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Saturday, March 19, 2011

Adventures in meat eating

I'm fresh back from a week-long stay on the northern Labrador coast.  (A full post on the trip is yet to come.)  While I had a lot of memorable experiences there, the tastiest experiences involved wild game, and lots of it.  I had no idea when I arrived in Natuashish, with my cooler of sandwich fixin's and instant coffee, that I would be setting out on such a culinary adventure.


[caribou stew]

This caribou stew supper warmed us up after our first full day on the coast.  Our generous co-workers made sure we were very well fed.  Check out the ingredients:  fall-apart, tender caribou; carrots; turnip; cabbage; and a delicious biscuit topping - part dumpling, part crust.

I unfortunately have no photos of the Jigg's dinner we had on the second night.  Four years in Newfoundland and it took a trip to northern Labrador to try a Jigg's dinner!  Ours consisted of potato, cabbage, carrot, turnip, bread pudding, and salt beef.  It is similar to what Prince Edward Islanders would call a boiled dinner... except for the salt beef.  After stewing the beef a few times and pouring off the water in between, it is boiled along with all of the above ingredients.  At this point the beef is approximately 100 times saltier than beef jerky.  Wow.  Lip-puckering.  Yet somehow addictive.

The next night was entitled "wild game night".  Check out the menu:

BBQ caribou

[barbecue caribou roast]

The caribou was insanely tender (as it was in the stew).  My dinner companions insisted that Labrador caribou is a much less "gamey" than Newfoundland caribou.  I had previously tried a caribou steak medallion in St. John's, and I remember it being very tough.  The Labradorian caribou was literally fork-tender and very lean.  Delicious as well.  For me, the taste fell somewhere between beef and lamb.

Szechuan rabbit

[Szechuan-style rabbit]

The rabbit was also wild and snared in the area.  The meat was originally bottled, but for our meal it was simmered in a spicy sauce and served hot.  It, too, was amazingly tender and lean.  The taste was actually pine-y.

Stuffed spruce partridges
[stuffed and roasted spruce partridge]

The partridge was really something different.  It was lovingly prepared with a bread/rice/Italian-sausage stuffing and a nice salty rub.  The meat:  shockingly dark!  The breast meat of the partridge was darker than beef.  So imagine how dark the dark meat was!  The meat had the same pine-y taste as the rabbit, but concentrated.  The rich flavour reminded me of taking a hike deep in the woods after a recent rainfall - like earth and evergreen needles.  The lean meat theme continued here.

I couldn't thank my co-workers enough for their hospitality and culinary chops!  This past week is certainly going to have a prominent place in my food memory.

Now, please share with me - what is the most unique meat you've ever tried, and where?  What did it taste like?

Thursday, March 10, 2011


Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Labrador to be exact.  I'm up here working for a month.  Labrador puts the "L" in NL.  I've lived in Newfoundland for over three years, and it's taken me this long to make it up to "the Big Land" as they like to call it.

[Labrador flag found here]

There is a lot to be learned in a place like this.  For you, dear blog readers, I would like to share one learning experience in particular:  ice fishing.

The day started bright and early (well, at least bright).  The temperature was about -23 degrees Celsius... or something a bit lower when you added in the driving wind that found us about halfway through the day. In retrospect, I was slightly chilly in my outfit, although it included three layers on bottom and five on top.  But it was the kinda day where you're having too much fun to really dwell on something so simple as a cool breeze.  And the sun was shining, glinting off the fresh snow.  A great day.

The first order of business were the snowmobiles.  This is me (really, it is me under there) trying one on for size:


Our group of five took three of these machines for a 20 minute ride: through the streets of HV-GB, over the hill and through the woods and finally onto Lake Melville, a massive (3069 square km) brackish body of water that is covered in a sturdy sheet of ice this time of year.

[courtesy Google Maps]

How sturdy?  Well, we had to drill two to three feet into it to make our fishing holes.  So it was pretty sturdy.  How do you drill a hole in ice that thick, you say?  You use an auger, a very large hand operated drilling tool.


Did I drill my own ice-fishing hole?  No I did not.  But I did drill part of it, so that counts.  This is what the drilling process looks like:

Drilling a fishing hole

Once the hole is made, it's time to fish.  You don't want to waste any time at minus 23 degrees.

This is the tackle.  We baited our hooks with smelt.

Hook and line

This is me fishing:

Fishing hole

And this is me about 30 seconds after I caught my first rock cod!

The catch!

FYI:  I think 'rock cod' is sort of a loose term - different people have told me that that is not the actual name of this type of fish.  He did look like a cod though, with all the fins.  He was too small, so we did a catch and release.  Yes, sadly, this foodie did not get to cook the fish. But I am a little bit happy that he is still swimming around Lake Melville under the ice.

No more fish were to be caught that day, so we decided to walk to a shelter on the shore.


Walk to shelter

My roomies in the awesome shelter:


We had a lovely day on the ice.  I'm hoping to get back out again before I leave.


Monday, March 7, 2011

PEI Bound

Home, I'm comin' home!  Found out today I'll be starting work on Prince Edward Island in July... and I could not be happier!!

More potatoes

This song was originally written by my sister.  I hope she won't mind that I channelled my enthusiasm about moving to PEI into writing a few new lines.  

P.E.I get ready for me!

The water's blue and the soil is red
There's lots of places to lay your head
We are famous for a girl named Anne
And we (used to) have a pop-can ban

We've got Lennie Gallant and Stompin' Tom
Two Hours Traffic and Tim Chaisson
You'll tap your toes at the ceilidh hall
At Baba's Lounge you'll be having a ball

There are oysters laying in their oyster bed
And big crowds swimming at Basin Head
There's lots of lobster and lots of tuna
Lots of Keith's and lots of Schooner

P.E.I get ready for me!

[sung to the tune of This Old Man]

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Nation's Capital

Thanks to a miraculous five week break from school, I was recently able to take a little trip up to Ontario.  Maybe not the most intuitive winter destination... but I guess I'm unconventional like that.  Remember where I was last February?  And, as I write this, I'm as far north as I've ever been (but that's another post).

Ontario was my destination because it's where some of my favorite people live.  I didn't get to see all of my friends and family in Ontario, but I did see quite a few!  I made my first (and long overdue!) trip to London, breezed through Toronto and finally ended up in Ottawa.  My camera didn't really get any exercise until I got to Ottawa so that's where this post is focused.

Winterlude sculpture

February in Ottawa = Winterlude!  Celebrating all that is subzero.  Sadly, the day after this pic was taken, the temperature freakishly rose to about ten degrees and twenty-four hours later this grand sculpture was dribbling down Preston St.

Little Italy

Preston St.!  In Little Italy!  Just a stone's throw from my sister's gorgeous loft.  What a great place to live.  Pasta?  Check.  Pizza?  Check.  Amazing deli sandwiches?  Check.  Random cache of great imported Belgian beer?  Check.

Rideau with Sara

[me and sis, bundled]

Rideau with Burns'

[cousin and c-i-l joined us too!]

Luckily, after the great thaw, the temperature again plummeted to a respectable Ottawa-in-February level.  That meant the Rideau Canal was open for business - i.e. skating!


And of course, Beavertails!


Man, that was a delicious bite.  I hadn't had a Beavertail in years.  As you can see, I went with classic cinnamon-and-sugar.

Under the bridge

I had a wonderful time in Ottawa (thanks Sara!).  The National Arts Centre, the Rideau, strolling running-like-hell-to-avoid-hypothermia through the Market, and lots of good family and friend time.  And needle-felting.  And shopping.  And homemade gluten-free poutine.  And Belgian beer.

And a lot of Italian food.