Let’s just start by saying I’m not going to the PEI International Shellfish Festival in Charlottetown. It’s not that I don’t want to go, it’s that I’m leaving PEI today, and guess when the Shellfish Festival starts? Tomorrow! Carol’s impeccable timing strikes again!
But no matter. I begged for a preview. And because I’m an independent type who likes to do things alone I brought Amy Rosen, Food Editor at Chatelaine, who is also here in PEI for the GoMedia Conference. I brought her because she was very unimportant then, having not yet won GoMedia’s Keep Exploring Award of Excellence in Travel Journalism. So I can say I knew her back when, which was like 15 hours ago.
The real reason for touring Prince Edward Island
For me, oysters in PEI is what it’s all about. Yeah, yeah, Cow’s Ice Cream. Anne of Green Gables, blah blah blah, but give me a Malpeque oyster any day.
And speaking of Malpeques, when Amy and I walked into the Claddagh Oyster House on Sydney Street to speak to champion oyster shucker Marc Dolan, who manages both the Claddagh House and the upstairs Dublin Pub, and whose father Liam Dolan is the Chairman of the upcoming PEI Shellfish Festival, Malpeques were the main thing on my mind.
“Whenever I order PEI oysters,” I said to Marc, trying not to drool as I stared at my plate of shucked oysters on ice, “especially when I’m outside PEI, the server always seems to say they’re Malpeques. Are they putting me on?”
I asked because to me, this sounds suspiciously like when you’re in Thailand having a $5 massage on the beach and every masseuse studied at Wat Pho Temple.
Apparently, according to Marc, the oyster servers have not been putting me on, and who knows, maybe those Thai masseuses all really did study at the famous Wat Pho.
The truth about Malpeques
While Malpeque Bay is one of many bays in PEI, all oysters in PEI can be considered Malpeques, Marc said, because the seed is collected from Malpeque Bay and delivered elsewhere, where the little oyster babies grow and thrive, like at Raspberry Point, oh heaven. And at Coleville Bay, where those plump buttery oysters are the raw food dreams are made of.
My fickle shellfish heart
A few days ago I was convinced lobster was what propelled my life, but after my oyster tasting at Claddagh Oyster House, I am, while not dumping lobster completely, thinking about embarking on a passionate oyster affair. (Those who say oysters are aphrodisiacs are obviously correct, except that you fall in love with the taste, not necessarily the person beside you.)
In fact, I couldn’t help oohing, ahhing and swooning the entire time at Claddagh as the clean taste of PEI oysters hit my mouth, which apparently embarrassed Amy to no end, because she mentioned it as we were walking back along the boardwalk that runs along the waterfront of Charlottetown.
“Were you really embarrassed?” I asked her, surprised. I mean, I’m used to being a walking embarrassment, but this time I’d been sitting down.
“Yes,” she said.
“Really?” I asked again, only slightly crestfallen because as she hadn’t yet won the prestigious GoMedia’s Keep Exploring Award of Excellence in Travel Journalism I didn’t care all that much.
Phew. But okay, next time I’ll shut up (Ha! Not likely) as I eat my hot-off-the-press Malpeque oysters, and I’ll try to return to PEI whenever I’m hungry, or at least for the Shellfish Festival next year.
About the PEI International Shellfish Festival
The PEI Shellfish Festival runs from September 13-15 (which is odd because it’s billed as a 4-day festival and I’m pretty sure that equals 3). The festival is hosted by PEI’s celebrity chef Michael Smith, and there will be chowder, oyster shucking competitions (Go Marc Dolan!), demos and a big fat kitchen party atmosphere.
And while all the fun is happening in Charlottetown I’ll be alone in Toronto with nothing but memories of a plate of the freshest oysters ever (except for that time I went out and ate them straight from the ocean) and, after getting great tips from Marc about eating oysters in PEI, with a few pearls (ha ha) of shellfish wisdom.
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