Icebergs, Cod & Beer:
A Postcard from Newfoundland,
Dreams are made of this…….
Bite-sized Chunks of my Culinary Adventures in Newfoundland:
Part One – The Dream & Journey Begins
After a comfortable flight from Heathrow en-route to St John’s, Newfoundland, our Air Canada pilot announced that we would be making our approach to land in five minutes; half an hour later we were still in the air and as I strained to look out of the window, all I could see was swirling, thick clouds…….FOG! There was an announcement to explain that as St John’s airport was shrouded in fog we would be “attempting a category 2 landing on an alternative runway”……probably too much information for a nervous passenger such as me, and had the drink’s trolley be passing at that point I would have gladly helped myself to a tipple or three! But, just a few minutes later we were safely on “Terra Firma” and taxing towards to the arrivals stand. My first glimpse of St John’s was even more fog and rain but with a warm welcome from Bernadette Walsh, from the Newfoundland and Labrador Tourism commission, and anyway, we have fog and rain in Yorkshire, so I’m used to it………half an hour later, I was safely ensconced in a room with the ultimate view at Quidi Vidi Brewery enjoying an ice-cold Iceberg Beer – if that’s a category 2 landing welcome, I LIKE it!
Bernadette, my host and guide, had already worked out that I was a “party kinda gal” and had decided I was up for an impromptu visit to the brewery, in order to taste their wares! Quidi Vidi Brewery have some wonderful beers in their liquid stable, and as well as the Iceberg Beer I also tried an excellent British IPA. After my hop loaded dégustation, Bernadette dropped me off at my home for the next few days, the excellent Sheraton Hotel in St John’s, where the staff were so friendly and extremely helpful – I even had a fridge delivered to my room in order to accommodate my newly acquired six-pack of Iceberg Beers – they take their beers VERY seriously in Newfoundland! I unpacked and “freshened up” before Bernadette collected me for dinner at Bacalao, a restaurant that specialises in Nouvelle Newfoundland Cuisine. Bacalao is a delightful restaurant in St John’s that has several intimate dining areas in separate rooms as well as open fires, which was very welcome on a cold late spring night.
We were welcomed by Nancy from the Restaurant Association of Newfoundland and Labrador, and taken on a our tour around the restaurant before being shown to our seats in one of the individual dining rooms. The menu reflects Newfoundland cuisine but with a modern interpretation and was innovative and inspiring, their restaurant statement says they “Celebrate the cuisine and culture of Newfoundland & Labrador in an unique and innovative presentation of the foods, flavours, produce and spirits of our province” and if the menu was anything to go by, then I would agree wholeheartedly with that, as you can see from below.
Bacalao’s soon-to-be-famous Seafood Chowder Resplendent with beautiful NL seafood: cod, salmon, bay scallops, coldwater shrimp and snow crab in a light cream broth. Brightly flavoured with Pernod, herbs & a touch of citrus. $12
Jigg’s Dinner Cabbage Roll Everything we love about Jigg’s Dinner in an appetizer! Salt beef, turnip, potato & carrot rolled in a tender cabbage leaf, dollop of pease pudding, pot liquor “shooter” & homemade mustard pickles. $13
Housemade Charcuterie Plate Featuring local game & meats. Duck terrine, moose sausage and smoked partridge breast. Quidi Vidi Honey Brown beer-caraway mustard, homemade chutney, red wine-Newman’s port gel. $22 *Selection may vary depending on availability of local game; your server will advise of any changes.
Basque style Calamari Pan-flashed and tossed in a flavourful sauce of bell peppers, tomatoes, onions and chilies. $17
Tongues and Cake A celebration of the cod. Crispy, light cod tongues with a pan-fried salt cod cake. Cilantro scented carrot salad, horseradish cream, greens with crustacean oil vinaigrette, house tartar sauce. $19
Roots and Feta Salad Tender roasted then chilled local beets and potatoes, with green beans, Feta cheese, poached quail egg, prosciutto crisp, toasted pine nuts with a grainy mustard vinaigrette. $16
Snow Crab Salad With crisp saffron-scented endive, avocado, sesame oil, spicy tomato mousse. $20
Pasta / Risotto: Available in an Appetizer or Main Course portion.
Bacalao2 Pappardelle House-cured salt cod “squared”! With tomatoes, olives and peas tossed with tender pappardelle pasta, grilled asparagus and topped with poached filet of house-cured Cod-pot cod. $15 / $29
Scallops and Risotto Pan-seared succulent Atlantic scallops with unctuous Parmesan risotto, roasted turnips and beets, vanilla oil, Newfoundland Solar Sea Salt, Parmesan tuile. $20 / $36
Roasted Chicken Breast with Bakeapple Gastrique House-brined local chicken, roasted to lovely golden brown. With goat cheese potato purée, bacon-sautéed Brussels sprouts, cumin-scented carrots, NL savoury-bakeapple gastrique. $29
Local Duck Duo Pan-roasted local duck breast with duck leg confit galette, butternut squash spätzle with peas, sweet & sour apple-spice-braised red cabbage, finished with an aromatic south Asian-inspired red curry sauce enriched with a touch of coconut milk. $36
Pan Seared Fogo Island Cod-pot Cod We have the exclusive on this exceptional cod, highest quality and sustainably-fished using the NL-created cod pot. Processed just for us with the skin on. Pan-seared so the skin is crispy with spinach-ricotta gnocchi, cumin-parsnip purée, roasted cauliflower, parsnip chips, Nantua coldwater shrimp sauce, (light rosé sauce infused with shellfish stock and brandy). $33
Tenderloin ‘deLuxe’ Pan seared to your liking, with braised short rib onion ‘jam’, potatoes Dauphinoise, sautéed mushrooms, roasted turnips, garlic chips, and finished with a delicious molé-style sauce (Mexican inspired with chilies and a hint of chocolate!). $38
Catch of the day We celebrate the seasons of the seafood of our province. Your server will fill you in on what the chefs created with what we ‘caught’ today.
It was Newfoundland Lobster and Halibut that evening
Game of the Day Always inspired, showcasing and enhancing its natural deliciousness.
Vegstravaganza Light and delicious spinach-ricotta gnocchi, spicy beet purée, cumin-roasted root vegetables, Portobello mushroom ‘steak’, light goat cheese cream and crispy Parmesan tuile. $25
I opted for the “Bacalao’s soon-to-be-famous Seafood Chowder”, which was thick and creamy and was packed with local fish and seafood for my starter – a cocktail called a “gin growler” (made with iceberg vodka as well as gin) was served with iceberg ice cubes as well as a small basket of freshly made bread with the local “spyglass” butter of the province……..things were off to an excellent start! Bernadette and I both opted for “catch of the day”, even though the menu was bristling with the most amazing choices, as you can see above. I had fresh Newfoundland Lobster, which was served OUT of the shell on a bed of Puy lentils with roasted root vegetables, griddled asparagus in a mango sauce, it was sublime and the first lobster I have had for years, as it is so expensive in France and the UK – it was a real treat and a culinary memory I will take away with me to savour for a long time to come. Bernadette went “off piste” and ordered a bespoke dish of freshly caught halibut that was pan-fried and served on a bed of gnocchi with roasted vegetables and a seafood sauce. By this time, Andrea Maunder, the inspirational co-owner of Bacalao had joined us and we chatted and swapped notes about similarities with some old British and Newfoundland recipes – more about that later.
We were offered the dessert menu, see below, but we were both so full that we declined any sugary treats, although I ordered a latte to finish with; with our coffees came a small sharing platter of one of the restaurant’s special desserts, The Frozen Republic – A trio of semifreddos, layered to represent the Pink, White & Green of the Newfoundland Republic Flag… tangy Partridgeberry*, zesty fresh Lime and a lusty middle layer spiked with locally made Iceberg Infusions Crème Brulée flavoured Vodka……and despite our protestations of being too full for dessert, we both enjoyed every creamy spoonful of this innovative and delicious dessert! (* also known as lingonberry or cowberry) Sadly I cannot share an image of this delectable dessert as I ate it before remembering to photograph it!
Bacalao’s Homemade Desserts
Bananas ‘Maunder’ Our take on the New Orleans classic… bananas sautéed with brown sugar, walnuts and coconut flambéed with Old Sam Rum, over vanilla ice cream. $11 If you listen carefully, you’ll hear the chefs yelling “Yes B’y!” in the kitchen as they flambé. The Greeks have “Opa” – we have… well, you know!
George Street Spiced Rum and Peanut Butter Bête Noire A rich, decadent Belgian chocolate cake, made without flour, with a swirl of George Street Spiced Rum infused peanut butter! Garnished with salted peanut and pretzel chocolate crunch. $10
Cheesecake of the Day Crust made from crushed Purity cookies (made in Newfoundland for over 80 years – either Lemon Creams, Ginger Snaps or Coconut Bars) creamy cheesecake and a topping or compote made using local produce or ingredients. $10
Honey Brown Ginger Cake Moist, spicy, individual cakes, made with local artisanal Quidi Vidi Honey Brown beer and candied ginger. Served warm with our Lady of the Woods Crème Anglaise (enhanced by the delicate flavor of locally-made birch sap wine). $9
The Frozen Republic A trio of semifreddos, layered to represent the Pink, White & Green of the Newfoundland Republic Flag… tangy Partridgeberry, zesty fresh Lime and a lusty middle layer spiked with locally made Iceberg Infusions Crème Brulée flavoured Vodka. $10
Tarte and Tangy Tender short-crust (made with local Spyglass butter) with fragrant and tangy lemon curd. Served with a Blueberry-Balsamic Caramel drizzle. $10
Crumble of the Day Newfoundland produce or berries – your server will tell you about today’s combination. Served warm with our Lady of the Woods Crème Anglaise (enhanced by the delicate flavour of locally-made birchsap wine). $9
Today’s Little Indulgence Feel like just a little something? Us too… always… so every day we bake up some small treats. Your server will tell you what our craving led to today. $6
Cheese and Newman’s Flavourful assortment of cheeses with accompaniments and a Newman’s Port-Balsamic vinegar drizzle. $14 Wonderful accompanied by a glass of Newman’s Port! $6
Bacalao’s desserts are all homemade, completely from scratch inspired by tradition and the flavours of the season and starring local ingredients. …and sometimes, it’s just a crazy inspiration!
With thanks to Andrea, Nancy and all the staff of Bacalao who made my first evening in St John’s and Newfoundland so memorable – their warmth, generosity and friendship was overwhelming and was the benchmark for the rest of my stay in this magical place. A big thanks also has to go to Bernadette, who fed me beer and fine food and who shared so much history and local anecdotes about the region with me, it was a wonderful welcome for someone who had “come from away”.…..for more “bite sized chunks of my culinary adventures in Newfoundland” pop back for part two in a few days…….part two teaser, I met Lori, (the Island Chef) for some authentic Newfoundland “scoff” and a cooking session, and then went chocolate tasting in St John’s…….as well as visiting Mallard Cottage in Quidi Vidi Village. See you later, Karen
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Disclaimer: I was the guest of the Canadian Tourism Commission and Newfoundland and Labrador Tourism and all my flights, accommodation and meals were included, as well as all trips, excursions and special cookery sessions with local chefs. With profound thanks to all the people and organisations that looked after me and made my trip so memorable and exciting.
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More about Icebergs and Cod to come, we’ve covered the beer for now! And, watch out for some NEW Newfoundland Inspired Recipes soon too……..
(Menus and Images: Thanks to Andrea at Bacalao and the Newfoundland and Labrador Tourism for use of their material in parts of this blog post; all other images are my own, unless otherwise specified. )