Tag Archives: newfoundland

Best Places to Eat in St. John’s: Top Chef Canada’s Ross Larkin

Ross Larkin didn’t go to culinary school like some of his competitors, but he did begin his career as a potato peeler at his family’s fish and chips shop. Then he spent some time in professional kitchens where he developed a taste for the quick pace of the culinary world. Now he wants to prove he’s got the chops to be Canada’s Top Chef.

As the chef de cuisine at St. John’s Raymonds, Ross knows how to take locally sourced ingredients and create an unforgettable dish. So naturally, he’s also impressed when other chefs demonstrate that same talent. When this hard-working chef has a night off, here’s where he loves to eat.

Related: Read Ross Larkin’s full bio here.

Seto Kitchen + Bar

Ross is particularly fond of this eatery that features contemporary Canadian dishes inspired by traditional Asian culinary techniques. In addition to featuring delicious cocktails and bites, the spot is also open late–a bonus for all those out there in the food industry.

“I used to work with Kenny Pittman, the chef and owner of Seto; I love going there for some of the best cocktails in the city and food that you just want to eat more and more of,” Ross says. “Seto does a late night menu offering that is great for those of us in the industry. It gives us somewhere to go after a service, have a drink and [eat] some killer food. I highly recommend the French fries if they’re on the menu that day. Kenny does an Instagram post of that night’s late-night menu and if those fries are on it I’m there!”

Mallard Cottage

This 18th Century Irish-Newfoundland style cottage isn’t just a beautifully restored property that’s recognized as a National Historic Site of Canada, but it’s also one of the oldest wooden buildings in North America. Top Chef Canada All-Stars competitor Todd Perrin is a co-owner alongside his wife Kim Doyle and sommelier Stephen Lee, making this place a must for any and all food lovers.

“When you walk in there’s usually a local group sitting around a table playing music. It makes you feel like you’re walking into your friend’s house every time,” Ross says. “Just sitting at the bar talking to Steve Lee, seeing Todd Perrin in the kitchen and all the crew down there… They are always in good spirits it seems. It’s nice living in a place where almost everyone knows each other and you’re welcomed when you walk through the doors. You can just sit down, relax and enjoy.”

Moose chorizo, spicy molasses glaze on an @mallard_schteeeek

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Fixed Coffee and Baking

This is a coffee spot that takes its java seriously. The team here only brews up to six cups at a time made in a Feto coffee brewer, and they never brew blended coffee. The result? Pure, single-origin coffee that represents the region it’s from.

“Fixed is one of our local coffee shops and is a stop on my way to work every morning,” Ross says. “It’s a great neighbourhood coffee spot with some amazing baked goods. The crew is great, they’re always doing pop-ups in the evening as well, to offer a little something more for people.”

A cap a day keeps the doctor away

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The Grounds Cafe

If it isn’t from a local farm, it doesn’t make it onto the menu at this “farm-to-fork” establishment. While the café doesn’t do a dinner service, brunch and lunch are available every day until 3 p.m. After that, they offer fresh coffee and baked goods until close.

“The Grounds Cafe is located at one of the farms we deal with at the restaurant,” Ross says. “It’s great to see a small cafe that has all of the amazing products from the farm right at their fingertips.”

Partridgeberry Flakie #thegroundscafe #passionflakie

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Merchant Tavern

This upscale restaurant boasts lots of fresh, local and sustainable ingredients, which in St John’s means plenty of fish and seafood. In fact, everything on the menu comes from and is inspired by local purveyors.

“Merchant Tavern has some great wines and a vast selection of different beers to match some exceptionally fresh seafood,” Ross raves.

Read more about Mallard Cottage

See Chef JP Miron’s Top 5 Eats in Montreal

See Chef Matt Sullivan’s Top 5 Eats in Toronto

A Newfoundland Kitchen Party Seafood Feast

By Ray Palmer, as told to Crys Stewart

When Ray Palmer was growing up, his family didn’t need a lot of people to have a kitchen party. With him on guitar, his brother at the piano and his dad playing the accordion, they were the party. Now sharing a home with his wife, Wanda, in the City of Mount Pearl (near St. John’s, N.L.), this born-and-raised Newfoundlander keeps the province’s strong traditions of hospitality alive and kicking.

You’re definitely going to have a kitchen party at Christmastime, and during the year, there might be an occasion, too. The food is always out in the dining room. Over the years, we’ve learned that you shouldn’t keep the bar in the kitchen because that’s where everybody hangs out, and the first stop, of course, is always in the kitchen.

Squid is the highlight for a lot of my friends. You can stuff them with anything, really, but we use a basic bread crumb dressing. They’re a ‘picky’ type of thing, like an hors d’oeuvre. I’ve got a son who comes early when he knows I’m doing squid. And I say, “Now, boy, you can only have a couple because you know there’s a few more here besides you, so don’t have them all gone.” My friend used to have a kitchen party every Christmas with a crowd of 20 or 25 people, and there’d be more there than cod tongues and squid, I can guarantee you—we’d have a moose heart that would be stuffed. Other kinds of pickies, too.

A lot of people think that fish don’t have tongues, but they do. When you look at the fish and open its mouth, there it is looking at you. Years ago, young boys on the wharf would wait for when the fishermen came in with their fish, cut out the cod tongues, then go sell them. They were very cheap back then. The better ones are the smaller type that cook pretty quickly. The bigger cod tongues take longer to cook, so they’re not as good. Once they’re crisp and crunchy, they’re fantastic.

If you get a knock on your door and a bunch of mummers come in that you’re not expecting, you can have no idea who they could be. Mummery is sort of a dying thing, but we’re trying to keep it alive. A bunch of people get together and dress up—you’re disguised—and you go around to your friends’ homes. They don’t know you and your fellow mummers are coming, and you’ve probably got a guitar and an accordion with you. You come in and have a little scuff (a little dance) in the kitchen or wherever they can fit you, then have a little toddy. Everyone in the house is trying to guess who everybody is, of course. Sometimes, they’re right; sometimes, they’re wrong.

When we’re having a party, my three grandchildren are always a part of it. They’re only six and seven years old, but I’m sure once they get into their teens, they’ll be having kitchen parties, too. Guaranteed, they will.

Fried Cod Tongues With Scrunchions, courtesy of Ray Palmer
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Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 25 minutes
Yield: 6 servings

Ingredients
2 lb (900 g) cod tongues (preferably fresh; I prefer the smaller tongues)
½ cup (125 mL) flour
1 tsp (5 mL) salt
¼ tsp (1 mL) pepper
½ lb (225 g) pork fatback

Directions
1. Wash tongues carefully; dry with paper towel. Add flour, salt and pepper to plastic bag. Add tongues, shaking bag to coat. Set aside.
2. Cut pork fatback into small cubes. Add to skillet; fry at low to medium heat until fat is rendered out and fatback is crispy and brown. (Don’t overheat or the fat will burn.) Remove pork scrunchions; set aside.
3. Add tongues to same skillet; cook over medium heat until tongues are brown and crispy on both sides. Put scrunchions back in skillet when tongues are almost ready. Cod tongues can be served as an appetizer by themselves or served with fries as a main meal.

Print, save or share this cod tongue recipe.

Baked Stuffed Squid, courtesy of Ray Palmer
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Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour
Yield: 6 servings

Ingredients
6 squid tubes, cleaned and washed thoroughly
½ tsp (2 mL) salt
4 cups (1 L) bread crumbs (1 bag of bread crumbs)
¼ cup (60 mL) savory
¼ cup (60 mL) melted butter
1 medium onion, chopped finely
pepper to taste

Directions
1. Sprinkle squid with salt.
2. Mix together bread crumbs, savory, butter, onion and pepper. Loosely stuff squid (don’t overstuff).
3. Add enough cold water to cover bottom of 13 x 9-inch (3 L) baking dish. Add squid; cover with foil. (Don’t seal foil around sides of dish; keep tented.) Bake in 325°F (160°C) for about 50 minutes. Turn quid halfway through; add more water, if necessary. Remove from pan when cooked; slice into rings.

Click here to print, save or share this stuffed squid recipe.

Follow the jump to see more of what a Newfoundland kitchen party is really like.

Do you have a delicious dish to share with the rest of Canada? Submit your recipe for a chance to be featured on Great Canadian Cookbook and Food Network Canada!

Traditional Fish and Brewis at Bidgood’s in Newfoundland

By Leslie Bidgood, as told to Valerie Howes

Leslie Bidgood runs Bidgood’s in Goulds, N.L., alongside her father, Rick. Her grandfather, Roger, founded the business with her grandmother, Jenny. The couple began their work together—which would evolve into the Bidgood’s company of today— 68 years ago in Petty Harbour. Back then, it was a small general store, passed down by Leslie’s great-grandfather. Today, it has expanded into a supermarket, restaurant, bakery and wholesale operation with its own food line. Bidgood’s specializes in traditional Newfoundland cuisine, made with home-harvested ingredients. Here, Leslie talks about a customer favourite: fish and brewis.

Leslie Bidgood

Leslie Bidgood

Bidgood’s is much the same today as I remember it from my childhood. It has always had that family feeling. My sisters and I would come up and play hide-and-seek out back in the boxes in the warehouse after school, and I started working here myself when I was about eight, washing dishes and things like that. Two of our aunts and one uncle were involved then. And most of our staff lived locally, so there was always an upbeat, friendly kind of environment. We actually have some of the same staff now as we did when I was out back jumping on boxes and driving everyone nuts.

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Fish and brewis (pronounced “brews”) is one of the main items we sell in the store. It has been a staple Newfoundland dish for so many years. I ate it once or twice a week as a child—I grew up eating everything we make and sell here. And at my grandparents’, we were always exposed to traditional food. Nowadays, I only eat it now and again as a treat. The family recipe we use in the store hasn’t really changed over the years. If it’s working and we’re getting positive feedback from the customers, we don’t mess with any recipe!

To make fish and brewis, the girls soak hard bread overnight, then the next morning they boil it for about an hour to soften it. Then, they put this soaked bread in the strainer to drain excess water. Next, they put it into a huge mixing bowl and add fried scrunchions—diced pork fat cooked up fresh while the bread was boiling. Next, they add salted cod that has been soaked overnight—sometimes twice—to take away some of the saltiness and boiled for about 20 minutes. They stir it all together, allow it to cool and package it.

Hard bread is a traditional bread here in Newfoundland. It has to be soaked in liquid to soften it up. It’s very shelf stable, so many years ago, when people had no means to preserve foods, it was a staple in homes and at sea. As kids, when we’d go to my grandmother’s place and come out of the pool starving, she’d give us hard bread as a snack.

The difference between salted cod and fresh cod is like day and night. Obviously, salted cod is much saltier, while the fresh cod melts in your mouth. Salted cod is also harder, though it softens up once it’s soaked, drained and cooked. It’s not as tender as fresh fish, but it’s not quite as chewy as steak, either.

Fish and brewis is such a simple, quick and easy meal. And it’s tasty. It can be eaten for breakfast, lunch or supper. Some customers come in and order it for breakfast, and they pour molasses over it. A lot of people who live out of the province then return home, that’s the kind of food they’re looking for. It brings back memories.

See more photos of Lynn Crawford’s visit to Bidgood’s market here.

A Traditional Jiggs Dinner in Newfoundland

By Ed Sears, as told to Valerie Howes

Like most Newfoundlanders, Fire Lt. Ed Sears grew up eating Jiggs dinner on Sundays with extended family. Today, he carries on that tradition at the fire halls where he works in Mount Pearl and St. John’s, N.L.

Fire Lt. Ed Sears

Fire Lt. Ed Sears
Alibi Entertainment

I’ve been eating Jiggs dinner since I was a child. I believe it’s called Jiggs dinner because of a cartoon strip, where the main character was an Irish-American called Jiggs who loved his boiled dinner. It consists of boiled potatoes, turnips, carrots, peas pudding, cabbage—and, sometimes, a blueberry duff—then salted beef and usually roast turkey or roast pork. It’s hard to pinpoint one item I like best in Jiggs dinner; I like the combination of everything put together. It’s a clever meal!

A duff is similar to a bread loaf. It’s boiled in the pot along with the dinner inside two bags so it doesn’t absorb the taste of the salted meat. It swells up to whatever size the inside bag is. You can make a molasses duff with raisins, but I like to use blueberries—mine tastes a bit like blueberry muffins. Some people slice it up and eat it with their meal, and some have it after dinner with a cup of tea.

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When I was young, my mother or grandmother rotated cooking Jiggs dinner for family gatherings on a Sunday. If you have it for dinner (dinner being at around noon), it’s an all-morning preparation that starts at 8 o’clock. There were grandparents from both sides, aunts and uncles, in-laws, my parents and my siblings around the table—anywhere from a dozen to 20 people. It was quite a gathering! We’d put a leaf in the table and all sit down at once; sometimes, there would be two seatings, depending on how big the crowd was.

I learned to make Jiggs dinner a little bit from my grandmother, but a lot from being in the fire department for 21 years. We have certain traditions in the fire hall: Friday is fresh fish day; Saturday we have pea soup; and Sunday is always Jiggs dinner. You’ve got to learn to cook it right or you end up annoying a dozen fellows, and that’s never good.

If there’s a fire in town while I’m cooking, everything gets turned off and left exactly as it is. Hopefully, it’s a false alarm, and if we’re back at the hall in time, we can turn the oven back on and salvage the meal.

When it comes to sitting down and eating our Jiggs dinner at the fire hall, it’s pretty quiet while everyone enjoys the food. But in the buildup to the meal, there’s excitement. While the guys are out there doing their work, a really nice mouthwatering smell floats through the whole station. As the cook, you always get a little bit of sarcastic criticism and carrying on while you’re making dinner, but normally, the boys will tell you honestly if it’s good or bad at the table. And at the end of the meal, everybody’s so full they can’t even move.

How to make Jiggs Dinner
If including a roast turkey, start by thawing it a few days in advance. The second step is to soak the split peas for the peas pudding overnight.

Cooking day starts off with the salted beef; that’s the very first thing that needs to go in the pot. I boil it down because the meat is pickled in an awful lot of salt, so cover it with water and boil it for about an hour (some people soak their salted beef overnight to remove even more salt, but I just boil mine). Fill the water up again to cover the meat and taste the water to be sure it has the saltiness you want. If not, boil it longer until the water tastes the way you want. I leave the water in the pot a little bit salty, knowing I will be adding the peas pudding (boiled in a bag, like the duff) and vegetables that will be absorbing a bit more salt. You want your food to have just enough flavour to it.
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The peas pudding goes in one bag; the duff is put in two bags. Put both bags in the boiling water with the beef for about 2 hours. During those 2 hours, add your vegetables (turnips, carrots and potatoes) at different times to prevent them from overcooking: Cabbage needs about 40 minutes; turnips and carrots, 30 minutes; and potatoes, about 20 minutes.

Once it’s all boiled through and ready, the vegetables come out. A bit of pot liquor (the remaining water in the pot) will be used to mix with the juices left from the roast turkey or roast pork to make gravy.

The recipe depends on the number of people you’re feeding. We allow once piece of salted beef per person, plus two pieces of carrot, two pieces of turnip, two potatoes and a heaping spoonful of cabbage. Cabbage is served in a bowl all cut up so everyone can take a big spoonful. The peas pudding, same thing: served in a bowl so you can take a spoonful.

From a whole roast turkey, you serve yourself one portion. Whatever’s left of the turkey when the meal is done, you boil it down to make turkey soup with.

Do you have a Jiggs dinner and blueberry duff recipe to share? Add it to the Great Canadian Cookbook for your chance to be published!