Q&A with Jen and Mercedeh - Epicurean Newfoundland

What made you want to design a trip around Newfoundland’s sustainable cuisine?

We love to eat, especially when we're travelling. Designing a food-focused journey through Newfoundland meant that we could finally test out the farm- and sea-to-table cuisine that we've been hearing so much about. There are some creative young chefs doing amazing things with traditional dishes and local ingredients and naturally, we thought our travellers would appreciate a trip that took them to some of the best eateries in the province.

What was one of the most interesting locally sourced ingredients or foods you tried?

Cariboo Moss, which can be found along the shores of Fogo Island.  We most enjoyed it candied as a garnish to a mouthwatering chocolate dessert, or served with a mix of local berries.  Quench trip guide Kiloran McRae, who lives in Newfoundland, was the most excited of all of us to try it:  "It was thrilling to be eating something I walk by everyday... I never imagined eating it.  I also think it's beautiful, perhaps because it has so many associations for me. Christmas in the floral business, among others.  To me it is the essence of Boreal wilderness, and even the name is evocative. It is a very slow growing lichen and therefore something to be treasured."

Foraging on Fogo Island we sampled the leaves of wild celery which became a delicious addition to our lunch salad.  This was another new flavour we will not soon foget.

Cariboo Moss

Cariboo Moss

Can you describe some of the sources of local food you saw at the places you visited?

Fishers' Loft Inn on Trinity Bay has gardens and a greenhouse where it harvests its own vegetables and fruit. Guests have the freedom to peruse them on their own.

Not far away from Port Rexton is Newman’s Cove, which is home to Bonavista Social Club – a lunch spot that, by the way, has the only wood-fired bread oven in Newfoundland and Labrador. Its pizzas are topped with produce from the cascading kitchen garden, and the goats and chickens supply milk and fresh eggs.

The ocean supplies the cod on Fogo Island, which many say is unlike any other cod they’ve tasted. We tasted cod in many meals, but most memorable were the divine salted cod cakes with poached eggs at breakfast (a Fogo Island Inn twist on eggs benny). Fogo Island Cod is considered a delicacy and it’s served at select restaurants in Canada. This is why we decided to start our epicurean itinerary with a meal at Ruby Watchco, where Chef Lora serves it as a special menu item.

What were some of your favourite east-coast colloquialisms?

We were fascinated by the beauty of the ghost-like glaciers (which sadly will not likely be passing through in the fall).  We learned that bergy-bits are the small glacial ice chunks that float up to 4 metres above the water surface and often eventually wash ashore.  They are the melting remains of small icebergs, and are the shards that may get crushed to end up in a cocktail glass.  Growlers are slightly larger, diminishing flatter icebergs that are less than 1 metre above the surface.  They were named due to the grumbling sound they make as the iceberg melts and trapped air escapes.

Locals will often invite strangers to their shed parties. This is literally a party in someone’s shed. When we were on Fogo we met a couple who are are legendary with their generous open door policy on weekends.  Folks are invited to their garden shed, where they can bring food, drink, perhaps a musical instrument to play, and the festivities unfold. It’s always a good time, and there’s no better way to experience the local hospitality.

Tilting, Fogo Island

Tilting, Fogo Island

A Jiggs’ dinner is a traditional east-coast meal that consists of salt beef, turnip, cabbage, potato, carrot, peas pudding and usually roast turkey or pork. This is the one local dish that Fogo Island Inn owner Zita Cobb wants as a constant on the menu, so Chef Murray keeps it creative, always spinning new and delicious ways to serve it.

What did you enjoy the most about Newfoundland’s amazing outdoors?

Newfoundland’s scenery is astonishing and some of our favourite moments were during our panoramic trail walks. On our hike along the Skerwink Trail, the scent of pine trees and ocean salt stayed with us through the woods and along the dramatic coastal cliffs. At Brimstone Head on Fogo Island we perched on a precipice looking across the ocean for miles, with the waves crashing below. In each location, the glorious sight of whales in the distance and colossal icebergs drifting by left indelible memories. Plus we needed those walks to offset a few of those hearty meals!

Where was the quirkiest landmark?

Brimstone Head on Fogo Island is a towering, rocky peninsula jutting into the sea. The Flat Earth Society has declared it to be one of the four corners of the Earth, and after seeing the views, we can understand why.

Mercedeh, Jen and Kiloran near the top of Brimstone Head.

Mercedeh, Jen and Kiloran near the top of Brimstone Head.