add the flour and blend into the vegetables. This roux will thicken the chowder. Add the reserved mussel broth, chicken broth,  white wine, and some good PEI potatoes. Pour in some milk to make the chowder nice and creamy. Finally, add in the steamed mussels, and fresh herbs.

Serve with crusty rolls, traditional homemade biscuits, whole wheat biscuits, or garlic or artisan bread.

My Island Bistro Kitchen's PEI Mussel Chowder
My Island Bistro Kitchen’s PEI Mussel Chowder

My local beverage pairing for this chowder is the Commons Czech Style Pilsner produced by PEI’s Upstreet Craft Brewing in Charlottetown. This is a clean, crisp lager that pairs well with mussels. You can read the story I previously wrote about this artisan brewery by clicking here.

PEI Mussel Chowder Paired with Upstreet Brewing Company's Commons Czech Style Pilsner
PEI Mussel Chowder Paired with Upstreet Brewing Company’s Commons Czech Style Pilsner

[Printable recipe follows at end of posting]

My Island Bistro Kitchen’s PEI Mussel Chowder

Ingredients:
2 lb PEI mussels, washed and beards removed
1½ tbsp butter
¼ cup onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
¾ cup white wine
2 sprigs fresh thyme
2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped

2-3 tbsp butter
¼ cup onion, finely chopped
¼ cup celery, finely chopped
1 small carrot, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup peeled and diced potatoes
3 tbsp flour
1 cup reserved strained mussel broth
2/3 cup chicken broth
1/3 cup dry white wine
1 bay leaf
1½ cups whole milk or a combination of evaporated milk and whole milk
1 tsp fresh basil, finely chopped
1 tsp fresh thyme, finely chopped
½ tsp fresh dillweed, chopped
1 tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped
1 tbsp butter
Salt and cracked pepper, to taste

Method:
To steam the mussels, melt butter in large stockpot over medium heat.  Add the onion and garlic and sauté for 3-4 minutes.  Add the white wine, parsley, and thyme.  Bring to a boil.  Add the mussels. Cover. Steam for approximately 5-7 minutes, or until the mussel shells have opened.  Set aside 4 mussels in their shells to use as garnishes, then remove the mussel meat from the remaining shells, discarding any shells that have not completely opened.  Store mussels in refrigerator until needed. Strain the broth through a fine sieve and set aside.

In a large heavy-bottomed pot, melt the second amount of butter over medium heat.  Reduce heat slightly and add the onion, celery, carrot, and garlic.  Sweat the vegetables, stirring frequently, for 2-3 minutes, just until the onion is transparent.

Reduce heat to low. Add the flour to make a roux and stir to blend with the vegetables.  Cook for about 3-4 minutes, stirring constantly to prevent sticking and scorching.  Gradually add the reserved mussel broth, chicken broth, and white wine, whisking constantly to work out any lumps. Add the bay leaf and potatoes. Increase heat to medium high and bring mixture to a boil then reduce heat to medium low.  Cook for 8-9 minutes or until potatoes are almost fork tender.

Remove about ¼ cup of the hot liquid from pot and stir into the milk to temper it.  Pour tempered milk into hot mixture and stir to combine well.  Cook for about 5 minutes.  Add the steamed mussels, fresh herbs, and butter. Cook for 4-5 minutes until mussels are heated. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Remove and discard bay leaf. Ladle chowder into bowls and garnish each with a steamed mussel, fresh herbs, or chopped chives. Serve with crusty rolls, biscuits, or artisan or garlic bread.

Yield: Apx. 4 servings

My Island Bistro Kitchen's PEI Mussel Chowder

My Island Bistro Kitchen’s PEI Mussel Chowder

Serving Size: Apx. 4

A hearty and delicious mussel chowder made with world-famous PEI mussels

Ingredients

  • 2 lb PEI mussels, washed and beards removed
  • 1½ tbsp butter
  • ¼ cup onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ¾ cup white wine
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
  • 2-3 tbsp butter
  • ¼ cup onion, finely chopped
  • ¼ cup celery, finely chopped
  • 1 small carrot, finely diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup peeled and diced potatoes
  • 3 tbsp flour
  • 1 cup reserved strained mussel broth
  • 2/3 cup chicken broth
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1½ cups whole milk or a combination of evaporated milk and whole milk
  • 1 tsp fresh basil, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme, finely chopped
  • ½ tsp fresh dillweed, chopped
  • 1 tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • Salt and cracked pepper, to taste

Instructions

  1. To steam the mussels, melt butter in large stockpot over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and sauté for 3-4 minutes. Add the white wine, parsley, and thyme. Bring to a boil. Add the mussels. Cover. Steam for approximately 5-7 minutes, or until the mussel shells have opened. Set aside 4 mussels in their shells to use as garnishes, then remove the mussel meat from the remaining shells, discarding any shells that have not completely opened. Store mussels in refrigerator until needed. Strain the broth through a fine sieve and set aside.
  2. In a large heavy-bottomed pot, melt the second amount of butter over medium heat. Reduce heat slightly and add the onion, celery, carrot, and garlic. Sweat the vegetables, stirring frequently, for 2-3 minutes, just until the onion is transparent.
  3. Reduce heat to low. Add the flour to make a roux and stir to blend with the vegetables. Cook for about 3-4 minutes, stirring constantly to prevent sticking and scorching. Gradually add the reserved mussel broth, chicken broth, and white wine, whisking constantly to work out any lumps. Add the bay leaf and potatoes. Increase heat to medium high and bring mixture to a boil then reduce heat to medium low. Cook for 8-9 minutes or until potatoes are almost fork tender.
  4. Remove about ¼ cup of the hot liquid from pot and stir into the milk to temper it. Pour tempered milk into hot mixture and stir to combine well. Cook for about 5 minutes. Add the steamed mussels, fresh herbs, and butter. Cook for 4-5 minutes until mussels are heated. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Remove and discard bay leaf. Ladle chowder into bowls and garnish each with a steamed mussel, fresh herbs, or chopped chives. Serve with crusty rolls, biscuits, or artisan or garlic bread.
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What’s on Tap at Upstreet Craft Brewing?

The craft beer brewing industry continues to grow thanks to consumers with a thirst for traditional hand-crafted beer and a demand for unique locally-made artisanal products. While not a huge industry on PEI, craft breweries are starting to emerge….and with remarkable success.  As Upstreet Craft Brewing in Charlottetown, PEI, celebrates its first birthday, I thought it was time I paid a visit so I recently journeyed “upstreet” to meet Joey Seaman, one of the owners, for a tour and chat about the brewery.

Upstreet Craft Brewing
Upstreet Craft Brewing Co-owner Joey Seaman

I began by asking Joey where the name “Upstreet” came from.  He says that upstreet, means “anywhere but where you are” and, colloquially, if you are downtown and someone asks where you’re going, chances are you might say “I’m heading up the street” and, since the location of the brewery is ‘just up the street’ from downtown Charlottetown, it became the name of the brewery.

Upstreet Craft Brewing began operation in June 2015 when three friends, who were long-time hobby home beer brewers, decided to take the leap, leave the security of their careers, and co-found a craft brewery in their hometown.  This trio – Joey Seaman, Mike Hogan, and Mitch Cobb — have turned their hobby and passion into a growing success story.

Owners of Upstreet Craft Brewing
Upstreet Craft Brewing Owners Joey Seaman, Mitch Cobb, and Mike Hogan

The three partners are very hands-on at the brewery.  Mike is the beer engineer who brews all the beer while Mitch looks after general management and operations and Joey takes care of sales.

Upstreet Craft Brewing
Upstreet Craft Brewing’s Brew Engineer, Mike Hogan

The brewery currently has 19 employees and is a beehive of activity.

Craft beer is brewed in the traditional way in small batches using 4 main ingredients – barley, hops, yeast, and water. One of the trademarks of a craft brewery is that it offers the opportunity to experiment with ingredients and flavors because small batches of the beer can be produced. This is in contrast to industry giants that produce huge quantities of the same beers year in and year out.  Craft breweries, on the other hand, are small enough that they can keep experimenting and come up with fresh new flavours that keeps customers returning.  They can also produce small quantities of seasonal beers that are likely only to be purchased during a short period. Upstreet is currently brewing six batches of beer, four times a week. This translates into about 10,000 litres of beer a week.  The brewery has built a strong local customer base that has meant Upstreet is presently at maximum capacity. To double their capacity and meet growing demand, the brewery just recently added two more fermentation tanks and they still can’t fully meet demand. In fact, at the time of writing, they have a wait list of 15 restaurants/bars wanting to sell their beer.

Upstreet Craft Brewing
Filling the Kegs with Beer at Upstreet Craft Brewing

The brewery produces four mainstay flagship beers – Rhuby Social (Strawberry Rhubarb Witbier), Commons Czech Style Pilsner, Do Good-er (an American pale ale), and White Noize (a white IPA).  Joey says their most popular beer is the Commons Pilsner which he describes as a clean crisp beer.

In addition, the brewery has brewed over 10 different beers, including seasonal brews, in the first year of operation.  This includes specialty flavors like Imperial Pumpkin Ale brewed last autumn and Vanilla Cranberry Stout during the Christmas holiday season.

You won’t find canned beer at Upstreet. Instead, they use tall slim brown bottles that give a classic feel to the Upstreet beer experience.

Each bottle is labeled with an eye-catching unique label that contains information to educate the consumer on the beer product and experience.  So, look for a beer profile on each bottle that will tell you the level of hoppiness and a description of the color and flavour.

Check under each bottle cap for a unique PEI colloquial saying –  great conversation pieces! The owners solicited submissions from the public of typical PEI sayings and received over 2000 suggestions in 48 hours – yes, we Islanders have lots of colloquial sayings!

As many readers will know, a growing sector of the alcoholic beverage industry is pairing foods with the different beverages. Many will be aware of food and wine pairings but there is also a burgeoning trend to pair craft beer with good food.  The label on each bottle of Upstreet beer will also give a good food pairing suggestion, the type of event in which it might be enjoyed and even a suggestion for best listening tunes by which to enjoy the beer. For example:

  • White Noize, a strong beer, would pair well with a hearty chili that might be enjoyed after a day of skiing and while listening to some chill beats.
  • Rhuby Social, a tart and refreshing beer, would compliment spicy Asian foods and is a beer that could become a patio favorite while listening to the classics. Last fall, I attended a beer and food pairing event that was part of the PEI Fall Flavours Culinary Festival. Celebrity chefs Anna and Michael Olson recommended Upstreet’s Rhuby Social be paired with seafood such as PEI mussels, clams, and white fish.
  • Commons Pilsner would go well at a beach day event with Island seafood while listening to acoustic campfire jams.
  • The Do Good-er, the brewery’s “go-to” house party beer, would be a good choice for a BBQ while listening to some rock.

In addition to their bottled beers, the Brewery also sells growlers at the brewery. And, of course, they also sell and deliver kegs of beer to restaurants and bars and there are over 30 venues in Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia currently carrying the Upstreet products.

Inside the cooler at Upstreet Craft Brewing
Inside the cooler at Upstreet Craft Brewing

Joey says that, while their patrons come from all walks of life, he finds the largest growing market for craft beer is the female population who tend to like the dark beers and those that would be classed as bold, hoppy beers.  New and creative flavours of beer may be contributors to that trend.

Upstreet Craft Brewing
Taproom at Upstreet Craft Brewing

The brewery is not only a production facility. It, like many craft breweries, has a taproom onsite. The taproom, which can accommodate about 90 people, is a mix of industrial and eclectic décor. Be sure to check out the bar counter repurposed from an old elm tree that had to be taken down in the city.

Joey Seaman pours a glass of beer in Upstreet Craft Brewing's Taproom
Joey Seaman pours a glass of beer in Upstreet Craft Brewing’s Taproom

While Upstreet does not have a full-fledged restaurant per se on site, it does have a chef as part of the team and the taproom does offer snack foods and tapas/small plates with a menu that changes according to season. However, don’t look for table service at Upstreet – in keeping with the casual atmosphere, you simply go to the bar to place both your drink and food order.

Upstreet Craft Brewing is very community minded. The brewery offers its taproom as a community space for locals to come and hang out. In fact, several groups meet at the brewery to socialize, including a group of local knitters! The brewery also hosts adult coloring nights and other community events and there is always a good selection of board games for patrons to enjoy over a glass of cold beer. In addition, the brewery offers a venue for local musicians to share their musical talents with patrons. The brewery is also a strong supporter of the local arts, music, and culture scene and, in fact, a percentage from the sale of every bottle of Do-Good-er beer goes to a “do good” fund to support local arts and culture.

The brewery, located at 41 Allen Street in Charlottetown, PEI, is open 7 days a week, noon to midnight.

Upstreet Craft Brewing, Charlottetown, PEI
Upstreet Craft Brewing, Charlottetown, PEI

As is my tradition when I visit a local producer, I develop a recipe or two using their product.

PEI Mussels
PEI Mussels Steamed in Rhuby Social Beer from Upstreet Craft Brewing

Click here for the link to my recipe for steaming PEI mussels in Upstreet Craft Brewing’s Rhuby Social beer and here for the link to my recipe for Rhubarb and Beer Barbeque Sauce, also using Rhuby Social beer.

Beer Barbeque Sauce
Rhubarb and Beer Barbeque Sauce Made with Rhuby Social Beer from Upstreet Craft Brewing

 

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Craft Brewing
Upstreet Craft Brewing, Charlottetown, PEI

Rhubarb and Beer Barbeque Sauce

Beer Barbeque Sauce
Rhubarb and Beer Barbeque Sauce

We have a good-sized patch of rhubarb and, every year, I develop one or more new recipes using it.  I recently paid a visit to Upstreet Craft Brewing in Charlottetown in preparation for a story on this brewery and, lo and behold, they have a strawberry-rhubarb beer. This got me to thinking that I could combine the rhubarb with this beer to make a tasty barbeque sauce which is just what I did!

Beer Barbeque Sauce
Rhubarb and Beer Barbeque Sauce

Now, this barbeque sauce takes a little time to make but the end result is so worth it.  Just like making a traditional fine tomato sauce, the key is in letting the sauce simmer to allow the flavors to mix and mingle and get to know each other – very social just like Upstreet’s Rhuby Social beer! The sauce is a mix of savory, tart, and sweet, especially with the addition of crushed pineapple that goes well with rhubarb.

Beer Barbeque Sauce
Porkchops with Rhubarb and Beer Barbeque Sauce

This barbeque sauce is particularly good on pork and chicken but also pairs well with burgers. This is my signature barbeque sauce for this summer.  I use my immersion blender in the sauce but, if you like it more thick and chunky, leave it just as it is.  I hope you enjoy it.

Porkchops with Rhubarb and Beer Barbeque Sauce
Porkchops with Rhubarb and Beer Barbeque Sauce

(Printable recipe follows at end of posting)

Rhubarb and Beer Barbeque Sauce

Ingredients:

½ lb rhubarb, sliced ½” thick
2 tbsp water
1½ tsp lemon juice
2-3 tbsp. oil
½ cup onion, finely chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup ketchup
2 tbsp tomato paste
2 tbsp Dijon mustard
¼ cup maple syrup
½ cup brown sugar, firmly packed
¼ tsp cinnamon
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
½ tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
½ tsp salt
Pinch cayenne
¾ cup crushed pineapple with juice
½ cup Upstreet Craft Brewing’s “Rhuby Social” beer

Method:

In medium-sized saucepan, combine rhubarb, water, and lemon juice.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium-low and cook for approximately 10 minutes, or until rhubarb is soft and mushy.

In separate medium-sized saucepan, heat oil and, over medium heat, sauté onions until soft and translucent.  Add garlic and cook for one additional minute, stirring constantly, being careful not to burn the onions or garlic. Add the cooked rhubarb, ketchup, tomato paste, mustard, maple syrup, brown sugar, cinnamon, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, salt, and cayenne.  Bring to a boil then reduce heat to medium low and cook for approximately 45 minutes or until thickened, stirring regularly.

Add the crushed pineapple and beer.  Cook for apx. 30 minutes longer, stirring regularly to prevent scorching.  Cool.  Purée in blender, food processor, or with an immersion blender.

Store in refrigerator for up to 1 week. Use on chicken, pork, or burgers.

Yield: 
Apx. 2½ cups

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Beer Barbeque Sauce
Rhubarb and Beer Barbeque Sauce

Rhubarb and Beer Barbeque Sauce

Yield: Apx. 2 1/2 cups

Savory and sweet barbeque sauce combines rhubarb, crushed pineapple, and beer to make a tasty sauce for pork, chicken, and burgers.

Ingredients

  • ½ lb rhubarb, sliced ½” thick
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 1½ tsp lemon juice
  • 2-3 tbsp. oil
  • ½ cup onion, finely chopped
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ cup ketchup
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • ¼ cup maple syrup
  • ½ cup brown sugar, firmly packed
  • ¼ tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • ½ tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • ½ tsp salt
  • Pinch cayenne
  • ¾ cup crushed pineapple with juice
  • ½ cup Upstreet Craft Brewing’s “Rhuby Social” beer

Instructions

  1. In medium-sized saucepan, combine rhubarb, water, and lemon juice. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook for approximately 10 minutes, or until rhubarb is soft and mushy.
  2. In separate medium-sized saucepan, heat oil and, over medium heat, sauté onions until soft and translucent. Add garlic and cook for one additional minute, stirring constantly, being careful not to burn the onions or garlic. Add the cooked rhubarb, ketchup, tomato paste, mustard, maple syrup, brown sugar, cinnamon, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, salt, and cayenne. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to medium low and cook for approximately 45 minutes or until thickened, stirring regularly. Add the crushed pineapple and beer. Cook for apx. 30 minutes longer, stirring regularly to prevent scorching. Cool. Purée in blender, food processor, or with an immersion blender. Store in refrigerator for up to 1 week. Use on chicken, pork, or burgers.
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