Canadian Cuisine: Prince Edward Island

Prince Edward Island

Prince Edward Island is like a great big farm. Inshore fisheries thrive, in part, because it’s a very healthy green place. Lobster is abundant and a traditional trap-to-table “lobster supper” includes a four-course meal of seafood chowder, a plate of steamed Island Blue Mussels, one to two pounds of lobster served with melted butter, and a dessert. Acadian dishes like rappie pie, meat pie and chicken fricot are popular, as are lobster and mashed potatoes, potato pies, steamer pots of seafood, and simple chowders of potato, clam and bacon. Chowder Houses use fish stock, not flour, cornstarch or thickeners. Shellfish from clams to mussels are the backbone of the fisheries, but oysters are the pearl, as Chef Michael Smith (FireWorks, The Inn at Bay Fortune) tells me. “This is oyster island right here. This is the best place in the country to have an epic oyster experience.” There are 40 different oyster producers with individual brands.

Traditions arise from the fisheries. Halibut and mackerel are available all year round. When the boat returns with the day’s catch, preparations must be ready. Potato farms cultivate a hundred varieties. Organic gardens producing a variety of vegetables, grains, cover crops and legumes give chefs choices. The dairy industry is emerging to international acclaim. Glasgow Glen Farm’s Cheeselady Gouda is becoming a fast favourite, and Cow’s Creamery’s Avonlea Clothbound Cheddar has been awarded best aged-cheddar in Canada, and best clothbound cheddar in North America. Blue Dot Reserve produces perhaps the best quality beef in Canada. Grass and potato-fed on small family farms for superior marbling, this is emblematic of the quality of produce from the island.

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