Our one big indulgence during our PEI vacation was getting a seating at the FireWorks Feast at the Inn at Bay Fortune. I was a little hesitant given the the price tag, even in Canadian dollars it’s not cheap, but after a long night of slurping oysters, eating smoked salmon, and a full five course meal, I can happily say it did live up to the hype and is worth the price. If you can’t spend your money on a memorable vacation experience, what are you going to spend it on?
One advantage to staying on the eastern side of the island is that the Inn at Bay Fortune was just a short ten minute drive from our rental house. This came in especially handy at the end of the night when we were all so full that the prospect of driving across the island to roll into bed would not have been appealing.
The Inn is located in the town of Bay Fortune on 46 acres of land overlooking the Fortune River. The Inn itself has a long history, but didn’t really rise to prominence until Chef Michael Smith (he’s a big deal in Canada) put it on the map in the 90s with a popular cooking show. It rose in prominence in a second time when Smith returned as proprietor in 2015 and renovated the hotel and starting putting on the FireWorks Feast in 2016. It’s currently the only 5-star country inn on Prince Edward Island.
While most people come for the dinner, there are a small amount of recently redecorated rooms available for accommodation. Given the amount of food and drink you consume during the, aptly named, feast, the allure of just walking up a flight of stairs and collapsing into bed is very tempting.
Don’t let the FireWorks term fool you. We are not talking Independence Day explosives, but rather the cooking style. FireWorks is named after the 25 foot brick-lined, wood-burning, oven that anchors the kitchen. The kitchen itself includes every form of live-fire cooking: a smokehouse, open hearth, grill, rotisserie, plancha and wood oven. No dials, no switches, no gas, no power, just old-school fire cooking power the feast.
Once you arrive and check-in, you are offered a variety of locally brewed or inspired beers or cocktails (wine and liquor were charged separately – wouldn’t have minded the first cocktail on the house).
The evening kicks off with a tour of the Inn’s farm and grounds. The cooking staff harvest more than more than 200 different fruits and vegetables each year and 100% of the vegetables for the feast are produced on the farm.
Most nights feature more than 50 different organic greens, tender shoots, leaves, herbs and flowers in your meal. You can’t get a much closer gourmet farm-to-table experience.
After about an hour touring the grounds and learning about the farm, techniques and animals, it was time to for the Oyster Hour. This was by far my favorite part of the evening. If you offer me all-you-can-eat oysters, we are going to be friends.
It’s called Oyster Hour, but it’s more than that. There are multiple appetizer and drink stations located inside and just outside the Inn. You can get your drink and wander from the Oyster station to the FireWorks for smoked salmon, to the old herb garden for sausage, to the front of the inn for pork and veggie tacos.
The cocktail stations were scattered throughout the Inn and there was rarely a long line to get a drink. The cocktails ranged from sangria and beer, to mojitos or old fashioneds. Many incorporated local distilleries or ingredients from the surrounding area.
I was happy to see that they were very accommodating of any dietary needs or restrictions. Even subbing in a strictly veggie taco in a nasturtium leaf for me as a matter of course. The tortilla was made with some lard.
Still, did I mention the all-you-can-eat oysters? Practically pulled from just within sight of the Inn? They had a running tally of all the oysters that had been shucked and eaten in the three years since the feast started. Based on that alone, it’s growing in popularity very quickly.
Before the sit-down portion of the evening, there is a quick welcome and champagne toast with the head chef. One lucky guest sabers open the champagne. For our dinner, people were a bit hesitant until Michelle stepped up. She nailed it! And received a lot of kudos from all the women in attendance.
At 7pm the Feast officially begins. It’s served family style at long butcher-block tables overlooking the bay.
The menu includes freshly baked wood-oven bread, seafood chowder with a sampling of every shellfish from PEI, the catch of the day, a farm salad, and wood roasted meats and vegetables.
Everything is prepared in the open kitchen with the open flames, right off the dining room. We were encouraged to get up, watch, and talk with the cooks.
Dessert was a sort of deconstructed fruit cobbler with a scoop of chanterelle ice cream. As a final goodbye, we had the opportunity to toast a homemade chardonnay marshmallow over own open flame at the fire pits just outside. A fitting end to a very good meal.
If you’re a foodie, or just like to seek out unique dining experiences, the FireWorks Feast at the Inn at Bay Fortune is not to be missed. It’s not cheap, but also never feels cheap. You will not leave hungry. The food is not ostentatious, but rather simple in the best possible way. And the best tasting possible way. The staff is welcoming, attentive and friendly.
If (more like when) we get back to PEI, we will be going back for another feast. Make sure to check availability as early as you can. We sort of stumbled on the event and I think we actually got very lucky to some of the last available seats.
Also, I wouldn’t recommend bringing kids. It’s a long night and while the food is simple, it’s not geared toward kids. The Inn actually helped us find a local babysitter to watch the girls at our rental house.
Ultimately, the FireWorks Feast at the Inn at Bay Fortune will give you a real taste for the flavors of PEI and you’ll leave with both a full belly and an unforgettable culinary experience. If you have the chance to get a seat at the feast, don’t pass it up.