There's More to PEI Than Potatoes!
The humble potato is likely the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Prince Edward Island’s cuisine and you’re not wrong. Potatoes are grown and consumed in abundance here, which suits me just fine. Mashed potatoes are one of my favourite foods and you’d be surprised how often this sublime art form is abused by restaurants around the world! If you want to spend your PEI vacation eating nothing but potatoes, I promise I won’t judge you in the least but if you want to branch away from this comforting classic and discover more diverse regional cuisine, here are five experiences to tempt even the most fickle foodie.
No, not the animal (although PEI does produce great beef!). COWS is a dairy company that produces luxurious homemade ice cream from local milk and they often include other regional specialties like fresh blueberries. An easy way to choose from all of their tempting flavors is to ask the staff for their favourites – they’ll never steer you wrong. (Steer – get it?!)
If your tastes run towards more savory delights, you’ll love COWS’ cheddar cheese . There are two main varieties available. COWS creamery extra old cheddar, easily identifiable by the cheerful COWS mascot on the sticker, is a can't-put-it-down, high quality cheese for everyday use. It’s delicious on nachos, sandwiches, and – of course- melted into mashed potatoes. Slightly more expensive (but with every penny) is their Avonlea Clothbound Cheddar. This multiple award winning aged cheddar is slightly crumbly, very rich, and is best accompanied by wine and other savory nibbles.
If you favor Gouda over cheddar, the Cheese Lady of Winslow, PEI, will offer you a friendly and informative visit and a wide range of delicious homemade Gouda. (They offer vacuum sealed packs for easy transportation)
PEI is, afterall, “The Land of Anne” - Anne of Green Gables that is! No matter where you go on PEI you’ll be inundated with Anne of Green Gables themed food items. Who’s up for a visit to "Marilla’s Pizzeria"? My favourite of all the Anne products has to be raspberry cordial. While I certainly can’t pretend that it bears any resemblance to the homemade cordial Marilla once made – this modern version is carbonated – but it’s still delicious. It tastes like a raspberry soda, or maybe a raspberry ginger-ale, and it makes for an affordable Anne themed souvenir to bring back home. If you want to learn more about the role of raspberry cordial in Anne of Green Gables or if you are feeling adventurous and want to make some on your own, the History Kitchen will serve as inspiration.
One Anne themed food product to avoid? The numerous versions of “Anne’s caramel sweeties”, simple chocolate covered caramels sold at double their normal price. They’re just basic chocolates and your souvenir money would be better spent elsewhere.
The Church Supper
If you want to make the move from tourist to traveler, you need to eat like the locals do at the church suppers. While some church suppers have gained fame and have become tasty attractions in their own right (like the New Glasgow Lobster Supper), the best church suppers are irregular, periodic events, often tied to fundraising efforts or annual community meetings. They traditionally offer lobster, ham, roast turkey, or roast beef and a host of complimentary sides (including homemade rolls, potatoes of some form, and homemade dessert –often pie).
Maritime church suppers could very well be the best culinary experiences (and best deals) I've ever found. To find one, ask the staff of your Bed & Breakfast and check the bulletin boards in grocery stores and corner shops, as well as community newspapers. Arrive early to ensure the best selection of pie! Prices usually range from $12-$25 a person and servings are generous.
Most businesses in Prince Edward Island accept debit and credit cards, but you’ll never want to go anywhere without a fistful of coins and small bills. There are roadside fruit and vegetable stands throughout the island from May to November and most operate on a cash-only honor system. Whether you are picking up a quart of strawberries for snacking or a full complement of produce for a week of camping, you’ll find incredible value and quality from these farm fresh selections. PEI grows a wide variety of apples, which are some of my favourite farm stand pickups.
Some stands will also sell homemade baked goods, jams, preserves, and pickles, all of which I can highly recommend. PEI biscuits and cinnamon rolls are not to be missed! Jams and jellies are wonderful affordable souvenirs – if they can survive your appetite on the way home!
Potatoes with Punch
Who am I kidding – of course potato products are on this list! Chocolate coated potato chips (made from local potatoes, naturally) are surprisingly delicious. While they sound counter-intuitive, chances are if you like chocolate dipped pretzels, you’ll love chocolate coated potato chips. They are the perfect combination of salty and sweet and satisfyingly crunchy.
If you want all sweet and nothing but sweet, seek out potato chocolate cake. I don’t honestly taste a difference between regular chocolate cake versus those made with mashed potato but it's always delicious and it’s a fun way to get your veggies (Right? I’m sure this counts as a serving of vegetables!)
If you can’t wait to go to PEI, you can experience potato chocolate cake anywhere in the world by following this recipe from The Tolerant Vegan.
Prince Edward Island's reputation as one of the friendliest and most beautiful islands in the world is well deserved and their delicious, homecooked delicacies are just another delectable reason to visit its red shores.
As always, I welcome and encourage your comments. Have you been to Prince Edward Island before? What was your favourite food experience?
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