Monday, December 29, 2014

Travels in Taste - Moncton and Charlottetown - Part 1

Hey there!

It's no secret that I wish I travelled more, but it's one of those things I simply can't manage very easily, both economically and logistically (considering the single income and toddler). We tried once to put together a cheap resort trip to the Dominican Republic, but there were too many variables to be comfortable with leaving the country for a week. So instead we wound up doing a combined Quebec City/Montreal trip and managed to eat like hell-damn-ass-kings, as evidenced here and here. Well, once again in the Spring of this year, we planned a little too loftily and thought we'd go to Seattle in September so Kari could run the "Beat the Blerch" half-marathon (basing a trip on my wife running 21 km... why not?). But once the planning got underway, it quickly occurred to us that a) we couldn't really afford to go that far, b) 7-hour flight + toddler = frak that noise, and c) newish driver (me) on a totally mysterious Seattle freeway system might not be the safest idea.

So, Kari decided to keep looking through the internets for half-marathons in a more affordable and nearby locale and lo and behold, we discovered the Charlottetown Marathon (in Prince Edward Island) taking place on October 19th! Now, it seemed a bit late in the season for a Maritime expedition and I had a "back-of-my-mind" fear of hurricane season, but it would be really low on tourists and we'd have the benefit of off-season prices on hotels.

We decided after looking at flight prices to fly into Moncton. New Brunswick and then drive to Charlottetown by way of the Confederation Bridge, a huge pants-crapping span that connects the island to the mainland and is over 100 feet high. Scariest. Drive. EVER!!! Backing up a minute, we started out staying at the Rodd Hotel in Moncton on October 13 (Thanksgiving Monday) and it being fairly late when we got to the hotel, we were stuck getting Subway. Ugh.

Next day, we had a lovely walking tour of the walkways along the Petitcodiac River, which has this really neat phenomenon known as the "tidal bore", which we managed to catch before heading for lunch at the Tide and Boar (clever, eh?). It was a really nice little gastropub and we were blessed with great weather that allowed us to eat outside. I had a fantastic burger, which was the hook, and it was a certainty that we would be back (foreshadowing). With a happy belly, I was able to manage the 2.5 hour drive from Moncton to Charlottetown, including the terrifying Bridge of Doom.

Over the course of our stay in Charlottetown, we were fortunate enough to have beautiful weather for almost the whole time we were there; it was sunny most days and-  the temperature stayed right around the mid-to-high teens. We were also fortunate that Charlottetown has a lot of really good places to eat. For the whole time we were there, we ate like kings and queens and princesses.

We started out with some lighter fare from the grocery store on Tuesday night, but by the next day we were heading into restaurants all over the downtown core. The first was the Big Orange Lunchbox (which, sadly, has recently gone out of business) where I had a delicious pulled duck burger on Wednesday, and I'd be back later on Sunday for a bacon-wrapped scallop burger (yes, you read that correctly) with onion rings.

Thursday was our day to explore the Island and we drove around for a few hours, starting our outing with some of the best French Fries EVER from The Chip Shack, then checking out PEI National Park and Cavendish, as well as enjoying a meal of fried clams and fried oysters at Carr's Oyster Bar. We ended up back in town in the evening hoping to have a nice sit-down meal at Terre Rouge, but an overtired toddler wasn't having it. So instead we partook of their "Boss Hog" pulled pork special to go. We just so happened to be in town during PEI Porktoberfest and many of the local restos were serving pork dishes designed for the occasion (including a plethora of varieties of pulled pork). The sandwiches we got were a-mazing, as described here: The Boss Hog is a take-charge kind of gourmet sandwich presented with Molasses Braised Pulled Pork, Walnut Pesto, Apple Sage Chutney, Crisp Apple Salad, and House Smoked Back Bacon on a Toasted Italian Roll with Thyme Lard Butter. Is it any wonder they won?

Friday lunch was pretty much the culinary highlight of Charlottetown: LOBSTER ROLLS!!!!!!! Now, I'm an admitted fan of using Tripadvisor when I travel, mainly because it's really hard to get good advice from friends on another town's food (except for 'go to Schwartz's.' *Always*go to Schwartz's), but when you get the consensus of strangers, chances are it's pretty good. So, topping the list for Charlottetown restaurants on Tripadvisor was Dave's Lobster, a very simply lunch counter specializing in that maritime delicacy which is the lobster roll. Traditionally a lobster roll consists of a mess of cold lobster meat mixed with mayo, celery, lemon juice and herbs. However, Dave's takes it a step further and offers both the traditional version (called "The Local") and a hot version (called "Some Fancy") done up with garlic, lemon and melted butter. They also offered lobster tacos and grilled cheese! But what was best was that they also have a "featured lobster roll" on occasion, which in this case was a half-"Local" and half-"Fancy". SOLD! Now, it isn't a cheap meal at 15 bucks for a roll, pickle and bag of chips, but keep in mind that it was nearly all lobster meat. And trust me, totally worth it! Easily one (two?) of the best lobster-based meals I've ever had. The meat was as fresh as I've ever had (and I've eaten more than my share of live-cooked lobster), the seasoning for both the cold and hot sides was spot on, I discovered that sweet potato chips and lobster are best of friends and, finally, PEI Brewing Company's Blueberry Ale to wash it down, making for an absolutely fantastic drink pairing). Totally worth the cost; this simple but decadent munch goes down as a meal for the ages.

Oh, and the pickle was delicious as well!

Just ask Olivia:

PICKLEFACE! Oh, it's deliciously pickleh!

Back soon with Part 2!