Prince Edward Island has long been a secret destination for foodies who savour fine meals created from locally produced ingredients.
Zagat, the famous and trusted restaurant review guide, has blown the lid off this secret destination for extraordinary cuisine. Prince Edward Island is among Zagat’s 8 Awesome Foodie Getaways Around the World, a group that includes such destinations as Okinawa, Cairo and Kuala Lumpur.
PEI is praised by Zagat as a unique getaway for lovers of shellfish. The lobsters are freshly caught just offshore. The oysters, in particular the world famous bivalves from Malpeque Bay, are shucked fresh from their beds. Muscles, a mainstay of island cuisine, are readily available everywhere. And, if self-service harvesting and cooking appeal to island visitors, there are clams to be had by the bucketful on many island beaches. This bounty of the sea is celebrated at the annual Fall PEI International Shellfish Festival held in the city of Charlottetown.
The gifts of the sea are prepared in dozens of island restaurants in an astonishing variety of dishes. They are served with equally ingenious culinary creations made from fresh, island produce among which is the potato for which the island is justly famous.
One of the best times to visit PEI is in September when the Fall Flavours Culinary Festival is held. This event celebrates not only the creativity of island chefs but also the skills of island farmers in producing excellent fruit, vegetables, meat and dairy products and wine as well.
One of the most energetic supporters of island cuisine is Chef Michael Smith who has made PEI his home. Chef Smith is well known for his several series of cooking shows on Canada’s Food Network. Those who are familiar with his show, Chef at Home, will know that Michael Smith champions the ingredients caught and grown by his neighbours in eastern PEI. Smith is also justly praised for his cookbooks that energetically promote the use of local ingredients.
The influence of Chef Smith on island cuisine complements that of The Culinary Institute of Canada located in Charlottetown. This school, said by some to be the foremost among Canada’s culinary schools, has trained chefs from across Canada and many of the chefs behind PEI’s restaurants. To get a taste of the skills of chefs learning their craft at the institute one can try a meal at The Lucy Maud Dining Room.
Less well known but as great tasting as island seafood are the food products created on PEI that can be taken home to be savoured later. At the summer markets in various towns around the island and at the year round Charlottetown Farmer’s Market vendors of prepared foods offer a wide variety of products. Island jams, jellies, salsas and chutneys can be had at the Prince Edward Island Preserve Company a short drive from Charlottetown and the Cavendish Beach area. Located in an idyllic country setting, a visit to this factory/store will be rewarding to every foodie.
A must visit in the culinary itinerary of PEI is the Cheeselady’s Gouda not far from the Island Preserve Company. At the Cheeselady’s you can see cheesemakers at work and select your favourite from an interesting variety of cheeses.
Also on the must visit list for those who appreciate fine wines is Rossignol Estate Winery. A stop here will be a treat for the palate and, as well the eye. The winery is spectacularly located on a bluff overlooking the Northumberland Straight.
Zagat certainly is right on the mark in declaring PEI an awesome foodie getaway.