The Roots, Rants and Roars Food Hike: A Foodie Adventure One Stop at a Time
I woke up early, determined to get a fresh start on the day and take in as much of the beautiful coastline as possible. It was a gorgeous morning, and I was quite content to sit on a cozy rock and watch the sun scatter its rays across the water. And that’s just what I did – until it was time for the main event: the food hike; the reason people flock from all over the world to the Roots, Rants and Roars festival.
The 5-km hike starts in Elliston and loops around the neighbouring town of Maberly, along winding roads that curve around artful beaches, inlets, coves and bays. Every kilometre sits a chef station that serves gourmet food. This place is so picturesque you have to see it to believe its earthly wonder, making it the perfect backdrop for this unique event.
I started at the beach with celebrity chef Chuck Hughes: the perfect start to my foodie adventure. I sat on the sandy beach and watched the waves lap on the shore while nibbling away at the deep-fried oyster and pickled cabbage with spicy mayo on pork crackling. It was delish. I didn’t linger long: the next tasty thrill awaited.
I walked along a shoreline path, stopping periodically to admire the craggy cliffs, rolling hills and wide ocean expanse. I couldn’t take my eyes off the way the sea weaved, dipped and rolled around the coast. Every station had a uniquely stunning view, and the next stop was no exception. This was Todd Perrin’s station, one of the lead festival organizers, and he served deep-fried capelin. Ever since I saw the capelin roll last summer, I’ve been dying to try some. This was my first experience with the small sardine-like fish, and I was blown away. Salty to perfection, and just the right texture – I fell in love. Next summer, I’m getting my very own bucket and heading for the ocean. I must eat more capelin!
Upward and onward, I didn’t want to dally for fear of missing out on a sensational meal. I followed along with a group of folks and got to the next line to wait patiently for what was next. The wonderful thing about this province, and especially at a festival like this, is people are ready to chat and make friends with anyone and everyone. So even though I was technically on my own, I always had a friend to share my meal with and rave about the view and the food.
The hike lasted about 2.5 hours and included fascinating rock formations, rolling ocean waves and cozy scattered homes – not to mention the most incredible food I’ve ever tasted. My favourite bite by far was the cold poached salted fresh cod with local buttermilk and leek oil by chef Jonathan Gushe. The cod melted in your mouth, and the buttery flavor was decadent and rich whilst still remaining light and flakey. I always thought edible flowers were just for show, but this dish proved me wrong: they added significantly to the overall taste infusion.
There were more surprises along the way. I tried blood pudding for the first time – and loved it. I have to admit I was very hesitant at first. The idea and concept of it has always seemed so absurd to me, but I will try anything once, especially when it comes to food. And I can’t forget chef Martin Juneau, who reinvented surf n’ turf by poaching halibut in a bacon broth onion meat-marmalade with stewed kale. Amazing.
Today I experienced culinary genius at its finest. I couldn’t believe what these talented chefs could accomplish with such minimal supplies. Through sometimes precarious winds and lacking the luxuries of a restaurant kitchen, talent and creativity shone through – all accented by the breathtaking landscape only feet away. Some would argue that an event like this could only happen in Newfoundland and Labrador. I couldn’t agree more. This is the quintessential place for a fusion of gorgeous landscapes and fine dining cuisine.
The night finished off with an outdoor roast, where local chefs stepped up to the plate to feed a crowd of 400. I was almost too full to eat the plethora of meat on display. Almost. Everyone ate, drank and danced to the lively tunes of the Dardanelles, a traditional Newfoundland band with a modern twist. I chatted with the locals, and met some colourful characters that even gave me their phone numbers for my next visit. I guaranteed them I’d be back, definitely for next year’s festival, but hopefully sooner. But one thing’s for sure – I’ll be salivating all year long in anticipation.