Nicole's Café, Fogo Island, Newfoundland
Food Day Canada
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Fogo Islanders are a special breed. Tenacious and proud and very creative. Nicole’s Café in Joe Batt’s Arm, a coastal hamlet half way across the island, is seasonal and ultimately regional. Small replicas of killocks, the frame and stone anchors fishermen use(d), dot the tables. Quilts decorate the walls.
With Nicole Decker at the helm, chefs are encouraged to use whatever’s local and seasonal and delicious. She writes, “On Fogo Island, like in most rural areas of Newfoundland and Labrador, our food traditions have been largely influenced by the sea that surrounds us, the abundance of wild berries that cover our hills and the root vegetables that our resourceful ancestors coaxed from the challenging but rich soil. Our ancestors who came here from Europe were a creative, resilient people who lived from the land and the sea – always in a humble but dignified co-existence with the natural world. They fished in the harshest ocean, they picked the abundant berries on our hills and they grew things – lots of things – on a land that would not at first suggest agricultural richness. This long experience combined with the food heritage they brought with them across the ocean form the basis of our food culture today. It is a textured and varied heritage that is of this place. On Fogo Island we still fish, we still forage and we still farm.”
The evening we were there the dining room was full. The Shorefast Foundation was hosting an Ibsen film festival and media had assembled from all over the globe. Every room on the island was booked and every table reserved. As we pulled up our chairs and unfurled our napkins we counted our blessings. Outside the dining room the bergy bits dotted the bay. Her chefs served forth a fantastic pickled turbot, which might be likened to solomon gundy only leaner. Also known as Greenland halibut, this fish is sustainably caught with gill nets. As night fell, we feasted on a tremendous grilled squid salad in a chili-lime vinaigrette and proceeded on to another exquisite dish of Fogo Island steamed crab legs. Thankfully there were enough people in our party to also try the tissue thin papparedelle with caramelized parsnip and pulled salt beef, another Newfoundland staple. My absolute fave dessert (aside from the chocolate brownie with caramel and chocolate sauce) was the molasses-partridgeberry jam tart. And of course, there’s Growler’s Ice Cream in all it’s delicious island berry flavours.
Every year Nicole has a new guest chef who maintains many of the cornerstone dishes while adding to the motherlode of great food with his/her own repertoire. I can hardly wait to return.
Nicole’s is one of about 300 restaurants participating in Food Day across Canada. Contact them at the number below to reserve your table.
Nicole’s est l’un des 300 restaurants à travers tout le Canada qui participent au Journée des terroirs . Contactez directement, au numéro ci-dessous, afin de faire votre reservation.
Joe Batt’s Arm,
Fogo Island, NF