(Heather) Today we had to say good-bye to Nova Scotia. Before our departure, we had a light breakfast of scones and coffee and tea in the Jitney Cafe at the Train Station Inn. Ryan was there to take care of us, and served delicious home-baked scones.  The ambiance inside the cafe is so charming! Like a step back to a turn-of-the-century mercantile – I could spend hours just looking at all the nostalgic memorabilia in there. Jimmie took me around for a tour of the grain elevator he saved from being torn down, and turned in to a venue for artisans and musicians to perform. So much vision he has for so many things others might “cast off.” And stories we wish we had many more days to hear about…

We headed out for the northern coast of Nova Scotia to Caribou, where we caught the ferry to PEI. Nikolas, our French tour guide friend, says to never go the same way twice when you can help it.   So we came to PEI via the ferry , and are leaving via the bridge. Thanks to the cute little elderly lady in Halifax for the tip about the ferry!  On the way to Caribou, once again, our GPS had some issues. We call her “Canadian Joyce,” and we are not really fans. We much prefer UK Joyce. She took us down what may be the bumpiest, most car-sick inducing roads in eastern Canada! It was like one of those roller coasters with a bunch of small bumps that make your stomach drop. And there was grass growing on it. But we made it – with a slightly green Kimber! We have had to rely more on maps, intuition, and asking locals for directions in 4  days that we did in weeks in Europe! The ferry crossing was pretty uneventful , except for a pod of about 6 dolphins who were jumping to get out of the way of the ferry. The white lighthouse as we approached PEI was set against the red dirt and deep greens of the forested landscape – so colorful.

The trip to Cavendish was a little over an hour…not long at all. It was interesting to me to see all the road signs being in English AND French. So cool!! En route, we stopped for gas at “Cooper’s Gas Groceries and Liquor.” And they had full service at the pump! It has been years since I have seen that, so of course we got the full service. In Charlottetown, we stopped at a grocery store to buy provisions to make breakfast. We are booked for 2 nights in the Kindred Spirits Cottages, so we are on our own for breakfast. We decided to do a Canadian twist on the full English breakfast. So, with our GoPro mounted on the cart, off we went. Mushrooms, tomatoes (pronounced toe-mah-toes, please!), maple baked beans, Canadian bacon, sausages, eggs, and a baguette. Oh yes, and European butter, of course.

This was our first day of bad weather! The rain was really coming down, so we will wait til tomorrow to film and take pics of our adorable little cottage and the inn here at Kindred Spirits. Naturally, with a name like that, we are in Anne of Green Gables territory! Apparently, just like when we were in Hawkshead, England, not only do the Japanese adore Beatrix Potter…they also adore Anne of Green Gables. Many of the signs here in Cavendish are in English, French, and Japanese. We will be going to some of the Anne sights, particularly the house that inspired Lucy Maud Montgomery in the books. Back to the Kindred Spirits Inn… and Cottages….there are white picket fences and clean pastel-blue colored cottages in a semi-circle. We have an adorable 2-bedroom cottage with a nice-sized front porch, and a kitchen and living room. The name is “Prissy’s Place,”  named for a character in the stories. Very clean, comfy and well-appointed cottage! So nice to have room to spread out.

After freshening up a bit, we headed to New London for our culinary adventure at Annie’s Table Culinary Studio.  Annie, the owner and visionary, purchased an old church near her home, and had it renovated to house this unique business. She welcomes guests warmly to an unforgettable evening –  a cooking class/dining experience. There were 12 of us guests there tonight, even 2 from South Carolina, Rita and Bill. Tonight’s featured ingredient was black garlic, from Al Picketts’s  garlic farm “Eureka Garlic.” This name derived from what his wife said to him each  time he returned from the garlic fields: “You reek ‘a garlic!” Al was also one of the guests at Annie’s Table. The table itself is from Annie’s home. During renovations, she had the attic flooring removed, and the table is made from those planks. Her home is where the midwife who delivered Lucy Maud Montgomery lived. Chef Norman, who is originally from Nicaragua, taught our class. Every single thing we made and ate had black garlic in it. The black garlic does not give you garlic breath at all, and is sort of sweet and tangy, almost a balsamic flavor. It is made by heating garlic for 3 weeks at the “secret temperature,” a secret that Al is not giving away!

The experience began with a seafood ceviche of shellfish and herbs, with some black garlic to be sure. They also had us sample some of the black garlic beer. Neither of us like beer very much, but this was excellent. The flavor of the black garlic was prominent. Sort of hid the “beeriness” – probably why we liked it! The first course was mussels cooked in a sauce of bacon, onion, honey beer, black garlic, and butter. We learned how to properly eat mussels here. You use two of the mussels shells like pincers to pinch the meat out of the other shells. It was perfect… Why had we never thought of that before? I know — because I have never eaten mussels before!! I had one single smoked mussel at Stuart Liddell’s in Scotland, but that is it. The mussels were very tasty with the savory broth, perfectly seasoned. Lynn, who is a local lady, taught us to stack the shells and make a “swan,” which also helps compact the shells for disposal.  Back to the kitchen after the mussels.  A young local woman delivered the fresh lobsters in a paper bag. These were caught by her family here on the island. All of the food used at Annie’s Table comes from PEI. I was going to drop them into the boiling water, but after Norman cut the bands off their claws, I declined, and deferred to the “Brave Mom.” Courtney gladly accepted the challenge, and even kissed it before sending it to the pot of doom. The kiss of death.

After they were cooked, we went to the kitchen to clean them. I learned how to chop one in half…but honestly needed help from Audrey, another local gal. After this, we picked the meat out, and chef Norman made a stuffing with the liver and roe, some chorizo, red peppers, and black garlic. We made a cavity in the half-shell lobster, stuffed it with the shredded meat, and topped it with the chorizo stuffing. They were broiled, along with the seasoned veggies and potatoes. Potatoes are the #1 crop on PEI, with over 300 potato farmers.

The dessert was actually prepared before all other courses so it could set. It was a mascarpone black garlic mousse pie with a shortbread crust, ganache and raspberries. I know, I know. Garlic and mousse pie do not sound like a winning combination! But it worked! Since the garlic is not pungent, and is a bit sweet, it adds such a good, unique flavor.

The meal was divine, and the cooking experience was unforgettable. But the surprise part of the evening was getting to meet and share this with so many great people! Barbara is a delightful 76-year old lady who stays part time on PEI, and until last year, drove herself in her bus-sized RV all the way up from Virginia! We also met a couple, Larry and Beverly, who are locals. The three friends Lynne, Isabelle, and Audrey are from Summerville, and were so encouraging to us. I would love to travel with these fun-loving gals! As I already mentioned, Bill and Rita hail from good old South Carolina, although I have the feeling they do not spend much time there.

Chef Norman shared with me as we stood in the kitchen area and looked out at Annie’s Table, that his favorite part of his job is watching the people sit down together, people who are strangers, who after, 2 1/2 hours in this special place, become more like old friends. That gives him great joy, and it also was one of the highlights of the evening for me. Annie has such a warmth and an attentiveness to her guests. She makes you feel true hospitality, and she is delighted to host each one who sits at her table.

Thanks you to all for making our first night on PEI a memorable night.

Enjoying the journey with full tummies and full hearts –

Heather and Courtney