For the past four years, the PEI Restaurant Association has presented a Springtime event that brings together the best chefs from the Island’s finest restaurants and pairs them with producers and distributors of fine wines, beers, and spirits to bring Islanders the ultimate gourmet tasting experience.
On Thursday, May 24, 2012, I attended the 4th Annual “Savour Food & Wine” Show held at the Confederation Centre of the Arts in Charlottetown. To be frank, this was the first time I had attended and I was not sure what to expect. I was quite impressed with the calibre of the show. This was a high-end smorgasbord event that definitely had a party atmosphere! In the words of exhibitor Julie Shore of Prince Edward Distillery who has participated as an exhibitor in the Show for four years, this event could very aptly be described as “a big cocktail party – and the host hired the best caterers!”
The show is an occasion for local restaurants, wineries, distilleries, and other beverage producers across the Island to promote their products directly to foodies, restaurant patrons, and beverage enthusiasts. Carl Nicholson, President of the PEI Restaurant Association, says the Show “is also an opportunity to showcase what members of the Association do with Island products. Members want to promote the fact that they support local [producers] and feel the quality of Island products is superior”. Guests attending the event get to meet and chat directly, one-on-one, with the chefs and beverage vendors, something they would not otherwise get to do in a typical restaurant setting. Shore says “It is a great opportunity for us to enjoy all the wonderful feedback. We love seeing people’s reaction to our spirits! They enjoy the delicious cocktails and we enjoy the reactions!”
The show also provides the occasion to introduce new products on the market and offers guests an opportunity to sample products that they may not have had before, or even knew were produced on PEI, like Wild Blueberry & Tart Cherry Juice or Wild Blueberry & Rhubarb Juice produced by PEI Juice Works Ltd. of Alberton, PEI. Says first-time exhibitor, Ryan Bradley, VP of Sales and Marketing for PEI Juice Works, “We were asked to participate at the PEI Flavours booth this year to help showcase unique new Island products. This show allows us to provide samples to people with a keen interest in quality foods. It also allows us to interact one-on-one with people and get valuable feedback. Because we are so new, any activity that helps us create more awareness [in our products] is very important.”
Upon presentation of their $75.00 ticket at the door, each of the 500 guests is handed a wine glass and a program and show floor plan. From there, guests follow the tantalizing scent of food and tour through the 45 booths each preparing their product for tasting. Each food booth has a supply of small plates and guests are welcome to taste samples of whatever each booth is offering. Their wine glasses get filled with their favourite libation which can be found at the many beverage booths that serve anything from local and imported wines and beers to locally distilled gin or blueberry juices.
All within the span of two hours and under one roof, visitors to the show have the opportunity to experience foods and beverages they might not otherwise try or even have access to, be educated on food and beverage products available locally, or simply enjoy the abundance and array of foods and beverages available at the show. The event offers not only treats for the tummy but also for the eyes too as chefs outdo themselves with the creativity and presentation of food as well as their tastefully decorated booth displays.
This Island has long been associated with good food and talented chefs. Complimenting that repertoire, PEI is now gaining a solid reputation for award-winning locally produced wines and spirits. Both the Island and the exhibitors (all members of the PEI Restaurant Association) pulled out all the stops for this year’s Savour Food & Wine show. It was a fine gala event that signaled the kick-off to summer dining when, as Islanders, we eagerly await our favourite seasonal restaurants to open their doors to patrons. If what I saw at the Show was any indicator, visitors and Islanders alike are in for a real treat when dining around PEI this summer. As Carl Nicholson says, “we tend to go to restaurants we know. The Show allows guests to try samples from different restaurants which hopefully will encourage them to then go and try out the restaurants for a meal.” I have already started my Summer 2012 list of restaurants to try – some, of course, are old favourites but some are new based on what I saw and sampled at the Savour Food & Wine Show. Could be a hard summer on the waistline!