Summer Breeze & Deb of the Island – A PEI Cooking Challenge, Evening of Food & Dream Come True, Part I

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pei collage 2“Oh, I do hope it will be fine next Wednesday. I don’t feel that I could endure the disappointment if anything happened to prevent me from getting to the picnic. I suppose I’d live through it, but I’m certain it would be a lifelong sorrow. It wouldn’t matter if I got to a hundred picnics in after years; they wouldn’t make up for missing this one. They’re going to have boats on the Lake of Shining Waters–and ice cream, as I told you. I have never tasted ice cream. Diana tried to explain what it was like, but I guess ice cream is one of those things that are beyond imagination.” – Anne of Green Gables, ch. 13, “The Delights of Anticipation”

My dear beloved Anne of Green Gables took the words right out of my mouth.  Oh, the delights of anticipation.  Three weeks ago (yes, it’s been 3 weeks already!), I was given the opportunity to attend a very special Taste of PEI and PEI Cook-Off Challenge event organized by Tourism PEI and Mosaic Sales Solutions and Marketing that took place at Mildred’s Temple Kitchen in Liberty Village, a beautiful space with massive windows (we food bloggers salivate like hungry bloodhounds over natural light like this!), circular booths and tables conducive to group socializing and mingling and an open kitchen perfect for 4 aspiring chefs to showcase their culinary prowess in front of a loving food crowd.

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pei. collageIt was about bringing together the love of food with a love of PEI and all it has to offer, trying new things, learning new things, breathing in new experiences, meeting new people and shining a spotlight on 4 chefs from 4 different colleges competing against one another in a PEI-themed cook-off challenge Chopped style: 4 chefs, 4 appetizers, 4 secret ingredients in 4 boxes for one grand prize at the end of the night: $500 and of course, bragging rights!

Oh.  And did I mention the event was being hosted by Michael Smith?  MICHAEL SMITH.  MICHAEL SMITH!  And that I got to shake his hand, gush about how much I loved watching Chef at Home on Food Network, eat my very first oyster off the shell in his very presence while he showed me and everyone else how oysters are shucked and have him sign my special Food Network Canada 10th anniversary magazine with him on the cover?  Thinking about it makes me want to cry.

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And just like Anne, come hell or high water I was going to make it to this event.  No disgusting weather or nasty migraine was going to keep me away.  Many events and invitations come in and out of our lives but when the perfect one comes around and you just feel it in your heart that it’s going to be amazing, you don’t let the opportunity slip through your fingers.  I had no idea what to expect before I came though and, looking back, it’s remarkable how much we were able to pack into a 3 hour event!

Amazing food, watching others’ passion and drive come alive through cooking and healthy, friendly competition and being in the presence of PEI goodness, fellow foodies, bloggers and Michael Smith made this the best event I have ever been to.  I’ll get to the nitty gritty details about the cooking challenge and the chefs and their dishes in tomorrow’s Part II post; today’s post is all about the love of PEI, food and dreams coming true.

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The evening started off with plenty of appetizers and nibbles including fresh fruit, veggies, crackers and cheese (I had some of the best asparagus and cheese EVER from the food table!), mingling with fellow bloggers (food and travel folks), scoping out the “secret” ingredients that the 4 chefs would be incorporating in their cook-off challenge straight from PEI and foraged by Michael Smith himself (fiddleheads!  Cat tails!), watching Michael Smith give the cook-off lowdown to the 4 chefs, and taking so many photos we looked like a mob of papparazzi.

We enjoyed the freshest PEI oysters off the shell, watched Michael Smith give us a fun oyster shucking show (and learned the “Oyster Society” oath!), watched others learn how to shuck oysters for fun, listened to Michael Smith talk about the “art” of oyster eating (chew!  Don’t just swallow!  You’re missing out on the yumminess!) and ate mouthwatering, scrumptious PEI hors d’oeuvres including PEI lobster (fresh chunks on soup), PEI beef and potatoes (slices of steak on mashed potatoes), smoked salmon, and more.

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Having oysters was one of the funnest new experiences for me!  Let it be known that I have never had a fresh oyster off the shell.  I’ve had yummy deep-fried ones at all-you-can-eat sushi spots, but slurping those babies fresh out of water?  Not till now.  And my word were they ever delicious!  They were placed on a bed of salt with dollops of Bloody Mary ice made by Michael Smith himself.  I slurped three oysters, savoured the yumminess and asked him if the seaweed hanging off the shell was edible.  His response?  “Edible, yes, but not exactly palatable.  I don’t think you’d like it very much.”  Haha!  Oh, and the Oyster Society Oath:

“Cradles on the waves, I swear to honour on this borrowed day the PEI Oyster Society by the grace of this Salty Kiss”.  And to that we slurped our oysters.

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This event was beyond anything I could have dreamt of even in the happiest corners of my brain.  I really don’t think Emily from Mosaic knew just how much an event like this would mean to me; it was truly a happy, lucky, meant to be coincidence.  Going to Prince Edward Island has been on my bucket list for years.  Vacationing there even for a week would be a vacation of a lifetime for me.  I mean, sure, this heartfelt desire to feel the island breeze through my hair is due in part to Anne of Green Gables being my all-time favourite book and love story (I even scrapbooked a photo of “Anne” and “Gilbert” I found online in my Valentine’s/love themed scrapbook years ago, wishing on a star that I would someday find the same kind of love for myself and lo and behold, I have), but there is so much about PEI I want to taste, learn about and explore.  The food-crazed girl in me even did a Google search on cupcake shops on the island and summer food festivals.  You know, to keep in mind for that dream vacation.

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And being part of an event hosted by Tourism PEI and Michael Smith.  Wow.  I’ve been watching Michael Smith on Food Network for years and he’s been my favourite.  Any spare time I had during university when I wasn’t at school or working or writing papers I was glued to the tv watching Food Network, watching episode after episode of Chef at Home, oohing and ahhing over how cute his son Gabe was, watching him make salad and plating it in a Tonka truck (um, the tomboy in me loves Tonka trucks), learning about those basic cooking aromatics, and drooling that pantry!  I love those memories and never in my wildest dreams did I think that I would someday meet him.  I am so happy I got to take part in such a fun, delicious, memorable and might I say, well-executed, event!   The Part II post will be all about the cook-off challenge, the chefs and their dishes!

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One thought on “Summer Breeze & Deb of the Island – A PEI Cooking Challenge, Evening of Food & Dream Come True, Part I

  1. Duuude!

    First of all, your blog looks great. I normally view your blog through the lens of my e-mail, so I haven’t actually seen the new look. It’s gorgeous.

    Secondly, congratulations on meeting one of your heroes and on experiencing such an intimate presentation! Wow. What a spectacular event!

    Thanks for sharing these moments.

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