Friday, July 15, 2011

We Recommend The Sandbar and Grill - Panmure Provincial Park - PEI

Angela Ryan is the owner of the Sandbar and Grill at Panmure Island Provincial Park, PEI.  She's not only a local entrepreneur she is a natural hostess.  Anyone invited to sit down at Angela's table knows what I mean. In fact, Angela's island hospitality is one of the reasons I'm here.

Angela hosted the B&B cottage on the shore in PEI where we stayed in spring, 2000.  We were trying to decide whether to buy the farm near Poverty Beach in Murray Harbour North.  As we returned to our cosy cottage to discuss it, we found a note on the door.  Angela invited us to her home for Easter Dinner with her family.  Islanders might not find this unusual. But we urban people, a bit shy by nature about strangers, were surprised.  What do we do?  We accepted of course. And we were treated to a lovely family gathering where we were included as friends and guests.  Needless to say we bought the farm.  Not sure at all that we were doing the right thing.  But trusting everything above that we were indeed welcome in a place where we could make a new start.

Angela has hosted us to many meals and family gatherings since then. Including an informal but lovely 20th anniversary supper for Susan and I where we re-spoke our wedding vows on the shore and Angela had a mini wedding cake, flowers, champagne and dinner for us.  It does sound too good to be true, but that's just how she is. She is a romantic and she loves to see people be happy.  Susan and I erased a terrible row we'd been having and left knowing we were fated to be together for another 20 years - for better and worse!

So now this excellent cook and supreme hostess has her own restaurant with a fine yet unfussy dine-in and take-out menu licensed to serve cold regional beer and fine wines with personal service.  Take it from a man who has lived the good life. I've dined at 5 star California restaurants and eased into beach side haunts from Malibu to Carmel. I've been up and down the West Coast from Mexico to Oregon and across the US from the West Coast to the Gulf Coast and the Carolinas on up to Boston . The Sandbar offers the perfect combination of simple, tasty and well prepared fresh local food served down home style.  Just right for a relaxing supper at the beach.                
You'll find a seafood chowder that makes New Englanders glad they found out about it.  Lobster pot pie, steamed PEI mussels, famous the world over, but fresh from the harvest in local waters and much more. If your young ones are like mine and only a fine grilled cheese sandwich will do, the kitchen will gladly comply to make your family meal delicious and peaceful. A romantic dinner for two can be served inside or out  and family style is always welcome.  

We're proud to be included on the menu at the Sandbar, and Angela shifts her menu to use our best fresh ingredients.  So if you stop in and order chicken, you'll be getting our organic, pasture raised chicken which we delivered fresh to her.  She serves our organic salad greens, broccoli, baby carrots and more.  Whatever we have, she says "I'll take it" and she works her magic on the daily menu specials.

Angela told me, "I want to do everything fresh and local."  And unlike many chefs, she has the skills to work with whatever we bring her to make exceptional fresh meals.  If she owns a can opener I think it spends a lot of time at the back of the drawer.

And desserts?  She makes her own.  You'll want to try the pie.  Blueberry of course (her husband, Greg, is one of the island's top blueberry farmers)  and butterscotch to name two.  When the apples come in this summer - don't hesitate to order apple pie.  And of course, you can always pop in on a hot summer day and have an ice cream cone made with pure cream from PEI's local dairy farmers.

A note for those who like to travel. I was once given a tip to drive 1500 miles to  the Cozy Corner BBQ restaurant in Memphis, Tenn.  I took that tip and was never sorry I made the drive. That's real Memphis BBQ.  And that's what makes touring great. Finding local gems. So this is my tip for you. If you're traveling and you want some authentic local flavor on your visit to PEI, the Sandbar and Grill  on Panmure  Island is the place to stop.      

From California to Tennessee to Boston, Mass. and PEI.  This is what makes life good.  Fresh local ingredients, grown by people who love the land, served up hot by a friendly woman and her staff who know how to cook. They love to make people happy. So no matter where you're from, you'll be down home.

UPDATE: I've added some helpful links in the text to help you find your way.

Friday, July 1, 2011

The Philosophy of Lawn Mowing and the Sweetness of Summer.

Happy Canada Day! Summer is finally here on the island!  Warm temps, gentle breezes, mosquitos and black flies and of course GRASS.

Coming from a place where grass grows in the spring rain of March and April and then goes golden brown for the long, hot, dry, summers (unless irrigated with imported water) I still find it amazing that it grows like crazy here. Acres and acres of the stuff! Big beautiful lawns and well kept yards are a source of local pride and regular mowing on PEI.  You'll observe the Provincial flag even features trees and grass.  I make note that the lawn tractor is missing from heraldry. Surely an oversight.  But the flag does include the Royal Lion of England. So we welcome the Duke and Duchess, William and Kate, to our fair island this week! No doubt there will be a frenzy of mowing to prepare each and every venue for their visit.  In fact, there should be a photo-op of the duchess riding a lawn tractor in shorts, a tank top and a big floppy hat.

In the days before mowing machines your yard literally had to be cut by hand with a scythe. So a small yard with a kitchen garden made sense.  The rest of the ground was turned over to livestock and cropping.  Animals stayed close by and fed on the grass.  Easier to manage and watch over. And more productive too.  Large expanses of closely cropped grass are an artifact of a time when sheep grazed about the manor home (where your daddy or mine mucked out the barn and mum washed the clothes of His Lordship). It was a sign of wealth. Having good land not planted to the margins with food says, "well mate, you must be doing alright". Perhaps that explains our desire for a suburban lawn watered by a river 300 miles away or 2 or more hours a week driving a  mowing machine.  We're all just sort of keeping up appearances - at a huge cost. Weird, isn't it?

Our two "hay burners" burned through last years hay harvest over the winter.  And they are more than willing to go out on the grass every morning.  They really don't care where the grass is, so we've taken to moving the electric fence every few days to where the grass is rich and then turn them loose to do what they do.  Which is eat...and excrete.  It's a lovely combination of feeding, mowing and fertilization in one step. And as I reported last time, the chickens too are doing their part in the war on grass, bugs and spreading fertilizer as they go.  You can't beat mother nature for operating in a closed system.

Even so I just can't seem to stay off the lawn mower.  I just can't help noticing how nice things look when they're all trimmed up. But you know, I think I will put sheep on the front lawn around the house this summer - just to try them out on the job. It's funny that the mower works until it's empty and leaves wasted grass and energy behind.  The animals work until they're full, taking in energy and leaving behind valuable fertilizer for greener grass. It just seems more sensible to let the animals do the work and earn their keep. Besides,
it's picturesque as hell.    

And speaking of picturesque, here are Toby and his buddy Owen making ice cream on the front porch for Canada Day.  We bought  lobster suppers at the Murray Harbour North Community Hall and then enjoyed home made vanilla ice cream made even sweeter by the hand cranking of children.  Making home made ice cream in an old freezer is a ritual passed to us by our parents and grand parents.  It now passes to our children as part of the celebration of summer!