When the lady over the P.A system at the Dorval airport said, “Attention all passengers for flight 7939 from Montreal to Charlottetown. Due to high winds, the plane might not be able to land. In which case, we’ll bring you back to Montreal”, I knew the weather would definitely be an issue for this foodiecation.
Thankfully, we were able to land in Charlottetown. It rained for 72 hours straight. It rained the whole time during my itinerary across Prince Edward Island; from Charlottetown to Victoria by-the-sea and Cavendish through New Glasgow then back to Charlottetown. But, the weather was NOT going to ruin this foodiecation. I embraced the rain, just like people living on island do.
I’m told PEI farmers are happy about the rain at this time of the year, «it loosens the crop» they say, which makes it easier to get the produce from out of the ground. Harvest at this time of the year mostly includes potatoes and root vegetables.
I wanted to explore the island in the fall, off tourist season. I wanted to feel the local vibe after such an effervescent act of seduction. Prince Edward Island lives mainly from tourism; potatoes and seafood make up the pie. Oysters are what attracted me to the island.
Malpeque oysters are known across North America for being some of the best oysters available on the market. Whether brands like Lucky Lime, Raspberry Point, Pickle Point or Colville Bay and whether wild or farmed, I wanted to dig for oysters.
Under the rain and soaring winds I dug. I had the time of my life! Thanks to Tourism PEI and the help of Ellen Egan, I tasted Prince Edward Island flavours with all my heart. I set out on a journey for oysters and I ended up falling in love with the island, its people, its produce. Here, everything tastes true. PEI really is a foodie’s dream.
I landed at the Charlottetown airport at night, so the Great George is the first look I had of PEI. It set a lovely tone. Leather and wood, like a well-rounded red wine with a hint of new world vivacity. That is what the Great George Hotel felt like. It’s Victorian decor seduces, while its boutique-hotel feel in downtown historic Charlottetown makes it the ideal place for a tourist like me; curious and culture savvy with comfort and minimal luxury.
The first food-related activity I did on the island was a food tour. It’s one way of getting acquainted with a city’s basic historical references in relationship to its food culture. It’s the kind of hands-on info I truly enjoy when I visit a city the first time around. Usually, I go for the farmer’s market, but the Charlottetown Farmer’s Market is only open on Saturdays. In min opinion, there is no better perspective on food than a local producer’s perspective.
I recommend you take a food tour early on in your trip. In the case of the Taste the Town Tour, I was able to get a few “insider pointers” on some parts of the island I intended on visiting.
But, when you’re a foodie on a food tour, there are stops you feel are a complete waste of time. For example, Liquid Gold & All Things Olive. I’d understand this stop if I were in Portugal, Spain or Greece, but Charlottetown? Why not Terre Rouge bistro for their in-house charcuterie or one of the local coffee brewers like the Kettle Black or Receiver Coffee for a younger crowd feel? Everybody enjoys a warm cup of coffee, especially on a rainy day, and a cold brew on a hot summer day.
Oddly enough, All Things Olive is one of their most popular stops. My favourite stops were the The Gahan House, one of the first beer brewer on the island, and the Chip Shack for truly tasteful handcut fries. The tour organisers have a few other experiences on the island, do check out their website.
I love getting suggestions from friends and readers when heading out on a foodiecation. I don’t ask for them, they come naturally; like a sentiment of belonging to one’s experience. I do it all the time; it’s in my foodie nature.
My work colleague Jean-Philippe Martin is from the east coast, and he knows his fish! He suggested I try Medallion’s smoked salmon. You can find it at the farmer’s market, but only on Saturdays. I went directly to their plant on Schurman Street in the more industrial part of Charlottetown. They sell it frozen, in many sizes and flavours.
Their salmon is wild and caught in the northern Atlantic waters in the Bay of Fundy. It is, to this day, the best quality of smoked salmon I have had in my life. It melts in my mouth. I could tell the fish had to fight strong current, because the meat was dense, but not a rough bite. It is cold-smoked in small batch using Alder wood and organic sea salt. They do so for preservation, but unlike industrial smoked salmon found on the market, this one has a subtle and pleasing smoke flavour. Chef Ross Munro developed the recipe and he personally serves it to you with a bagel and cream cheese at the Charlottetown Farmer’s market every Saturday.
When I saw Chef Ross Munro at the Farmer’s market on the Saturday, I remembered seeing him at the SIAL in Toronto this past spring. I finally found it! I remembered being blown away by the fish, but I had lost all notes on my phone that day… chance does not exist!
SIAL is a three-day conference where food and food-related products introduced to the market with hope to land in a store. The 2016 edition take place in Montreal from April 13-15. I attend every year.
The farmer’s market is what I consider a mandatory stop wherever you are in the world! Charlottetown’s farmer’s market is where you’ll get a taste of the island’s flavours, meet the locals and those who feed them. Plan lunch; I had a cabbage roll and perrogies from Grandma Jaworski’s Food, a counter where mother and son serve you a piece of their family traditions. Comfort food for the soul!
Around the corner from the farmer’s market is Upstreet Brewery, a young craft brewing facility. Great beer brewed in relatively small batch. They don’t bottle, therefore you’ll have no choice but to experience, among others, their seasonal recipes directly at their brewing facility. I tried the White Noize, an ale with 70 ibu and a refreshing citrus finish. Just like La Barberie in Quebec City, you can bring your own food. Notice their beer labels designed by Newfoundland artist Jud Haynes. If you’re a music fan like me, you most probably own a few albums that feature his art; Sarah Harmer, Bahamas, Whitehorse, Hey Rosetta!, etc.
Bad coffee is not an option when traveling. Local indie brewers are atop of my list of all and any foodiecation. I drink one coffee per day and I want the best coffee available.
I found two options in Charlottetown: Kettle Black & Receiver. Both are downtown and relatively close to each other. Both have food and free wifi. Both draw together hipsters and bookworms.
…to be continued.
Part Two of my foodiecation in PEI. It featuring a succulent chowder in Victoria by-the-sea, the perfect 80’s kitsch decor in Cavendish and the best microbrewery experience I have had in my life thus far.