PEI Not just all about Anne and Lobster
About Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island
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,”
“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 P.E.I.
There is some truth to the growth of the industry around PEI’s arguably cutest export. At Cavendish, home of the red-headed orphan’s famous Green Gables, the Anne thing does get a little out of control.
The landscape is littered with shopping malls selling Anne souvenirs – dolls, straw hats with fake red pigtails, videos, diaries, you name it – tattoo houses, wax museums, a fake Tudor enchanted castle. It’s gotten to the point that some locals have penned a new play, “Annekenstein.”
But 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. There’s so much to do in the capital city of Canada’s smallest province, you might have trouble squeezing in that lobster dinner or a night at the theatre. Autumn is a great time to head east.
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 young team of chefs, led by Cobey Adams, create a brand 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.
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, our famous home-grown house salad and best of all, wood roasted meats, fish, vegetables and desserts all prepared before your very eyes.
The cost for this not-to-be-missed culinary extravaganza is $80, 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 a small village where raise their own cows and pigs, churn their own butter and sell produce and baked goods. www.innatbayfortune.com
Try a “Dry” Water Massage Smack dab in downtown Charlottetown
The Holman Grand Hotel prides itself on its eco-friendly technology. Eighty modern rooms, some overlooking Charlottetown Harbour, feature spa-like bathrooms, luxurious bedding and free WI-FI. The hotel’s Grand Senses Aveda Concept Spa offers lots of massages and facials, but they also have some unique Aqua Therapy Massage Beds. Basically you lie fully clothed on a warm waterbed in a dark room. Using a remote control you can design your “dry” water massage by choosing pressure intensity and the areas of your body you want treated from head to toe. A 15-minute session costs $15. www.grandsensespa.com
Surf & Turf
Calling all carnivores… bring your appetite to Sims Corner Steakhouse & Oyster Bar. Start with the two-time International Award Winning chowder. This restaurant is known for its PEI raised and aged beef. The cows are fed a diet of only grain and potatoes. Sinful sides include lobster mac and cheese and poutine with chorizo and bacon. www.simscorner.ca
Where Royals Visit
Dalvay-by-the-Sea, built as a summer cottage in 1896 by Alexander MacDonald, once the president of Standard Oil, is now owned by the Federal Government and designated a National Historic Site of Canada by Parks Canada. As a part of their royal honeymoon tour, Prince William and Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, visited Prince Edward Island in the summer of 2011. They attended an outdoor reception at Dalvay-by-the-Sea that included a BBQ and a dragon boat race.
The grand Queen Anne Revival summer cottage still feels more like a home than a hotel. There are no telephones, radios or TVs in the 25 guest rooms that are pleasantly furnished with antiques and wicker. Now they also have eight three-bedroom cottages with ocean views. At Dalvay’s MacMillan Dining Room, the herb-crusted lamb with mashed spuds, mint pesto and roast garlic are superb and their warm, sticky date pudding with toffee sauce and vanilla ice cream brings raves. Save room. www.dalvaybythesea.com
At the Blue Mussel Café in North Rustico, get your feed of chowder, mussels and lobsters rolls before visiting the Rustico Harbour Fisheries Interpretive Centre where landlubbers learn all about bringing in the catch of the day through videos and interactive displays and chats with the island’s “salty dogs.” Kids can help build a lobster trap or stick their hands in a touch tank filled with mussels, sea urchins or squid.
The “Cheap Thrills” Save List
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.)
Tiny, picturesque Charlottetown is ideal for cycling. Rent a bike from MacQueen’s Bike Shop & Island Tours and spend an afternoon touring part of the Confederation Trail and Victoria Park. Stop to see the Confederation Chamber at Province House where the Fathers of Confederation had their first serious discussions about uniting the British North American provinces. www.macqueens.com
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 $32.95 for meal with one-pound lobster. www.peilobstersuppers.com
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
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