Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Seaside Restaurant - St. Martins, New Brunswick

After a night in Saint John, we were off to find the Fundy Trail Parkway, a stretch of the Bay of Fundy. Along the way, as we hit Saint Martins, the Bay of Fundy appeared and we saw a group of restaurants near the coast. One of them claimed "world famous chowder." I was next to the ocean and seafood was on my brain. I pulled into the parking lot. Andrew was incredulous, "you never fall for a world famous sign Dad. Go to Yelp." 

I resisted and went inside to grab some takeout. Judy and Andrew were so impressed they stayed in the car. 

It was Seaside Restaurant with several signs also proclaiming "Award Winning Chowder." I ordered some chowder, a lobster roll and some poutine. 

Well, of course Andrew was right, and I knew he was right when we pulled in. When I came out he pointed to a sign on another restaurant that had a Trip Advisor "Certificate of Excellence" sign. What could I say?

The chowder was horrible. It was watery and had very little fish in it. We all took a try and left most of it uneaten. 
The lobster roll was pretty ordinary, but I'll eat ordinary lobster, so it was all eaten. Not much mayo or anything else and kind of limp meat. 
The poutine was interesting, our first of quite a few on our trip. It had dark gravy and melted cheese curds. I found out later that the ideal poutine has squeaky cheese curds that are not melted. Well, I don't like squeaky cheese curds and I like them melted, so to that extent I liked the fries. However, I did not like the flavor or type of gravy, more of a beef gravy. The poutine was all devoured, but mostly because it was there and we were hungry, not because it was particularly good.  
So I re-learned a lesson I already knew, never stop for a "world famous" anything sign. 

Monday, September 24, 2018

Spears Fishing & Charter - Saint Andrews, New Brunswick

Saint Andrews is a beautiful small town on a peninsula that juts into Passamaquoddy Bay, just off the Bay of Fundy. We'd driven there to go on a whale watching tour with Quoddy Link Marine. The Bay of Fundy has the highest tide differential in the world, getting as much as 53 feet toward the head of the bay and as high as 23 feet in Passamaquoddy Bay. The pictures show the huge expanse of land that the tide covers when it rises. 
This tidal flat will all be covered at high tide. 
This very long dock is mostly on dry ground. There is a huge variance at the end of the dock for low and high tide. We got off at low tide and had to walk up quite a steep ramp to get up to the top. 
After our boat trip, which took about three hours, we asked where a good spot to eat was and were told to go to Spears, near the beginning of the wharf. Spears does their own fishing and lobstering and sells their own catch. 

We learned that lobstering is open year-round in Maine, but circulates among different locations in Canada. In Canada, a particular area might only be open about a month and a half during the year. That means fresh lobster is not as readily available in Canada as in Maine. 

I ordered a lobster, some potato salad and some corn and bean salsa to eat on a picnic table outside. I was a little surprised that the lobster came covered in plastic in box. It was a little more informal than I expected. The potato salad was kind of bland as was the corn and bean salsa. The ingredients seemed fresh, just not particularly well seasoned. The lobster was also a little over-cooked. 
Lobster in plastic in a box.
Although the setting was nice, right on the bay, the food was just okay. Saint Andrews itself, looked like a very fun place to spend some time walking among the shops. Unfortunately, we did not have time for that. 

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Shaw's Landing - West Dover, Nova Scotia

The day after eating at Beal's Lobster Pier in Southwest Harbor, Maine, the best lobster I've ever eaten, we landed in Nova Scotia and were taken by our guide to Shaw's Landing, a restaurant in West Dover, just outside Peggy's Cove. Our guide seemed pretty confident that he was leading us to one of the gems of the island. I do find an article calling it a "hidden gem" and Trip Advisor gives it 4.5 stars. However, we'd just been to Beal's Lobster Pier the day before and had eaten the best lobster I've had in my life. So paraphrasing Senator Lloyd Bentsen speaking to Dan Quayle in a vice president debate, when he said, "you are no Jack Kennedy," Shaw's Landing "is no Beal's Lobster Pier." 
Shaw's Landing is a little gimmicky. 

It is definitely not the best food in the Maritimes (New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island). 
After all of the raving about the great lobster the day before, everyone (nine of us) got lobster at Shaw's Landing. And well, you know the rest: it was over-cooked and dry. Normally I'm pretty thrilled to be eating lobster, but this was my fourth straight day of eating lobster and I wasn't impressed. Neither was anyone else in the family. 
I ordered fried clam fries and I was no more impressed with them than I was the fried clams in Moncton, in fact less so. 
I also ordered a half dozen oysters on the half shell. They were okay, but they were not cold, in fact they were kind of luke warm, and I love them when they come out cold on ice. 
So Shaw's Landing did not do it for me that day and there was general agreement among our group of nine that we'd all had a mediocre meal (it is almost unbelievable to me that I can have lobster, clams and raw oysters for a meal and call it mediocre). 

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Skipper Jack's Maritime Restaurant - Moncton, New Brunswick

After a fun day of exploration along the Fundy Trail Parkway, driving through Fundy National Park and Alma, and then visiting Hopewell Rocks, we headed toward Moncton, New Brunswick where we had a hotel room for the night. Judy looked up a restaurant on Yelp and we headed for Skipper Jack's Maritime Restaurant which was rated no. 39 out of 198 in Moncton on Trip Advisor and no. 3 out of 11 for seafood. When we got there Andrew protested and we almost got back in the car. It looked like the Denney's of seafood, but it was late and we were hungry. 

I was hungry to try clams and scallops and got them breaded and fried, along with some non-descript fish. The breading was way too heavy and thick, but the scallops, particularly, were moist and nice, once you got through the breading. 
My fish, clams and scallops. Really heavy breading. 
Judy got some good scallops which were not breaded, wrapped in bacon. 
Judy's scallops were quite good.
The thing that made this meal memorable was the poutine. Poutine originated in Quebec and is a combination of french fries, cheese curds and brown gravy. This poutine, however, came with lobster and green onion sauce, whatever that is, and then we doubled-up on the lobster. The cost of the poutine went from $8.49 CD, for normal poutine, to $25.48 CD, but man was it good. 
The double lobster poutine with green onion sauce. This made the meal. 
Instead of brown gravy, which I am not fond of, at least on the few poutines I've tried, it had a thick whitish gravy, I'm sure suffused with green onion. And it was packed full of soft, chunky lobster. It really was more lobster and gravy than french fries. I'm sure there was also cheese in there somewhere. It went down quite fast, all three of us charging in. 

The other menu items were pretty meh, but that is a poutine I will remember. It was expensive, but good. 

Friday, September 21, 2018

Water-Prince Corner Shop - Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island

Our Holland America cruise ship stopped in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island (PEI) for the day and we took a morning ship excursion out to the north side of the island, in Cavendish, to see the Green Gables farmhouse, and related museum, trails, etc., relating to the Anne of Green Gables book. On the way out and back we drove through PEI National Park and saw the oyster farm for Raspberry Point Oysters out in a bay. Our bus stopped for a brief picture. 
The bay.
The boxes or cages used to grow oysters visible in the bay. 
Our guide told us that Malpeque oysters, which grow in waters off PEI, were named the world's tastiest oyster at an exhibition in Paris in 1900. On the way back, the bus driver pointed out an area on the other side of the bay (on the other side of the road) where mussels were also being grown commercially. It was about this time that a light went off in my head and I realized the PEI mussels I've seen on the menu at King's Fish House in Rancho Cucamonga are from Prince Edward Island (before then I'd always associated PEI with the name of a company). Oysters and mussels are two of my favorite types of seafood and this got me really desiring to try some PEI seafood while we were there. 

When we got back to Charlottetown we had a few hours before our next tour and Yelped nearby restaurants and found a highly rated seafood restaurant just a few blocks from our cruise ship. Water-Prince Corner Shop, in the historic district of downtown Charlottetown, claims to have some of the freshest seafood on PEI. It is no. 12 of 193 restaurants in Charlottetown on Trip Advisor. We walked a few blocks and found an empty picnic table outside, with a large umbrella, which would hold our group of nine. 
I had to try a good sampling of the PEI seafood. My brother-in-law, Stan, gamely agreed to jointly order with me and we ordered a boat-load of food. 
We ordered PEI blue mussels steamed in white wine, carrots and celery. They were the first item brought to our table in a big steel bowl with some butter. The mussels were not as large and plump as I'd hoped, but they were still good. The broth was quite tasty, but we did not have any sourdough bread to soak it up with, a necessity for mussels, which knocked the restaurant down a peg in my estimation. 
Next we got fresh PEI steamed clams served with clam broth. I was thrilled to learn that these were not just any old steamed clams, but soft-shell clams, or what I had learned to call "piss" clams. The only other time I've had "piss" clams was in Florida and they were the best clams I've ever eaten. Again, these did not measure up to the clams I had in Florida. They were not as large or plump and I suspect were maybe cooked a little too long. That said, they were still very good and I enjoyed them a lot. 

The soft-shell clam does not travel well, because of the soft shell, and therefore is not as readily available as the harder shell clams. 
The membrane above is broken revealing the clam inside. You grab them by the little foot to dip them in butter. 
Next came a dozen raw PEI Malpeque oysters, which I've since learned grow wild (they are not farmed) west of where we were in Cavendish. These oysters were big and beautiful and I enjoyed them about as much as any oysters I've eaten. They came with Tabasco sauce which is not as good as the cocktail sauce that is served at King's and many other seafood restaurants, so I only tried it on one and then ate the others that were part of my share plain. This may be my favorite oyster eating experience, given the setting and the fact we were eating them so close to where they are from. 
Finally, we got an order of fish and chips which came with two pieces of breaded and deep-fried haddock. The haddock was moist, but the breading was not my favorite and the french fries were only so-so. This was my least favorite part of the meal, although I still enjoyed it. 
Over-all, it was a very nice and memorable seafood lunch with a great variety of fresh local ingredients and one of my favorite eating experiences on our trip. 

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Beal's Lobster Pier - Southwest Harbor, Maine

As the first stop on a Holland America cruise from Boston to Montreal, we were in Bar Harbor to visit Acadia National Park. Six of us (one of Judy's sisters and her brother, and their spouses) booked a five hour non-ship tour with At Your Service Tours and Car Service in Bar Harbor. We got a great guide, Bill, who showed us the highlights of Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park. However, the best of the day was saved for last when he took us to Beal's Lobster Pier in Southwest Harbor. It was away from the heavy tourist scene, about 17 miles and a 30 minute drive from Bar Harbor. 
The restaurant is at the left end and the boats come up to the right end to unload their lobsters. 

I learned for the first time about new or soft-shell lobster. An article in Serious Eats, "Taste Test: Hard Versus Soft Shell Lobster" explains that lobsters molt their old shell each year and get a larger new shell that they can grow into. The new shell lobsters have less meat in them than the hard shell lobsters and are easier to shell for two reasons: first their shells are softer; and second, there is a gap between the meat and shell which makes the meat easier to extract. Further, it is generally agreed that the soft shell lobster is more tender and flavorful (sweeter). 

At Beal's we ordered in front of several tanks full of live lobsters. The restaurant is on a pier covered with lobster traps. Lobster boats bring the lobsters up to the pier where the restaurant is and unload, so the lobster we were eating were about as fresh as lobster gets. The soft shell lobster was cheaper per pound than the hard shell. I believe it was about a $2.00 per pound difference: $12.00 vs. $14.00 (much cheaper than what we pay in California). I've always wanted to order a real large lobster, so I decided this was the place to indulge that fantasy. I ordered the largest soft shell lobster they had, which was 3.2 pounds. I asked them to under-cook it so that it was just turning color from being translucent. They put the lobster in a net bag then hung it over the side into a huge steamer, the size of several huge chest freezers. They put a time on the bag indicating when it needed to be pulled out. 

For good measure I also ordered a grilled cheese sandwich which included lobster meat, cheddar cheese and tomato on thick grilled bread. It was something our guide told us about and highly recommended. 
Grilled cheese sandwich with lobster.
The lobsters (both shell and meat) were more orange/red than any lobsters I've ever seen. The shells were almost phony looking and the shell of my big lobster shucked far easier than any other lobster I've ever had. The big claws can sometimes be really hard to get the meat out of, but I was able to break these apart with my hands (they do put a slit into the shell to help). There was a notable gap between the meat in the claw and the shell, but the meat in the claw was moist and flavorful, as good or better than the tail meat, something I would never say about any other lobster I've ever eaten. 
My 3.2 pound lobster.
My lobster had some great tomalley with a wonderful salty flavor. 

The grilled cheese sandwich was good, but not even close to the flavor of the whole fresh lobster. 
My 3.2 pound lobster compared to Judy's 1.26 pound lobster. 
Others in our group got mussels, etc., but I did not have much interest in that, not with these incredibly large, beautiful lobsters. Beal's was good enough that I would go to some length to go back again. It has set the bar for me as to what lobster can be. 

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Ruddy Turnstone

I've seen the ruddy turnstone once before, at Cape Canaveral in Florida, walking along a sandy beach. It was in non-breeding plumage. 

I just saw them again, this time in breeding plumage, on some rock islands off Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. They are quite striking in their breeding plumage, with an orange-ish calico back and black and white face. They breed in the far north and then winter in many parts of the world. 
Ruddy turnstones feeding on algae covered rocks.