Mavor’s On a Roll

Since taking over as the Executive Chef for Mavor’s in 2016, Chef Miguel Cervantes and his team are on a roll, winning five top culinary accolades: Best of Sea Fan Choice award; The Great Island Grilled Cheese Competition (two years in a row); Winterdine; and most recently Best Appetizer for Veg PEI’s Veg It Up week.

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“I have a craft-based perspective when it comes to cooking,” Chef Cervantes reveals. “I don’t like to order things in, so we make a lot of our menu items in house.”

Chef Cervantes and his team have been taking chances with this approach for creating new dishes and it seems to be paying off. Sous Chef, Craig Doucette and Line Cook, Andre Boucher, who won the most recent The Great Island Grilled Cheese competition, thoroughly enjoyed the experience of competing.

“It was a great atmosphere,” describes Doucette. “It was nice to see so many people in one place that were all interested in the same thing.”

profeDoucette conjured up the winning “It’s Always Cheesy” grilled cheese sandwich. It consisted of provolone and mozzarella, roasted basil, and cured heirloom tomatoes on house-made focaccia bread, grilled in a garlic parmesan butter, and served with a Gouda cheese dipping sauce. Which is now official on the Mavor’s menu.

“In my mind a grilled cheese sandwich always goes good with tomato soup, so it was a must to add the tomatoes,” Doucette describes. He goes on to say, “I had an hour to come up with the idea, but I’ve been cooking long enough to know what flavours go together, so in the end I just had to believe in myself and hope it would all work out.”

 Boucher, Doucette’s partner in the competition, was amazed at the public feedback that they received, “One guy said that our sandwich gave him goose bumps, for me that was incredible to hear.”

 This is only the beginning, says Chef Cervantes, for he has big plans for the months ahead starting with the launch of a new menu in October.

 “We’re taking chances with different proteins and presenting them in different ways,” says Chef Cervantes. “All the things that you see on the new menu are dishes on my bucket list.”

 He encourages his team to create their own culinary bucket lists, so Doucette has incorporated hand-rolled pasta on the new menu. He calls it his Zen time while preparing it. “Watching a giant ball of dough form into noodles is just something special,” he reflects.

 Chef Cervantes says that’s what craft-based cooking is all about, “It’s something you feel proud of, it’s a different style of cooking, there is a lot more passion and creativity.”

 The team is most proud of the Arctic Char dish. Boucher describes it as something different, “It comes with a sweet potato hash that is paired with our seasonal vegetables, and that combination really makes the Arctic Char pop off the plate.”

 In addition to the new menu are theme nights: Fiesta Mondays; Flatbread Fridays; and Steak Saturdays. Chef Cervantes is most excited about Steak Saturdays. “I’ve partnered up with Atlantic Beef Products and we’re doing a different cut each week for eight weeks straight.” He goes on to add, “We’ll feature cuts that aren’t normally available on the Island like Tomahawk, or Oxtail – it’s going to be pretty upscale.”

 To sum up Mavor’s roll: five awards, a new menu, plus menu themed nights, but wait there’s more. Back by popular demand is the Mavor’s’ Traditional Holiday Turkey Buffet.

 “We’re going to take it to the next level with the quality by brining the turkey and roasting it nice and slow – class it up a bit,” explains Chef Cervantes.

 Boucher pipes in, “The Island is mostly comfort food where people want to get their money’s worth, so we want to provide that quality every day.”

 Get ready for theme nights every Monday, Friday, and Saturday all day. The Traditional Holiday Turkey Buffet starts December 1.

 For more information on Mavor’s, and to view the new menu, please visit: http://www.confederationcentre.com/en/dine-at-Mavor’s.php

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Born on the Barachois

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“Everybody went to church back then,” said Connie Lott. “Especially in a small community like South Rustico. My goodness, we all went. I just walked up the road from home to the church and the school. It was the same way we walked to the beach and went swimming.”

Walking to the beach was easy. There is ocean to see and wade into on three sides of the school and church.

There were four classrooms to the school and eleven grades, overseen by the Sisters of Notre Dame. Many of the nuns came from the Magdalen Islands, an archipelago not far away in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. “They were one hundred percent French,” said Robin Lott. “Connie’s French is fluid to this day.”

“He means fluent,” said Connie.

“My teachers were Mother Saint Alphonse, Mother Saint Theodore, and Mother Saint Cyril, who was sort of icky,” she said, almost seven decades later. “Kids came to our school from all over, from Hope River and Oyster Bed Bridge.”

South Rustico is on the north-central shore of Canada’s Prince Edward Island, where Route 6 and Church Road cross. The Lion’s Club, caty-corner to the church, hosts ceilidhs featuring local talent in the summer. There is a handsome beach on Luke’s Creek, which is a bay on the far shoreline, near the National Park.

“I went to mass once twice in twelve hours,” said Robin, Connie’s husband. “We were dating, I was on the island, and her mother insisted we go to church Saturday night before stepping out. So, OK, that’s it, we go. Sunday morning they wake me up and say it’s time to go to church again. I said, what? I thought, I must be desperate for a girlfriend!”

“You must have really liked me,” said Connie.

Built in 1838, the oldest Catholic Church on PEI, St. Augustine’s in South Rustico was already an old church when Cornelia ‘Connie’ Doucette and Robert ‘Robin’ Lott got married there in 1960.

“Her mother hosted dinner at the Charlottetown Hotel and our party afterwards was in Connie’s yard,” said Robin. “The barn was behind the house and they brewed homemade beer. We didn’t have five cents to rub together.”

Connie Doucette was born at home in 1938. “I lived in what is now the Barachois Inn on the Church Road,” she said. A barachois is like a bayou, what Atlantic Canadians call a coastal lagoon separated from the ocean by a sandbar. But the home she grew up in wasn’t where she was born, nor were her parents the parents she was born to.

“When my twin sister and I were born, our mother died,” she said.

Her father, Jovite Doucette, a farmer with eight children, owned a house behind the church and croplands between Anglo Rustico and the red sand shore. “Where the new school was built,” said Connie, “that was once part of his fields.” Suddenly a widower, he was unable to care for the newborns of the family.

Cornelia and her sister, Camilla, were placed with foster families. Her sister went to Mt. Carmel, on the southwest side of the island, while she became a permanent ward of the Doucette’s, a husband and wife in their 50s, who lived down the street, literally down the street, on the front side of the church.

“It wasn’t traumatic,” said Connie. “I saw my brothers and sisters, and my father, all the time, and my foster parents made sure I saw my twin sister now and then.”

The Doucette’s she went to live with were islanders who had long worked in Boston as domestics, saved their money, and returned to Prince Edward Island, buying a house and farm. They kept cows and some horses. The Doucette’s were childless, and despite the surname, no relation to Connie’s family.

“I was spoiled since I was their only child,” said Connie “They were older and well-to-do. We had a car, a Ford. I didn’t do too much, although I might have milked a cow once in awhile.”

Before mid-century most of the roads on Prince Edward Island were dirt or clay, muddy when it rained, dusty when it was dry. The first paved road, two miles of it, was University Avenue in Charlottetown, the capital, in 1930. “They eventually paved the road up to the church,” said Connie. “We used to say, ‘Meet me at the pave,’ which was where the pavement ended.”

“Our generation, their children have built modern homes on the island, it’s not as basic as it used to be,” said Robin.

“Everybody’s got washers and dryers now,” said Connie.

Her mother’s sister washed clothes by hand in a washtub and dried them on the line. “We visited them in the late 1960s,” said Robin. “Their house didn’t have running water or electricity. I went out to the well and pulled the bucket up. There was meat and butter in the bucket.”

“That was their refrigeration,” said Connie.

“They finally moved across the road to an old schoolhouse that had power,” said Robin.

“They had thirteen children,” said Connie.

Although he was born in Quebec in 1936, Robin grew up in Ontario.

“My father worked on the boats all the time, Montreal to Thorold, where the locks are, and we ultimately moved there,” he said. From Montreal the passage is down the St. Lawrence and across the length of Lake Ontario to Niagara. The Welland Canal at Thorold, sitting atop the Niagara Escarpment, is ‘Where the Ships Climb the Mountain.’ Standing on viewing platforms, you can watch enormous cargo ships pass slowly by at eye-level a few feet away from you.

When he came of age Robin Lott joined the Royal Canadian Navy.

In the Second World War the Canadian Navy was the fifth largest in the world. During the Cold War of the 1950s and 60s it countered emerging Soviet Union naval threats in the Atlantic with its anti-submarine capabilities. During his Christmas leave in 1959 Robin gave Connie a ring. They rarely saw each other the next nine months.

“We were in Lisbon when I got a letter from Connie that she and my mother had decided on October 1st for our marriage,” said Robin.

The executive order said to be ready.

“I went to the radio communications on board and sent a telegraph confirming my agreement.”

Robin and Connie met when she went to nursing school in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where Robin was stationed with the fleet. “I was working a little job at the Charlottetown Hospital,” said Connie. “A friend of mine told me about the nursing course in Halifax. Right away I got the bug.” It was 1956. She and her friend enrolled and her friend’s father drove them to Nova Scotia.

After nursing school, as part of her scholarship agreement, she worked at the Sunnybrook Military Hospital in Toronto. “They gave you $70.00 a month to live on.” She and Robin dated long-distance style. “Whenever I got leave I would pick her up in Toronto and take her to visit with my parents in Thorold,” said Robin. “That’s how I introduced her to my family.”

At the same time, Connie was introducing Robin to Prince Edward Island

One afternoon, making his way from Halifax to Rustico, coming off the ferry in January and driving up Route 13 from Crapaud, he was stopped by a snowdrift in the road.

“The road went down a valley and there was literally six feet of snow piled up,” said Robin. He reversed his 1955 Pontiac back to where his rear tires could get a grip on a stretch of clear road. “I hit the gas as hard as I could, went as fast as I could, hit the snow, everything disappeared, and I came out the other side. By the time I did the car was barely moving.”

Commuting between Nova Scotia and PEI, Robin rode the Abeigweit. Before the Confederation Bridge opened in 1997, the ferry was one of the busiest in Canada, the island’s lifeline to the mainland. Commissioned in 1947, ‘Abby’ was in its time the most powerful icebreaker in the world, capable of carrying almost a thousand passengers and sixty cars, or a train of 16 passenger cars. Its eight main engines drove propellers both bow and stern.

“I used to take the ferry across when we were dating,” said Robin. “You had to sleep in your car if you missed the last one. We would be lined up single file down the road, there were no parking areas back then, a hundred cars inching along trying to get on the first boat in the morning.”

In the dead of winter, crossing the Northumberland Straight from Cape Tormentine, New Brunswick, to Port Borden, Robin Lott stood bundled up against the cold wind hands stuck in mittens leaning over the bow watching ahead as the heavy boat broke through foot-thick ice.

“It would crunch gigantic pieces of ice and turn them over like ice cubes as it went across,” he said.

After they married the Lott’s didn’t stay on Prince Edward Island. “Both of the family farms were no longer farming,” said Robin. “I had an offer to partner in a fishing boat, but I didn’t take that up.” They moved to St. Catharine’s, the largest city in Canada’s Niagara Region, not far from Thorold. They rented an apartment and got busy.

By the time Connie was pregnant with the second of their four children they had bought a bungalow with a 185-foot deep backyard, near Brock University. “We had plans about moving, but we had a low mortgage on this house, so we never did,” said Robin.

They still live in the same house fifty-five years later.

“Those days we used to all climb in our station wagon on a Friday payday and go to the grocery store,” said Robin. There was a meat packing plant in the city and an adjacent store called Meatland. “They sold hot dogs in three-pound bulk bags.”

It’s been said you know you’re from St. Catharine’s if you know the difference between Welland and Wellandport, were in the Pied Piper Parade at some time in your childhood, ate fish and chips at the north corner of the Linwell Plaza, can drive through downtown without getting confused, pissed in the Lancaster Pool, hate Niagara Falls, and bought cold cuts at Meatland.

“When we went on holiday we took our four children and went camping,” said Connie. “We had a hard top tent. We went all over, as far south as the Teton Mountains near Yellowstone Park and as far north as Peace River.”

It is almost two thousand miles from St. Catharine’s to Peace River, and another forty miles to Girouxville. Towing their hard top trailer, their four children in tow, the family piled into their station wagon to visit Connie’s four uncles living there. Her natural father’s brothers had all long since moved from Prince Edward Island to Alberta.

The Peace River valley’s rich soil has produced abundant wheat crops since the 19th century. The town of Peace River, at the confluence of three rivers and a creek, is sometimes called ‘The Land of Twelve-Foot Davis.’ Henry Davis was a gold prospector who built a trading post in Peace River after he made a fortune on a tiny twelve-foot square land claim. After his death a 12-foot statue of him was erected at Riverfront Park.

“It was one of the highlights of our trip,” said Robin, about their excursion out west in 1976.

Girouxville is a small French-Canadian community surrounded by enormous farms. A hundred years ago the local Cree Indians called it ‘Frenchman’s Land.’ Every four years Chinook Days are celebrated. Besides farming, there are thousands of beehives, hunting for elk and moose, and good fishing on the Little Smoky River,

“Three of the brothers homesteaded, the three stronger ones,” said Robin. “In those years you could go up there, it was all bush, and if you cleared the land and farmed it, it was yours. They pulled out stumps and ended up with farms so big they weren’t described by acre, but by section.” Spring, durum, and winter wheat are grown on almost 7 million acres in Alberta. The average farm size is close to double the size of farms on PEI.

The fourth Doucette brother became a schoolteacher, opened and operated a store, married, and propagated a large family.

“We pulled into this little town with our trailer and kids,” said Robin. “Then it occurred to us we had no idea where they lived.” Spying the town’s tavern, they parked in front of it. Robin went into the tavern. He told the bartender he was looking for Emile Doucette. The bartender looked at Robin and bobbed his head at a table set along the back wall.

“Why don’t you ask his brother Leo over there,” he said.

“He was a single man, quite a drinker,” said Connie. “What else do you have to do after working all day on a farm? He eventually bought the tavern.”

That night Doucette’s gathered from far and wide for a reunion dinner. “Everybody came, everybody got together,” said Robin. “We talked long into the night and it was still light enough to see.” In northern Alberta in the summer the sun rises at five in the morning and doesn’t set until almost eleven at night.

The night before they left to go back to St. Catherine’s Uncle Leo invited them to his farm.

“We were having a beer when he said he wanted me to go into his bedroom and pull the suitcase out from under his bed,” said Robin.

“Open it up and count out some money for Connie and Camilla,” said Uncle Leo.

“It was full of cash, honest to God,” said Connie. “We just about died.”

“I was nervous, what if somehow or other he thought I had taken one dollar more than he told me to do,” said Robin. “But then on the mantle in his living room I saw checks for crops he had sold, thousands and thousands of dollars, none of them ever cashed.”

Robin and Connie have gone back often to Prince Edward Island, most recently the past summer when they traveled to the island for the marriage of a granddaughter. They enjoy eating the local seafood, especially oysters, mussels, and lobster. At one time they ate as much whitefish as they wanted.

“When we first started coming back here I would go out with friends who were fishermen and it was nothing to hand line 1500 pounds of codfish in the morning,” said Robin. “But that was all shut down thirty years ago.”

“We ate fish, potatoes, carrots, and turnips when I was a girl,” said Connie. “That was about it. Whenever we went to Charlottetown we ate at a Chinese restaurant, but that was as much as I ever knew. Before I came to St. Catharine’s I had never had Italian food. After I married, my cousin and a friend of hers said, we’re coming over to make dinner. We’re going to make spaghetti. I thought, yippee.”

In the years since, the Lott’s have discovered fare across Canada and the United States, in Spain, England, Austria, and Denmark. “I like to travel,” said Connie. “We’re going back to Mexico at the end of the year.”

“It all started when she came to St Catharine’s,” said Robin. “Our community has every nationality you can shake a stick at, Irish, Italians, Russians, because of the construction of the canal system. There are cabbage rolls and pierogies and souvlaki.”

When Connie’s daughter travels to Prince Edward Island on business, she has stayed at the Barachois Inn. “She told me my old house has changed a little bit, one of the rooms now has an en suite bathroom, but it’s still owned by the same people who bought it,” said Connie.

Not much is better than going from one home to another home to family and eating good food. When Robin and Connie Lott are on PEI they sometimes stop at Carr’s Oyster Bar in Stanley Bridge, zigzagged a short way up the north coast from the several Rustico’s, and have lunch. “We love seafood,” said Robin. “It’s our heritage,” said Connie.

They eat on the sunny open deck overlooking the dark blue water of the New London Bay. The dark water isn’t new. It’s been there a long time.

The being on the seaside, mind’s eye on the barachois, eddies under the bridge, when it’s a living heritage, is like slipping into the ocean and being able to see how deep it is.

 

Originally posted on http://www.147stanleystreet.com.

Support the Arts Win a Cruise

Confederation Centre is offering an exciting new way to support arts programming at the Centre this fall. The Viking Cruise for the Arts Lottery offers a major prize consisting of a trip for two on a European river cruise by Viking River Cruises Canada, and two return economy air tickets from Charlottetown Airport supplied by Stewart Travel Group.

viking-oceans-viking-star-exterior-galleryTickets may be purchased at a cost of $100 (or three for $250) between Friday, October 27 and Thursday, December 21, 2017 and to be entered to win the trip of a lifetime. Only 300 tickets will be sold.

“We’re proud to support Canadian cultural organizations such as Confederation Centre that align with our goal to create special connections between travellers and the cultures of the world,” says Viking’s Director of Business Development, Josephine Lynch. “Our river cruises feature many rich cultural experiences, so we saw this as a perfect fit.”

Travis Stewart of PEI-based Stewart Travel Group brought the opportunity to Confederation Centre along with the supplemental offer to provide airfare to the winner.

“We have always been impressed with Confederation Centre’s contribution to the Island community,” says Stewart, “and providing air means the trip will be accessible to any ticket holder.”

Lottery tickets may be purchased in person at the Confederation Centre of the Arts Box Office (corner of Queen and Grafton streets in Charlottetown), by telephone at 1-800-565-0278, and online at confederationcentre.com/lottery. Online purchasers must have a valid Prince Edward Island address.

The grand prize is an eight-day Danube or Rhine river cruise provided by Viking River Cruises Canada, and includes two return economy air tickets provided by Stewart Travel Group to a value of $1200 per person. Total prize value is approximately $12,000.

Funds raised will help support youth programming in visual and performing arts, development of new theatre works, and the enhancement of heritage programming – all vital activities for Canada’s national living monument to the Fathers of Confederation.

For more information visit www.confederationcentre.com/lottery or contact the Box Office at Confederation Centre at 1-800-565-0278.

Buffy Back on PEI

Renowned Cree singer-songwriter Buffy Sainte-Marie is an activist, educator, visual artist, and winner of countless awards – Oscar, Juno, and Golden Globe among them.

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Perhaps you know Sainte-Marie from her 1960s protest anthems (“Universal Soldier”), open-hearted love songs (“Until It’s Time for You to Go”), incendiary powwow rock (“Starwalker”), or the juggernaut pop hit “Up Where We Belong,” which Sainte-Marie co-wrote and Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes sang for the soundtrack to An Officer and a Gentleman. One of her earliest classics, “Cod’ine,” was covered by everyone from Janis Joplin to Donovan to Courtney Love. Or maybe you remember Sainte-Marie from her five years on the television show “Sesame Street” beginning in the mid-’70s.

Power in the Blood is a follow-up to 2008’s acclaimed Running for the Drum and only her fourth studio release in more than 20 years. Although just because you don’t hear from her for long stretches doesn’t mean she’s not playing. Quite the opposite. Sainte-Marie’s creativity is always in motion, and her passport’s always in hand, touring for lectures and performances around the world with her high-octane backing band. She records only when she feels like touring, and currently Sainte-Marie is taking center stage around the world, including North America, Europe and Australia.

Producer Chris Birkett (Sinéad O’Connor, Bob Geldof) has worked with Sainte-Marie on four albums, and recognized from the start that Sainte-Marie was a singular force.

“She pays a lot of attention to her lyrics,” Birkett says, “and when Buffy says something, she actually means something.”

“I love words, I love thinking, and I recognize and value the core of a universal idea simplified into a three-minute song,” she says. “What appealed to me in folk music were the songs that have lasted for generations, but I wasn’t trying to be one of those guys. I wanted to give people something original.”

Buffy Sainte-Marie is at the Harbourfront Theatre on Wednesday November 1st at 7:30 PM.

This tour is part of the Atlantic Presenters Association (APA) and RADARTS’ Canada 150 Performance Series. We gratefully acknowledge the support of the Government of Canada. 

Play With the Choir

Do you love to sing (even though you might not consider yourself “a singer” or only feel comfortable singing alone in the car)? Singing in a group has significant benefits whether you’re on key or not – science says it’s like “an infusion of the perfect tranquilizer, the kind that both soothes your nerves and elevates your spirits.”
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We’ve had a blast in our first term and our participants can attest to that (170 of them!)
PLAYING WITH CHOIR is an opportunity to come together in a large group to learn simple 3 part harmonies for popular songs of today and past decades and belt them out for the simple joy of singing. No auditions, no solos, no stars, just fun.
Playing With Choir is at the Guild on October 24th 7 PM to 9 PM.

Chow Down at the Harbourfront

Lunch At Allen’s is a musical powerhouse comprised of four remarkable Canadian talents: Murray McLauchlan, Cindy Church, Marc Jordan and Ian Thomas.  As individuals, they have written for or sung on over 25,000,000 cds, penning hits for Josh Groban, Chicago, Bonnie Raitt, America, Santana, Cher and Rod Stewart, as well as Murray’s “Farmer’s Song,” Marc’s “Marina Del Rey” and Ian’s “Painted Ladies,” just to name a few.

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These artists have come together adding the incredible voice of Cindy Church (Quartette, Great Western Orchestra) to form Lunch At Allen’s. Their stage show is intimate and humourous, featuring many songs familiar to anyone who has turned on a radio in the past two decades.

“You would be hard pressed to find another Canadian ensemble with more collective depth of influence over Canada’s musical landscape than Lunch At Allen’s.” – The Beat Magazine

Lunch At Allen’s is at the Harbourfront Theatre on Sunday, October 29th at 7:30 PM.