When I travel, I tend to hone in on my favourite local culinary specialty and then consume it again, and again, and again.
So during my stay in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, I pretty much ordered the Seafood Chowder whenever I saw it on the menu which, being on the Atlantic ocean, was most of the time.
The key to a great chowder, in my opinion, is to keep the cream base simple enough to let the subtle flavours of the seafood shine, while offering enough texture in the accompanying ingredients to avoid it becoming a bland bowl of mush.
Hunter's Ale House (http://www.huntersalehouse.com/) on Kent Street has that relaxed pubbish air and lively crowd that makes for great people watching. While the rest of the food is a tad ho hum (using tinned sliced black olives in their salads is the kind of travesty I find unforgivable) their seafood chowder was stellar. Large chunks of lobster, halibut, salmon and scallop played their starring roles, while cubes of potato and slices of carrot and celery complemented the seafood with just the right amount of crispness on the tooth. The dish was very rich with the cream base nearly having the consistency of whipping cream. It was a bit of a marvel at how the chef managed to execute this. I could only eat half of the portion!
One of the most popular seafood diners in Charlottetown is The Water Prince (http://www.waterprincelobster.ca/) at the corner of, where else, but Water and Prince! This quirky place has a mish mash of tables, a homestyle decor and a super friendly staff. Amidst the horror of paprika sprinkled over the bowl, the creaminess of the chowder was ideal, the potato and celery perfectly cooked though I was a bit disappointed the scallops, lobster, and salmon had been chopped up into bits. It made it difficult to decipher what seafood one was eating. The homemade scone was a hit though.
One of Charlotttetown's more expensive eateries is Sim's Corner Steakhouse and Oyster Bar (http://www.simscorner.ca/) located on Queen Street. The decor is elegant, the staff attentive, and the food is truly excellent. The high price point is justified for the entire dining experience. Their well-presented seafood chowder was one of my favourites with ample pieces of halibut, mussels and salmon. The potatoes and onion were perfect, and the addition of double-smoked back bacon offered a tasty contrast to the rest of the ingredients. If I had to be super critical, the base was a bit thin and it lacked the roasted corn flavour the menu promised which was unfortunate given corn is my favourite vegetable!
The east coast of Canada is all about seafood, and chowder. My quest will always continue for the perfect dish, but these will still leave a smile on any Torontonians face.