Newfoundland Day 2: Newfoundlasian food and Getting Screeched-In without Dustin Diamond

People in Newfoundland move at their own pace.  Case and point was Coffee Matters, a little coffee house located kiddy (or maybe I should say Quidi) corner from the Sheraton.  During lunch, I went and ordered a quartet of coffees to avoid the hotel brew. They ranked as medium on the difficulty scale (eg. soy milk, double espresso shot). They took an extraordinary amount of time but were pretty decent in the end.

Once the meeting was over, another hike ensued.  This one was significantly longer but not as steep as the Signal Hill hike the day before. The weather however, was significantly worse than day one, coming in at 8 degrees Celsius without the wind chill in mid-June.  I persevered and experienced a pleasant combination of  inclines, declines and long stretches of land peppered with man made steps, bridges and rock paths.  That said, I did often wonder what would happen if someone sustained a significant ankle sprain given there is not a road to be found for a number of kilometres.  The journey ended at the eastern most part in North America which makes for another bucket list check mark. I even have the picture to prove it.

Eastern Most Point In North America
Eastern Most Point In North America

Again, a good hike calls for a good beer and some of the locals brought us to the Duke of Duckworth, one of the oldest drinking holes in St John’s. With the beer came a few orders of nachos ($15) and the famous cod nuggets and chips ($11.59).  The nachos were good. The fish and chips was amazing.  Both were golden brown and pub-delicious.  I found the staff a bit grumpy but copious amounts of deep fried goodness and cold beer made up for it.

Dinner that night was at Basho. Best described as a sushi joint that took a wrong turn in Albuquerque and ended up in St. John’s, it was initially the joint project of a father and son team which I can best describe as Newfoundlasian.  The son (who I met) runs the show.  We had a set menu  but a sushi sampler was waiting at the table when we sat.  It was good sushi but a little lackluster.  There were no fun sauces or concoction  but it served the purpose. Shortly after another platter arrived filled with a more North American deep fried chips and calamari.   Note that this was before the menu appetizers even arrived.

Basho Appetizer Platter
Basho Appetizer Platter

There was a choice of apps that ranged from more sushi rolls to tempura vegetables to a unique surf and turf featuring steak, scallops and onion rings in a tower formation. It was the size of an entree and was ingeniously an odd version of classic land and sea.  Both the meat and scallop were cooked to perfection.  It was a really enjoyable starter…if you call it that.

Basho Surf and Turf
Basho Surf and Turf

I was a little afraid of the entree after the monstrosity that was the appetizer.  I was hoping for the halibut promised on the menu but I heard rumours that the shipment was diverted to another in a bidding war so they made a last minute substitution with cod.  This dish was a bit of a mess in a Jackson Pollack sort of way. I think the halibut would have held up better among the other ingredients and things could have been a little more seasoned but it was a befitting offering in the end.

More Cod....
More Cod….

I was almost full to capacity but tasted each element of the dessert platter.  There was chocolate and green tea ice cream which were ok but the stand out dessert was the cheesecake.  It probably made the least sense in relation to the loose theme of the restaurant but was the best component  hands down.

Basho Dessert Platter
Basho Dessert Platter

The night ended with a late night screech-in ceremony at Christian’s (which didn’t involve a washed up child star, a bar altercation or a knife).  For $20 you have the right to become an honorary Newfoundlander. I was a little fearful at first given the first thing I saw was a large man dressed in a slicker and carrying a paddle. My mind wandered to some sort of sadistic, seashore sodomy but when he started speaking, it turned out he was one of the best emcees ever (at least according to the locals who have seen a number of these ceremonies in the past).  Essentially, participants  have their names read aloud, eat bologna, kiss a cod, take a shot of screech, try and say “Deed I is, me ol’ cock! And long may yer big jib draw!”. Then you are presented with your certificate and quickly rush to wash the taste of screech, fish and bologna out of your mouth with copious amounts of beer.

Certificate of Screeching-In
Certificate of Screeching-In

On a final note, I got the airport and had some time to kill, so I went to the restaurant and finished off the trip with some questionable  local blueberry wine while resisting the urge to order something off the glutin free menu. God, I love this place.

Glutin Free Menu
Glutin Free Menu

My Take

A busy second day in Newfoundland involved hiking, drinking, cod, cod and more cod.  It started with a traditional fish and chips at one of the most established pubs in the city, continued with a oddish Asian-Newfoundland fusion meal and ended with making out with a fish.  The phrase “Deed I is, me ol’ cock! And long may yer big jib draw” which translates to “Yes indeed, my friend, long may your big sail (i.e. jib) draw wind” makes total sense now.  The combination of gale forces winds of the Newfoundland cliffs, my big sail (partially the result of too much deep fried cod), the island’s geographical similarity to my hometown of Sudbury  and an honorary Newfie status makes this ol’ cock feel at home.

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Newfoundland Day 1: Getting Cheeky From the Club to the Pub in the Midst of Icebergs

I went to Newfoundland for the first time a few weeks back for a work function. The hope was that I would have ample time to enjoy some of the scenery and culture which is unique to Canada’s most eastern province. The first goal was to get there. A flight to Newfoundland is as predictable as a masterchef souffle so I was happy to arrive with no delays, diversions etc. I arrived at my hotel and observed a beautiful view from my room at the Sheraton.

View of the Pier
View of the Pier

After checking in, my first priority was lunch. Having a minimum understanding of the go to midday restaurants, I leaned on John Catucci and the Food Network to guide me to The Club, one of the sister restaurants (along with Aqua) of Chef Mark McCrowe. Predicably located on Duckworth street, this gastropub offers a mish-mash of bar food with Scottish,French and local influence.

Along with a decent bar rail, they offer a variety of brews from the small Quidi Vidi brewery which is located in the town with the same name.  I had an 1892 amber ale which fell on the good side of ambers (I’m quite mercurial when it comes to red beer and either like them or hate them).

Food wise, I was informed that neither the fish and chips or the mussels were available which I found quite ironic considering my location. However, as I pondered the other menu offerings which ranged from fried chicken to a wild boar sloppy joe topped with an egg (which, like dietary cholesterol, goes straight to my heart), a delivery guy strolled in with a bag of cod in one hand and a sack of mussels in the other. Knowing that the cod was literally delivered minutes before, I called an audible and ordered the fish and chips. It was a good choice. The fish was flaky and fresh, the batter not overwhelming and the gravy was divine. The malt spritzer was subtly intelligent. It was truly a delightful dish and went well with the 1892.

Fish and Chips
Fish and Chips $18

I snacked on a table mate’s lobster roll. The toasted bread was an ideal vessel and housed a decent filling of lobster,celery and tarragon. I wasn’t a fan of the large pieces of lettuce as they made the sandwich messier and cut into the delicate flavour of the lobster a bit.

Lobster Roll
a Portion of a Lobster Roll $19

The moose bologna was a canny cold cut, bringing a component of nasty nostalgia mixed with gastropub gluttony and even had some chopped parsley as a garnish It wasn’t magical by any means but was certainly fun to try.

Fried Moose Bologna
Fried Moose Bologna

Nothing burns off beer and bologna like a hike up signal hill.  However, by the time you get up and down again you want a beer again.  Once again, enter The Quidi Vidi brewery.  There is a certain magic about walking into a brewery, picking up a six-pack, walking out on a  balcony and sucking one back in the midst of spectacular scenery. I mean, it sure as hell beats paying $7 for a pint of half ass beer surrounded by sweaty hipsters on a crowded downtown Toronto patio right? Their flagship beer is Iceberg which is a light, crisp brew made with water from the icebergs that populate the ocean waters surrounding the rock. It could be the psychology of the water source, the blue bottle or the environment but this is one refreshing beer, especially on a balmy 16 degree day in Quidi Vidi, Newfoundland.

Beer with a View
Beer with a View

For dinner I was treated to cod tongues and scrunchions at Portobello’s. I fell in love with these the first time I tried them some 20 years ago and was a little fearful  that my reunion with this traditional Newfoundland dish would be disappointing…but it doesn’t. My camera was dysfunctional so I don’t have a picture but imagine clumps of golden deep fried goodness coupled with small chunks of heavily rendered and salted pork with a tarter like dipping sauce.  Fat, salt, chewiness and tartness from the sauce always results in gluttonous glee, right?

For illustrative purposes, I included this picture from espressosnob.com which best represents the cod tongues and scrunchions I had in Newfoundland.
For illustrative purposes, I included this picture from espressosnob.com which best represents the cod tongues and scrunchions I had in Newfoundland.

My Take

Day one in Newfoundland allowed me to check three key things off my bucket list: a fantastic view, fresh cod and tongues and scrunchions.  With a couple of days left, I was looking forward to experiencing some of the other key rites of passage to complete a true east coast experience on the Rock.

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