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Great Eats: Prince Edward Island
By Laura Byrne Paquet

With just 145,000 residents, Prince Edward Island (PEI) is Canada’s smallest province. Locals ask each other “Who’s your father?” to figure out whether their families have crossed paths before – which they probably have. But while this East Coast island is drenched in rural charm, there’s much more to it than that. For one thing, until recently, it had one of Canada’s highest immigration rates, and those newcomers have added fresh flavors to an already vibrant culinary scene.
 
Lobsters, oysters, potatoes and apples don’t come much fresher than you can enjoy them in season on PEI. Driving quiet country roads fringed by tiny harbors and farmers’ fields, it’s only a matter of time before you find yourself behind a pickup stacked with crates of seafood or a tractor trailing clots of the province’s famous red soil. Fortunately, it’s easy to taste the island’s riches. In the province’s capital, Charlottetown, start your day with a huge plate of eggs Benedict or French toast at Red Water Rustic Grille, a sleek spot in the Holman Grand Hotel.
 
To fuel up after a morning of exploring the city, you can’t beat Pendergast Bakery, housed in the Youngfolk & The Kettle Black café. Chef Robert Pendergast’s tasty dishes include meat pies, sandwiches made with organic breads and vegan specialties. Don’t miss the fragrant red bean and lentil soup if it’s on that day’s menu.
 
Catching a play or concert at the Confederation Centre of the Arts? Leave time for a pre-show dinner at Mavor’s. The arts center’s popular restaurant – which you don’t need a theatre ticket to visit – caters to diners of all tastes and budgets. Splurge on a three-course table d’hôte with an accompanying flight of wines, or opt for simpler fare like fish and chips.
 
When you venture beyond Charlottetown, other great meals await. For a sensational bowl of clam-studded seafood chowder, drop into the unprepossessing Sheltered Harbour Café on the eastern side of the island. You can also get home-style dishes like liver and onions, as well as lighter fare like a cranberry, orange and almond salad.
 
For an iconic island experience, follow your nose, roadside signs or an islander’s recommendation to one of the countless lobster suppers that cater to visitors and tourists throughout the island all summer. Along with whole lobsters boiled in salt water and served with butter, the menu will likely include non-lobster entrees and a groaning table of breads, salads and desserts.
 
If all of this bounty has you itching to mess around in a kitchen, sign up for a workshop at Annie’s Table Culinary Studio. Housed in a former church, this friendly school offers classes in everything from gluten-free cooking to Thai cuisine, from late spring through early fall. Nicaraguan-born chef Norman Zeledon’s enthusiasm for local ingredients – like the potatoes raised by a Filipino-Canadian farmer in the fields next door – can’t help but rub off on you. And the recipes you bring home will be a little taste of the island you can savor long after you leave.

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