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Food, glorious food!

Chef Curtis Ellis leads a culinary class during Fall Flavours
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By Sandra Phinney

 

Every time I think of Prince Edward Island, I start humming the tune “Food, Glorious Food,” from the musical, Oliver! Then I start fantasizing about what’s in store during Fall Flavours. For a foodie like me, there’s plenty.

 

It all started back in 2008 when Tourism Charlottetown created a six-day program featuring scores of culinary and cultural events. For example, folks could sign up to haul lobsters on a boat or to dig potatoes and have dinner with field hands on the farm.

 

The success of the program took the locals by surprise. After all, if you’re slogging around a muddy potato field or freezing your butt on a lobster boat, it’s hard to picture what’s so exotic about potatoes and lobsters. Yet the penny dropped: visitors, including yours truly, love to eat. We especially love to eat good local food. Toss in some fun learning experiences and voila! A recipe for success. Now, Fall Flavours spans the entire month of September and features approximately 75 culinary and signature events and over 200 island experiences.

 

Last year, my sister Carmen and I signed up for a 3-hour class with Chef Curtis Ellis in Charlottetown. We minced, chopped, seared, folded, beat and seasoned our way through his kitchen at Simple Pleasures, PEI Catering, producing a meal fit for pharaohs. It would take pages to describe it all but imagine this: smoked salmon appetizer served with sour cream instead of cream cheese (chef says it’s best and we agree—try it!); an amazing mussel chowder with feta cheese, homemade pesto and homemade grainy mustard; lobster and wild mushroom pasta accompanied by a baked lobster tail; seared beef tenderloin and seared salmon, artfully arranged on top of oven-roasted potatoes and topped with baked eggplant and tomato chutney. Mustn’t forget desert—chocolate mouse with whipped cream and fresh blueberries. We waddled our way out, promising to return.

 

Are culinary experiences limited to the month of September? No. In fact, many of these experiences are on tap from May until October. When my husband and I visit every summer, we sign up for one of the “Experience PEI” activities. One of our favourite “Experience PEI” gigs was Tong and Shuck, where we ventured out in an oyster dory and tried our hand at tonging (harvesting oysters).

 

I was hopeless, but managed to look pitiful enough for the harvester to give me several oysters to taste, along with an oyster-shucking lesson. Bonus: after the excursion we were invited inside to enjoy more oysters, local wine, and one of the company’s products called “Oysters Rocky Fellas.” I was so impressed I toyed with the idea of applying for a job on the production line but came to my senses when it dawned on me that having unlimited access to these delicacies wouldn’t be part of the deal.

 

For a complete listing of food related activities, farmers, fishers, farmers markets and artisan producers along the province’s “culinary trail” visit www.peiflavours.ca. If you are pressed for time, sign up for “Taste the town.” It’s a memorable three-hour culinary walking tour in downtown Charlottetown tasting everything from oysters to chocolate-dipped potato chips, COWS ice cream, craft beer, mussels and artisan liquors.

 

So there you have it: a veritable smorgasbord. And, as Oliver belted out, “… worth a king’s ransom!”