Discovering a New Meaning for "FireWorks" at The Inn At Bay Fortune, Prince Edward Island!
At Re-CreationWORLD we're always on the search for responsible tourism experiences based on a truly local perspective. So, we're delighted to feature this discovery of Chef Michael Smith's FireWorks Feast by Sandra Phinney, a professional writer and photographer based in Atlantic Canada, who loves to explore for special delights in her "own back yard".
Chef Michael Smith does nothing in half measures. To wit: when The Inn At Bay Fortune reached its "best before date" five years ago, he and his wife, Chastity, bought the inn and proceeded to do a 180-degree overhaul. Chastity turned the property into a Canada Select 5-star Country Inn and Michael created the FireWorks Feast. It's a winning combo and a spectacular success.
In some way, Chef Michael has come full circle. Back in the 90s', this is where he made a name for himself (and put the Inn on the map for food aficionados.) However, he's quick to point out, "I'm not that guy anymore. Things had to change dramatically." He took most of the winter of 2015 to figure things out and came up with three key F-words: Farm. Fire. Feast.
"The first thing we had to do was to re-establish the herb garden, and build the farm back up," says Chef.
"Secondly, we built a new kitchen - a fire kitchen. It's a 25-foot brick-lined affair that includes a smokehouse, open hearth, rotisserie, grills, plancha (flat top griddle), and wood burning oven. One hundred percent of whatever is cooked is prepared with live fire, and prepared interactively with guests."
The third component, the feast, was a riskier proposition. His gut told him to get rid of the concept of "fine dining" and cut to the core. Goodbye to white linen tablecloths and pretentious names on menus. Hello to communal dining at long country tables. Think one giant kitchen party!
It was a huge risk, yet within a couple of days of opening, Chef and his team knew they had a hit. "On several levels, our feast is obviously a celebration of the island," says the culinary entrepreneur, "but it's also a shared communal experience. Some people are put off by this but by the end of the meal, they're over it. They're not only over it, they're way past it. This is the Maritimes. This is how we roll!"
FireWorks is actually an atelier--a workshop of chefs who are passionate about food. But it goes beyond the notion of learning culinary arts. "We are all about creating the maximum aesthetic for young chefs at the beginning of their career," says Chef Michael.
In the process, the chefs-in-training do it all. They work the land, forage, harvest the vegetables, light the fires, preserve and ferment, and bake the old fashioned way. They also serve all the food and engage with guests.
Yours truly has had the pleasure of taking part in the FireWorks Feast last summer. Nutshell: dinner is a 7-course meal spanning four hours. We gathered at 6 p.m. for the first course, called the "Oyster hour" and roamed outside and around the property, visiting (and eating at) four different food stations which included everything from grilled sausages dipped in a farm-made mustard sauce and various herbs to slivers of seasoned lamb which were wrapped in bok choy, grilled, then laced with a curried onion cream.
At each stop, we chatted with the chefs, learned where the food came from and what was involved in its preparation. And that was only the first course!
The next six courses were staged in the FireWorks kitchen where we sat at long tables, elbow to elbow with strangers. But they weren't strangers for long. Each course was wondrous. Words fail. After a dazzling desert, we bid our adieus to new friends and waddled back to our room.
And there you have it. Farm. Fire. Feast. A delicious romp on the wild side of Prince Edward Island cuisine, deserving of another F-word: Fabulous.