Charlottetown, PEI and Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia

By Travel Editor, Rand Hoch

Having spent time hiking, exploring the beaches, chatting with oystermen and riding bikes along the Points East Coastal Drive from the Inn at Bay Fortune to the Inn at Spry Point, Michael and I thought it might be worthwhile to spend a day in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Islands’s provincial capital.

We were wrong.

There really isn’t much to Charlottetown to justify spending a day there, but we had planned a night there, which was a smart decision.

We booked a Hideaway Suite at the Great George, a series of impeccably restored townhouses in the city’s national historic district. Our suite had a spacious bedroom with a fireplace and a staircase leading up to a loft with a double Jacuzzi.

We followed John Bil’s suggestion and booked ourselves a table for dinner at Lot 30,

Arriving a bit in advance of our reservations, we sat up at the bar where bartender Laurence Hertz made us some of his vodka ginger mojitos. This proved to be a great way to start of the evening.

Our server, Michael Good, suggested that we put ourselves in the hands of Chef Gordon Bailey and go with a five course tasting menu.

Chef Bailey, who has worked at some of Canada’s leading restaurants – including the Inn at Bay Fortune – is known as the “biker chef”, since he has augmented his income over the years by customizing motorcycles.

We followed our server’s suggestion, but insisted on starting off with a dozen of Rodney’s Oysters which were being featured that night.

Not knowing what else would be served, Michael and I ordered a bottle of Mumm’s Cordon Rouge brut champagne which we had enjoyed a few days earlier with dinner in Baddeck. Champagne does go with everything!

Following the impeccable oysters was our first course of the tasting menu – a presentation of sea scallops gratin with red pepper butter and fennel roasted almonds. Michael and I now realized that we should have brought the camera to dinner - in addition to our appetites. The second course was PEI halibut with Italian sausage pepperini and horse radish tomato.

Having concluded the seafood portion of our tasting, we next enjoyed Chef Bailey’s maple braised pork belly with potato puree, wilted spinach and natural reduction. This was followed by grilled prime rib eye steak, with potato pave, sautéed red peppers and peppercorn vinaigrette.

Although we were totally satiated by our offerings thus far, we could not turn down the dessert sampler which included crème brulée, chocolate pot de crème, double chocolate cake, chocolate mousse and vanilla cheesecake.

Clearly, John Bil had steered us to the right place in Charlottetown, making our brief stopover here quite memorable.

We got up early the following morning for our long drive out of Prince Edward Island across the Confederation Bridge into New Brunswick, then on to Annapolis Royal in Nova Scotia, where we spent two restful days at the Bailey House B & B.

We had booked the Joseph Totten room on the second floor of the main house. Michael and I were glad we chose a room with a water view, as we spent a lazy afternoon watching boats sail by as we enjoyed some well deserved R & R. Throughout the day we could smell cakes baking in the kitchen below. Our host Suzan Hebditch spoiled us each morning with the best breakfasts we had on our road trip. She used ingredients from her own garden, as well as those from her neighbors. She also made some of the best preserves we have ever tasted.

We are both going to have to diet a bit when we get back to the states. But there is still one last stop - Halifax.

The Great George
58 Great George Street
Charlottetown, PEI, C1A 4K3, Canada

Lot 30
151 Kent Street
Charlottetown, PEI C1A 1N5, Canada

The Bailey House B & B
150 St. George Street
Annapolis Royal, NS B0S1A0

John Bil’s Quintessential Oyster

By Rand Hoch, Travel Editor

After our last breakfast at the Inn on Bay Fortune, Michael and I ventured to PEI’s famed oyster capital – Malpeque.
We drove west along Veteran’s Memorial Highway to Saint Peter’s Bay, not far from Prince Edward Island National Park where we had spent the previous day hiking along the unusually large and mobile parabolic dunes. We were pleasantly surprised by the warm water at the park’s beach in Greenwich.

On the way back from the beach we treated ourselves to a snack of South Lake oysters on the veranda of the Inn at St. Peters.

From St. Peter’s Bay, we traveled west along Route 6, driving through farmland along the coast, stopping briefly at the resort at Delvay-by-the-Sea.

Reaching Cavendish, we stopped to take a picture of the Anne of Green Gables House for our friend Rebecca.

Just outside of Cavendish, we stopped at Raspberry Point Oysters Co to personally thank James Power and Scott Linkletter for the oysters we enjoyed before the trip. However, everyone was busy preparing for the company’s 1st Annual Oyster Slurp on August 21, which Michael and I were unfortunately going to miss. So we just took a few photos and continued along our way.

We continued west to Route 20 to meet PEI’s foremost oyster maven John Bil at his Ship to Shore Restaurant and Lounge in Darnley.

John was behind the bar when we arrived, pressing oranges in an old-fashioned juicer in preparation for a private party that night. He seemed happy to take a break and talk oysters with us, but then, I’ll bet he’s happy to do that with everyone who shares his love of oysters.

He drew us a couple of local red draughts and brought over a tray of his favorite oysters – “Johns ‘2 L’ Private Stock – from the seafood shop.

“When I think of oysters, these are the ones,” he said factually. “I’ve been getting them for years from my friend John MacDonald, who lives right across the street.”

Oysters really don’t get any fresher than these.

Since John is a three time Canadian oyster shucking champion, and a two time North American shucking champion, we wanted to learn from the master.

Having placed an oyster cup down on a dish rag, John inserted his knife in a narrow slot at the hinge. With a firm push and a quick twist, he lifted the lid up off the cup. John then scraped the knife along the lid and again across the cup, to separate the muscle from the shells. Displaying the oyster to us, he made sure there were no bits of shell or other debris on the oyster. The entire process took him only a matter of seconds.

While Michael shot a great video of this process, we are not currently able to upload it. Fortunately, someone else caught it years ago:

The “John’s ‘2 L’ Private Stock.” oysters were large and meaty. Biting into the oyster, I tasted a perfect oyster with slight touch of brininess from Darnley Basin.

“That’s the way they taste today,” John explained. “It is based on what has just passed the oyster lips before they came out of the water this morning. Try them in another week or so and they’ll probably taste different, but they’ll always be good.”

Before we left, we sampled some Indian Creek and Raspberry Point oysters, and John gave us a restaurant suggestion for the night – Lot 30 in Charlottetown.

All in all, it was a great way to spend some time on the way to Malpeque, where we spent a little while checking out the bay before heading on to Charlottetown.

Ship to Shore Restaurant

2684 Route 20,
Darnley, Prince Edward Island, C0B 1M0
(902) 836-5475

Colville Bay Oysters

By Rand Hoch, Travel Editor

After a hearty breakfast at the Inn at Bay Fortune, Michael and I took the 20 minute drive to a grey shingled shack at the mouth of the Souris River in northeastern Prince Edward Island, which serves as the base of operation for the Colville Bay Oyster Company. We enjoyed the famed oysters at the Inn last night, so we wanted to spend some time with owner Johnny Flynn.

For the past seventeen years, Flynn and his family have been cultivating oysters in Colville Bay’s pristine waters, where the frigid, nutrient-filled currents flush and feed their young oysters. The uniquely soft, silty bottom of the bay adds to the environment in which these oysters plump as they mature.

Johnny explained that the shallow waters of Colville Bay contributed in several ways to the uniqueness of his oysters.

Being farmed so close to the ocean’s surface gives Colville Bay oysters their distinctive teardrop-shape and jade-green shells. In addition, the bay's periwinkle population routinely cleans the oyster shells. And since the water is teeming with plankton, the growing oysters are constantly being nourished.

Once they reach maturity, which may take up to five years, Colville Bay oysters are harvested, graded and packed – all of which is done by hand, often by family members. When we stopped by, Johnny was sorting, his daugher Sarah was rinsing and his son Tom was out in the bay harvesting.

Colville Bay oysters, which are only available in Canada, are among the world's most sought after oysters.

Click here for a slide show.

Johnny spends no money on marketing; relying in great part on word of mouth advertising by chefs -- and patrons -- from the nearby Inn on Bay Fortune.

Colville Bay Oyster Co.
Ltd.83 Lower Rollo Bay Road
Souris, PEC0A 2B0
(902) 687-2222

Onward to Prince Edward Island

By Rand Hoch, Travel Editor

I’ll admit it. I made a mistake in planning this road trip.

Having just stayed overnight in Baddeck, we were now heading out of town.

Big mistake.

I should have planned for one more day so we could have explored the Bras d'Or Lakes Scenic Drive. Oh well. That just gives us a reason to return to Cape Breton again.

We traveled southwest on the Mabel and Alexander Graham Bell Way (Highway 105), along the lake’s north shore. Reaching Whycocomagh, we traded our view of the lake for a view of the wooded mountains, as we continued our drive along the Big Ridge towards the Casno Causeway. Passing through farmland and villages, bald eagles soared overhead. Back on the mainland, we picked up Trans-Canada highway, retracing our route towards Antigonish. No time for scenic detours today.

We had to catch the North umber land Ferry from Nova Scotia for the 75 minute ride to Prince Edward Island.

Since we took the ferry over to PEI and will be leaving the island by the Confederation Bridge, there was no charge for the ferry.

(You only pay – dearly – to leave the island).

Since there are no reservations for one-way trips, we spent almost two hours playing rummy in the ferry terminal, awaiting embarkation. The ferry ride provided a nice respite from the driving (and waiting) and soon we were disembarking in Wood Islands, PEI. Back in the car, we headed northeast for a one hour drive to the Inn at Bay Fortune.

After greeting us upon our arrival, Innkeeper Dave Wilmer introduced us to Chef Warren Barr. He had been tipped off about our stay at the inn by his mother, a fan of the GoShuckAnOyster blog.

Since our dinner reservations were for 8:00 p.m., Warren suggested we reserve some oysters for the evening. No sense in letting the early diners enjoy all of the oysters sent over earlier in the day from nearby Colville Bay.

Dinner at the Inn is served on the veranda, and all of the tables have views of the bay. As we watched the late afternoon turn into dusk and then night, we feasted on Warren's specialties. To start off, we split a dozen Colville Bay oysters.

Since I prefer them naked, they were accompanied only by wedges of lemon. To accompany the oysters, I selected a bottle of Chablis (2007 Domaine Laroche from Saint Martin) from the Innkeeper's Reserve portion of sommelier Jean-Sébastien Morin's award-winning wine list.

Beautifully presented on slate. Each of the oysters rested atop a mound of sea salt. Sweet, and creamy with a perfect little saltiness at the end. The oysters shared with us a taste of the waters of nearby Colville Bay.

Our plans for the morning were to visit with Johnny Flynn, owner of Colville Bay Oyster Company to learn how he managed to grow such perfect oysters.

To show us what else could be done with these amazing oysters, chef Warren also sent over his oyster special for the evening: the Colville Bay oysters served out of the shell in horseradish espuma with diced crunchy vegetables from the Inn's garden, cider gelée, white wine poached pear and lemon granite.

These were so good, Michael and I ended up dipping the last few of our naked oysters into the creamy espuma. Since we had not yet finished the chablis, we also ordered a carpaccio of Nova Scotia swordfish and tuna which was garnished with a sweet and sour corn relish, oishi sauce, and sesame and crisp sour apple.

Having dined exclusively on seafood thus far on the roadtrip, we opted for something that would go well with a 2005 La Fiole du Pape Châteauneuf-du-Pape that caught our attention on the wine list.

Michael opted for the Atlantic AAA beef strip loin, served atop semolina and a cake of aged cheddar. I chose the Avondale Meadows Farm lamb tasting. As with everything we saw emerge from Inn's kitchen, both were beautifully presented. And both surpassed all expectations as well!

After ending our meal with our desserts, we climbed the stairs up to our tower suite and passed out contentedly.

Cape George Scenic Drive and The Cabot Trail - Nova Scotia

By Rand Hoch, Travel Editor

“We’ll get a convertible,” I told Michael when we began planning our road trip to Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. He smiled, knowing that I say that every time we rent a car.

Stepping out of the airport in Halifax in mid-August, we knew we made the right choice. There really is no better way to explore the eastern Atlantic Provinces – by land – than cruising with the top down.

Heading north along Veteran’s Memorial Highway (Highway 102) in our Sebring towards the Northumberland Strait, iPod set to his 'Road trip' playlist (Lady Gaga, La Roux, songs from Glee, etc.), we began our seafood-centric adventure.

Oysters, lobsters, scallops and mussels take note – we’re on our way.

Heading east on the Trans-Canada Highway (Highway 104) towards Cape Breton Island, we eyed a sign which read, “Sunrise Trail - Cape George Scenic Drive.”


Veering north onto Route 245, hugging the coast, we drove through several fishing villages overlooking the Northumberland Strait. We passed through Arisaig, a lobster fishing village and then followed the signs to the Cape George Day Park, climbing the rolling hills towards the peak. We took the short hike from the park to the Cape George Point Lighthouse and took in the view across the water to the Cape Breton Island highlands.

After our short break, we continued along Route 337 towards our original route, passing through Ballantyne’s Cove, which we discovered is the world’s leading supplier of Bluefin tuna. Being sushi lovers, we stopped, only to learn that fishing season begins in September.

Ballantyne’s Cove
At the end of our detour, we stopped for a great lunch at Gabrieau's Bistro on Main Street in Antigonish. We then rejoined the Trans-Canada Highway and continued eastward crossing the causeway over the Strait of Canso that separates the mainland from Cape Breton Island.

Heading north, we followed the winding Ceilidh Trail (Route 10) along the western shore of Cape Breton Island. Passing by seaside communities and the Mabou Highlands, we enjoyed views of the rugged coastline and cliffs, bays and harbors, and an abundance of farms along the way.

Crossing through Margaree Harbor, we admired the two lighthouses protecting the village. Just past the harbor, we began our drive along the Cabot Trail, as we traveled north to the Acadian fishing village of Chéticamp, our stop for the night.

After checking out the local restaurants, we were dismayed to learn that not one had any oysters. Since the closest place that was serving them was one-half hour away in Pleasant Bay, we drove north into the Cape Breton Highlands National Park, over the mountains, towards the Rusty Anchor Restaurant.

With the sound of the surf crashing against the cliffs below, Michael and I took in the incredible views of not only the ocean below, but also the park's highlands and mountains.

Just minutes after we laughed at our first "Moose Crossing" sign, we noticed a car pulled over to the side of the road. As we approached, we saw a couple taking pictures of a female moose nibbling on a roadside shrub.

We slowed down to admire the moose, but kept on driving towards our oysters.

At the restaurant, owner Donna Timmons explained that many of the local oyster beds had been damaged a few years ago. As a result, she served her customers whatever oysters she could get her hands on. Fortunately, her supply of Malpeques had arrived that day, so Michael and I ordered those along with our lobster rolls.

We hope that we won't be limited in our oyster selections during the rest of our stay in Nova Scotia.

Arising early the next morning, we drove north back into the park along the Cabot Trail.
We passed through Pleasant Bay and a few picturesque fishing villages, occasionally heading towards the cliffs, hoping to spot some whales. Unfortunately, none were to be seen.

After only a short time in the car, we passed a “Bog Tail” sign, so we pulled off the highway for a short hike. Eagles flew overhead, as we hiked along the trail. While we expected to see another moose (which we did) and perhaps a black bear (which we did not), we were surprised to find a variety of orchids in bloom.

Heading south along the Atlantic coast, we drove past lighthouses and fishing villages such as Neil’s Harbor, where piles of lobster traps covered the wharfs. Harbor after harbor sported brightly painted boats adding splashes of color to the scenery.

Along the way, we kept seeing signs for puffin boat tours.

Having nothing better to do, we followed the Donelda's Puffin Boat Tours signs towards Englishtown.

Michael and I and another couple joined Donelda and her husband on a two and one-half hour cruise around the Bird Islands.

We learned that Atlantic Puffins are actually very small birds, about the size of sparrows. I'm glad we brought a camera with a zoom lens!

We saw several puffins bobbing in the water, and a few mid-air. Dozens of both Great and Double-breasted Cormorants sunned themselves along the rocky shores of the islands. Young bald eagles occasionally perched along the islands' peaks.

Off in the distance we saw what appeared to be floating footballs in the water. As we got closet, we were pleasantly greeted by playful seals -- lots of them.

Returning to shore, we hopped back into the convertible and continued south through several more towns, finally reaching Baddeck, our home for the night.

Our summer road trip is off to a great start. We'll write more in a few days, stay tuned.

Inn at Bay Fortune and Colville Bay Oysters

By Rand Hoch, Travel Editor
Inn at Bay Fortune PEI CanadaTime for a confession. . .

Our road trip is planned around spending time at the Inn at Bay Fortune.

Located on 46 acres along Prince Edward Island’s scenic Points East Coastal Drive, the inn sits on a rise overlooking the mouth of Bay Fortune, the harbor and the Northumberland Strait. Some of the island’s best beaches are just minutes away. Researching for the road trip, my partner Michael, an actor, was drawn by the Inn’s theatrical history. Originally the home of Broadway playwright Elmer Harris (Johnny Belinda), the Inn subsequently was owned by the two time Tony winning actress Colleen Dewhurst (A Moon for the Misbegotten and All the Way Home). As for me, I was more impressed with what Innkeeper Dave Wilmer has managed to make of the property over the past two decades.

In recognition of the efforts of Wilmer and his staff, the Inn at Bay Fortune has been recognized in Where to Eat in Canada as "the best place to stay on the Island, and certainly the most exciting place to eat.

"Being foodies, both Michael and I were impressed that chef Warren Barr’s efforts have earned the Inn at Bay Fortune the exclusive Four Diamond Award from the American Automobile Association. Chef Barr, known for his emphasis on fresh local ingredients that reflect an intensely regional cooking style, captures the essence of Prince Edward Island. Personally, I’m hoping that during our stay, he will feature his lobster carpaccio with pickled carrot and a spiced carrot sorbet. Dave also promised to have the world-renowned oysters from nearby Colville Bay available.

Additionally, thanks to the efforts of sommelier Jean-Sébastien Morin, for the third consecutive year, Wine Spectator has bestowed its coveted Award of Excellence to the Inn for his wine list and wine program. Michael and I look forward to dining at the Inn.

Bay FortuneThe Inn's architecture reflects its maritime setting. The weathered shingles, sloped roofs and traditional details caught our attention. Since this is a bit of a working vacation (I’m in the process of restructuring my law practice), I advised Dave that we would need some space to work, and some inspiration. After being tempted with a variety of rooms, we booked the spacious suite onColville Bay Oysters the top floor of the Inn’s north tower. Dave assured us that we would be able to see all the way to Cape Breton from the balcony. Ever the accommodating innkeeper, Dave also mentioned setting us up with Johnny Flynn of Colville Bay Oyster Co so we can spend time with him and learn about the distinctive teardrop-shaped moss-green oysters he farms nearby. Michael and I are looking forward to that!

Inn at Bay Fortune, here we come!