By Shannon Courtney
With Charlottetown’s new Fall Flavours Finale Weekend taking place Oct 2nd to Oct 4th, I’m here to help you make the most of your foodie getaway. As any seasoned foodie knows, planning a weekend getaway of feasting is a fine art that takes years of intense study and experimentation. Finding that sweet spot between being simply satiated and being stuffed to the brim is a worthy, yet often elusive endeavour. Besides the arduous task of choosing what and where to eat during a foodie-centric weekend getaway, one must also take into consideration post-meal resting periods and include time for some basic exercise (like walking from one eating spot to the next).
Really, when you boil it down, it’s all about pacing. Lucky for you, I’ve got my Masters in Food Festival Pacing and have spent countless hours planning out the ultimate Fall Flavours Finale experience. Follow my sage advice (don’t you love how easy it is to make food puns) and you’re sure to have a deliciously grand time.
Kick your Friday night off with an Acadian-themed evening courtesy of the Confederation Centre of the Arts. Evangeline the Musical, based on Longfellow’s famous poem of the same name, tells the tale of star-crossed lovers torn apart during the 1755 Acadian Deportation and this year’s refreshed version of the musical has been winning the hearts of audiences and reviewers alike. What does a heroic love story have to do with food you might ask. Well, what’s a night at the theatre without a three-course dinner to start things off? And, oh my, the Centre’s in-house restaurant, Mavor’s, has gone to great lengths to make sure you fall as much in love with its menu as you do with the musical that follows. Inspired by Louisiana cuisine that has its roots in Acadian cuisine, you can look forward to gumbo, a bourbon-inspired chicken dish and a most decadent dessert of bread pudding finished with rum sauce. Really, you can’t go wrong with a meal that includes bourbon and rum in the food itself! After you’ve polished off your meal, it’s mere steps to the your seats in the theatre, where sit back and enjoy world-class theatre while your stomach takes a much-needed rest.
After the theatre gets out, I’m going to wager you’ll be ready to head back to your lovely accommodations to enjoy a fitful sleep before Saturday’s marathon of food. Be sure to set your alarm, Saturday is going to be a full day!
For many Islanders, including yours truly, a visit to the Charlottetown Farmers’ Market is a Saturday morning ritual. The CFM, which is located across from UPEI on Belvedere Avenue, is really one part market, one part breakfast/lunch spot, and one part social hub. I can absolutely guarantee that whilst you are making your way through the indoor aisles, you will come across a group of people who’ve run into each other and are ‘catching up’. I can also guarantee that you’ll be impressed by the array of local produce, meats, cheese and other edible products on offer (bring a re-usable grocery bag and stock up for next week’s meals!). On Oct 3rd, the Market will be featuring a Fall Flavours Finale Cook-Off. The event will see three local chefs duke it out in a friendly competition to create culinary masterpieces with food sourced from the market. Well-known local foodies Todd MacLean, Ann Thurlow and Andrew Sprague will be on hand to judge the creations. The cook-off takes place from 10am until noon, and is sure to be a crowd-pleaser.
Lunch options abound in Charlottetown, but if you have a hankering for bacon, I highly recommend heading to one of the restaurants participating in Porktoberfest. This year’s month long celebration of all things pork will see Island chefs vying to win the award for The Ultimate Bacon Sandwich and I can’t think of any better way to ensure lunch satisfaction.
After lunch, you might be ready for a sit down and what better place to give your feet a rest than at the Culinary Institute of Canada, where you can take in a FREE canning and pickling workshop hosted by Bernardin’s very own executive chef, Emerie Brine, from 1pm to 2pm. Learn how to make the perfect bread and butter pickles, as well as super easy freezer jam! Enjoy samples and leave with a bevy of canning knowledge!
A mid-afternoon wander through Charlottetown’s charming streets will give you a chance to stretch your legs and enjoy the many delightful shops, cafes and historic sites in the downtown area. Or, if you’re in the mood for a brew, you could check out one of Charlottetown’s three craft breweries. The Gahan House, PEI Brewing Company, and Upstreet Craft Brewing all have unique atmospheres and delightful beers to suit every taste.
Saturday evening marks the final Signature Fall Flavours event of this year’s festival and you’re going to need your eating pants for this one. The Great Big BBQ with Chef Mark McEwan is new to the festival roster this year, but I’m already convinced it’s going to be a keeper and, in all likelihood, it will be sold out so you’ll want to purchase tickets in advance. The BBQ takes place on Charlottetown’s historic waterfront at the bottom of Queen St. Beneath a big white tent, you’ll have the chance to indulge in a buffet-style BBQ that includes 7 different food stations. Taking centre stage will be a 300lb Bluefin Tuna served up in various styles (sashimi, tartare and seared over a couscous salad), but there will loads of other Island fare to enjoy, including lobster poutine, mussel chowder, Island beef sliders with gouda cheese, and grilled striploin. With Chef Mark McEwan heading up this feast, it’s most certainly going to be a night to remember for all that attend!
After an evening of BBQing, you’ll be all tuckered out. No need to set the alarm clocks Sunday morning should be reserved for an unhurried awakening and lounging around. Once you feel ready for the day, you’ll want to head to lower Queen Street for the 8th Annual Farm Day in the City, the Island’s largest outdoor farmers’ market of the year. With over 130 farmers, food producers, artisans, crafters and exhibitors, as well as live music on two stages, a petting zoo, and plenty of other family-friendly entertainment, you’ll want to allocate a good two or three hours to meandering along Queen Street (from Grafton to Dorchester), Victoria Row and the Confederation Centre’s plaza. The market runs from 11am to 5pm and is free to attend.
Farm Day is a great place to pick up fresh farm food as well as lunch from one of the vendors or the many restaurants that line the streets and offer Farm Day specials. Make sure you save room for dinner though, because the Certified Organic Producers Cooperative will be capping off the Fall Flavours Finale Weekend with their Annual Organic Harvest Meal, which you don’t want to miss! You’ll be amazed at the dishes created exclusively using fresh, organic foods grown by members of the co-operative. Sit back and enjoy your organic meal while listening to tunes by the Amanda Jackson Band. And if you feel the urge to ask the farmer sitting at your table for some gardening tips, I’m pretty sure they’ll be happy to oblige.
And that, my foodie friends, is how you make it through a food-centric weekend in Charlottetown with your taste buds satisfied and your tummy intact. I hope you find yourself inspired by the Island’s bountiful harvest and our many talented farmers, food producers and chefs.
Shannon Courtney is a avid foodie and local food advocate. While she doesn’t really have a Masters in Food Festival Pacing, Shannon did write her Masters thesis on the role of local food systems with regards to community development. Shannon is currently employed with Discover Charlottetown as the Communications & Marketing Manager.