19 JUL 2017: “You can go to Charlottetown, see Anne of Green Gables, and then have a lobster supper, or, you can have a lobster supper and then go see Anne of Green Gables,” quipped The Royal Canadian Air Farce’s Roger Abbott, some years ago in a CBC Radio show roasting PEI.  

I am just back from the Cradle of Confederation and I confess that I ate lobster every day for a week. We also took in a performance at the Confederation Centre. PEI may be small but there’s no lack of things to do. And it’s becoming a fabulous foodie destination.

For the most part the PEI landscape defines the word bucolic: contented cows graze on rolling emerald pastures, houses are few and far between, pristine white churches with black steeples dot the countryside and the ocean is seldom out of sight. It’s the kind of gentle place that can lower your blood pressure.

THE “YOU ONLY LOVE ONCE” SPLURGE LIST

Feast at Fireworks

It’s the hottest meal ticket on the island.

Chef Michael Smith and his wife Chastity recently purchased The Inn at Bay Fortune where Chef Smith manned the stoves for seven years back in the 1990s. Last summer they began an innovative dining experience called Feast at the Inn’s Fireworks restaurant. Smith’s team of chefs create a new menu every day using ingredients from their organic farm and herb gardens as well as from a roster of Prince Edward Island farmers, fisher folk, foragers and culinary artisans.

From 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. guests mingle and slurp freshly shucked oysters, hors d’oeuvres and artful cocktails served in the historic kitchen, location of Chef Michael Smith’s first cooking show The Inn Chef. There are also food and drink stations located in the vast gardens. The Feast begins at 7 p.m. as chefs fuel the Fireworks wood-burning oven with every form of live-fire cooking known to man including a smokehouse, open hearth, grill, rotisserie, plancha and oven. No dials, no switches just old school cooking. Dinner is served family-style at long butcher-block tables overlooking Bay Fortune. You can expect fresh baked bread, smoked fish, house-made charcuterie, seafood chowder, famous home-grown house salad, wood roasted meats, fish, vegetables and desserts all prepared before your very eyes by the talented Fire Brigade. The cost for this not-to-be-missed culinary extravaganza is $125 per person, plus drinks.

Chef Smith is Prince Edward Island’s food ambassador. His team intends to make the Inn at Bay Fortune a culinary destination where they envision raising their own cows and pigs, churning their own butter and selling produce and baked goods.

After your grand feast, roast some homemade marshmallows in the fire pit and retire to one of the inn’s renovated rooms or suites, each decorated with works from local artists. www.innatbayfortune.com

Church Suppers

Chef Derrick Hoare and his partner Christine Morgan have transformed a United Church in New London into The Table Culinary Studio. Where the choir used to sing, folks now gather at individual workstations to prepare lunch. Cost for classes and lunch (about 4 hours) is about $100 per person. Our session, called Bounty of the Sea, included making several seafood dishes plus some local tips about how to cook a lobster (with lots of salt in the water while steaming and cooled in a bath of salted ice).

After all the slicing and dicing, we sat down to a lunch of seafood chowder, lobster tails broiled with lime/chili butter, seared scallops with bacon jam and black garlic cream, lobster and blue potato salad and frozen lemon mousse. At the end of the meal Christine handed out “fortune cookies” in the shape of clams, each holding a typical PEI expression. For example: “If I was any happier there’d be two of me.”

In the evenings from June to September, guests book for a family-style three-course dinners around the long refectory table that seats fourteen. Your experience ends with some local story telling or entertainment either inside or around the fire pit. Cost is $60 per adult; $35 per child. www.thetablepei.ca

THE “CHEAP THRILLS” SAVE LIST

Show Stopper

Smack dab in the middle of Charlottetown the Confederation Centre of the Arts is a beehive of activities showcasing the best in Canadian visual and performing arts in several theatres, an art gallery, Mavor’s restaurant and a gift shop. Anne of Green Gables The Musical is now in its 53rd season. There are plenty more shows, historical walking tours and workshops. www.confederationcentre.com

La Vie en Rose

At Charlottes Rose Inn your hosts Dee and Chris offer all sorts of extra touches that have earned the Inn 4.5 stars by the Canada Select rating system. They have four B&B guest rooms and a loft for self-catering. Four cooked breakfast options, free tea and coffee, home baking, bicycles, beach towels and golf umbrellas are all part of the bargain. Rooms range from $159 to $200; loft from $150 to $200. www.charlottesrose.com

Experience PEI

Bill and Mary Kendrick have created a number of authentic PEI Experiences so you can meet islanders and learn a thing or two. We sampled the Charlottetown Taste the Town walking tour. Highlights included hot and crispy fries at the Chip Shack where spud queen Caron Prins proclaimed she is vying to have her chips named Best in the World. Some of her secrets include double cooking what Prins claims are the planet’s best potatoes.

Next we stopped into Brigh for organic tea, oatcakes and a Scottish folksong by owner Mary MacGillivray who passionately preserves her highland heritage. The shop sells musical instruments, including tin whistles. On Saturday nights they do ceilidhs (old-fashioned kitchen parties).

We finished our tour aboard the Fundy Cruiser where captain Norton fed us oysters, lobster and some local hooch called Shine, now legal on the island. Other experiences including owning a racehorse for a day, a dinner cruise aboard a Chinese junk or building a sandcastle. www.experiencepei.ca

Coffee Culture

Wherever I go this coffee snob seeks out the best baristas in town. In Charlottetown I found two noteworthy coffee spots, both serving stellar variations on the freshly roasted bean: The Kettle Black (45 Queen St.) and Receiver Coffee Company (128 Richmond St.)

Good Licks

Cows, based in Charlottetown, was named "Canada's best ice cream" in a survey of readers of Reader's Digest. What makes it so good? They use cream with a very high butterfat content of approximately 16% and mix it slowly so that it contains very little air. The result is a creamy, high-density ice cream that melts slowly in your mouth, allowing you to truly savour the taste. Besides ice cream, folks come to Cows to buy a range of fun clothing and accessories all with a bovine theme. www.cows.ca

One Pound or Two?

New Glasgow Lobster Suppers is a no-frills, family-run institution in PEI since 1958. All-you-can-eat hot bread, brimming bowls of chowder, mounds of mussels and crisp salads precede the queen of the crustaceans—you choose the size. Finish off with a mile-high wedge of lemon meringue pie. Cost is $36.95 for meal with one-pound lobster. www.peilobstersuppers.com

Go Fishing

Skipper Perry Gotell and his crew will teach you a thing or two about fishing. Take a cruise with Tranquility Cove Adventures and you’ll learn about mussel socks, how to tell the sex of a lobster and more. You can also cast a line and haul in some fresh mackerel that Captain Gotell quickly filets, grills on the barbecue and serves with maple salt. Other hands-on Tranquility Cove Adventures include clam digging and starfish hunting. www.tranquilitycoveadventures.com

Gourmet Gallery

At the Dunes Gallery & Café in Brackley Beach you can spend hours browsing the galleries for pottery, furniture, jewelry and crafts. Take a stroll in the sculpture garden and finish your visit with a great meal by chef Norman Day. Try the banana bread crumb crusted halibut and a creative martini. www.dunesgallery.com

Say Cheese

Chef Jeff McCourt bakes, makes cheese and whatever else needs to be done at Glasgow Glen Farm. He produces 15 flavours of cheese including Blouda, a winning combo of Gouda and Blue. More recently they added a wood-fired oven for pizzas and fresh bread.

Win, Place or Show?

At Red Shores Racetrack and Casino in Charlottetown post time is 7 p.m. for live harness racing. Pick your steed in comfort at the Top of the Park dining room where you can help yourself to a buffet and folks come to the table to take your bets. Check their website for race dates. In the same building you can also test your luck at the Casino. www.redshores.ca

 

 

PEI
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author

Anita Draycott

Quite aside from being an award winning writer, whose travel articles and photography regularly appear in golf and lifestyle publications and websites, Anita Draycott is a self confessed golf fanatic, who has chased dimpled white balls over five continents.  

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