This is pretty much how our whole family is feeling right now. We’re just back from a family road trip to Canada’s East Coast and we couldn’t be happier with our vacation. It was a whirlwind couple of weeks and although it was not nearly enough to see everything there is to see, we were able to do plenty and enjoy this beautiful side of our country.
I’m a huge fan of road trips. Yes, it’s a lot of driving, but I feel relaxed because there are no schedules and we get to explore and find pleasant surprises along the way to our destinations. It’s about the journey, I guess.
The Road Trip Route
We took many twists and turns along the way with day trips from each place we stayed at. In a nutshell, we started the trip driving from home (Richmond Hill, Ontario) to Riviere Du Loup in Québec. Our next destination was Summerside in Prince Edward Island. After a few days, we moved on to Baddeck and Halifax in Nova Scotia. From there, we crossed over to St. John in New Brunswick. We exited the East Coast and headed back to Québec, this time to Québec City where we caught up with some good friends of ours. Rather than just ending it there, we threw in one last stay in Montreal to enjoy some famous eats and practice more of our brutal spoken French (we’re terrible) before heading home.
Fun, Sights, Sounds, and Food
I’d need to write a much larger post to describe everything we saw and did, so I won’t bore you with the little details. Instead, I’ve decided to share a list of highlights along the way…in no particular order:
- Really fresh lobster and seafood chowder… yes, I had that a lot!
- Our older son entertaining us with the ukulele during the trip
- A Christmas castle in August (what?!)
- Swimming in pools and the Atlantic Ocean
- Crossing the Confederation Bridge to PEI
- Being ocean-side as much as possible… yes, that’s a highlight for us!
- Beach time building sand castles and skipping rocks (more ocean time)
- Selfies with Justin Trudeau in PEI (Canada’s Prime Minister)– I’m not kidding!
- A concert with an east coast music icon – Singer-songwriter Lennie Gallant
- Amphibious vehicle (bus/boat) tours of a couple of cities and harbours (fun to go into the water on a bus)
- Live music by the ocean
- Meeting local artists
- Seeing many docks, fishing boats, and lobster traps
- Homemade ice cream… we did this more often than we should have 😉
- Ferry trip from PEI to Nova Scotia
- Driving around the Cabot Trail… wow! Really wow!!
- A cold beer at the Alexander Keith’s brewery – brewed there since 1820 (but my beer wasn’t that old)!
- Watching the (potentially last) Tragically Hip concert on a giant screen outdoors in Halifax along with millions of other Canadians (and others) world-wide. Canadian music history!
- Seeing the Lunenburg shipyard community (where the famous Bluenose tall ship was built) and enjoying a horse-drawn carriage ride around town. They still build ships there.
- The kids playing piano outdoors on a dock
- City Market in St. John, New Brunswick
- The Fundy Trail Parkway… beautiful landscapes and massive tides! We even walked along the sea floor at low tide.
- Catching up with friends and walking around Old Québec City
- Swartz’s Deli and St-Viateur Bagel… iconic foodie spots in Montreal
As you can see, there was no shortage of fun things to see and do on our trip. As a home cook who was raised in a fishing community, the easy access to fresh seafood was definitely a highlight for me and I tried to have seafood as often as I could. Our road trip was definitely an inspiration for today’s recipe.
Although the seafood for my recipe wasn’t caught just hours ago (like it was on the east coast), we do have some markets that sell very fresh fish and seafood in the Greater Toronto Area so it was easy to get good quality and fresh seafood for this chowder.
I’m not going to claim this is “authentic” East Coast seafood chowder. I’m not sure anyone can make that claim. What I do know is that a good seafood chowder is rich and has lots of fresh delicious seafood and fish. That was my goal and I think I accomplished it. Seafood chowder isn’t Liz’s favourite dish, but she said she loved it and that’s all the reassurance I need!
This is an easy meal to make, but it isn’t an inexpensive one. Good seafood and fish is pricey – especially if you’re far from an ocean – so this isn’t an everyday kind of meal. While this is a delicious chowder, with its cream and butter and bacon, you won’t find this in the ‘healthy eating’ category of your recipe collection.
I had a lot of seafood chowder on our east coast trip and each one was a little different from the next. I believe my seafood chowder recipe can stand with the best of the ones I ate out east. Give our recipe a try and feel free to change up the seafood and fish for some variety. Let us know what you think.
Let something you enjoy inspire your next meal, and always eat well, friends!
- 5 slices of bacon
- 1 cooking onion, diced
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- ½ cup butter
- ½ cup unbleached flour (all purpose is fine as well)
- 1 cup clam juice
- 1½ cups white wine
- 1½ cups water
- 2 tsp Salt
- 1 tsp Black Pepper
- 1 tsp Old Bay seasoning
- 3 medium white potatoes, peeled and cut in small cubes
- 1½ cups 2% milk
- 1½ cups half-and-half cream
- 1½ cups butter milk
- 6 oz or 170 g steamed lobster meat, chopped
- 8 oz or 227 g fresh bay scallops
- 8 oz or 227 g haddock fillets (about one fillet), chopped
- 1 Lbs or 454 g raw peeled black tiger shrimp, deveined, tails cut off and cut in to pieces each
- 6 oz or 170 g canned premium ocean clams, chopped
- ¼ cup chives, diced for garnish
- Heat a skillet or cast iron pan to medium high (we did this outside to avoid splatters inside the house).
- Once the pan is hot, place the five strips of bacon on the hot pan beside each-other using tongs.
- After about two minutes, use the tongs to turn the bacon slices over.
- After another two minutes, turn the bacon strips again.
- After another two minutes, turn the bacon strips again (about 6 minutes in total).
- If the bacon looks crispy (but not burnt), move the bacon strips to a paper towel-lined dish to soak up the grease. If the bacon isn't looking crispy, turn it over and cook another two minutes, before moving it to the dish. Set aside.
- Reserve 2 Tbsp of the bacon fat.
- In a large pot, heat the olive oil and the reserved bacon fat on medium high.
- Toss the chopped onion into the pot and sauté until soft and translucent.
- Pour in the clam juice, white wine, water, salt, pepper and Old Bay seasoning.
- Add the chopped potatoes and mix well.
- Cover, bring the liquid to a boil and then turn down to medium low to simmer.
- Simmer until the potatoes are tender (roughly 15 minutes). Test with a fork.
- While the potatoes are simmering, heat the butter in a medium pan on medium heat.
- Once the butter is melted, add the flour and whisk until you've created a paste.
- Continue to whisk until the mixture starts to smell nutty and starts to darken a little (about 8 to 10 minutes). This is a roux and will help thicken the chowder.
- Once the roux is ready and the potatoes are tender, pour the roux into the pot.
- Pour in the milk, cream and butter milk.
- Once the liquid starts to bubble, whisk vigorously until the liquid thickens.
- Add the lobster, scallops, haddock, shrimp, clams, and mix well.
- Once the shrimp turns orange, the seafood should all be ready. Taste test to make sure the fish is cooked through.
- Pour the chowder into soup bowls, garnish with chives if desired, and serve hot. Enjoy!