Fogo Island Inn, Fogo Island, Newfoundland
On June 1st, 2013, Fogo Island Inn opened as a world class destination for ecological and culinary tourism. It is one of a kind in Canada!
There’s no where else quite like Fogo Island which is home to Brimstone Head, one of the official four corners of the earth according to the Flat Earth Society.
And, as this island is unique, I’ve honestly never met a woman like Zita Cobb, President and chief dream-meister of the Shorefast Foundation, the organization that has pulled together the funding and has built the inn. “The fish is why we came here….it’s part of our songs, our stories…it’s part of us.” And fish for Zita, like it is for all Newfoundlanders,is ‘cod’. Just in case we needed to be reminded, she pointed to the wall on which the largest tile mural of a cod is embedded. Inside a modest frame building and her small, passionate staff have created one of the most imposing inns anyone has ever attempted in Canada.She holds forth, as only a Newfoundlander can, with a staccato lecture on her business plans. “Know your markets, know yourself. Resist mediocrity. Have a plan, adjust on the way…” And what a plan!
Fogo Island, first settled in the 1680’s and which only got electricity in 1971, sits on the edge of the Labrador current and Iceberg Alley. “It’s the only part of the world where people live with moving ice.” she explains and quickly adds, “We are a sealing people.” And fishing was central to that lifestyle. Fogo Island also happens to be one big berry patch. The indigenous food sources are an incredible resource.”
Zita, who left Fogo and her home in Joe Batt’s Arm to make a good living in the high tech industry, has come home and more than anything, her goal is to honour the stories of the island and share them with the world. She named her foundation ‘Shorefast’ after the tether that holds a cod trap to the shore. Her businesses (she has invested in Nicole’s Cafe and Growlers Ice Cream) are akin to that in economic terms. She quips “Beware of normalization.” There is no question that she thinks holistically and outside the proverbial box.
She and Shorefast have built a series of extraordinary artists studios (Squish Studio is pictured at left) that all face the sea and are seemingly perched on rocks, much like the fishing stages of yore. They can only be reached across boardwalks that protect the plant-rich bogs. She helped to fund Todd Boland’s reference book on the Wildflowers of Fogo and Change Islands which, naturally, includes the island berries. (The introduction is by that Newfoundland icon, John C. Crosbie, another proud islander never lost for words.) The construction of the 29 room inn, designed by Todd Saunders / Saunders Architecture, has been respectful of the site and of local style.
Executive Chef, Murray McDonald, a native Newfoundlander, has come home. Chef McDonald writes: “We are doing what our ancestors did a hundred years ago, using our ingenuity to forage, gather and cook. Back then they worked with what they had to survive…Our menu is focused on wild things from the North Atlantic and local seasonal produce.”
Meals are served forth in a dining room with walls of glass facing the drama of the North Atlantic ocean scape and the Little Fogo Island bird sanctuary, the tiny fishing community of Barr’d Islands and the incredible sunsets in the west. He showcases and explores Newfoundland’s fascinating food ways with a multitude of original dishes and ingredients from centuries of tradition. It is a very personal culinary journey on this beautiful remote North Atlantic island.
There are toutons for breakfast, bits of bread dough that is usually fried in a cast iron skillet. He serves it with the requisite molasses, some partridgeberry chutney and wild blueberry sausage. There’s smoked cod and buttermilk biscuits and baked beans. Oh yes, there’ll be bologna…a staple in many island kitchens. Dinner is another meal where tradition comes crashing into worldly creativity. Lobster (some say Newfoundland lobster is the best on earth because of the frigid waters) is made into steam buns to be served with ‘bottled’ vegetables and coleslaw…cabbage is another staple. There are Newfoundland scallops in saffron broth with seaweed and fabulous halibut with sautéed greens. By the way, Dinner is actually Lunch!
“Supper” is the main meal. Where the full gamut of Chef McDonald’s expertise shines. Snow crab is served with sea salt meringue; inn-pickled herring comes with caribou moss, one of the few places I’ve ever seen it served. There’s a Fogo Island cassoulet (navy beans, salt beef and duck breast/confit) and great P.E.I. beef. Desserts are equally inventive. Rhubarb is stewed and also candied to be served with white chocolate and goats cheese ice cream. As the season progresses there will be wild berries in a plethora of sweet formats.
Food Day Canada Menu 2016
Fogo Island Inn is one of about 250 restaurants that celebrate Food Day across Canada.
Fogo Island Inn est l’un des 250 restaurants à travers tout le Canada qui participent au Journée des terroirs.
Fogo Island Inn
P.O. Box 102
Joe Batt’s Arm, NL
A0G 2X0, Canada