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One Great Thing
by Ann Thurlow

She came into the restaurant wearing a beautiful dress—sleeveless and covered in flowers. I was full of admiration. It seemed as if she had dressed up to eat alone. Then a man rushed in and sat down. I was too far away to eavesdrop; was this a special dinner or a blind date? She smoothed the dress self-consciously. He picked up a menu. She said something and he put down the menu and looked at her. She stood up and slowly twirled around.



Sarah Forrester Wendt cooks fresh, local and balanced

by Ann Thurlow

Sarah Forrester WendtWhen Sarah Forrester Wendt was a kid, she began cooking to get out of diaper duty. She was the oldest in a big family; everyone was expected to pitch in. It would be fun, and somewhat romantic, to say she fell in love with cooking right there. But it wouldn’t be true. She wanted to be a fashion designer.

Nonetheless, events have a way of shaping a life and that’s what happened to the woman who has become one of PEI’s most interesting chefs. Two things: her dad’s illness and subsequent devotion to macrobiotic food sparked an interest in that style of cooking. And, on a trip to Mexico, she found herself questioning the women she met about how they prepared food.

Before she knew it, she found herself at the Kushi Institute in Massachusetts. She wasn’t even committed at that point to a life in the kitchen. But she was interested in macrobiotic cooking and its emphasis on freshness and balance. And she picked this place to learn.

Here’s fate again. She married, she had a baby. She managed to keep up her studies at Kushi. Her husband’s studies took the quickly growing family to Italy, where she was introduced to the slow food movement. Without really meaning to, she was building up an impressive education.

But what to do with it? When her husband’s graduate studies took the family to New Haven, Connecticut she spent her time teaching Yale students how to cook and serving soup out her kitchen window. She combined everything she was doing—running a family and teaching cooking—and turned it into a blog called MacroMom. The family returned to PEI, she had a booth selling macrobiotic food at the Charlottetown Farmers’ Market.

A word about macrobiotics here—it will make the next part of the story seem slightly less incredible. Macrobiotics may once have been characterized by plain bowls of rice and abstemious slices of turnip. But the practice has grown to include many kinds of food—the stress is on fresh and local and balanced.

So when MacroMom found herself invited to work at the Inn at St. Peter’s, with its emphasis on fine dining and French cuisine, she said sure—why not. Under the direction of the head chef she spent her days learning and watching (and sometimes faking her way through) butchering techniques and food preparations she never imagined she’d be doing. When she found herself elbow deep in a wild caught halibut, she knew she had arrived.

She eventually became head chef at the Inn. But she never let go of her macrobiotic principles. She sent out plates that adhered to the principles of balance; she became a fierce advocate of only using local food.

She left the Inn after four years. But the principles she refined there have become something of a mission for her now. To wit: she has taken to stealthily distributing postcards with pictures of fresh local vegetables on the front and recipes on the back. She recently prepared a traditional Saudi meal for forty people using almost exclusively Island ingredients. She has become a member of the kitchen team at Kettle Black, where she is pushing to include as much local food as possible.

She’d like to take it further. She wants to prove that PEI doesn’t need to import things we can grow right here, right now. Her dream is to, some day, have a place where she can do all this. Where will it be and when? Keep your eyes open. Fate has, so far, moved this chef in amazing directions.


4Good Tea

Submitted by Ann Thurlow

A sweet little spot has taken over the corner of an old building at Grafton and Pownal. 4Good Tea opened in July and sells, as you might guess, all manner of tea. It’s not a sit down tea shop but you can order a tea to go from the many canisters that line the wall or take some to brew at home. There’s all manner of green, white and black teas, yerba matte, herbal tea, fruit tea and more. Don’t know what you want? Explain to Alice what you like and she’ll help you choose. On our first visit, she directed us to Snow Chrysanthemum, which has a lovely backstory (the flowers only bloom for a short time each year), purported healthy properties and a soothing, flowery taste.

It’s a fun place to go, with its blue walls and old wood floors. The service is terrific and the tea is the real deal and delicious.

4Good Tea 155 Pownal (at Kent). Opens at noon. 

The new Noodle House

Review by Ann Thurlow

Under ordinary circumstances, a Chinese restaurant moving seven blocks would not be big news. But this is Charlottetown and The Noodle House is a beloved spot. It has been ensconced for several years in kind of a ramshackle lot behind the Dairy Queen. So when owner Fiona Zeng found a renovated location available right downtown, she jumped. And she decided while she was at it, to revamp the place a bit. You’ll still find your favourite dishes, but you’ll also see a few changes.

For one, service at lunch time is now a buffet. And if there’s anything more wonderful than the glazed stare of a buffet aficionado as he contemplates the offerings, I’m not sure what it is. All things considered, the offerings are pretty stellar. All manner or vegetables with various kinds of protein, my beloved ma-po tofu, a large selection of fried tings, some expected—like egg rolls and some not—like shrimp. Thing is, this spot is popular that nothing on the steam table has any time to get soggy. The egg rolls are delicious—plump and full of flavour. The shrimp is crisp and addictive There are a couple of good soups and this other dish that looks like a sesame seed coated doughnut hole. It was filled with sweet black bean paste and it was so good that I could hardly believe it.

Zeng took over the Noodle House about the same time that PEI experienced a welcome influx of people from China. As a result, the restaurant is often full of young Chinese Islanders, happily chatting and eating. Having them there adds to the charm of the place.

In the evening, customers order from the regular menu—a somewhat smaller menu than before but still endlessly attractive. The service is kind and attentive (there are more servers) so, even when the place is full, as it often is, you don’t feel neglected.

And of course, Fiona Zeng is everywhere—mopping floors, serving food, chatting to customers.

If The Noodle House has become synonymous with a good place to eat, it’s because of this lady’s hard work and good decisions. So, if she believes a move downtown is a smart one, it probably is big news indeed.

The Noodle House is now located at 188 Great George Street, next to the Ultramar. Off street parking available. 

My love affair

One Great Thing
by Ann Thurlow

I loved that book. Not just its words but its actual, corporeal being. My mother wrote on the flyleaf. There was a little stain from where I spilled coffee because I was laughing so hard. But I was a careless lover and my book disappeared.

I don’t understand the forces that brought it back to me. When it was put in my hands, I wept a bit, traced its worn spine with my finger, embraced it. Oh, that sounds so foolish when I say it!

But this is my love affair, my book, my happy, happy day.

Chips and soap

One Great Bite
by Ann Thurlow

They sat in the window at a laundromat. On the table in front of them, napkins and that red and white paper that meant they were eating burgers. Outside, a nasty wind whipped down the street. Inside though, the air was warm from the dryers and fragrant with the smell of chips and soap.

Do I know any of this? No. In truth, I am watching them through the window, imagining how great their food must taste and smell, how cozy it must feel to get a full belly while your clothes dry.

His own (Island) man

Tyler Gallant likes the seafood business

by Ann Thurlow

Tyler Gallant and his Friday chowder (photo: Ann Thurlow)It’s easy to imagine Tyler Gallant behind the stove in a restaurant kitchen. He moves with the grace of someone who is used to juggling a lot of things. He is always looking around; he anticipates a customer before they even come to his stand.

In fact, you would have found him in a restaurant kitchen before you would have found him where he is now: running his own seafood business. He got the bug when he was doing that almost requisite teenage thing—working at a fast food place. From there, he went to the Culinary Institute and then moved on to restaurants in Boston and Nantucket, Bermuda and St. Martins. When he came home again, he worked at such notable spots as The Pearl, Shaw’s and Mavor’s.

Through all of this, he was introduced to a couple of home truths: a hired chef doesn’t run his own show and being a chef on PEI is a hard way to make a full-time living.

A stint in St. John’s, Newfoundland, helped convince him to open his own business, featuring the very best of PEI seafood and seafood recipes. He and his partner, Christine Murnaghan, now own and operate Gallant’s PEI Seafood and his restless energy seems to have found a home.

He credits the Charlottetown Farmer’s Market for giving him the kind of initial boost he needed. He was lucky enough to secure a booth there; every Saturday (and Wednesdays in the summer) he serves up rich, dreamy seafood chowder and crab cakes and shucks fresh oyster (which are the very best thing to have for breakfast)).

On Friday, he serves seafood at Timothy’s World Coffee and, through the summer he shucks oysters in a gazebo behind the Delta. He caters. He provided food for the PEI Shellfish Festival.

He and his partner have been able, in other words to carve out jobs for themselves and a staff (including his younger brother).

There’s another method in all this madness. Though he’s happy for now to be a bit of a gypsy, he does hope, someday, to have his own bricks and mortar business, too. But, having had a lot of experience catering for tourists, he has a new passion now: serving Island food to Islanders.

In some ways, it’s a matter of economics. He can only hope to make a fulltime living with a fulltime customer base, and that isn’t tourists.

But beyond that, he actually loves the good old PEI recipes and thinks others would, too. His eyes light up at the mention of salt cod and blue potatoes—he agrees that there’s nothing like a roast pork dinner. Though his present emphasis is solidly on the best, locally sourced seafood, he recognizes that PEI has a lot more to offer—including great recipes. “We’re supposed to be the food island, right? Let’s celebrate the food we make as well as the food we grow.”

Find Gallant’s PEI Seafood at the Charlottetown Farmer’s Market or at Timothy’s on Great George Street, Charlottetown.

Our share

One Great Bite
by Ann Thurlow

The woman is holding a pale green kohlrabi. It is the colour of a luna moth; she wonders whether to eat it or admire its beauty. We are here to collect our vegetable boxes, our share of a farmer’s toil. In the gloom of an early winter afternoon, the carrots are vivid, brilliant with possibility. Our lovely farmer offers treats: a bright red pepper, fresh ginger, a summery Jerusalem artichoke.

We paid for this when it was still autumn, investing against a bountiful harvest, the need for hope and good nutrition as the hemisphere tilts away from the sun.


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