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Top 7 Things To Catch At The PEI International Shellfish Festival

It’s time to embrace your shellfish side! The PEI International Shellfish Festival, Canada’s largest festival in honour of mollusks and crustaceans, returns to downtown Charlottetown for its 24th year of shell-ebration! From September 19 to 22, 2019 the Charlottetown Event Grounds will play host to the PEI International Shellfish Festival, a jam-packed schedule of intense culinary competitions, live cooking demos, plenty of shellfish feasting, and roof-raising kitchen parties with some of Canada’s favourite party bands. Get the insider’s scoop on how to make the most of your Shellfish Festival-ing.

Top 7 Things To Catch At The PEI International Shellfish Festival 6 Photo Credit: Ilona Daniel
Top 7 Things To Catch At The PEI International Shellfish Festival 9 Photo Credit: Alex Douglas

1. Start Off Strong with Feast & Frolic

The gala eating event of the Festival, Feast & Frolic was made with shellfish lovers in mind. Featuring fresh PEI lobster, mussels, oysters, chowder, prime Island beef and more, it’s an unforgettable evening of culinary excellence hosted by PEI’s popular Chef Michael Smith.

Start your evening with a visit to the World’s Greatest Oyster Bar during the ‘Frolic’. Sample over 20 varieties of fresh PEI oysters, each with unique tasting notes and chat with local oyster growers and shuckers who will share their tips on how to best enjoy this delicacy from the sea. Make sure you ‘frolic’ your way over to sample the award-winning potato chowders and dig into the piles of PEI blue mussels, but do save room for the Feast!

After much frolicking, you’ll be ready to sit down for an epic feast hosted by Chef Michael Smith, with a menu created by Canadian Chef of the Year, Irwin MacKinnon. Featuring wild-caught cracked PEI lobster and “AAA” Certified Island slow-braised beef short rib along with seasonally-inspired sides, this is one surf & turf experience you don’t want to miss! Bonus – your meal will be served by the chefs competing in the Garland Canada International Chef Challenge!

Top 7 Things To Catch At The PEI International Shellfish Festival 4 Photo Credit: Alex Douglas

2. Cheer on the Island’s Best!

Have you ever tried to shuck an oyster? How about hundreds of them against the ticking of a clock? What ratio of seafood to potatoes to cream makes for an award-winning chowder? How fast could you tie a mussel sock?

Prepare to be wowed as PEI’s most talented shuckers, chefs, bartenders and sock tiers strut their stuff on the mainstage and compete to win bragging rights and cold hard cash. Of course, they’ve got to prove they’re the best at what they do – whether that be shucking PEI oysters the fastest, creating the best PEI Potato Chowder, tying buoys and mussel socks or making a mean Caesar.

Competitions go down Friday, Saturday and Sunday – check out the schedule for times and prepare to be wowed by the skill and passion of the competitors. Who knows, you might even snag a sample of yummy competition chowder if you’re in the right place at the right time!

 

Top 7 Things To Catch At The PEI International Shellfish Festival 14 Photo Credit: Alex Douglas
Top 7 Things To Catch At The PEI International Shellfish Festival 2 Photo Credit: Alex Douglas

3. Get Your Dancing Shoes On

There’s no point in having a festival to celebrate PEI shellfish unless you’re going to pair it with epic kitchen party fun! Over the years, the Festival has become well-known (and loved!) for its roof-raising, foot-stomping parties on Friday and Saturday night featuring high-energy bands that know how to get people on the dance floor and keep ‘em there.

This year’s headlining bands are Signal Hill (Friday, Sept 20) from Newfoundland, and Big Bad Party Band (Saturday, Sept 21) from Moncton, New Brunswick. Both bands have rocked the tent in previous years and proven they’ve got serious kitchen party chops. #PROTIP: Arrive early in the evening to snag prime access to the dance floor and bar. 😉

Top 7 Things To Catch At The PEI International Shellfish Festival 13 Photo Credit: Alex Douglas

4. What’s the Hottest Shellfish Trend?

Yes, shellfish trends are a thing and boutique brand oyster tasting is making waves. Ever been to a wine tasting? The subtleties of the various terroirs really do influence the flavours of the wine, just as PEI’s numerous “merroirs” influence the salty fresh tastes of local wild oysters.

Now’s your chance to test the theory with the PEI International Shellfish Festival’s brand-new ticket option: Eat the Raw Bar Dry! A mere $29 gets you admission to the site on Sunday afternoon and includes unlimited sampling of PEI wild oysters. Pro-tip: the RAW BAR opens promptly at noon on Sunday and lasts until 2 pm (or until the “bar runs dry”!). Tickets to this event must be purchased in advance. If you love oysters, then this event is for you, as you can meet PEI’s top oyster harvesters and pick out your go-to oyster brands for the rest of the year. And if you’ve never tasted an oyster before, now is the time to go for it!

 

Top 7 Things To Catch At The PEI International Shellfish Festival 12 Photo Credit: Canada's Food Island

5. Don’t Miss the Junior Chef Challenge with Chef Michael Smith

The next crop of aspiring chefs will be testing their culinary chops at the second annual Junior Chef Challenge presented by Dairy Farmers of Canada and hosted by Chef Michael Smith.

Get ready for an awe-inspiring display of kitchen skills and creativity as culinary masters aged 9 to 11 compete to win a whopping $1,000 cash prize and bragging rights as the Junior Chef Champion.

The young competitors will have 45 minutes to create a mouth-watering, gorgeous dish that showcases PEI shellfish, including mussels, oysters, lobster and clams and incorporates a dairy product. It’s an exciting opportunity to develop talented new chefs as each Junior will be assisted by one of the Festival’s professional competitor chefs.

Top 7 Things To Catch At The PEI International Shellfish Festival 11 Photo Credit: Alex Douglas

6. Fill Up at the Shellfish Pavilion

Between dancing up a storm and watching those intense culinary competitions, you’re guaranteed to work up an appetite. When hunger strikes head to the Festival’s Shellfish Pavilion to fill up on every kind of shellfish-inspired dish you could imagine (and a few non-shellfish dishes to balance out the menu). You could go “all lobster, all the time” with  deep-fried lobster tail, lobster grilled cheese, lobster nachos, lobster quesadilla or the intriguing “Saltdaddy Lobster Melt.” Or, check out these dishes: popcorn mussels, bottled PEI bar clams, Belle River crab cakes or PEI poutine. Of course, you can also order up such classics as raw oysters and steamed mussels or clams, along with refreshments to wash it all down!

Top 7 Things To Catch At The PEI International Shellfish Festival 1 Photo Credit: Alex Douglas
Top 7 Things To Catch At The PEI International Shellfish Festival 3 Photo Credit: Alex Douglas
Top 7 Things To Catch At The PEI International Shellfish Festival 5 Photo Credit: Canada's Food Island

7. Get Front Row Seats for the Biggest Competition of the Festival

If you’re a fan of TV shows like Chopped or Top Chef Canada, you’re going to love the Garland Canada International Chef Challenge! Be sure to snag front row seats for this high-stakes culinary competition that pits 12 talented chefs from across North America in an epic battle for the title of Garland Chef Champion and $10,000 in cash.

It’s going to be an especially star-studded event this year, with an all-star line up that includes chefs from across North America. A look at their bios confirms that they are fierce competitors.  The 2019 PEI competitor will be announced in early September at an upcoming Best of Sea chef challenge.

There’s plenty more to see, do and eat at the PEI International Shellfish Festival, so be sure you check out the full program of events and plan accordingly. And while you’re visiting Charlottetown, take some time to explore the city’s thriving culinary scene which includes three craft breweries, a multitude of eating establishments, several farmers’ markets, and hands-on food tours/experiences.

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