The Fireworks Feast on Prince Edward Island is one of the best culinary and gastronomic experiences on the island.
When it comes to fabulous food and unique experiences, Canada’s tiniest province is (pardon the pun) no small potato.
Outside of PEI’s capital of Charlottetown, life slows down to a glacier’s pace. For the most part, the PEI landscape defines the word bucolic: contented cows graze in rolling emerald pastures, fishing boats bob in rustic harbours, iconic lighthouses dot the coastline, and the red mineral-rich earth imparts flavour to everything that grows here, including the famous spuds.
Whether you’ve got a craving for some freshly harvested Malpeque oysters, succulent lobster, prime beef, artisanal cheeses or locally made moonshine—you will never be far from a culinary treat on Prince Edward Island. This 224-kilometre-long slice of bliss is dubbed Canada’s Food Island.
The hottest meal ticket on PEI is The Fireworks Feast on Prince Edward Island at The Inn at Bay Fortune.
The Prince Edward Island Fireworks Feast
At Inn at Bay Fortune, chef Michael Smith and his “fire brigade” create an unforgettable edible education and gastronomic adventure using ingredients from their organic farm as well as from a roster of PEI farmers, fisher folk, foragers and culinary artisans.
The “larger than life” chef Smith, who stands six feet seven inches tall, has hosted The Inn Chef, Chef at Home, and judged on Chopped: Canada on the Canadian Food Network. Smith is also Prince Edward Island’s Food Ambassador, a nutritional activist, and an advocate for sustainable home cooking and farm-to-table cuisine. A Pretty healthy resume for a
In 2015 he and his wife, Chastity, purchased The Inn at Bay Fortune, where he had manned the stoves back in the 1990s. Chef Smith and his team of chefs and farmers have elevated the farm-to-fork concept.
Guests attending the Feast arrive at 4 p.m. and sip innovative cocktails infused with fresh herbs and fruit before starting a farm tour led by Smith himself or one of his farmers.
The Inn at Bay Fortune
The farm stroll acts as a segway that allows us to appreciate the upcoming Feast. As Smith says, “We are first and foremost farmers, and we invite you to an edible discovery.” As she points out the herb, flower and vegetable gardens, Steph, our farm guide, informs us that lovage flowers can be used to make liquors, and their stalks add flavour to Bloody Caesars.
Sweet and floral cilantro flowers make a delicious dessert garnish, while their roots can be roasted for stocks and curries. Who knew? Beyond the Inn’s buzzwords, “farm, flavour, feast,” Steph says, “We also get excited about the “F” word—forage. Indeed, you might find some weeds, such as wood sorrel in your salad or sea asparagus, foraged from the beach, in your chowder.
New this year is a mushroom patch. The farm also raises chickens for eggs and Berkshire pigs that Steph
proclaims are the happiest and best-fed pigs on PEI…until one bad day.
As we conclude our farm tour around five p.m., the pony-tailed, bearded Smith greets us and leads us to the Fire Garden for an oyster hour and more appetizers that can be washed down with Old World Normandy-style cider, cocktails, wine or the Feast’s version of the Bloody Caesar.
“PEI has 60 kinds of oysters,” says Smith as he invites us to a “tour de oyster.” We start with Savage Blondes that Smith and his competent shuckers open at lightning speed. Next comes Pickle Points, Daisy Bays and Sand Dunes. Smith encourages us to try them all; there is no limit.
“Last night we shucked 690 oysters, a new record,” he boasts, adding that the key is to keep the bivalves cold, and that’s why they are topped with house-made frozen Bloody Mary ice. It’s a combo made in heaven.
Also, on the happy hour menu, the night I visit are roasted oysters, bluefin tuna skewers with a mustard/maple glaze, smoked salmon and tacos with an array of hot sauces made from the farm’s many
varieties of chili peppers. At the Fire Garden, the food is cooked with wood, fire and smoke in ways the fire marshal would not allow indoors.
I am a self-confessed oyster aficionado, and it was tempting to over-indulge, but the main event was yet to come.
Before heading to the dining room, Smith leads us back to the main lawn, where we gather around the flagpole and admire the views of Bay Fortune. Smith sabres a bottle of bubbles from Benjamin Bridge winery in Nova Scotia and then teaches one of the guests the art of sabrage.
This theatrical technique for opening a champagne bottle with a sabre (a large kitchen knife will suffice) is used for ceremonial occasions and was popular in France with Napoleon’s army. The wielder slides the sabre along the body seam of the bottle to the lip to break the top of the neck away, leaving the neck of the bottle open and ready to pour. Flutes are distributed, and Smith toasts this special evening and the bounty of the land and sea.
The multi-course Feast begins at six p.m. in the dining room, where we sit at communal wooden tables in front of the Inn’s 25-foot hearth. Smith and his fire brigade use every form of live-fire cooking known to man, including a smokehouse, open hearth, grill, rotisserie, plancha and oven. No dials, no switches—just old-school cooking.
First comes the warm sourdough bread, made with heritage grains grown on PEI, presented on a wrought-iron tree and served with maple brown butter, smokehouse cheese and pork pâté (Remember those happy pigs?) and herbed house-made cheese.
Next, we are served chowder brimming with the island’s bar clams, lobster, mussels, scallops and chunks of halibut, foraged seaweeds, house-made bacon, and thickened with the starch of simmered potatoes.
This chowder wins awards.
We marvel as chef Smith assembles a massive salad in an equally massive bowl.
The picks of the day might include shoots, stems, flowers, leaves, herbs and fruits, all from the farm. The unique presentation plate has root purées and seeds on the bottom of the plate and the fresh salad on
the top to represent nature’s bounty both above and below the soil.
For the main course, diners are given a choice of land or sea. The night we visited, some of us had the bluefin tuna in a tomato/marigold/jalapeno broth topped with wild watercress and leek oil. The land option is smoked beef brisket and wood-grilled flat iron steak. Accompanying seasonal veggies and potatoes are roasted to concentrate their intense flavours. Every forkful is a palette pleaser, and each plate is presented as a work of art. But the vibe is fun and relaxed. Guests are encouraged to mingle and take photos between courses.
This is most definitely not a stuffy affair. Chef Smith certainly doesn’t rest on his laurels. At the Feast, he is
omnipresent—greeting guests, shucking oysters, toasting the evening, preparing the salad and garnishing the plates. His passion is infectious.
Just when I think I might not be able to eat another thing, the seductive dessert weakens my resolve. How can I resist the poached butterscotch pear tart with miso caramel and anise hyssop buttermilk ice cream?
But there’s more.
We are invited outside to roast some homemade marshmallows around the fire pit. We happily retire to our room at the Inn, and I dream about Savage Blondes.
The Fireworks Feast is a world-class culinary experience. It’s open 144 nights a year and welcomes about 64 guests per evening. Bookings can be made online or by telephone at 1-888-687-3745. The cost is $195 per person plus tax and includes tips. Beverages are extra. Make a reservation as far in advance as you can, as it sells out quickly.
Are You Ready for Chef Michael Smith’s Fireworks Feast on PEI?
The Prince Edward Island, Fireworks Feast by Chef Micheal Smith, is a gastronomic experience that is sure to delight. There are dishes to satisfy every craving in an environment that reaches into the heart of the island’s culture. You will leave here feeling like you are a part of Prince Edward Island.
Many of these businesses and restaurants are anxious for visitors after a tough year. So let’s support local and make the most of your PEI adventure.
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Anita Draycott is a Canadian travel journalist, photographer, and editor who has visited over 100 countries. She lives to eat and makes it her mandate to find the best restaurants, cafés, and culinary experiences wherever she goes. She has attended cooking classes all over the planet—from finding the right spices combos for Pad Thai in Bangkok to learning to make linguine from scratch in Italy. Hunting for truffles in Croatia, touring wineries in Bordeaux, and exploring the street food of Istanbul are all in a delicious day’s work for Anita.