Great Canadian Oysters!

My ears are still ringing from a late-night debate around a table at The Gahan House brewery pub-restaurant in downtown Charlottetown, where I recently spent part of a week exploring the island and getting my fill of Prince Edward Island hospitality. 

The spirited conversation, involving a smattering of foodies and travel writers, revolved around this one question: Do you eat your oysters clean – with just a dash of lemon or tabasco – or do you have free reign to add whatever toppings you want – be it blue cheese, onions, crushed garlic, even capers?”


It’s funny how entrenched some folks are when it comes to food preferences.  Our oyster discussion reminded me of that enduring debate we have at the Canadian Living office about butter tarts: raisins or no raisins. (My boss and I are, quite decidedly, in opposite camps. She opts for raisin-free. I’m not sure where she stands on the oyster subject.

But, back to oysters. It was a timely discussion. The Fall Flavours Festival, a month-long culinary event (throughout September) that takes over Prince Edward island, was in full throttle and oysters were to be had at every dining establishment. One night we were hosted by TV food chef Michael Smith, who is committed to sustainable, local food and has become a culinary ambassador for Prince Edward island. So I was able to enjoy dozens of oysters just the way I like them –­ with just a spray of fresh lemon or a tiny dose of tobasco sauce. Pure heaven.  To inhale (and taste) the scent of the ocean, that lingering intimacy of the briny Atlantic waters with each mouthful (or slurp)… Pure, unadulterated treasures from the Atlantic waters.


But I certainly met a few oyster aficionados who tended to cover their plates of Malpeque beauties with crumbled blue cheese, diced onion, and what seemed to be a field of capers!  Perhaps they’re tasty. But for my palette, I will remain faithful to my tradition of oyster consumption (okay, inhalation!), pure and simple.


Island boy and chef extraordinaire Michael Smith


And if you’re not a fan of oysters, worry not. Prince Edward Island in the fall offers plenty of other culinary diversions during Fall Flavours: endless lobster, Prince Edward Island’s famous potatoes and buckets of fresh mussels. The festival also includes The Great Island Grilled Cheese Challenge , the Mussel Muncheon. and the  Giant Bar Clam Dig and Beach Cookout.


Malpeque Oyster Barn serves up local brews along with fresh oysters


If you get the chance to visit Prince Edward Island in the fall, put it on your bucket list. (Bring a bib.)

So, I have to ask: how do you like your oysters?