The Power and Flavour of Local
National Mac and Cheese Day
So it turns out there’s a day celebrating almost every conceivable thing you can imagine. My friend and social media guru Susan pointed out to me that July 14th is National Mac and Cheese Day and that it might be fun to make some mac and cheese and photograph it for Facebook or Instagram. Well, I love to cook, have access to amazing, fresh local ingredients here on Prince Edward Island (PEI) and, of course, I own a pottery studio which just happen to have access to beautiful dishes for plating. Susan lives in Nova Scotia and because of COVID-related travel restrictions we haven’t seen each other in many months. But, as of July 3rd, we are able to travel more freely across Atlantic Canada and we planned for her to come to PEI on National Mac and Cheese Day.
Canada’s Food Island
Prince Edward Island is the smallest province in Canada. The Island has a total land area of 1.4 million acres. Farms represent about 42.5% of total land area (594,324 acres). We are also world famous for our fishing industry, including: lobster, oysters and mussels. We are famous for our genuine people that work together to harvest and innovate premium food products.
PEI created “Canada’s Food Island” as overall brand which acts as an identifying system for people to easily recognize PEI local food products. Canada’s Food Island connects PEI growers, producers, processors, chefs, restaurants, food tourism operators and other culinary industry stakeholders through a single, united voice.
Living on Canada’s Food Island is amazing for people who love to cook and eat. I love to cook and, even more, I love to cook for friends and family. For me, happiness is a table full of people. It makes sense, then, that one of the things I love most about living on PEI is access to amazing food.
We are fortunate to have Amalgamated Dairies Ltd., a local co-operative of dairy farmers serving the Island for the last 65 years. ADL processes fresh milk from PEI farms to produce premium dairy products including milk, cheese, cream, butter and ice cream. When we were making mac and cheese, we went for their 3-year aged cheddar and the 3.25% homogenized milk. Simply delicious. They make award-winning cheeses that are definitely worth checking out!
Here I am at the ADL Store (safely) buying ingredients for the lobster mac and cheese (and taking advantage of the special on their amazing ice cream).
We purchased the lobster from Arsenault’s Fish Mart here in Summerside. Established in 1993 Arsenault’s sells both retail and wholesale and is known as a provider of top-quality seafood.
For the wine, we selected Tidal Bay by Benjamin Bridge. According to the vintner, Tidal Bay is a “vibrant and refreshing white wine compatible with the coastal terroir along the Bay of Fundy – a vast expanse of seawater that is home to the highest tides in the world.” Tidal Bay is a blend of l’Acadie, Riesling and Ortega varietals. We agree that it pairs beautifully with seafood and it is lovely to drink on its own while you’re making the seafood!
Mac and Cheese Recipe
It made sense that if we were going to use local ingredients we should turn to one of our best known local chefs for a recipe. Chef Michael Smith, one of Canada’s best-known chefs, is a passionate advocate for simple, sustainable home cooking and an inspiration for families creating their own healthy food lifestyle. He’s the host of Chef Michael’s Kitchen, Chef at Home and Chef Abroad seen on Food Network Canada and in more than 100 other countries. He’s a judge on Chopped Canada and traveled the world for his innovative web series, Lentil Hunter.
You can find the full recipe on the Chef’s website.
The only addition I made to the recipe was to blend the lobster fish roe with the milk. The result was a beautiful, pink lobster milk that added another layer of lobster flavour to the dish.
Artfully presented food really does taste better
The Escoffier School of Culinary Art references an Oxford University study that showed artfully presented food really does taste better. Techniques and ingredients are only half of the story, and how you present them on the plate can often be the difference between a classic dish and one that is just “meh.”
Serving food in a handmade piece of art elevates the most humble of dishes – even mac and cheese. I baked the lobster mac and cheese in a piece of handmade pottery that belonged to my late mother. There are certain dishes she always served in this dish and it makes me feel close to her when I use it. For plating, I didn’t get fancy. I let our handmade stoneware pottery do the work for me! I used my go-to dish for almost every meal – the Island Stoneware Buddha Bowl. Great for soups, stews, chili, buddha bowls, salads and almost everything else, I can’t get enough of these beautiful and functional footed bowls.