Spuds in the Spotlight

Potato warehouse transforms into a unique venue for Fall Flavours event

Potatoes. There’s no denying the tuber is one of PEI’s biggest claims to fame. And we certainly haven’t shied away from celebrating this edible Island icon with songs (cue Bud the Spud), cookbooks, and souvenirs. Hey, we even have an entire museum dedicated to the potato—it’s in O’Leary in case you were wondering.

So it seems only fitting that PEI’s biggest culinary celebration, the Fall Flavours Festival, would pull out all the stops to create a potato-centric event the likes of which might make even the potato itself blush. Toe Taps & Taters takes place September 8 and features celebrity chef Chuck Hughes and chef Irwin MacKinnon of Papa Joe’s Restaurant in Charlottetown. To make the event as authentic and unique as possible, guests will be chowing down on spud-inspired dishes at Sherwood Produce’s potato packing warehouse in Canoe Cove.

“Is it the first time in a warehouse? I’m going to say yes,” said Hughes, who hosted the event two years ago at the Canadian Potato Museum in O’Leary. “I’m looking forward to it, it’ll be a great experience and I think it definitely gives the event a different vibe and a different kind of feel and look.”

Chef Chuck Hughes will host Toe Taps and Taters in Canoe Cove this year // Photo Credit: Dominique Lafond

To say that Hughes is well-matched as a host for Toe Taps & Taters is an understatement. The Montreal-based chef is so smitten with potatoes that he got french fries tattooed on his arm during one of his previous visits to PEI.

Hughes believes the potato is the ultimate vegetable to work with. “For me, potatoes and eggs are in a league of their own in terms of what you can do with them. In terms of dishes and how you cook with it, you know it’ll just absorb any kind of flavour. I love potatoes in each and every way you can make them. French fries are obviously my favourite because I’m human. It’s obvious.”

While potatoes go well with almost anything, event organizers are betting guests will really love them paired with another icon of Island life, live music. Nationally-acclaimed Island musician Trinity Bradshaw will join the potato party, sharing her brand of country music, shaped by her east coast roots.

“We are very excited to be launching our first Fall Halls in partnership with Fall Flavours this year. As is our mandate for Small Halls Inc., we will be focusing on showcasing a lot of island talent as well as unique island venues,” said Jennifer Campbell, executive director of Small Halls Inc. “Country music fits perfectly with [Toe Taps & Taters]. Trinity is a huge country music success [and] has been named Female Artist of the Year at the Alberta Country Music Awards in 2017. She is a powerhouse, she has it all.”

Authenticity is the key ingredient in Fall Flavours’ events, reflected in every element of every experience – from the venue to the chefs involved to the menu itself. Since it was first developed in 2012, Toe Taps & Taters has benefitted from the expertise of the PEI Potato Growers. The industry organization helps identify authentic venues and provides input on the menu. This year, the spud indulgences will include potato risotto, moules frites (surely Hughes’ favourite!), a bacon-leek potato handpie, whipped potatoes, potato fish cakes, and potato crumble alongside beef, local vegetables and other accompaniments.

“We truly want to make [the event] like if you were going to spend a Saturday night on a potato farm what would you eat. We’re really focused on hearty, stick-to-your-ribs deliciously prepared food,” Kendra Mills, marketing director for the PEI Potato Growers, said. She added that they were ecstatic to be working with the talented chef MacKinnon and that chef Hughes is an amazing ambassador of the potato.

“I love how on the highway you’ll see potatoes on the ground, falling off trucks,” Hughes said. “You can actually do highway foraging in PEI, you don’t even have to leave your car you can just open the window and scoop them up almost.”


About Shannon Courtney

Shannon is the co-founder of Salty and was its editor-in-chief for the publication's inaugural year. When she’s not writing about food, Shannon's either cooking, eating, talking, or thinking about it. Her food adventures have included milking a Jersey cow in Australia, almost overdosing on maple syrup in Prince Edward County, and studying local food systems in Vermont as part of her Master’s thesis research. Shannon is also a Registered Holistic Nutritionist and strongly believes you CAN make friends with salad.

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