Wednesday, 24 December 2014

A Christmas Wonderland Buffet at the Top of the Park

Twas' the night before Christmas and all at Red Shores were enjoying a buffet overflowing with the trimmings and oh, so much more.

When searching for festive perfection in a Christmas dinner, just like a gift this is the meal that keeps on giving! A feast fit for Santa Claus himself, a visit to the Top of the Park Restaurant is pretty much like being a kid on Christmas morning. Always booked ahead, the Red Shores Christmas Lunch and Dinner Buffets are a highlight of the culinary scene at this, the Holiday season. With a Team of Chefs who are likely topping Mr. Claus' Nice List, I wouldn't be surprised if Chefs Andrew, Glen, Jeff and Dana are chartered out to the North Pole to cater for the big man himself next year!

Think of it this way, everyday they host what could easily be considered the biggest Christmas Dinners and pull it off with the flair of your Mother, Grandmother and all the other esteemed cooks in your family that's ever put a turkey in the oven. That's generations of awesome all packed into a buffet that cannot be missed!

And I'm proud to say...this is how I celebrate.

Every year it's one of my favorite December activities to make it to the Top of the Park and totally do Christmas. With Holiday Spirit to spare, everyone is filled with good cheer. This year I've got to make a shout out to Jana and Denise for being to absolute darlings, they were warm, welcoming and made me feel just like a part of the family. And really, that's what Christmas is all about.

Well, that and food. Lots and lots of super delicious food. Which I clearly didn't have to look any further for once I was in the restaurant.

The best of the Island was spread out as a gourmet bounty which, as always, is quick to impress. In Christmas Fashion, the Top of the Park's Buffet was transformed both in food and atmosphere... It was certainly beginning to look a lot like Christmas! Every table's personal TV was tuned into a crackling fireplace, while the decor was all candy canes and Gingerbread Houses.

I was tempted straight to the buffet by the smell of turkey and the trimmings. The classics were all there from savory dressing to creamy mashed potatoes.

My first plate, as you can see, was pure Christmas fare. The turkey, so tender and juicy was carved right before my eyes at their carvery. Always the star of the show, Top of the Park served up a turkey that was perfect in every way. Topped with some of their creamy gravy and sweet and tart cranberry sauce, I had plenty of reasons to go back for more and more. Alongside that was classic vegetables, seasoned just right and with just enough butter to make them irresistible. The mashed potatoes were so light and fluffy, they were practically whipped into a buttery, savory cloud and of course, the dressing was classic, just like your Mom would make. All of these put together spell out Christmas Dinner perfection.

Not as insanely obsessed with Christmas food like me? Don't worry! There's a whole cold salad bar with gourmet pasta, potato and other gourmet salads. There's always  soup of day with fresh rolls too, the day I went their selection just happened to be Chicken Gumbo. And in true Top of the Park fashion white wine steamed Mussels are one of their go-to greats!

As for me, I was tempted by the cheesey, saucy goodness of their lasagna! It was hearty and rich filled with layers of beef, veggies and tomato sauce then topped with glorious cheese!

And then... Dessert. Not just any dessert, but the dessert of desserts that could knock the socks off of your sweet tooth. Well, if teeth wore socks anyways.

Just look at that assortment of goodies. Some people want Santa to bring them Diamond Rings or BB Guns... But I just want that. All of it. I could promise an entire year of my best behavior if I could find all that under my tree on Christmas morning. Everything from Blueberry Shortcake to trifle and bread pudding. Pies, cakes, cookies, squares, jellys...and fudge.

That was a mouthful. Which is quite accurate considering I couldn't resist sampling all a wide range of these delectable morels. I had some of the fruitcake and fruitcake squares, which had the most divine crea, cheese icing, buttery shortbread cookies, deliriously rich chocolate and cookies and cream fudge...

...And Pumpkin Pie with a cup of coffee!

It's no wonder Top of the Park is consistently my favorite buffet. At any time of the year they are set to impress and there is always a selection that can satisfy anyone's wish list. While I was there, I heard about their upcoming Asian Night Buffets...yet another tasty present that I can't wait to unwrap.

And so I will say and I nom out of sight...

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

The Perfect Meal at the Churchill Arms

In Downtown Charlottetown there's a gem of a restaurant that has is frequented by locals for it's consistently delicious food and hailed by tourists for being one of the culinary bright spots on their visit. The Churchill Arms is the only authentic British Pub on Prince Edward Island and makes it's home on Historic Queen Street. Just as you'd expect, the atmosphere is warm, with rich colored woods and ambient lighting that provides the warmth and charm that comes to mind when imagining a British Pub. And while that alone makes it a pleasant place to have a meal, the Churchill exudes a sense of community and family which is truly unique. Regulars fill their usual spots while they mingle like family, even welcome newcomers with their smiles and the staff, as gracious and friendly as can be, make everyone feel at home. Their waitresses not only serve up amazing food but also good cheer and conversation. Fran, the Churchill's charismatic Proprietor is everyone's friend, she has that rare quality and down-to-earth personality that characterizes the charm of the Island.

And of course...she cooks up some of the most addictive dishes this side of the pond!

I personally am proud of say that I frequent the Churchill Arms and couldn't help but share my latest meal with all of you hungry foodies!

For starters, I decided to partake in one of the Churchill's daily creations. Each day they feature a special meal, daily wrap and soup. It just so happened that this day's feature was Baked Potato Cheddar Soup. So even though I knew I was in for a huge main course, I couldn't help myself!

As you can see from the photo, this soup is exactly like it looks, creamy and rich. With all the best parts of a baked potato all put into one singularly outstanding soup, you can taste each ingredient seamlessly. Potato, bacon, chives, cheddar and of course the unmistakable smoothness of sour cream. It goes to show that home made quality goes into every menu item, daily selections included.
It was a great precursor to the main event, a dish that the Churchill Arms is synonymous with and undoubtedly a part of it's most popular menu selections! It's one of the dishes that was shown when the Churchill was featured on 'You Gotta Eat Here!'

Their famous Curry! Oh, and did I mention that Kelly Ripa, from Live with Kelly and Michael not only visited the Churchill to try their curry but is still raving about it? That's right, you couldn't go anywhere to get a tastier serving of curry and it's easy to taste why everyone from locals to celebrities are wild over their curry!

There are four varieties of curry, from the classic Butter Chicken, to their hottest, the Madras Curry. I myself wanted to show off something that everyone can enjoy. The Korma curry, which comes with your choice of chicken, beef or vegetables. I went for the most popular choice and picked chicken with the local classic side of "half and half". A complete must, of you're to get the whole experience, your curry is accompanied by half a side of basmati rice and half a side of house cut fries.

See how happy I am, standing alongside Fran before digging in? Well, my smile was even wider once I took that first, coveted bite! The spices, which warm you delicately, completely envelope your senses while the creamy curry sauce satisfies oh so completely. The vibrant colors of the curry cover generous pieces of juicy white meat chkcken. With a combination of dipping fries, adding rice to my curry, eating chicken and getting every last remnant of this delicious goodness wiped up with the provided naan could literally say meal is perfection. A little taste of heaven.

The wonderful thing about the Korma is that it features mild spices with a lightly sweet and rich sauce that is suitable for even the most sensitive of palates. Pick the Lunch size for a perfect meal sized portion or go for the full size if you're like me and just can't get enough of this curry's delectable goodness.

Even though I was thoroughly satisfied after the incredible serving of nirvana inducing curry, I knew that no meal is truly complete without dessert... And at the Churchill Arms it doesn't take much convincing to dive into one of their favorite desserts. The deep fried Mars bar. Yes, the first on the Island to serve this ingenious creation, their take on the Mars bar is filled with particularly gooey goodness, on all the very best ways! Battered and fried for crispy perfection, it wraps the sweet, heavenly nougat and caramel which is all warm and smooth like velvet. The chocolate and caramel drizzle enhance this dessert's natural glory while the whipped cream and a cool kiss to this delightful indulgence!

Quite honestly when I think of the Churchill, the fact that it's one of my favorite places to eat and associate it with te kind of home cooking and local goodness that warms my heart. That's something I hope I've shared with everyone in this review and inspired you to go out and experience it for yourself. 

Saturday, 6 December 2014

A Traditional Christmas Buffet at the Inn on the Hill

Christmas means so many things to a variety of people, the holidays represent time with family, good cheer and an inexhaustible reserve of happy memories. But the one thing that almost everyone can relate to when it comes to Christmas is a feast. Food brining people together and helping to make those memories we cherish for years to come. In the spirit of Christmas, I wanted to kick off the season with a delicious Turkey Dinner! And there's likely no place more associated with generations of happy Diner's than the Inn on the Hill! Their special Holiday Turkey Buffet is hosted each Friday leading up to Christmas, it starts at 11 am and so do the crowds! Offering truly Home-style variety and all the warmth and brightness of the Season, it's no surprise to see friends and family filling up the Inn on the Hill's dining rooms.

Decorated with lovely trees and touches of Christmas all around, you can smell the delicious food as soon as you enter the restaurant! That's not the end of this sensory experience though. To make the atmosphere all the more cheerful, Johnny Ross takes to the keyboard to tickle out delightful Christmas tunes as you dine! Known and beloved Island wide for his charismatic playing, the Inn on the Hill certainly put the cherry on top of this buffet with Johnny's perfect musical backdrop.

And of course, this fantastic setting is host to the star of the Lunch hour at the Inn on the Hill! Chefs Mary and Michael are the culinary artists behind the locally fueled meal. With a variety of warm and cold offerings, everyone's taste buds are welcomed to partake. Home-baked biscuits and rolls start off your meal along side the day's soup and are joined by a variety of cold salads. Including garden salad, classic coleslaw and the some creamiest home style potato salad I've ever tasted, your mouth is already watering from the very beginning!

Mind you, the celebrity at every Christmas meal is the Turkey! And this Turkey just happens to be a home-raised hero, the Inn on the Hill serves tender, perfectly carved grain fed Larkin Bros. Turkey with light and dark meat neatly displayed so you can pick your favorite piece. Topped with rich, Creamy gravy and this is a main that can steal your heart! With classic dressing, seasoned to perfection, hearty mashed potatoes and steamed veggies you'll feel like you're in Grandma's kitchen!
And if you've got a taste for something a little more unique and not as conventionally Christmas, then you'll want to try their lasagna. This offering is generous on flavor, with a blend of cheesy goodness and extra beef. I'd be lying if I said I didn't take an extra piece because I loved it so much!

And we all know that any Christmas Dinner wouldn't be the same without dessert, and the Inn on the Hill is truly treating you sweet tooth! Chef Mary is a wonder-worker, pulling out all of the best and decadent stops to bring out a Dessert Trolley that I was extremely tempted to roll home with me!

I couldn't help myself and had, count 'em, three desserts! The first of this sweet trio was a caramel cheesecake with it's base like a whipped cloud, covered in a thick, sweet layer of rich caramel. The second was another round of cheesecake, which hosted the very same luscious base as the caramel but brought the decadence up another level with deep, dark chocolate topping and a chocolate cookie crumb crust. And of that's not enough heaven already, I topped it off with a slice of strawberry rhubarb pie that had a buttery, flaky crust and hit the perfect balance of sweet and tart in the center. That was the perfect, if not unbelievably indulgent end to this spirited meal!

With a meal that conjures up thoughts of family around the table on December 25th, Irving Berlin on the record player and mistletoe in the doorway, the Inn on the Hill has created a tasty Christmas Card that you have to taste, see and even hear to believe!