PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND – Dave Wilmer, the owner of the Inn at Bay Fortune, is credited by many as being the guy who, along with chef Michael Smith, turned PEI from food afterthought to food sensation. His inn is great; with nice, warm and large rooms, most with fireplaces. And it sits on a pretty stretch of property overlooking a large bay, with big trees and a big lawn and large gardens ablaze with orange and yellow nasturtiums, pink sedum and other flowers.
I learned later why the nasturtiums when a group of them arrived on my charcuterie plate at dinner.
“They’re edible,” I was told. “They have a nice, peppery taste.”
I’m pleased to report that indeed they do. And the charcuterie was great; all local meats (including boar prosciutto) and cheeses and a homemade onion jam with champagne vinaigrette that was sweet and wonderful and went down smoothly. Not too mention way too quickly.
Wonderful, wonderful stuff. The scallops also were excellent, with fingerling potatoes (of course) and red and gold beets, also local.
I opted to go fairly light for dessert and had a lovely cranberry cake with orange sorbet; not too sweet and not too filling.
I’d never had it before so decided to try a glass of PEI wine, as well. I found the Rossignol winery L’Acadie white a touch sweet, like a dryish German Riesling. But it was better than I expected and it would go well with fish (probably more than scallops, I’d say).
Well worth a try if you’re a wine fan. And something different.
As nice as dinner was, breakfast at Bay Fortune might have been better. I skipped the omelette and couldn’t eat the granola because of the nuts. But I tried the most delicious biscuits and scones you’ve ever tasted; smooth and almost creamy on the inside but golden brown outside with just a perfect amount of crunch. The blueberry muffins were remarkable and were the lightest I’ve ever had; fluffy pillows of softness and none of that heavy, bread texture you get from some muffins.
The chef explained to me that he grates his butter into his recipes so maximum smoothness. He also said the secret to making a light muffin is to only stir a little bit. Too much stirring apparently makes the dough all stiff and thick and you don’t want that.
I was hoping to check out the beach at Dalvay by the Sea, where Prince William and Kate Middleton visited a while back, but it was raining pretty hard that day. Still, it’s a lovely old home built by a rich American who made his money in oil and wanted a cooler spot to hang out in summer; not unlike Alexander Graham Bell in nearby Cape Breton.
They have very nice rooms you can stay in during the summer; all with lots of personality. The lobby is huge, with an enormous fireplace and high ceilings, with a pretty sunroom off to one side (also enormous and also with a fireplace). The dining area is a newer part of the home; a semi-circular affair overlooking a lake and very comfortable and solid. There’s a sitting area or lounge outside the dining hall that also has a fireplace.
If you look carefully at the old part of the house, you’ll find nary a knot in the pine used. They say the man who had it built didn’t like knotty pine so workers only used pieces of pine wood without the knots. Sounds like the rock stars who only want red M and M’s in their dressing room if you ask me…
Anyway, it’s a delightful place to stroll and I had a nice hamburger at lunch and a local beer. The rooms look great and they have a lot of amenities, including a fabulous looking beach just a few feet outside the front door.
I’ll talk more later sometime about Charlottetown, but I found the city absolutely delightful. The old brick buildings are pretty to look at and there are some very cool restaurants such as Terre Rouge, plus espresso shops like Young Folk and the Kettle Black, with killer design and stronger coffee and fun pubs. I was there for the Go Media conference sponsored by the Canadian Tourism Commission and they used the Delta Prince Edward hotel, which has a fine and beautiful new convention space. We had our final night at the Confederation Centre, which has a lovely gallery with some very cool works of art. After the finale, we wrapped things up with a fine singalong at the Dublin pub, with excellent local musicians.
You can soak up the history and dive into Anne of Green Gables if you like, but there’s an entirely different side to this city that I really enjoyed. It’s a much more vibrant place than I expected. And one I’d gladly visit again.