On Prince Edward Island, the Fall Flavours Festival is an extravaganza food event throughout the month of September. The festival is something that keeps calling me back year after year.
Imagine digging for potatoes followed by having dinner with field hands at the farm, or going on a lobster fishing excursion, and enjoying freshly boiled lobsters.
If you have a sweet tooth, perhaps you’d like to try hand-dipping chocolates with a chocolatier, or taking part in a culinary boot camp focused on making desserts.
Prince Edward Island
During this festival, there are hundreds of food-related options loaded with fun, great food, and authentic PEI tourism experiences.
The funny thing is that the islanders themselves took awhile to warm up to the idea that people would flock there for a food festival.
True, if you’re slogging around a muddy potato field or freezing your butt on a lobster boat trying to make a living, it’s hard to picture what’s so exotic about potatoes and lobsters. But it turns out that travellers like us who are looking for the “real thing” are now thronging to the island.
Fall Flavours (created and developed by Tourism Charlottetown) had its debut seven years ago. For six days, off-island visitation spiked by 40 per cent.
Thousands of people—and thousands of dollars—poured into PEI. It didn’t take long to get the marketing machine rolling.
One thing that helped was to get Chef Michael Smith (celebrity chef at Food Network TV) as the host.
Another ingredient that assured the success of this venture was a series of authentic experiences with broad-based appeal.
Folks could go tonging for oysters, make artisan breads, or feed the giant tuna. They could get their hands dirty as well as experience food from the source. And they could get real-time, authentic, grass-roots experiences that were not contrived.
I love this about Fall Flavours, as everything rings “true.” The bonus is that they are also tons of fun. One of my first foodie experiences was with Perry Gotell and his Giant Bar Clam Dig. What a blast! (He provides the masks and goggles.)
We dug underwater, about waist height, for these big fellas—easy to do once Perry gave us a few tips. But the best part was making a fire, cooking them on shore, and then having a fresh feed—lip-smackin’ good!
Recently, I brought my sister with me for Fall Flavours. We joined a three-hour class with Chef Curtis Ellis in Charlottetown, where we minced, chopped and seared.
We beat and seasoned our way through his kitchen (at Simple Pleasures, PEI Catering) to produce a meal fit for pharaohs.
Smoked salmon and sour cream
Imagine a smoked salmon appetizer served with sour cream instead of cream cheese. The chef says it’s best and we agree! Think mussel chowder with feta cheese, homemade pesto and grainy mustard.
Also on the menu was lobster and wild mushroom pasta served with a baked lobster tail followed by seared beef tenderloin and seared salmon. We waddled our way out, promising to return.
Later on we slipped over to the Red Sands Potato Fest at Fort Amherst National Historic Site.
Along with food demos, there were other events laced with Acadian, British and Mi’kmaq influences.
Story-telling, basket weaving, children’s pumpkin art, musket drill enactments and superb toe-tapping entertainment were just a few things on the program.
One year, my husband and I decided to sign up for the Tong and Shuck experience, where we tried our hand at tonging (harvesting oysters). I was hopeless.
Fortunately, the harvester took pity on me and offered me an oyster-shucking lesson as well as several oysters to taste.
After the excursion, we were invited to enjoy more oysters, local wine and one of the company’s products called Oysters Rocky Fellas.
“Seaweed Secrets” is another fascinating experience. It’s hosted by Gilbert and Goldie Gillis at their home in Point Prim.
The session has three parts. The first is a short demonstration where participants get a chance to see over a dozen varieties of seaweed and learn the health benefits associated with seaweed vegetables.
After an introduction to seaweed, we wandered through shallow pools of water. I was fascinated to taste the small nodules we picked off the ends of bladderwrack.
I remember as a kid trying to pop the pods with our fingers, but I never realised the tips were so tender and sweet. Great in salads!
Then we returned to the farmhouse, gathered in Goldie’s kitchen and learned to make seaweed pie. It’s a marvel to watch how the mixture for the filling thickens right before your eyes.
After learning to cook, we tucked into a large bowl of vegetable soup served with biscuits (yes, with seaweed in them) followed by a huge slice of seaweed pie laced with blueberry sauce.
Sandra Phinney lives in Nova Scotia and is a regular visitor to Prince Edward Island
Fall Flavours has a comprehensive programme of food-related activities. Fortunately, many of these Prince Edward Island food experiences are available from May to October.
Another good way to whet your appetite is to go on the “Taste The Town” culinary walking tour. The three-hour tour in Charlottetown offers delicious delights, such as oysters, chocolate-dipped potato chips, COWS ice cream and craft beer.
Anne of Green Gables
PEI’s most famous attraction is Green Gables Heritage Place. This was where Lucy Maud Montgomery found the inspiration to write Anne of Green Gables.
At the visitor’s centre, you can view a film, exhibits, guided tours or take a stroll to Mongomery’s gravesite.
Nearby are The Haunted Wood Trail and Lovers Lane, Balsam Hollow Trail and the babbling brook. These are all places in her books.
The landmarks here show what L.M. Montgomery’s world was like—both her imaginary world and her real world—when she wrote the now-famous Anne of Green Gables books.
Both adults and children love these locations. And, who knows? Anne herself could be strolling around the grounds, dishing out ice cream!
For more information on what to do in Canada see Best of Canada.