I was looking for a meal to serve that would have a Halloween theme when I came across these wonderful orange and black Italian-made farfalle pasta. I bought them not knowing how I would prepare and serve them. They just looked so fun and season-appropriate that I couldn’t pass them by! Served with locally-made sun-dried tomato and pork sausage tossed in a rich and flavourful homemade marinara sauce, and topped with freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, this pasta dish was a real hit. Add a freshly toasted garlic and cheese roll and a glass of red wine, and this meal is easily dressed up.
I am very lucky as we have a great little meat shop in Charlottetown, located at the Riverview Country Market on Riverside Drive. Using locally-produced pork from Home Town Pork in Morell, PEI, they make several varieties of wonderful sausages onsite. The variety I chose for this dish was sun-dried tomato and I was not disappointed – it was really good! They tell me their sausages are all natural with no additives or preservatives. I also dropped by our local “Liquid Gold” store and picked up two new products (will soon need extra cupboards to store all these oils and balsamic vinegars in!) — a bottle of oregano white balsamic vinegar and one of organic Tuscan herb infused olive oil were added to my growing collection! Both were used in the marinara sauce and I also cooked the sausage in a small amount of the Tuscan olive oil. Freshness matters and I find their products are super-fresh.
My recipe for the marinara sauce is my own creation. Don’t be put off by the number of ingredients — it takes them all to make the flavour. I like to roast the vegetables for the sauce because it gives them a distinct and rich flavour that I would classify as “full-bodied” in any dish. After they are roasted, I break them up loosely with a potato masher. There is no need to worry about getting them crushed completely at this point since that will occur later during the purée stage. All that needs to happen at this point is that they are crushed enough to allow their juices and flavours to permeate the sauce while it cooks. I like to use the immersion blender to purée the sauce in the stock pot. I tend to like the sauce a bit on the chunky side so I don’t purée it completely smooth but that is a matter of personal taste. If you don’t have an immersion blender, a food processor can, of course, be used – just make sure you let the mixture cool before placing it in the processor. The sauce takes a bit of time to make but it is good (and the house smells divine in the process!). This recipe makes about 3 1/2 cups but it is easily doubled. The sauce also freezes really well which makes meal preparation quick and easy on a busy evening. I cooked the sun-dried tomato pork sausage, then sliced it into thin slices (about 1/8th inch thick) before tossing it in the sauce and serving it over the pasta.
This was a fun dish to create and even more fun to eat, particularly with the orange and black Halloween pasta!
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Roasted Marinara Sauce
By Barbara99 Published: October 30, 2012
Yield:3 1/2 cups
A rich, thick, flavourful tomato sauce that is a great accompaniment to pasta or pizza
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Cut vegetables into 1/2" - 1" pieces. Slice the parsnip slightly thinner. Place in a bowl and drizzle with olive oil, tossing to coat vegetables. Place on tin foil lined baking sheet. Sprinkle with sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Roast for about 40 minutes until vegetables are slightly fork tender and edges of vegetables start to char slightly. Peel garlic. Transfer vegetables and garlic to stock pot and, with a potato masher, loosely break up the vegetable chunks.
Add remainder of ingredients. Over medium-high heat, bring mixture to boil. Reduce heat and simmer over low heat for 45-50 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Remove from heat and discard bay leaf. Using an immersion blender, purée sauce to desired consistency. (Alternatively, let mixture cool and transfer to food processor to purée.)
Toss with pasta (and meat, if using) or use as pizza sauce. Freezes well.
The farmers on PEI are busy with their various harvests these days and taking full advantage of the great weather we have been having. I stopped by Matos Winery in St. Catherines, PEI, last Wednesday as they were picking the grapes. I had visited the winery in early September and toured the vineyards but delayed posting the story until harvest time because I wanted to visit the winery when the grapes were being picked and processed.
When I first met Jim and Heather Matos on an early September Saturday afternoon, Jim had just finished the painstaking work of netting all the grapevines in an effort to keep the birds at bay. Despite Jim’s best efforts and the addition of noise maker squawkers, the birds did pose a problem this fall as they figured out a way to still get at the grapes despite the netting. This meant a loss of some of the grape crop.
Matos is a new winery in its second year having opened for business on June 24, 2011. The Matos’ bought the St. Catherines property near Cornwall and prepared the soil in 2006. They then did their first vine planting in 2007 followed by three years of labour-intensive work that culminated in their first grape harvest in October, 2010.
I asked Heather what brought them to PEI to open their winery as the Island is not known as a wine-making region (we currently have only three wineries operating on the Island). She tells me they came to PEI on a holiday in 2004 and fell in love with the Island. When they decided to open a winery, they looked at locations as far away as Europe and the United States but were still drawn back to PEI. In fact, after hearing about the harsh, cold winters (often with a lot of snow) on the Island, Jim came to PEI for a visit in the dead of winter to see if the conditions would be conducive to grape-growing. Finding them suitable, the couple settled on a property in St. Catherines that had a certain slope, angle, and close proximity to a waterway – all conditions Jim was looking for in a location for a vineyard. Jim says grapes require good sandy soil and they do well in hot, dry summer conditions like we had in 2012.
The vineyard itself covers 11 acres and is home to 16,000 grapevines imported from France. The species of grapevines are vitis vinifera which means they are not as hardy as hybrid vines. Vinifera vines are more susceptible to disease and require more care but Jim maintains they produce a better quality of wine than hybrids.
Two varieties of grapes are grown in the vineyard – Chardonnay and Gamay.
From these grapes, Matos produces five kinds of wine – Chardonnay, Gamay-Noir, Rosé, Wildberry Gamay, and Strawberry Chardonnay. The Matos tell me they produced approximately 18,000 bottles of wine last year.
Jim is no stranger to winemaking. He comes from a long history of vintners. His family had a vineyard and made wine in the Acores, Portugal. After coming to Canada, the Matos ran a U-brew business importing wine-making supplies in Ontario for 20 years before deciding to start their own winery.
Walk with Jim through the precise, neat, and meticulously cared for rows of grapevines in the vineyard and it is easy to see and hear his passion for winemaking and dedication to high quality. A perfectionist, he is more concerned about producing quality products versus quantity. The Matos also have a keen eye for different products so much so that they are also distilling a couple of unique spirits, too. Using the skins of the grapes left over from winemaking, Matos is producing Bagaço which is a Portuguese version of Italian Grappa, sometimes referred to as moonshine. They are also producing Anisette, a licorice-flavoured liqueur that is a popular drink in France.
On a beautiful warm October 17th, a small crew was assembled in the vineyard and busy hand-picking the clusters of grapes.
Large blue bins of the grapes were seen throughout the vineyard before being gathered up by the tractor and trailer moving carefully amongst the rows of carefully-tended vines.
After transport to the winery, the grapes were put through the grape crusher destemmer, a machine that uses an auger to remove and discard the stems from the grapes then drops the fruit into the crusher where the grapes are crushed.
Using a peristaltic pump, the crushed fruit is then pumped through a hose into a membrane bladder press which extracts the juice but doesn’t harm the seeds or break the skins of the grapes.
The juice is then transported via hose into the large unoaked stainless steel fermentation tanks and the fermentation process starts with Jim controlling the temperature in the tanks and monitoring the sugar content and status and progress of the fermentation.
Jim tells me the white wine will ferment for 14 days and the red for 7 days but the entire processing and filtering of his white wines take 4-5 months before they are ready for bottling and the red wines take about 6-8 months.
Wine-making is a lengthy process that takes a lot of time, patience, labour, and attention to detail and that’s only after all the painstaking pampering and pruning that has gone into the growing and care of the grapevines and grapes.
Matos wines are fine quality products. After only one year in production, Matos’ Gamay-Noir won the prestigious silver medal at the 2011 Canadian Wine Awards, chosen second from among 1117 entries. Most recently, in October 2012, the Gamay-Noir won bronze at the 2012 Canadian Wine Awards, ranking third out of 1260 entries. Matos Winery was competing with wineries from all across Canada, including the well-known Canadian wine-producing regions of Niagara, ON, and several in BC. That’s not only impressive but a validation of the high quality product the winery is producing in its young days.
The Matos wines were also recently featured at the “Savour Victoria” event which was part of the PEI Fall Flavours Culinary Festival (see my blog entry of October 4, 2012, on this event).
Matos’ Chardonnay is a very versatile wine that pairs well with chicken, seafood like PEI lobster, pastas with cream sauces, or vegetarian dishes. The Gamay-Noir goes well with steak and tomato-based dishes, including pizza. The Rosé is a lovely compliment to either turkey or chicken and the Wildberry pairs particularly well with dark chocolate.
The Matos wines are competitively priced between $14.95 – $16.95 and are sold onsite in the winery’s gift shop, in Island liquor stores, and are served in many PEI restaurants.
Tours and wine-tasting are available at the winery which is located at 3156 West River Road, St. Catherines PE, C0A 1H0. Cost is $5.00 per person. In the summer months, the winery gift shop is open seven days a week. During the fall months, the gift shop is open on Saturdays from 10am-5pm and Sundays 1pm-5pm (Oct – Dec).
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One of the most common fall flavours in many Island households surrounds pickle, chow, and relish-making. I love the smell of fresh mustard pickles in the house – not so much the mess, the tedious job of peeling and cutting up the cucumbers, and the “distressing” task of peeling strong pickling onions – an activity sure to bring a tear to the eye! In many Island households, a meal of any kind is not complete unless there are mustard pickles on the table. So, for most of us true cooks, we endure the process knowing the end result is worth the effort.
There are as many recipes for mustard pickles as there are cooks on the Island. There are any number of sites on the Internet that will give detailed and scientific instructions on how to make pickles. As for me, I follow the tradition of my mother and grandmother.
Here are my hints and tips for ensuring a good batch of sweet mustard pickles. At the end of the post, you will find the recipe I have used for mustard pickles for many years.
Assemble the Necessary Ingredients
Just like anything, fresh is always best. Some say only cucumbers that have been picked no longer than 24 hours should be used. Cucumbers that have been picked for days start to get soft and “punky” and are not good for pickling because they have already started to deteriorate and lose their freshness. So, look for firm pickling cucumbers, sometimes referred to as “field cucumbers”. Ask for them at your local farm stand and inquire when they were picked.
Look for firm, fresh onions. Strong, fresh onions are needed for flavouring in the pickles. Sometimes, but not always, there are bags of “pickling onions” available on the market. These are smaller onions and are so named because they are a stronger tasting onion – you’ll quickly know their strength when you start to peel them!
I have no secret for avoiding the “tears” when peeling the onions. Some claim if you hold the onions underwater while peeling them, that works. Others say to peel them outside. No matter what method I have tried, it’s a teary job!
Cutting the Cucumbers and Onions
I always peel the cucumbers. Some cooks like to leave a few of the cucumbers with the peeling on them but I find this makes the pickles tough and I don’t particularly care for the appearance of them in the pickles. Once the cucumbers are peeled, slice them in half, lengthwise, then halve them again. Remove and discard all the seeds from each cut section.
I am not too fussy when I cut up the cukes and onions – I don’t worry about getting the pieces all perfectly uniform sizes. I tend to like the cukes and onions cut in about ½”-3/4” pieces – any smaller and the pickles are starting to resemble relish. This, of course, is a personal preference. There is no right or wrong size of pickles.
Cauliflower and Red Pepper
While certainly not necessary, cut-up cauliflower flowerets and sweet red pepper can be added to the pickles and I always do add them. The red pepper adds color and dresses the pickles up, both in the bottle and on the table. The cauliflower adds texture and variety to the pickles.
For both taste and preserving the pickles over the winter as well as for color of the pickles, it is very important that proper pickling salt be used in the water/salt brine that is used to soak the cut-up cucumbers and onions. This is a coarse salt specifically made for pickling and it will be marked on the label. Never use fine iodized table salt in pickles as this will produce a cloudy sauce that is a poor and unappetizing color (e.g., sort of a mossy-green-yellow color). It will also make the pickles taste too salty because the vegetables absorb too much of the salt. I can always tell when I see a bottle of discoloured pickles that someone has made them using regular table salt. The pickling salt is a slower dissolving salt. For this reason, make sure you stir it into the water for the soaking brine really well and that it is fully dissolved before pouring the brine over the cukes and onions. You don’t want any salt granules sitting on the cucumber mixture for hours.
Soaking the Vegetables
Unless you are using a recipe that specifically gives directions to the contrary, plan on soaking the cukes, cauliflower, and onions in the salt and water brine overnight or at least for 8-10 hours during the day if you are making the pickles in the evening. Cucumbers have a lot of water in them so, in order to have crisp pickles, the excess water needs to be removed from them. Soaking them in a slow-dissolving salt/water brine draws the natural water out of the cucumbers, opens their cells, and allows the mustard pickling sauce to penetrate them. This gives the pickles greater flavour, good color, and a longer shelf life.
Add the red pepper (if using) after the veggies have been rinsed and drained (the peppers do not need to soak in the salt water brine).
Draining the Vegetables
After the soaking period has ended, drain the vegetables thoroughly in a colander and rinse with cold water to remove any excess salt. Then, let them drain for about an hour or so to get as much water drained off of them as possible. If too much water is left on them, it will dilute the mustard sauce and make the pickles too runny.
Of course, the right mixture of pickling spice is necessary for flavourful pickles – the wrong combination of spices or too much or too little will leave you with pickles you won’t be satisfied with. Pickling spice, as a product, is not always available on the store shelf and sometimes I have had to create my own mixture using some or all of the following: mustard seed, whole allspice and cloves, coriander seed, red pepper flakes, bay leaves, cinnamon stick pieces, peppercorns, and whole or coarse pieces of dried ginger. Whole spices (as opposed to dried) are said to be better because they will not cause the pickles to darken in color. The look you are going for is that nice, bright mustard yellow color.
You don’t want whole spices and junks of cinnamon stick or bay leaves making their way into the pickle jars and on to the plate so it is necessary to contain them in a sachet. To make a pickling spice sachet, you will need a small piece of cheesecloth (available at fabric stores). This will have a very loose weave so I usually double or even fold it over 3-4 times and then place 1-1 1/2 tablespoons of the pickling spice mixture in the centre. Gather up the cheesecloth around the spice and tie it with a thread. This sachet then gets dropped into the boiling vinegar and sugar mixture and left in during the entire pickle-cooking process. It then gets removed just before bottling the pickles. This sachet allows the vinegar and pickles to be infused and flavoured with the spices without having the spices directly in the pickle mixture when they are bottled.
Be sure to use vinegar that is specially labelled for pickling – it will usually have 7% acidity, making it stronger than table vinegar and will help to preserve the pickles longer.
Boiling Vinegar and Sugar
It is important to boil the majority of the vinegar the recipe calls for along with the sugar. This helps the sugar to dissolve before the vegetables are added. The heat from the boiling mixture will also help the flavours from the spices in the sachet to infuse the vinegar.
Making the Mustard Sauce
Mix part of the sugar the recipe calls for with the flour, dry mustard powder and any other spices. Then add the remaining vinegar from the recipe ingredient list to make the paste for the pickle sauce. To this paste, add about ¾ cup of the boiling vinegar that will have already been heated. This “tempers” the paste it so it doesn’t go lumpy when added to the boiling vinegar already in the pot.
Cook the sauce slowly to thicken it and stir often to prevent scorching. Be patient – this process can take several minutes. The mixture should coat a spoon and drip very slowly off the spoon when the sauce is thick enough to add the vegetables.
It is important that the sauce gets thickened to the right consistency before adding the drained vegetables as they will still have a lot of moisture in them and the sauce will not thicken any further after they have been added.
Heating the Vegetables
Heat the vegetables in the sauce slowly, stirring periodically – you want the veggies to stay crisp and crunchy, not be cooked to mush.
Bottling the Pickles
Bottling, of course, is very important. Ensure that proper canning jars are used for the pickles. These are bottles such as Mason or Ball brand jars that are made of specially tempered glass capable of withstanding heat that will be necessary in the hot water canner for safe home canning of products. The glass jars have a wide mouth top and consist of a two-part lid and screw band.
While our ancestors may have used just any bottles they had at their disposal, using recycled bottles from store-bought products like pasta sauce, for example, is not recommended. First, these jars, having already been sealed by the manufacturer and the seal having been broken by the consumer to reveal the contents, no longer have proper sealing covers considered safe for home canning of products. Second, the bottles are generally made of glass not as thick as proper canning jars and, therefore, are not considered to be resistant to heat extremes. This means they could shatter or explode when placed in the hot water canner. With the potential for so many air- and food-borne illnesses to occur today and with the changing conditions in which our foods are grown (or modified), along with the fact that most homes today do not have dedicated temperature-controlled cold rooms (or cold cellars like many of our ancestors had) in which to store home canned goods, it is all the more reason why both the proper canning jars and home canning procedures are an essential component to safe pickle making.
Inspect each bottle before filling it to ensure there are no chips or cracks. Ensure the bottles are sterilized and hot when you bottle the hot pickles. I have a large old pot that I fill with hot water and put on the stove to sterilize the bottles. The hot water canner itself could also be used for this purpose. As a baseline, the bottles should be boiled in hot water for a minimum of 10 minutes and then kept in the hot water until they are filled. Depending on the altitude in your area, you may need to boil the bottles longer than 10 minutes.
The metal snap lids for the canning jars are only single use. The rubber seal is good to be heated once and affixed to a jar top. The lids must be heated to provide a proper seal – never place a cold, unheated lid on a filled canning jar. Simply place the lids in a small pot of hot water just long enough to heat the rubber piece. Do not boil them. Make sure you have first wiped the rims of the jar with a damp clean cloth to remove any pickle residue. Even a small drop of it may prevent the lids from sealing properly and keeping out harmful bacteria that could cause the pickles to spoil or someone to become ill from consuming them. Once cooled, the orange-rust rubber around the circumference of the lid no longer has a sealing quality deemed safe for canning so make sure you place the hot lids on the hot jars immediately. Always, always use new lids for each canning session. The lids are cheap so don’t risk re-using them. Once you finish a bottle of pickles, turf the snap lid.
The screw bands, on the other hand, can be re-used so long as they don’t have any rust spots on them or any dents.
Processing the Filled Pickle Jars
Always properly process your pickles using an approved safe method of canning. There are various methods of safe home canning, including the two most common – the boiling water bath canning method and pressure canning.
At its most basic, home canning of pickles is the process of heating the hot sealed jars filled with the pickles to destroy microorganisms that can cause the jar contents to spoil or people to become ill from consuming the pickles contained in the jars.
Yes, the pickles do need to be properly and safely processed after they have been bottled and sealed – that is simply not enough to ensure they are safe for human consumption and to be shelf stable over several months until their contents have been consumed.
There are a number of reputable and reliable sources of information available on the various methods of canning pickles. Books on the topic are available at libraries, bookstores, and online. The internet is also a good place to start your research but ensure you consult reputable sites. I find a lot of university extension department websites contain good information on proper home canning procedures.
Sweet mustard pickles are a fine addition to many entrées from “meat and potato” meals to casseroles to baked beans and fishcakes. Pickles do take some time and know-how to make but nothing beats homemade mustard pickles that no store-bought version can match.
Do you make mustard pickles or have recollections of your mother or grandmother making mustard pickles?
Mustard Pickles – My Island Bistro Kitchen Style
• 8 cups pickling cucumbers, chopped • 4 cups onions, chopped • 2 cups cauliflower flowerets (apx. 1 small cauliflower head) • 4 cups white pickling vinegar • 3 1/2 cups sugar • 1/2 – 2/3 cup all-purpose flour, depending on how juicy or thick you like pickles • 1 1/2 tbsp tumeric • 1 1/2 tbsp celery seed • 1 tbsp mixed pickling spice, tied in a cheesecloth sachet • 1/2 cup dry mustard • 1/4 tsp ginger powder • Pinch cayenne • 1 small red pepper, chopped • Coarse pickling salt
1. Peel the cucumbers. Slice in half, lengthwise. Slice in half again. Remove and discard the seeds. Cut cucumbers to desired size, apx. 1/2″ – 3/4″ pieces. 2. Peel the onions and cut into pieces similar in size to cucumbers. 3. Separate the cauliflower into individual flowerets. 4. Place cucumbers, onions, and cauliflower flowerets into a large bowl. 5. Make a brine of pickling salt and water using 1/2 cup coarse pickling salt to 4 cups of water. Pour over the vegetables, ensuring they are completely covered. (I use apx. 6 cups water and 3/4 cup pickling salt.) Let stand overnight or 8-10 hours. 6. Drain vegetables in a colander and rinse with cold water to remove any excess salt. Let vegetables drain for apx. 45-60 minutes. Add cup-up red pepper. 7. In a large stock pot, bring to a boil 3 cups of the vinegar and 3 cups of the sugar along with the pickling sachet made of pickling spice tied in cheesecloth. Boil 2-3 minutes. 8. Mix remaining 1/2 cup of sugar with the flour, tumeric, celery seed, dry mustard, ginger, and cayenne. 9. Add the remaining 1 cup of vinegar to the dry ingredients and whisk till smooth. Add apx. 3/4 cup of the hot vinegar-sugar mixture to this sauce. This will “temper” it and keep it from going lumpy when added to the hot liquid mixture in the pot. Stir and pour into the vinegar-sugar mixture in pot. Cook sauce over medium heat until thickened, stirring frequently to prevent scorching. When sauce coats a spoon and drips off slowly, it is thick enough to add the vegetables. (This could take 25-30 minutes.) 10. Add the drained vegetables to the thickened mustard sauce and cook over medium-low heat just until vegetables are heated through, apx. 12-15 minutes.
11. Bottle pickles while hot into hot sterilized bottles. Heat bottle lids and apply to bottle tops. Place rims on bottles, finger-tip tightening only. Listen for the “pop” sounds as the bottles seal over the next few hours. Store in cool area.
Yield: Apx. 7½ pint bottles
For other great pickle and relish recipes from My Island Bistro Kitchen, click on the links below:
Happy Thanksgiving! I hope everyone enjoyed this Canadian holiday today.
Thanksgiving in Canada is the second Monday in October and is a time set aside in the calendar year to celebrate and gives thanks for the season’s harvest bounty. Historical records indicate that the first Thanksgiving in Canada was in 1872 to celebrate the recovery of The Prince of Wales from a serious illness. Thanksgiving became an official Canadian holiday on January 31, 1957, when the Parliament of Canada proclaimed: “A Day of General Thanksgiving to Almighty God for the bountiful harvest with which Canada has been blessed – to be observed on the second Monday in October”.
While thanksgiving is officially on Monday, many Islanders have their Thanksgiving Dinner the day before, on Sunday. The traditional Island Thanksgiving Dinner in our home focuses on roast turkey, dressing, and gravy accompanied by mashed potatoes, carrots, turnip, peas and, of course, cranberry sauce. Pumpkin pie is also the most favoured of seasonal desserts. While some chefs may vary the menu and composition of a turkey dinner somewhat, there is nothing, in my view, any better than the plain traditional dinner with all the “fixings” as we call them. Pure comfort food!
There are so many things I am grateful for – family, health, employment, freedom and peace, and good food from the rich red soil on the beautiful Island on which I am fortunate enough to live.
I hope you enjoy the following photographs of my traditional Prince Edward Island Thanksgiving Dinner.
Seasonal butternut squash soup, served with hot biscuits from the oven, is a wonderful start to any autumn meal!
We have still been able to get some “greens” from the garden though this is the end of them for this season. This simple salad was made with one-half pear, red onion rings, green grapes, dried cranberries, and pecans, then drizzled with a cranberry-pear balsamic vinaigrette.
Roast turkey dinner is one of my all-time favorite meals!
A fine finale to a great meal – pumpkin pie! I make my own pie crusts because I love making pastry. The recipe I used for this pie filling was the one from E.D. Smith. Just be sure to use pure pumpkin purée, not pumpkin pie filling, for this recipe.
Our Island farmers are busy on the land these days, harvesting potatoes, our primary agricultural crop. The photograph of potato digging was taken in Westmoreland, the one of the cows in Freetown, and the turkeys (found wandering along the roadside) in Shamrock, all on October 6th. (Yes, the soil really is that red in PEI!)
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While the heavens opened and poured rain on Victoria-by-the-Sea, PEI, on Saturday, September 29th, it didn’t dampen the enthusiasm that was evident at “Savour Victoria” or the great local food that diners enjoyed throughout the evening. As Richard LaGrange of the Orient Hotel says, “Victoria hospitality really can make up for a little rain” (well, okay, it really was a LOT of rain!).
This was the last signature event of “Fall Flavours”, PEI’s annual Culinary Festival. The small seaside village of Victoria on the Island’s south shore proved to be an ideal venue for the event. Pam Beck, Tourism Development Manager for Central Coastal Tourism Partnership, says Victoria was chosen because of its special qualities and quaintness. In the summer, Victoria swells with tourists who leisurely stroll around the tiny village of less than 200 year-round inhabitants, visiting local shops and restaurants and watching the lobster fishing boats unloading their day’s catch. Pam says organizers wanted to make the event “a celebration of Victoria, our Island, and all its beauty and bounty”. I’d say mission accomplished on that front!
The village is small and neatly laid out in a square shape. Everything is within easy walking distance and that is a good thing given the inclement weather and the fact that there were five venues for diners to visit during the evening – four for appetizers and drinks and one for dinner. Victoria does not have any really large restaurants and the ones it does have only operate seasonally. Some of the Fall Flavours events elsewhere on the Island have used big tents on location but organizers of “Savour Victoria” devised a plan that would use and promote establishments that already exist so that, when people come back to Victoria in the future, the venues will still be there for them to return to.
“Savour Victoria” was produced by Central Coastal Tourism Partnership, a new (2011) organization dedicated to promoting tourism development in the central part of the Island. Because “Savour Victoria” was classed as a signature event, it meant a celebrity chef was part of the activities. Bob Blumer, cookbook author (several times over) and creator and host of his own TV shows on the Food Network “Glutton for Punishment”, “Surreal Gourmet”, and “World’s Weirdest Restaurants”, spent the weekend in Victoria overseeing and participating in the Savour Victoria event. Bob was actively engaged in the preparations for the dinner which featured as much locally produced food as possible and was presented in unique and creative ways that Bob is known for.
Here is how the evening worked. Everyone first checked in at the Victoria Playhouse where they picked up a gift bag that contained an engraved “Savour Victoria” souvenir wine glass and a map of the Village. From there, people headed out, donned in raincoats and carrying umbrellas, to the different venues that were serving appetizers and pre-dinner drinks.
Four venues opened for the “Wandering Appetizers with Wine & Beer Tastings” portion of the evening which began at 6:00pm. These included Coach House Antiques, By-The-Sea Kayaking, Red Sand Jewelry, and Island Chocolates.
Four local eating establishments then opened to serve a sit-down dinner at 7:30pm. These were the Victoria Village Inn, Landmark Café, Lobster Barn Pub & Eatery, and the Orient Hotel. When diners purchased their ticket, they selected which of the four venues they wished to go to for the sit-down dinner.
Each of the restaurants served exactly the same meal. Local chefs from the restaurants prepared the meal and were assisted by chef support from the Culinary Institute of Canada, Charlottetown, PEI. The featured wines of the evening were all local and came from nearby Matos Winery in St. Catherine’s, PEI.Just take a look at this great menu that was collaboratively chosen by the local chefs and Bob Blumer:
Wandering Appetizers with Wine & Beer Tastings
Coach House Antiques: Smoked Ham from Island Taylored Meats & COWS Creamery Cheese. PEI Brewing Company Beer Tastings.
By-the-sea Kayaking: Raspberry Point Oysters. Matos Vineyards Wine Tastings.
Red Sand Jewelry: Cajun-seared Atlantic Scallops, Carmelized Onions & Cream Cheese on Baguette Matos Vineyards Wine Tastings.
Island Chocolates: Roasted sweet peppers on chocolate crostini with goat cheese and a dusting of cocoa . Matos Vineyards Wine Tastings.
Seated Dining Menu
Course 1: Kim Dormaar’s Medallion Smoked Salmon Course 2 – Bob Blumer’s Fire-roasted Corn Chowder with sweet corn and garlic from nearby fields, local cream, and Island Taylored Meats double-smoked bacon. Fresh-baked bread. Matos Vineyards wine pairing.
Course 3 – Bob Blumer’s Lobster-Filled Cupcake topped with creamy, buttery superior organic potatoes, seasoned with fresh local herbs and served with a medley of greens from Just a Little Farm on the Appin Rd, and dressed with balsamic and black truffle oil vinaigrette. Matos Vineyard wine pairing.
Course 4 – Panna cotta made with white and dark chocolate from Island Chocolates, served with an almond lace cookie. Matos Vineyard wine pairing.
After sampling the appetizers, it was off to the venue of choice for the sit-down dinner. I dined at the Orient Hotel. The Hotel does not operate a restaurant but does open a tea room in the summer months. In fact, the Orient Hotel had closed its tearoom doors for the season and re-opened especially for this event. Just look how elegantly this cozy dining room was dressed!
Throughout the evening, Bob circulated amongst the venues, chatting with patrons, and signing copies of his cookbook. He says he hasn’t been on the Island since a memorable bike trip in his teens so he jumped at the opportunity to come back. Says Bob, “During my too-short stay, I fell in love with Victoria-by-the-Sea, and with all of the incredible/eccentric/gregarious people who live there. Dinner was a real community effort (with some imported talent from Charlottetown) – and the community really rocked it.” Asked what the most memorable thing is that he will take away from his Island experience, Bob tells me, “the camaraderie, the lobster and, of course, the incredible beauty of the land.” Great endorsement, Bob!
Pam Beck says organizers aimed for a reasonably-priced event ($85/pp) for sampling four appetizers, drinks, a four-course sit-down dinner, and wine. The event was sold out – all 150 tickets — and Pam says it was about 50/50 split between Islanders and tourists.
This was a very enjoyable evening and it really makes me appreciate the wonderful foods we produce right here on PEI. I asked Richard LaGrange what, from the perspective of a host restaurant, he thought made the event so successful – it was, after all, a huge undertaking to carry out this kind of event using eight small venues, none of which have large kitchens. Richard says, in his view, the event’s success was due to the team effort that went into it, the entire community coming together, and the attitude and professionalism shown by members of the Culinary Institute of Canada. Richard says the most memorable aspect of the “Savour Victoria” experience for him was watching the chefs and the other food staff working together so seamlessly and guiding the rest toward a common goal.
I think this event may be a catalyst for Victoria to consider hosting similar events in the future. They proved they can do it! Richard LaGrange sums it up best when he says: I would hope that the Islanders who attended and who hadn’t been to our village for a while will have been reminded of all the reasons people flock to Victoria, and that those who were visiting us for the first time had their appetites whetted and will be back for seconds.” Hmmmm, “seconds” are good – yes, I’ll have another one of those yummy, savory lobster cupcakes, please!
Sunday, September 30, 2012, dawned dull and rainy and the rain only got worse as the day wore on. However, that didn’t stop hardy Islanders from making their way to downtown Charlottetown to visit the annual “Farm Day in the City”. Local farmers brought their bountiful produce into the City and joined crafters, artists, and musicians from across the province in PEI’s largest outdoor market. For the Foodie, this was a mecca because it provided the opportunity to buy produce and flowers fresh picked from Island farms.
Here are some photographs from this year’s Farm Day in the City, part of the Fall Flavours Culinary Festival.
Farm Day in the City 2012, Charlottetown, PEI
September 30th was also the “Run for the Cure” event in the City so this vendor dressed his scarecrow in the signature pink.
Love the color of these plum tomatoes and the way the rain glistened on them. They are now in the form of homemade tomato soup!
There were even some llamas, goats, and miniature ponies on hand to delight crowds, too!
Local musicians entertained shoppers throughout the day.
Love these creative and colorful scarecrows that, no doubt, kept the notorious crows of Charlottetown away from the market!
Local artisans also displayed and sold their crafts at the market, as well.
(Mostly) PEI and Maritime Food – Good Food for a Good Life!