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The flavours of Newfoundland and Labrador revolve around the ocean and subarctic landscape. For 9,000 years, cod and seals were the staples for successive groups of peoples. The summer and autumn’s berry crop added unique local flavours to the seal meat and sundried or salted cod. Salmon, lobster, capelin, and caribou supplemented the dewberries, bakeapples, partridgeberries, blueberries and crowberries which bloom in profusion in various parts of the province.
In ancient times polar bears, black bears, arctic hare, walrus, squid, a variety of fish, and whales were also on the list of local meal choices. Today Newfoundlanders and Labradorians maintain this interest in wild foods as we continue to eat more fish, game, and wild fruit than anybody else in North America. Moose, introduced to the island of Newfoundland in the early 20th century, have joined caribou and hare as the most popular local game; while whale, also known as Arctic steak, disappeared from the local menu in 1967 when Canada abandoned whaling.
Because of the nature of Newfoundland, every trip with Wildland Tours is a culinary adventure. Our Viking Trail Experience often features recipes associated with the Norse. Guests occasionally find themselves eating with knives and spoons only since the Norse did not have forks. Everyone is encouraged to take advantage of the delicious northern shrimp which are found in select restaurants along the Viking Trail. These cold-water shrimp grow more slowly than tropical shrimp and prawns, and they are remarkably more flavourful. Numerous guests have commented that they were the most flavourful shrimp ever eaten in their life times. Fish is always on the menu on all of our trips and we work to find fresh scallops and mussels to supplement the cod tongues. Yes, cod have fleshy tongues and they are so delicious that local folks have taken to importing them as cod fish numbers around Newfoundland have declined. Some guests have suggested that cod tongues are an acquired taste…you will have to decide for yourself.
Many of our eastern Newfoundland vacation itineraries feature the traditional homemade bread and home-cooked flavours of Nellie Cunningham. The politically correct editors associated with our province’s tourism officials have informed us that we must describe Nellie’s cuisine as “home-made style” since it is produced in her restaurant kitchen but local lovers of homemade bread and other delicacies have been known to drive hundreds of miles to enjoy Nellie’s cooking. Her perfected-at-home, served-in-a-small-restaurant meals are famous with our guests and we have had many folks return to Newfoundland just to visit Nellie and enjoy the cooking. For years we have promoted and celebrated Nellie as central Newfoundland’s finest chef, and nobody has ever come close to challenging this title. Nellie and our other Newfoundland restaurateurs are able to provide a cosmopolitan selection of dining options.
While guests can eat almost whatever they want on our holidays, we do highly recommend the local foods. We are usually able to find moose stew, fresh lobster, salmon, fresh halibut, and other choices designed to please the palate. Sometimes we can even find fabulous locally-grown organic produce. We also make sure guests have the opportunity to wash down these local meals with local wine. We tend to promote the blueberry, partridgeberry, and bakeapple wines but our local wineries have developed a selection of additional flavours. Fermented without chemicals or additives, our local wines join iceberg water and iceberg vodka as popular, locally produced beverages.
Our Capital City of St. John’s has had the reputation as a “port for ports” since 1679 when a Portuguese vessel carrying port wine to London encountered French privateers. The privateers drove the ship off course and, in attempts to escape, it ventured out into the Atlantic. After weathering severe Atlantic storms, the ship arrived in St. John’s where it stayed for the winter months. The cargo of port wine was safely stored in caves in the Southside Hills of St. John’s. The following spring the vessel finally completed its long arduous journey to England. They soon discovered that the port that had over-wintered in Newfoundland had acquired a bouquet, a smoothness and a flavour that it did not have before. From that point on, the company decided to age Newman’s Port in Newfoundland. This local relationship continued until 1996 when the Newfoundland Liquor Corporation stopped bottling Newman’s Celebrated Port; however, the province’s association with this flavourful fortified wine has contributed to the city boasting one of the continent’s best assortment of wines. The closeness of the French Islands of St. Pierre and Miquelon mean that Newfoundland residents have access to North America’s closest source of French wines including many rare French community and specialty wines. Our unique geography and history means that our holiday leaders can host private wine tasting events with our guests that are superior to wine tastings elsewhere in North America. Over the years additional alcoholic beverages have become associated with Newfoundland. The most famous alcohol originated in the mid-20th century when our unnamed Demerara rum earned the title “Newfoundland Screech” from American military personnel stationed here. Today screech continues to be one of the most popular rums in the land where there are more rum drinkers per capita than anywhere else in North America. In addition to several outstanding local recipes, there are many medicinal uses for screech…and when folks are interested these are discussed, and “occasionally” sampled, on our holidays.
This section of our website is dedicated to guest Bob Hainline who wrote that we should call our Newfoundland Adventures the “Gourmet Food Tour.”