I have to admit, although I’m a dedicated fitness enthusiast, another passion that I have to counterbalance is my love of food. Our recent summer holiday offered the perfect blend of exercise and indulging in the farm and seafood culture of Prince Edward Island. My husband, Mark, and I had planned a week on the Island, with a five-day tip-to-tip self-guided bike adventure starting at North Cape and pedalling though to the East Point Lighthouse.
My sister, who has both family and friend connections on the Island and has made multiple visits over the years, was my ear to the ground when it came to building our custom “must-see, -do and -eat” list. After an initial exchange of ideas, she put me in touch with some Islander friends for the inside seaside scoop. Mark and I were celebrating our wedding anniversary, too. What would be a worthy splurge to mark the occasion? The overwhelming vote was to stay at The Inn at Bay Fortune and experience The Feast. I didn’t need much convincing.
The Inn at Bay Fortune is the only five-star country inn in eastern Prince Edward Island. It’s the home of celebrity chef Michael Smith and wife Chastity, plus the legendary dining experience at his restaurant, FireWorks.
FireWorks the Inn at Bay FortuneThe author of 10 cookbooks, Smith is also the affable star of five different Food Network TV series. His current goal is to put The Inn at Bay Fortune and FireWorks on the map as an international culinary destination.
As we pedalled against a mighty Atlantic headwind, we were motivated by the promise of an epic meal and boutique accommodations. While most guests arrive in slightly more upscale attire, we were greeted with warm Maritime hospitality and our bikes were treated to VIP parking in one of the vegetable barns. After being handed cold glasses of mint-infused water, Mark and I were taken on a tour of the inn before being shown to our room. We were encouraged to wander the whimsical grounds of the organic farm, host to heirloom vegetables, fragrant herbs, flower beds exploding with colour, and rows of regal sunflowers proudly presiding. A friendly feline, whom we named Jeeves, showed us around his stomping grounds. The property embraces both the farm and the sea: 46 acres of land overlooks Bay Fortune and beyond to the Northumberland Strait.
For those arriving by car, The Inn at Bay Fortune is a pleasant and pastoral one-hour drive from Charlottetown and 90 minutes from the Confederation Bridge. The seaside property was originally built in 1913 as the summer home for Broadway playwright Elmer Harris and his family. The humble hamlet of Fortune was known as an artist colony and offered summer residence for many Broadway stars to flee the heat of New York City. There are 15 unique and newly refurbished guest rooms—nine rooms face the courtyard and another six rooms are located in the two towers.
In keeping with the artisan spirit, the Smiths have partnered with the Artisans on Main gallery in nearby Souris. The restaurant, common areas and guest rooms have been enriched with colourful, original artwork. See something you like? Arrangements can be made to help you transport it home, and all of the proceeds go to the artist.
Each room has been thoughtfully decorated with a blend of rustic seaside charm, treasured antiques and modern amenities that the sophisticated traveller has come to expect: cozy fireplaces, Nespresso coffee machines, high-thread-count sheets, luxurious terry-cloth robes and living plants. A gourmet breakfast is also included with your stay.
After a walk down to the beach (only 10 minutes on foot), we had a quick shower so that we could arrive promptly for the evening’s celebratory kickoff at 6 p.m. in the garden. Oyster Hour takes guests on a culinary sampling journey of flavours, with appetizers from the firepits, stone ovens, herb garden and smokehouse and, of course, the all-you-can-slurp, world-famous Colville Bay and Fortune Bay oysters in the kitchen.
Before we began our food tour around the grounds, we were forced to choose between creative, enticing drink stations. Would it be local craft beer? Island grapes? A blueberry smash with vodka from the Island’s distillery? A classic G&T? FireWorks fiercely embraces the farm-to-fork movement and is proud to feature a wide variety of Island ingredients sourced from the fields, forests, streams and beaches.
What’s in a name? FireWorks is the 7.6-metre (25 foot) wood-burning brick stove (a.k.a. “the fire-breathing beast”) that is the anchor of the restaurant’s Fire Kitchen. The restaurant has enveloped every form of live-fire cooking known to man, with a smokehouse, open hearth, grill, rotisserie, plancha and wood oven. Here, no dials, no switches, no gas and no power can be found—it’s just old-school fire cooking, the traditional way.
If you want to know more, the Fire Brigade is an energetic team of young chefs and serving staff who are proud to share their trade secrets. You’re invited into the kitchen to take pictures, and the passionate crew loves to answer questions. It is equal parts live kitchen show and long-table-style dining on butcher-block tables that transcends the stuffy boundaries of your typical restaurant meal. It’s an inspiring experience made ever more intoxicating by the flavours and tastes of the six-course meal.
According to the inn’s website, FireWorks is an atelier “devoted to rediscovering, respecting and reimagining the food ways of the past.” Sitting in the kitchen, it truly does feel like a family affair, as the staff continually sing the praises of on-site organic farmers Jeff and Carey Wood, an integral part of the team. The Woods grow more than 200 different fruits and vegetables, and the cooks are helping on the farm every day.
The house salad is an impressive affair: each evening, it features over 50 different organic greens, tender shoots, leaves, herbs and flowers, all of which are grown on site. A new menu is created daily, using ingredients from the organic farm and herb gardens, as well as a rotating roster of local farmers, fisherfolk, foragers and culinary artisans. While the daily details change, guests can expect freshly baked wood-oven bread, a taste-of-the-Island charcuterie board, smoked fish, local seafood chowder (divine), and the oh-so-fresh salad accompanied by wood-roasted meats, fish and vegetables. The evening finishes, of course, with freshly baked desserts. I was grateful for logging in a 70 km (43.5 mile) bike ride earlier in the day.
To walk off our food belly, Mark and I took a moonlight stroll down to the water before rolling back to our room and falling asleep to the gentle Maritime breeze. The next day, the gourmet breakfast did not disappoint. The fire theme continued in the morning, with a hot skillet, house-made bacon, hand-squeezed orange juice, all-natural smoothies, locally roasted coffee and freshly baked cinnamon buns.
The best part? They took pity on us cyclists and sent us away at checkout with a bag of the cinnamon buns to fuel our upcoming miles. At our first pit stop, fingers sticky from the last of our fancy doggy-bag buns, we knew one thing for sure: we’d cycle the entire distance of the Island again for The Inn at Bay Fortune experience.