Saturday, May 22, 2010
Prince Edward Island Kitchen Party
One of the biggest perks to writing my food blog is getting invitations such as this one. Yesterday I had the honour of meeting and chatting with some amazing people from Prince Edward Island. They're in Ottawa this weekend at the Tulip Festival to show off what wonderful things their Island has to offer – and boy do they have a lot! Being from New Brunswick, I've got a pretty soft spot for anything and anyone from the East Coast. There's just something about the people, the air, and of course, the food.
I had never really thought of Prince Edward Island as a destination for food, or even wine, but in my mind they're quickly working their way towards that. My father-in-law travels to PEI every year with his wife who's originally from there. One time they brought us back a lovely blueberry mead from Rossignol Estate that we often use to cook. During the event yesterday, I got to try their wine – really nice!
Up until now, the islanders have been pretty modest about what their beautiful province has to offer. But it's pretty hard to keep a tight lid on it when you have world class golf courses, miles of beautiful sandy beaches, the Culinary Institute of Canada, and of course, Canada's best known chef – Michael Smith, also the island's food ambassador. You may have seen him on the Food Network's Chef Abroad, Chef at Home, Chef at Large and The Inn Chef.
He's also the author of some pretty amazing cookbooks, including this one that I got signed!
In addition to Chef Michael Smith, some other passionate islanders in attendance were Robert Vessey, the Minister of Tourism and Culture, Anne Chouinard, one of Canada's top 10 golf instructors, Barry MacLeod, COO Golf PEI, Lucie Bellemare, artist and creativity facilitator, and a woman who's enthusiasm and genuine love for the province is truly addictive, Pamela Beck, from Tourism PEI.
As I sipped my delicate Little Sands White and chatted with Pamela, trays of finger food began to appear, all featuring the unique flavours of PEI.
What would an East-Coast event be without lobster? Crispy dumplings filled with lobster arrived on the scene with a mango-mint or avocado dipping sauce. Spicy Indian potato fritters with a tomato chutney were also in attendance. Try to eat just one, I dare you!
Fresh, delicious mussels with a tomato chili salsa were absolutely mouthwatering.
And oysters. Oh how I love thee. Served with a rhubarb balsamic sorbet.
I even got to shoot one with some local vodka. What a fantastic way to start the weekend!
The best part about all of this is that you too can get a taste of these amazing treats this weekend. They're holding an Island Kitchen Party at Major's Hill Park today until Monday. Not only will there be food tastings at specified times, but you may also run into some of the other great folks I got to meet.
Not only that, some of our yummy restaurants will be holding special PEI food promos until May 29th. Absinthe Café Resto Bar, Allium, Juniper Kitchen and Wine Bar, Pelican Fishery and Grill, Sweetgrass Aboriginal Bistro and the Whalesbone Oyster House to name a few.
And if you're lucky enough to make it to this little gem of a spot, be sure to check out these culinary treasures:
Fall Flavours: From September 3rd to September 30th, the Island hosts more than 130 culinary and cultural events. Guests are invited to refine their taste buds at interactive taste workshops, join local hosts to pick potatoes, dig clams, catch lobsters and harvest oysters. Chef Michael Smith will also host various events, including A Gala By the Sea, Taste Our Island Roving Feast and the Fortune Feast. For more info, go to www.fallflavours.ca.
International Shellfish Festival: This is from September 17 to 19 on the Charlottetown Waterfront. You can sample and judge clam chowder at the PEI Potato Seafood Chowder Championship, watch the world's best oyster shukers at JP's Shellfish World Invitational Oyster Shucking Championship, do some tours and take in live entertainment. Visit www.peishellfish.ca.
They also offer hands on experiences where you learn how to fish for lobsters and then cook it for yourself. Indulge in some seaweed soup, dulse biscuits and seaweed pie. Pick your own potatoes, make your own potato fudge and then enjoy a potato lunch. Make your own chocolate, dig some clams for dinner and even tong and shuck oysters.
And of course, if you'r going to be eating, there'd better be some drinking involved. Rossignol Estate Winery offers a variety of table wines, fruit wines and liqueurs. Prince Edward Island Distillery is Canada's first and only vodka distilled from PEI potatoes. And Myriad View Artisan Distillery makes a legal high potency premium moonshine Strait Lightening.
And of course, there's no shortage of great chefs and restaurants.
I think I see a trip to the Island in my near future.
Thanks so much to Johanna Vandermaas from GCI Group for organizing and inviting me. I had a great time, and learned so much!