Wednesday, August 1, 2012

the gentle island

PEI The Gentle Island - photo courtesy of PEI Tourism
Somehow lately I have mad luck. I've been winning everything from film fest tickets to air miles. Yes, I know. It's time to buy some lotto tickets. More recently, by simply answering four questions about PEI on the local travel writer Cailin O'Neil's blog, I was invited to a PEI Tourism media event here in Hali with celebrity chef Corbin Tomaszeski. Media you say? While I tried my damnest to invite my food blogging pals, none were available. Luckily, two food lovin' girlfriends, one appropriately from PEI, were free so we headed down to the Lower Deck to check it out.

What we didn't realize is that we'd be cooking along side Chef Corbin in an intimate event with perhaps 30-40 others. How cool is that? And, in case you don't know who Chef Corbin is, you can spot him on such TV shows as Dinner Party Wars (which every time we watch, Brent and I think we'd totally school everyone!), Restaurant Makeover, and Crash My Kitchen. He is as cool and chill and funny in person as he appears on TV. Really. While he doesn't hail from PEI but rather farm country in Alberta, he has mad love for the island and its cuisine. Like NS, PEI has loads of local food to be proud of. And I'm not just talkin' potatoes! In PEI, they're all about the seafood. So how appropriate that all the dishes we were about to prepare featured PEI lobster.

Chef Corbin. Those two gorgeous ladies on the left? They're with me.
To start, Chef Corbin whipped up a fresh yellow tomato gazpacho with peppers, onions, cucumber, jalapeno, and cilantro. Top that off with some fresh lobster and that's one refreshingly awesome summer soup. What was even more refreshing, however, was Chef Corbin's passion for food. For him, it's all about the connections we make. Food should bring us together. It should build memories. It's smell and taste should remind us of times spent with family and friends. I couldn't agree more.

gazpacho shots with PEI lobster
And the best part, here's the recipe!

Chef Corbin's Yellow Tomato and Lobster Gazpacho

1/2 lb fresh lobster, cooked, chopped
1 lb yellow tomatoes
1 cucumber, peeled
2 yellow peppers
1/2 jalapeno
1 white onion
1/4 c. cilantro
juice of 2 limes
1 1/2 c. veg stock
Tabasco sauce
cherry tomatoes to garnish

Coarsely shop all vegetables. Puree tomatoes, peppers, onions, cucumber and jalapeno in a blender with lime juice and stock until smooth. Season with salt, pepper, Tabasco, and cilantro. Add fresh lobster. Serve in clear shot glasses garnished with red and yellow cherry tomatoes. Apparently, gin loves lobster so feel free to add a splash!

But on to the part where we got to play! Teamed up with strangers, we went to work, first, creating an appetizer consisting of fresh lobster, crostini, a charred corn and zucchini relish, and a wonderfully smooth Bernaise made by one of the participants. I believe it was her first time so Bravo! I think it's pretty evident by the photo, these were not only incredible but gorgeous (our mad plating skills at work).

charred corn relish in the making
lobster and Bearnaise toast with charred corn relish
To finish up, we threw together a lobster salad with avocado and bacon. Three of my fav foods together at last. Nuff said. (If you want recipes for either the salad or appetizer, get at me!)

lobster BLT salads
After snacking on our creations-and perhaps a little extra lobster-we headed out to the courtyard for some complimentary snacks and drinks. PEI how I love you already! Not only were we treated to an open bar and wonderful food from the folks at the Lower Deck, but also tunes from PEI natives Meaghan Blanchard and the Paper Lions. And it doesn't stop there. We also met loads of great folks, media and bloggers alike, and each walked away with huge gift baskets of PEI goodies. Oh, did I forget to mention, my girlfriend won the grand prize of a 5 day trip to PEI!? Yes, lucky indeed.

Gift baskets - photo courtesy of PEI Tourism

Meaghan Blanchard - photo courtesy of PEI Tourism
The Paper Lions - photo courtesy of PEI Tourism
We are so very lucky in the Maritimes to have such amazing scenery and food and culture. Being from Pictou, I have always felt a little connected to PEI. Until the Confederation bridge was built, the ferry out of Pictou was the only way to get to the island by car. While I haven't been in years, I have fond memories of visiting as a child and always mean to revisit. With the upcoming PEI Fall Flavors event in September, it's high time I grab the ferry and explore my neighbor. Not only will Chef Corbin be there with his refreshing sense of humor, but also a whole slew of celebrity chefs like PEI's own Chef Michael Smith, Chef Anna Olsen, Chef Mark McEwan, the recently named Top Chef Canada Chef Carl Heindrich, even Chef Suser Lee. If the lobster's not enough to get you there, I'm pretty sure that is!

For information on traveling to the gentle island, including vacation packages, visit PEI Tourism.or give them the ol' twitter follow @gentleisland. Psst, it's a perfect weekend getaway for us city folk.

Chef Corbin and the PEI team - photo courtesy of PEI Tourism
Big thank you to Cailin O'Neil, the Lower Deck, Chef Corbin, PEI Tourism, and Samantha Farnum of the Mosaic Team.