Friday, 20 June 2014

The Homburg Theatre Re-Opens at the Confederation Centre of the Arts

In my humble opinion, the Confederation Centre of the Arts is a gem among our Island's cultural offerings and a true haven for artistic talent from across Canada. For 50 Years, the Centre has been host to all generations, bringing life, laughter and delight, most of all through their theatrical productions. To those of us from PEI and fans of the Charlottetown Festival, there was a much anticipated event which took place on June 16th. The Grand Re-Opening of the Homburg Theatre, which was celebrated with an Address by His Excellency the Governor General of Canada, David Johnston and a Welcoming Show, all open to the public.

An impressive amount of excited Islanders showed up for this event, honoring the wonderful effort made by the Confederation Centre in revamping and renewing the Homburg Theatre. The anticipation was palpable as everyone gathered together to watch the ribbon cutting which as you can see in the picture below was held by an absolutely adorable group of Pre-Kindergarten students. Before the main event a few small speeches were given in which the Governor General not only made a point of praising the Confederation Centre but also slipped in a few funnies to keep everyone laughing.

With the Governor General of Canada. our own Premier Robert Ghiz and Lieutenant Governor the Honorable H. Frank Lewis, CEO of the Confederation Centre Jessie Inman and a host of Provincial Lieutenant Governors and Territorial Commissioners present this was a truly dignified opening which really exuded the sense of how very important the Centre's contribution to the arts is, not only on PEI but throughout Canada. To me, it was a show of solidarity through our Country that honored the contribution the Centre has made through the past fifty years and the great things that are expected for it in the future.

And after the ribbon was cut, everyone buzzed with eagerness to finally enter the new theatre pavilion and get a first hand experience and our new pride and joy! Walking in you could sense the freshness of the area, the soft glow of pre-show lighting accentuated the new and aesthetically pleasing acoustic wall panels and crisp looking ceiling. Just from the feverishly happy talk that resonated through the space, you could tell the acoustics were great, of course later on the cast of Canada Rocks was going to prove that theory in a very harmonious and entertaining way.

But before "Canada Rocks" could take the stage, we were treated to a speech from Premier Robert Ghiz who expressed his own personal love for the Centre and how it had already excited the imagination of his family. It was heartfelt and open dialogue which praised the Centre and the incredible talent that has passed through it's theatre for 50 years. Afterwards, Jessie Inman received an award for the grand efforts it took to bring Evangaline to the stage last year for the Charlottetown Festival. Giving a brief history on how the epic poem was brought to the realm of musicals, Ms. Inman spoke passionately of the crew's dedication to authentically representing this pivotal piece of Canadian literature. She also delivered exciting news that the production team for Evangaline is working to bring this stirring program to the bright lights of Broadway. One of the first steps being taken a professional original cast recording of the deliciously beautiful soundtrack which will be available soon on ITunes and at the Confederation Centre.

Then the Governor General took the stage. He was eloquent and expressed the importance and connection of the Centre to our celebration of the 1864 Charlottetown Conference. It was a pleasure to sit and listen to his inspiring words and see how open and encouraging his was to the arts community. I would have liked to sit and transcribe in address, but honestly, it was too fascinating to focus on anything but his words. I've never personally seen or heard the Governor General speak, but he was all I could have expected and more. I speak for myself and many other patrons that were in the Homburg Theatre at that time when I say he was a reflection of the dedication that went into refreshing and re-creating this beloved theatre.

Of course, in grand Island tradition, no celebration would be complete without music and the talented cast of Canada Rocks was a great choice to demonstrate how apt the theatre's acoustics are! They were, no pun intended, rockin' the house! There wasn't a person in the theatre that wasn't electrified by their vivacious and powerful performance which displayed a portion of the over 74 songs that are featured throughout the full musical. This taste of Canada Rocks was more than enough to make me want to check it out and I suggest you do too, if you like a good time. Which of course, everyone likes a good time!

Later, everyone gathered in the lobby for coffee, cake and more importantly discussing how impressed they were with the updated theatre. If you were there, you already know that it's high time to go and check out a show and if not, take it from me and start booking your tickets for the Charlottetown Festival now; they're bound to go fast!

Here's to another 50 Years, Confederation Centre of the Arts, I'm with you all the way!

Friday, 13 June 2014

A History Making Evening at PEI's Province House

Last night Prince Edward Island's Legislative Assembly Chamber at Province House was filled with theatrics of a brand quite different than the norm. Instead of  powerful opinions being flung from one side of the room to another, there was the passion of our Province's Rural History being illustrated by song and the spoken word. Yes, last night history was made in the very place that helped to create the history which we are celebrating this year. For the first time in Province House's history, the venue was opened completely and given to the public for their enjoyment of this well appointed discussion and performance.

To a crowd of people, Islanders and otherwise that spread between three Chambers of the Province House, there was a performance, lead by Dr. Ed MacDonald's lecture on the topic rural PEI in the 1860's entitled "Land of One's Own: Prince Edward Island in the Confederation Era" and highlighted by the astoundingly talented cast of "The Master's Wife" a theatrical production taking place at Orwell's Corner this year.

I, myself, was fortunate enough to be seated in the Legislative Assembly Chamber, where all the action was taking place. Above in the gallery onlookers were entertained and downstairs a small theater of guests viewed a live stream of the production. Beginning with rousing fiddle music and an introduction to the concept that, once upon a time, PEI was considered a "world in miniature" as Sir Andrew McPhail so poetically coined the phrase; ever person present was brought back  to the time of Confederation. And yet, in contrast to the Charlottetown Conference that the Island and world at large are becoming more aware of with each passing day, we were not in the grand plan that helped shape our Canada.

No, we were with the layman, working the land, creating a life in earnest, waging prime social and sometimes petty domestic wars, but most of all opposing Confederation. Indeed, for reasons that I can much less aptly explain, our pioneer forefathers from one end of the Island to the other were against the unity of the British Colonies. Now, with our current prospective this seems absurd, but as Dr. MacDonald pointed out, at least one of the reasons for that still lingers with us. The concept of "Us" and "Them" that has always been an integral part of Prince Edward Island's culture. That Heritage still whispers in terms like "From Away" a title bestowed on anyone that's come to PEI without actually being born on the prized red Island soil.

Of course, there were more profound catalysts for such strong opinions. Such as the lucrative concepts of being a world in and within the borders of the Island and of each man owning their own land. I think that even from the short explanation that I have to offer we can see that all Islanders come by their opinionated natures honestly, in turn also their pride of ownership and sense of responsibility towards Island are too just as deeply rooted. All these are unique virtues, passed down like heirlooms to be treasured and even envied by those who cannot claim to be "Islanders".

Of course, if Dr. MacDonald was the paintbrush in this portrait, the cast of the Master's Wife in their period attire and an air of the past were the paint. They brought to life something so distant and yet within the audience's grasp because of their powerful words, song, acting and of course the venue which is as authentic Confederation Era PEI as can be offered. The quotations from Sir Andrew MacPhail's memoirs, "The Master's Wife" were delivered with passion and almost ethereal authenticity while the fiddle was given life through talent and the notes of MacPhail's father's "wallpaper music". Just from this taste of what "The Master's Wife" offers, I would encourage everyone who can possibly go to Orwell's Corner to make that pilgrimage. You'll gain something that you didn't even know you were missing. It's enriching with an outstanding amount of information delivered as smoothly as the sugared brandy that was humorously discussed during last night's production.

Last evening, Humor and History blended harmoniously for a lecture that was engaging and informative, everything you could want when presented with such an important topic being delivered to such a broad spectrum of people. And not only did we grasp history by words and action but were too a part of it and being part of that kind of history was very special, indeed. A hearty dose of appreciation is more than in order for everyone concerned. To Dr. Ed MacDonald, the talented cast of "The Master's Wife", the evening's dedicated organizers and doubtless many unsung heroes who were behind the scenes.

As one, impressionable girl whose forefather's feet are planted firmly on the Island and yet me still being "From Away" who wants nothing more than to understand the intricate workings of this Island, your work weaved a tapestry of beauty and raw honesty that sparked once more my passion and imagination for this land, rich in history, personality, dedication and most of all it's people.

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Some Fancy Lobster Roll at Dave's Lobster

Ever wonder where you can go to pick up a Lobster Roll that's as good as the legendary Rolls of yore that you're great, great Grandfather goes on about but with flair that can take on the 21st Century? I've pondered that conundrum with the best of PEI's great thinkers and though there was ne'er an answer in sight for many a moon... Something incredible appeared on Charlottetown's Historic Waterfront! Dave's Lobster is it's name and so, after all that wondering (which conveniently made me very hungry) I made the (short but epic) pilgrimage to Dave's.

Boasting indoor and outdoor seating, a bright and welcoming atmosphere, genuinely caring staff and Island charm to boot, Dave's was all I could expect and more! And they might be the new kid on the block, but this little restaurant is already making waves with their first award coming from the Savour Food and Wine Festival recognizing their Lobster Tacos!

Greeted by Kirsten, the cheerful Assistant Manager, I already felt like I was home. She talked about the menu with me since I was having a hard time picking between their two Lobster Roll offerings. The Local, which is a classic chilled lobster roll or the Some Fancy a unique offering that you're going to be hearing more about... Because that was my roll of choice. (For this visit anyways, because after how impressed I was, I'll be back for The Local.)

With lobster warmed in a pan of butter, fresh lemon and garlic, it's served up on a traditional home made roll which is buttered and grilled. Add in a sprinkling of fresh cut chives and you've nailed the recipe for what tastes like a delicious lobster dinner all on a roll of super toasty goodness! With a Mini Bag of Covered Bridge Kettle Cooked Chips and crisp Dill Pickle, I decided to add a side of coleslaw so that I could get the full David's experience. The warmth of this roll infused even more flavor into the huge chunks of warm, tender lobster as the butter melts into everything, especially that toasty roll for a perfect crispness on the outside and softness on the inside. The light citrus from the lemon compliments this delectable shellfish and the garlic is a perfect companion to the lobster's naturally subtle sweetness, the chives add in a crispness of flavor for a great combination that really is Some Fancy. Honestly, this Lobster Roll is the perfect welcome to PEI when it comes to newcomers and a taste of fond memories for our locals, which is likely why Dave's has already won the hearts of regulars! My side slaw was great, fresh and citrus-y with a touch of cilantro that made it stand out from it's peers of typically prepared coleslaw. It was definitely a taste of Summer and pleasantly cool in it's flavors; just as refreshing as Dave's decor!

Of course, the Covered Bridge Brand chips were delicious. I've always known that this brand, which hails from New Brunswick (Go Atlantic Provinces!), are great but when paired with PEI Lobster...Yum! Crispy, crunchy potatoes, perfectly cooked and then salted with sea salt. If you haven't tried Covered Bridge's Chips, make your first time at Dave's!

And knowing me, you'll understand that I can't really go anywhere without dessert and coffee, because coffee is practically my life blood! With the delicious stuff hailing from Row 142, this coffee is roasted right Downtown and was perfectly brewed at Dave's. A light roast that while it not only matched dessert, went with the whole meal. Who knew you could drink coffee with lobster? As of now, me! As for dessert, a Cinnamon Roll from Mary's Bakery in Cornwall was lovely because let's face it you don't get more PEI than these Cinnamon Rolls which are famous across the entire Island. They're sweet, kissed with cinnamon, gooey and crunchy. So essentially, they're pretty much perfect. Oh and did I mention how big they are!? No dinky cinnamon rolls here. They've always been my favorite but now they're at Dave's; talking about sweet, sweet providence.

Really though, it's not just me that's in love with Dave! ...I mean Dave's Lobster! Although he deserves a big hug for creating such a great place to hang out and eat. You've got to know it's amazing when all the customer's compliment the food on their way out. Just consider this review a big virtual hug from another one of your fan's Dave.

Oh and for those of you who aren't ready for lobster yet or have little ones with you, Dave's offers Gourmet Grilled Cheese for kids and kids at heart.

So now, as they say on the Island...Have at 'er!

Monday, 9 June 2014

Dine Around PEI at the Gahan House

There's always a reason to celebrate the culinary on Prince Edward Island. With the bounty of incredible natural resources which we have in the hands of some of the world's most talented Chef's we're really just one great big year long culinary festival! But of course, we're the kind of Province that always looks for more unique ways to represent our Chef's and Producers and this month just happens to be Dine Around!

If you didn't experience Dine Around this past weekend, worry not, friends you've still got June 12th to 15th to get out there and, well dine around. As for me...where else would I be but getting in on all the action? After going over each Dine Around specific Menu, I knew exactly where I wanted to go; The Gahan House! Why? Because they're awesome and because they've got Chef Dwayne MacLeod, that's why. Of course, those two things equate to food that'll blow your mind with it's collectively delicious nature.

So take my hand, walk into the historically atmospheric Gahan House and sit down to one of the best meal's I've ever eaten. (It'll be one of the best you have too, but you'd better make your reservation now.)

Starting out with the Appetizer, I was presented with a tasting that's honestly got all of my favorite things, so much so that Julie Andrews could sing a song about it, really. Chef Dwayne put together a Beer and Cheese tasting so fine that I could hardly believe it was the the start to this whole meal; talk about making first impressions. There were three Gahan Beer samplers, which was perfect for me because it just happens that their beer is one of my passions. They're what started me drinking beer and I owe them for my refined tastes in the art of beer brewing. That said, the 1772 IPA Ale (my personal favorite), Sir John A Honey Wheat Ale and Iron Bridge Ale excited me when paired with Jeff McCourt's Gouda!

Yes indeed, Jeff's Glasgow Glen Farm's Gouda Lady Cheese was there for my adoration! As always, I love his impeccable cheese and there was so much of it to love. With Muster Pepper Gouda, Peppercorn Gouda, Mild Gouda and Beer Gouda, featuring Gahan's Sydney St. Ale, I had so many reasons to be excited. They were all unique, each with it's own distinct flavor infusion and always perfectly creamy.

And that wasn't the end of this, the appetizer that keeps on giving; there was also Cow's Aged White Cheddar, Prosciutto, Blackberries and Strawberries! The options truly were limitless, it was like a playground for foodies because every aspect paired with the next so that you're given a whole assortment of flavor experiences. Some of my favorites included the Prosciutto with the Iron Bridge Ale, the Peppercorn Gouda with the 1772 IPA and Cow's Cheddar Sir John A's. There's really too much to say about everything except that it's one of those things you've really got to try. Earthy, sweet, tangy, spicy and overall exceptionally versatile. F. Scott Fitzgerald talks about the "inexhaustible variety of life" in one of his novel's and I think that this tasting and really got a true grasp on this concept!

Before we move onto the next course, I want to give a huge shout out to the Gahan's award winning General Manager Chris O'Keefe! This guy is one of the most charismatic people I've come across in the restaurant industry, his personality just makes you want to smile and it's no wonder that when met with Chef Dwayne's Culinary Talent, the Gahan is such a roaring success!

Oh...and the Biscuits so totally deserve a shout out too! While not as epic as Chris, they're flaky layers that are as light as air certainly make me feel a more awesome after I eat them! Also big points for that presentation, we're very devoted to biscuits here on PEI, but that's got to be the prettiest plate I've ever seen!

Okay, now I know you're just waiting with bated taste buds to find out about the Main Course and so I won't torture you any longer! Bring it on!

See that? That's Steak and Scallops ala Chef Dwayne MacLeod! Presented as if they were for a Queen, this plate looks as good as it tastes! (Think about that for a minute, because I know you were just admiring how gorgeous that plating is,) With Island Grilled Rib Eye Steak, Cajun Butter Scallops, Garlic and Herb Mashed Potatoes and Local Seasonal Vegetables the combined visual and scent were a tantalizing prelude to the intoxicating flavors that were to come.

Being the beef eater that I am, I went for the steak first. This Rib Eye was perfectly medium well, exactly to order and the very first word that came to mind with that inaugural bite was juicy. Of course, that was quickly followed by thoughts such as delicious, tender, beefy perfection and then a long "Mmmmmm" in for good measure as I took one bite after another! This Island Beef was 100% respected by Chef Dwayne, you can tell it's his favorite cut of beef because it's prepared so beautifully, then again that's just like all of the other amazing food that enters his kitchen an comes out transformed into pieces of edible art!

Speaking of edible art, the scallops were a masterpiece in and of themselves! Cajun Butter needs to marry Scallops because this flavor pairing is SO meant to be and no pun intended here, we're talking about love at first bite. Smooth as the butter that was adorning them, these scallops were tender, smooth and melted in your mouth with a bit of heat from the Cajun spice. To me it begs the question as to what's Chef Dwayne's secret, because he pulls of flawless meals like they're child's play! I guess that's just the mark of a Master.

Of course, the Island fresh veggies were a star on the plate as well! The Fiddle Heads were crisp and rustic, making beautiful harmony with the equally awesome asparagus which both lend their earthy flavors to the rest of this course and both are made even more tasty with a kick when dipped in a little bit of the Cajun Butter. The Mashed Potatoes were so terrific that when I first tasted them I knew I could just devour a whole bowl full! They were creamy, buttery and the herb and garlic infused into this mash could make any potato aspire to greatness! I mean if I were a potato, that mash is totally where I'd want to be.

Now I'll continue with the between course shout outs and give a great big hello and virtual hug to waitresses Candace and Suzanne! Both of these ladies were incredibly sweet, welcoming and accommodating! I felt like I was Candace's friend from the moment I stepped through the door and Suzanne was as friendly as can be.

Now, the last course; Dessert! But unlike how Shakespeare looks as farewells, I say 'Parting is such sweet deliciousness'! The Warm Rhubarb and Pistachio Strudel with Aged Cheddar and Cow's Ice Cream, this dessert warmed my heart and plunged it into a refreshingly sweet happy place. So indulgent whilst staying fresh and cool, I couldn't have imagined better. The Cow's Ice Cream was their signature Vanilla which was ideally cool alongside the ambrosic dessert that Chef Dwayne prepared especially for Dine Around! The layers of phyllo were flaky and warm. And as if that wasn't enough adding another aspect of decadent was the sweet and rich whipped cream! Oh, see that cheese? Cheddar with dessert is a time tested tradition that gives this dessert a truly unique edge, the savory aged cheddar lending itself to the strudel in a way that you must try!

All and all? This is the total package when it comes to Dine Around. From Gallery worthy presentation to flavors in each course that tied the meal together and an over-all quality of dining that made everything extraordinary, The Gahan House is the place to be for this year's Dine Around!

I know that I had a perfect meal from start to finish, so why not treat yourself and do the same thing too? With a set menu price of $35.00 the Gahan is generous and beyond in giving you all the best they have to offer!

And just in case this whole review didn't come across as a shout out to Chef Dwayne MacLeod...I love your food, Chef Dwayne!


Monday, 2 June 2014

Sunday Brunch at Red Shore's Top of the Park Restaurant

I'm no stranger to Red Shores Top of the Park Restaurant, their buffets have magnetic force like nothing else which leaves me attached to their ever-changing variety of awe-inspiring culinary delights. I think I subtly got my point across on how awesome they are in a previous review "A Buffet Worth Marrying at the Top of the Park". Okay, so maybe I wasn't really subtle, but let's face it, when I'm that excited by food, how can I be anything but dramatic!

And while the Top of the Park's weekly buffets continue to wow me, they've made another fantastic addition to their restaurant. It's got everything that makes me sing the praises of their weekly offerings with the most important meal of the day thrown in; Breakfast! Yes, their Sunday Brunch, while only new has got enough rep to make you think it's been around since before ever.

Chef Andrew Smith's talent and sense of variety has always captured my imagination; he constantly comes out with unique menus for each spread at the Top of the Park and skillfully delivers the highest quality food in a buffet that will take your breath away. It's truly astounding, really and now with breakfast added into the mix, he just proves that going the distance is no problem for him. Add those qualities in with that winning smile and it's no wonder the regulars at the Top of the Park call him a celebrity!

Honestly, their whole crew it outstanding, Amanda a terrific part of the Culinary Team, Food Supervisor Beth, Waitresses Shelagh and Felicity, Hostess Sarah and everyone, there's warm welcomes, big smiles and genuine caring all around.

And while I could go on to you forever just about that, I know what you're here for and what I can't wait to tell you about...the food! A Brunch fit for royalty, there was everything you could want and even new favorites you didn't know you loved.

Starting off with breakfast, it's hard to pick what to talk about first... Chef Andrew's Stuffed French Toast is a great jumping off point though with this weekend variety being of the Chocolate Raspberry, "It's calling my name" variety. Literally, this French Toast is stuffed with raspberry cream cheese, drizzled with chocolate and then dusted with powdered sugar... But spiritually, it's stuffed, drizzled and dusted with epic. All that smooth, creamy goodness smothered between two pieces of French Toast made with french bread...Mmmmmm.

And as fate would have it, my own personal breakfast indulgence was there. Eggs Benedict, in all of is glory say on that buffet like it had been made for a Queen. Or me. Same thing, right? Well, not really, but it certainly tasted like some of the best Eggs Benedict I've ever had! A truly creamy delight with it's savory and buttery hollandaise atop a perfectly poached egg, tender, juicy ham and a toasty English muffin. All together, you can dial Y for Yum because this is a breakfast treat that'll steal your heart. It's already got mine. Seriously.

On top of those two very special pieces, there was a ton of other awesome breakfast items! The Mini Pancakes were not only cute, but so fluffy and buttery that they had all the comforts of home. Topped with the perfect blueberry compote companion and sweet, sweet pure maple syrup, I'm glad they're mini because that the perfect size for eating even more! Home Fries are obviously a breakfast staple and these potatoes paid tribute to the heartiness of these beloved PEI vegetable with a nice crisp and fluffy balance (if you love home fries, you know what I mean) and then prepared as if to say "Good Morning" with gentle and flavorful seasoning. The traditional with a culinary twist continues with Scrambled Eggs that were superbly fluffy, deliciously buttery and creamy with cheddar cheese mixed in for that savory little punch. Add in Classic Herbed Breakfast Sausage and Crispy Thick Cut Bacon and you think that would be perfect!

Not for Chef Andrew, he's got to have even more awesome, even more blow your mind out yumminess!

Now for the "Lunch" part of this Brunch, because the glory doesn't end at breakfast as you can see from the photos of my plate. I started myself with a bowl of Bacon Potato Soup which was smoky and yet mild as the creamy potato and bacon come together in this lovely soup. On the Carvery this Sunday was Maple Glazed Ham it was simply delicious, juiciness goes to a new level with the sweet hint of maple and succulent as always from the Top of the Park. After that I went for the Pork Button Bones with Orange Soy Glaze, which I honestly think speak for themselves from their name, but I will say that this was some serious fall off the bone meat that had a sinfully good glaze with the savory soy and contrast of the sweet, fragrant orange.

Now, there was even more to partake in when it comes to lunch at the Top of the Park's Brunch but I had to save some room for the...Desserts!

Chocolate Cherry Gluten Free Dreams Bars were what started off my dessert and they were dreamy, no pun intended. They were sweet and decadent, with candied cherries and chocolate ganache. Every bite of this little power house made me say "wow"! With desserts like this, Chef Andrew would make wheat-free living a sweet, sweet thing. The Lemon and Cream Cheese Danish was made up of layers of flaky and delicate pastry that wrapped themselves around a heart of sweet lemon curd and cream cheese. Honestly, if I could, I would have one of these every morning! Next is a dessert that British Columbia would be proud of! The Cafe Latte Nanaimo Squares were sweet with a hint of espresso-y goodness that's ideal for me and my coffee obsessed personage. Last but certainly not least I had a Lemon Curd Tart and this little delight made me feel like I should be at a garden party with lace gloves, sipping tea and discussing literature and life. Any dessert that can make a girl feel like a proper lady is certainly worth lots of kudos to me!

And that's not all! I wasn't able to take in everything at the Top of the Park's Brunch, but I hope that I'm able to bring you a little closer and hungrier for this delectable buffet!

For those who're really curious there were herb and garlic mussels with melted butter, steamed vegetables, whipped potatoes, spicy chicken wings, steamed vegetables, a whole salad bar of fresh veggies and cool salads, rolls, squares, gourmet cookies bread pudding, three different pies, pudding parfait, sugar-free desserts...and more! Wow, that's a mouthful. Literally.

My suggestion? Go to the Top of the Park, especially for their Brunch and always try to call ahead and make reservations because, this place, like any amazing entity in the world is in high demand so everyone wants to get in on this buffet! And here's a helpful little tip, the Father's Day Brunch is coming up this month to book ahead for that too and treat your Darling Dad to the brunch of his life!
where you can,

With it being so easy to taste and see why they're so popular, you must be left wondering what I think is the very best part of this Buffet...


'Nuff said.