Tag Archives: Vanco Farms

Tip Toe Through The Tulips Easter Tablesetting

My color scheme for my Easter dinner table is purple and white.  Of course, I am featuring the lovely spring tulips from the greenhouses of Vanco Farms in Mount Albion, PEI.

Lately, I have been using trays and baskets to “corral” the elements of my table centerpieces.  I find this is an easy way to display a number of items in a centerpiece and it keeps them clustered as, otherwise,  they sometimes spread aimlessly across the table without focus.

Today, I have used several pieces from my milk glass collection and added a small wire cage into which I have placed a bunny.  Faux Easter eggs are a great filler to add interest to the tray.  We often think that a bouquet of flowers in its entirety needs to be all in one container.  However, a much more interesting collection, or vignette as I have done here, can be created if the flowers are distributed between several vessels and at different heights.

One of my favorite pieces of milk glass is the little bowl shown in the photograph below.  It’s the perfect size to hold a small bird’s nest.

I have also chosen to carry the milk glass and tulip theme over to the tea cart where I have created another spring vignette in the corner of the dining room.

The napkin fold I have chosen is the Easter basket fold.  This is a simple fold to do and I have used it to hold the cutlery and, what would an Easter basket be without a little chocolate tucked inside!  Because the centerpiece vignette has several elements to it, I wanted to keep each placesetting as simple and uncluttered as possible.  This allows the focus to be maintained on the vignette centerpiece.

I have used purple charger plates to frame each dinner plate and these coordinate perfectly with the purple tulips. I can easily change up the look of my Royal Albert “Lavender Rose” china by the use of different colored charger plates.

Purple is my favorite color so it’s an easy choice for me to work with this color scheme!

An added advantage of a “corralled” centerpiece is that it can easily be lifted off the table and replaced with a meat platter, for example, if you choose to carve the turkey or ham at the table.  This way, your guests always see a centerpiece of some sort on the table throughout the entire meal, whether it be whatever was on the tray or the meat platter. The photograph below shows the table centerpiece when the guests arrive which is then removed and replaced with the turkey platter for the main course.  The vignette tray is then easily returned to the table for the dessert course.

So, on the menu at my house for Easter Dinner is the traditional turkey dinner with all the trimmings, one of my all-time favorite meals.

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A Tartan Day Afternoon Tea

Prince Edward Island Tartan Teacup and Saucer
Prince Edward Island Tartan Teacup and Saucer

Today is National Tartan Day.  Tartan Day is celebrated each year on April 6th which coincides with the signing of the Scottish Declaration of Independence — the Declaration of Arbroath — in 1320.  It is a day of observance to recognize and celebrate the Scottish heritage and the contributions of the Scots and their descendents to Canada’s history, development, and culture.  In Canada, the day first originated in Nova Scotia in the late 1980s and then later spread across the country culminating with it being proclaimed, on October 21, 2010, by the Minister of Canadian Heritage, as an observance day all across Canada.  I understand it is also celebrated in several other countries around the world.  Tartans are, of course, synonymous with Scottish descendents.  Tartan Day has a particular significance on Prince Edward Island because, according to the PEI Government website, people of Scottish descent make up the largest ethnic group in the Province[1].

Canada, as a whole, has the Maple Leaf Tartan as its official tartan which became an official national symbol by ministerial declaration on March 9, 2011.   Most provinces also each have their own unique official tartan.  The PEI tartan was designed and registered in 1959 by Elizabeth Jean MacLean Reed from Covehead, PEI.  Through an official tartan design contest, Mrs. Reed’s tartan was selected and adopted as PEI’s official tartan on June 16, 1960. 

Official Prince Edward Island Tartan

The colors of the tartan each represent some aspect of the Island:  The overall reddish-brown color signifies the redness of the Island soil; the green portrays the grass and trees; the white represents the whitecaps of the waves that lap our shores, and the yellow is said to stand for the sun[2].  If you have ever had the opportunity to fly in over PEI on a beautiful, clear, sunny day in spring, the landscape of the Island does look like a tartan checkerboard with green fields and trees and the red land.  The traditional PEI tartan is a very good depiction of the colors of the Island.

In addition, the Island also has an official dress tartan. 

Prince Edward Island Dress Tartan
Prince Edward Island Dress Tartan

This tartan was designed by Ben Taylor, Scott MacAulay, Barbara Brown, and John (Jock) Hopkirk.  Unveiled on June 25, 1992, the dress tartan is a different design from the official provincial tartan although it maintains the overall reddish-green color scheme.[3]    The PEI dress tartan substitutes white blocks for one of the darker colors in the traditional tartan.[4]

I recently spoke with Barbara (Brown) Yorke, one of the designers of the PEI dress tartan, to find out when the dress tartan would be worn.  Ms. Yorke tells me that the dress tartan is often worn by highland dancers who favor the lighter color (than traditional tartans which tend to be darker) because the kilts, with matching socks, made of the lighter tartan makes the dark shoes of the dancers stand out.

The following photo shows the comparison of the traditional and dress Prince Edward Island tartans with the dress tartan (on the left-hand side of the photo) being much lighter in color.
Traditional (Right) and Dress (Left) Prince Edward Island Tartans
Traditional (Right) and Dress (Left) Tartans of Prince Edward Island

My celebration of Tartan Day involves an afternoon tea using, of course, my Prince Edward Island tartan teacups and saucers.  My tea selection today is Bentley’s Lemon, Honey & Chamomile Herbal Tea.  

On my menu for Tartan Day are egg salad sandwiches with dill, along with fruit cake, coconut roll dates, and Scottish oatcakes, of course, to represent my Scottish heritage.  

I am using my small ivory and gold-colored teapot this afternoon since it fits in with the rich tones of the Island tartan.

Let’s take a closer look at the elements on the tea table and the significance they bring to a Tartan Day afternoon tea.
One of my favorite tea sandwiches is the traditional egg filling sandwich which is particularly good flavored with dillweed.  The yellow egg salad filling represents the yellow in the tartan.  The dill and green grapes depict the green in the tartan.
Scottish Oatcakes seem appropriate for my tea table today along with some fruitcake which, incidentally, has the colors of the Prince Edward Island tartan (you’d almost think I planned that but I didn’t!).  I added a couple of coconut roll dates to round out the sweet tier.
I used my small two-tier server today.  It’s ideal when I am only serving two courses at afternoon tea and it doesn’t take up much room on a small tea table as I am using today.
And, when it all came together, here’s what my tea table looks like today.
My choice of flowers for the tea table are these bright and colorful tulips, grown on PEI in the Vanco Farm greenhouses in Mount Albion.  It has been such a long miserable winter, with blizzard after blizzard for the past four months on the Island, that I need colorful flowers to brighten my life!  The colors of these seemed to work with my color scheme for today’s afternoon tea.
I hope you have enjoyed a glimpse into how My Island Bistro Kitchen celebrated Tartan Day today.  Do you celebrate Tartan Day?  What are your traditions for the day?
Happy Tartan Day!

[1] Source:  The Government of Prince Edward Island website. http://www.gov.pe.ca/infopei/index.php3?number=1526

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Source:  College of Piping and Celtic Performing Arts of Canada website. http://www.collegeofpiping.com/aboutus.php

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I will be joining Rose Chintz Cottage for this week’s Tea Time Tuesday.

Thank you for visiting “the Bistro” today.

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

Valentine’s Afternoon Tea – Petit Fours and Tulips

Is there anything more genteel than afternoon tea!  And, is there anything more perfect for a tea event than petit fours.  They are so dainty covered in poured fondant; it’s like each one is a tiny parcel waiting to be unwrapped to see what lies inside.  For these, I used a simple white cake sandwiched together with rich strawberry jam.

Petit Fours
Petit Fours

Today’s tea is more on the sweet side.  A selection of some of my favorite squares, melting moments, divinity fudge, and macarons.

Tea Table Fancies
Tea Table Fancies

The addition of a lovely fruit scone never goes wrong, particularly when spread with delectable homemade strawberry jam.

Fruit Scone with Strawberry Jam
Fruit Scone with Strawberry Jam

What would Valentine’s be without chocolate-dipped strawberries.  In keeping with the pink theme and the delicate pink dishes, I have dipped the strawberries in pink chocolate.

Chocolate Dipped Strawberries
Chocolate Dipped Strawberries

These dishes with their dainty pink rose design are perfect for a Valentine’s tea.

These hand-decorated cookies are sure to be a conversation piece.

This four-tier server is perfect for small tea tables since it doesn’t take up much space yet accommodates the different courses of the tea.

While roses are the most commonly associated flower with Valentine’s, there are other flowers that are equally as beautiful.  Today, I have chosen delicate pink tulips from the greenhouses of Vanco Farms in Mount Albion, PEI.  I do, on occasion, buy the tulips at our local Superstore but, when I want to be sure of a perfect match for my color scheme, I do drive out to the greenhouses….it’s a good excuse to be amidst such beautiful tulips!

Tulips are said to symbolize perfect love and the different colors of tulips have different meanings.  Pink tulips symbolize affection and caring.

Can you tell the color theme was pink!

These scones, fresh from the oven, and lightly dusted with confectioner’s sugar, melt in the mouth and are a perfect prelude to the next course of sweets!

I like this antique silver teapot.  It lends elegance to the table.

Even Cupid drops in for a visit!

There is something cozy about a winter afternoon tea by the fireside.

I love this pink and white tea set.

The tiny flowers on the cookies and petit fours are made from fondant.

I hope you have enjoyed a glimpse into my Valentine’s Tea.  Today I will be joining Sandi at Rose Chintz Cottage for her Hearts and Flowers Tea.

Thank you for visiting “the Bistro” today.

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

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

Happy Valentine’s from Prince Edward Island!

As many of you know, I am part of the year-long Canadian Food Experience Project.  Each month, food blogger participants are prompted by a prescribed theme upon which to base a posting on their individual blogs.  The February theme is “My Canadian Love Affair”.

What follows is the menu and description of my Valentine’s dinner 2014, using several of my favorite Island food products. In order to meet the timelines of the Project, I have prepared my dinner a week early so it can be included in the Project’s monthly round-up.  My Canadian Love Affair is all about the great local food produced on Prince Edward Island, Canada’s smallest province.

When I think of foods that I love, well….there are many!  But, coming from an Island blessed with rich red fertile soil and surrounded by the sea, I would have to say that seafood and potatoes would rank high on my list.  So, for my Valentine’s dinner, I have incorporated both but the potatoes in one of the recipes may be presented in a form that could surprise some of you.  Here’s a taste to whet your appetite ….

The following is the four-course menu for my Valentine’s Dinner which features some of my favorite Island products:

Starter

Island Mussels

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

Soup

Jeff McCourt’s PEI Seafood Chowder

(a rich, smooth, and creamy chowder filled

with a variety of PEI seafood and Island potatoes)

Main

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

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

Dessert

Chocolate Potato Cake

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

PEI Mussels
PEI Mussels

It would be hard to surpass PEI mussels.  They are shipped all over the globe and are world renowned.  There are many ways to prepare mussels and there are many different liquids in which they can be steamed, each of which will give a slightly different flavor to the mussels.  The important thing about steaming mussels is to use very little liquid. Using too much liquid will diminish the flavor of the mussels. It is the steam from the liquid that forces the mussel shells open, not the amount of liquid itself.  These delicacies take very little time to cook – they are cooked when the shells open, a process that generally takes about 5-7 minutes.  Be sure to discard any shells that have not opened during the steaming process.

Today, I have steamed the mussels in a small amount of apple cider enhanced by a sprinkle each of lemon thyme, parsley, and basil all dried from our garden last summer.  How much liquid is needed is based, of course, on how many mussels are being steamed.  Because I was only steaming about 15-20 mussels for these two appetizers, I only used about 2 tbsp of apple cider.

While mussels are used in various recipes, including mussel chowder, the most common way to eat mussels on the Island is dipped in melted butter (oh-là-là!).  Mussels are a common food found at many get-togethers because they are quick and easy to prepare and are so very tasty.

For the second course, I couldn’t bypass an all-time favorite of mine – a good seafood chowder.

Seafood Chowder
Seafood Chowder

This recipe comes courtesy of the Culinary Boot Camps at the Culinary Institute of Canada in Charlottetown.  This award-winning recipe was developed by Chef Jeff McCourt who was the chef instructor at the one-day “Island Flavors” Boot Camp that I attended a couple of years ago.  This chowder was one of the dishes that participants made at the Boot Camp.  The Culinary Institute kindly gave me permission to share the seafood chowder recipe as part of the story I was writing on the Boot Camps.  If you find yourself on PEI during the summer/fall seasons when the Culinary Boot Camps are operating, this is a fantastic way to learn about cooking with local Island products and flavors.  Click here to see my story on the Boot Camps and to get the PEI Seafood Chowder recipe.

I have made many seafood chowder recipes but have not found any that I liked better than this one.  It is filled with a great variety of delectable Island seafood along with PEI potatoes and has a rich, tasty chowder base.  Seafood chowder is a great way to sample several different kinds of local seafood all in one dish. This recipe suggests a variety of seafood that includes lobster, oysters, clams, mussels, scallops, and crab.  On PEI, we would typically serve the seafood chowder with crusty rolls, biscuits, or baguette slices.

For my main course, I simply had to choose lobster!  Lobster is still the seafood king on the Island and Islanders love their lobster.

Lobster
Lobster

The most typical way Islanders enjoy their lobster is straight out of the shell, dipped in melted butter, and served with potato salad, coleslaw, and rolls.  A jellied salad and slices of tomato and cucumber are also often  included.

There are numerous enterprises around the Island that, seasonally, serve lobster suppers that generally consist of mussels, seafood chowder, lobster in the shell, salads, rolls, and a selection of pies and other desserts.  There are three main lobster supper venues on PEI.  Saint Anne’s Church Lobster Suppers in Hope River, not far from Cavendish, PEI, began in 1963 when a priest came up with the idea to have lobster suppers as a means to raise money to pay off the $35,000 mortgage on the church.  New Glasgow Lobster Suppers in New Glasgow, in operation since 1958, and Fishermen’s Wharf Restaurant in North Rustico also serve full lobster suppers as well.  A traditional lobster supper at one of these establishments is a must-stop for lobster lovers visiting PEI.  In addition, most restaurants on the Island will feature lobster in one form or another on their menus.  Last summer, I crisscrossed the Island in search of the best lobster roll on PEI since these are a common menu item for many restaurants.  Click here to read about which one was my favorite.

The popularity of lobster is somewhat ironic.  Today, it is a high-priced food, often considered by many a luxury and reserved for special occasions.  However, on PEI, that was not always the case.  I remember speaking with an Island woman who grew up about 65 years ago in an Island fishing community where her father was a lobster fisherman.  She remembers being embarrassed opening her lunch at school and revealing a lobster sandwich since lobster was associated with poor people!  My, how times have changed!

As a child, I had no interest in eating lobster.  In fact, when my family was having a “feed of lobster” at home, my mother always roasted me a chicken!  They would coax me to try the lobster but it just didn’t appeal to me.  Finally, as a young adult, I gave in and tried a bite of lobster….well, let’s just say that’s when my love affair with lobster began and I’ve been making up for all the years I didn’t eat it!

So, it would be a logical choice that I would choose lobster as the main course for a special Valentine’s dinner.  I have opted to go with a traditional Lobster Newburg served in light and airy patty shells accompanied by a crisp green salad.

Lobster Newburg
Lobster Newburg

Lobster is fished in PEI from spring through to fall so we have no winter lobster fishing season on the Island.  Many of us freeze lobster meat when it is in season to enjoy in recipes, like Lobster Newburg, throughout the remainder of the year.  My recipe for Lobster Newburg can be made with either fresh or frozen lobster meat.

Lobster Newburg
Lobster Newburg

Lobster Newburg, although it is often considered an elaborate menu item, is really quite easy to prepare.  It’s also a good way to stretch lobster to increase the number of servings you can get from the meat of a lobster.  What makes Lobster Newburg so tasty and silky in texture is the sauce.  This is a rich, creamy cheese and sherry sauce so large portion sizes are not necessary.  I traditionally serve Lobster Newburg in patty shells.  However, it can also be presented over toast points or served over a bed of steamed rice.  Or, it may be served in small individual casserole dishes with a side of steamed asparagus spears.  The recipe for my Lobster Newburg follows at the end of this posting.

Much as Islanders have an enduring love affair with food that comes from the sea that surrounds us, we also have a special fondness for our famous PEI potatoes.  For the past two years, I have followed a couple of potato farmers from the planting of the crop to the harvesting process.  To read these stories and get a couple of my favorite potato recipes, here are the two links to the postings for Smith Farms of Newton, PEI and Eric C. Robinson Inc., of Albany, PEI.

I have chosen to serve a Chocolate Potato Cake as a finale to my Valentine’s dinner.  Yes, potatoes in a cake!  It’s amazing how many different ways potatoes can be served.  Earlier this week, I posted my recipe for Chocolate Potato Cake on my food blog.

To make this feast truly a PEI dinner, I chose a white wine from PEI’s Rossignol Winery in Little Sands, PEI.  The Island has three wineries – the other two are Newman Estate Winery in Gladstone and Matos Winery in St. Catherine’s, PEI.  Each makes fine wine that is a great accompaniment to any meal.

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

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

Vanco Tulips
Vanco Tulips

So, this is my local flavors Valentine’s dinner for 2014, featuring some of my favorite and most loved local PEI foods and wine.  I hope you enjoy them, too!

Lobster Newburg

Ingredients:

4-5 oz cooked lobster (either fresh or frozen)

1 tbsp butter

3 oz mushrooms, sliced

1 tbsp butter

1½ tbsp flour

⅛ tsp paprika

pinch nutmeg

¾ cup whole milk or half-and-half

2 tbsp grated cheddar cheese

1 egg yolk, slightly beaten

½ tbsp sherry

1½ tsp brandy

1 tsp liquid chicken bouillon

salt and pepper, to taste

Method:

Assemble ingredients.

Melt first amount of butter in a medium-sized saucepan.  Add and sauté mushrooms for approximately 2 minutes.  Set aside.

In separate saucepan, melt remaining tablespoon of butter.  Add flour, paprika, and nutmeg.  Whisk in the milk until mixture is smooth.  Add cheese.  Stir mixture constantly until slightly thickened.

Add approximately 2 tbsp of the hot sauce to the egg yolk to temper the egg so it won’t curdle when added to the hot sauce.  Add the tempered egg to the sauce in the pan.

Cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly, then add the lobster meat and mushrooms.

Add the sherry and brandy and cook and stir slowly for 1-2 minutes to heat the lobster and mushrooms.  Add salt and pepper to taste, if desired.

Serve immediately in baked patty shells or over toast points or steamed rice.

Yield:  2-3 servings

Thank you for visiting “the Bistro” today.

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