P.E.I. — it's more than a menu abbreviation before mussels. This, the least populated of Canada's 10 provinces, is more than just lobster, mussels, and potatoes (although those are its signature culinary stalwarts). And with two culinary festivals during the fall, the upcoming time of year is great for experiencing its culinary scene.
The monthlong Fall Flavours Festival in September features more than 100 events including: harvests; lobster, potato, clam, and soup feasts; shellfish celebrations; chef-hosted dinners; and cooking classes. Midway through the month (September 15th to 18th) is the 16th annual PEI International Shellfish Festival. Some of the festival's great events include: potato seafood chowder championship, an international chowder championship, two oyster-shucking competitions — you can even take on local fishermen in a simulated mussel-boat competition.
Clamming, smoking, oyster-tonging, potato-picking, pickling, the island offers all these culinary adventures, and in addition to the seafood staples below snow crab, bluefin tuna, and scallops also make up a good portion of the side fishing that local fishermen are said to supplement their income with. There are also some signature restaurants on the island worth visiting. But before you go, you should have a primer of what to expect and look forward to from the island's culinary signatures.
P.E.I. New Potatos
There's a reason Prince Edward Island has a potato museum complete with a 14-foot tall fiberglass potato and claims to "the largest exhibit of potato artifacts in the world." Most of the year, potato fields planted in the island's rich red soil are signature landmarks of the landscape. According to P.E.I.'s Department of Agriculture these fields allow the island to annually produce "more than 30 percent of the total Canadian potato crop." Its status as one of the island's primary cash crops makes the recent wireworm infestation and news that the Health Canada Pest Management Regulatory Agency is phasing out Thimet, a product used to fend off the bugs, all the more troubling to farmers.
The island is famous for its new potatoes (a small, round variety), which locals boil in their skins, mash, and serve simply with butter, salt, and pepper. But there are plenty of other varieties whose preparations (boiled, baked, and mashed) are taken very seriously, as evidenced by Mid-Isle Farms' potato cooking guide. (Photos courtesy Flickr/Rick McCharles)