LTH Home


  • Forum HomePost Reply BackTop
  • Newfoundland

    Post #1 - May 23rd, 2006, 9:30 pm
    Post #1 - May 23rd, 2006, 9:30 pm Post #1 - May 23rd, 2006, 9:30 pm
    I just got back from Newfoundland, and I must say, it's a terrific destination for those who enjoy eating "off the beaten path." During my eight days there, I indulged in cod tongues (yes, cod have tongues) with scrunchions (fried, diced salt pork), moose stew, caribou tenderloin, partridgeberries, bakeapple berries, Jiggs dinner (salt beef, cabbage, rutabaga, carrots, and potato boiled together and served with mustard pickles, pease pudding, roast beef, and gravy), tountons (described to me as Newfoundland's answer to beignets, which is a fair, though not exact, comparison), fisherman's brewis (a mixture of salt cod, salt pork, and hard tack), and seal flipper pie (yep, real seal flippers). There are also more "normal" specialties, including myriad cod recipes (cod stuffed with summer savory dressing, cod au gratin, cod fishcakes. and fish and chips being the most common) and the local lobsters (not large, but flavorful). And then there is the Screech -- the local O.P. rum, available everywhere, but ,most importantly featured in the "Screeching In" ceremony, which involves a variety of tasks and Newfie lingo, along with kissing a cod and downing a shot of Screech, and which renders you an honorary Newfoundlander.

    However, despite its quaint history, don't think Newfoundland is all cod tongues and seal flipper pie. There are some really wonderful, imaginative restaurants, from the Cabot Club (named for John Cabot, who claimed Newfoundland for England in 1497) and Aqua (on Water St.). And the berries mentioned above are definitely worth trying -- bakeapple (name is probably a corruption of a French phrase) is the same berry as is found in Scandinavia by the name of cloudberry. It's rare and delicious. Partridgeberries are either similar to or the same as lingonberries, depending on who you talk to.

    Velma's Place is a good spot for a variety of cod dishes, bakeapple and partridgeberry jam is on sale everywhere, seal flipper pie can be bought frozen at Belbin's, a wonderful specialty grocery store, O'Reilly's in George St. has a wide range of specialties on offer (it's basically a bar, with great Irish and Newfoundland music on weekends -- and a nice feature of the bars on George St. is that there is no smoking indoors), but most restaurants in town offer at least one local specialty.

    So, if you were considering the incredible natural beauty and astonishing wildlife of Newfoundland, now you have one more reason to visit.
  • Post #2 - May 24th, 2006, 9:30 am
    Post #2 - May 24th, 2006, 9:30 am Post #2 - May 24th, 2006, 9:30 am
    Cynthia, thanks for your post. I spent a few days in St John’s many years ago and liked it very much – and wished that I had had time to see more of the island. Of course I had to order the cod tongues with scrunchions (delicious!) and on another night attended a banquet featuring moose stew, with (ahem) Spotted Dick for dessert. I’m sorry I didn’t get to try more of the local specialties … though I’m not sure I could have tackled seal flipper pie!

    For those who have somehow overlooked Newfoundland as a vacation destination (:)), let me add that St. John’s is a very appealing spot – it looks and feels like a coastal town in Maine, with brightly painted wooden buildings along the harbor and going up the hillsides. But I must say, the speech of the true natives there is nearly incomprehensible. Newfoundland was settled mostly by fishermen from southeast Ireland; there are also several French enclaves. For most of its history it’s been very isolated (it joined Canada only in 1949), and its dialect has really gone its own way. My cab driver from the airport was extremely friendly and talkative, but I had NO IDEA what he was saying.
  • Post #3 - May 24th, 2006, 9:43 am
    Post #3 - May 24th, 2006, 9:43 am Post #3 - May 24th, 2006, 9:43 am
    If I may ask, how are the cod tongues prepared? And how big are they?
  • Post #4 - May 24th, 2006, 10:28 am
    Post #4 - May 24th, 2006, 10:28 am Post #4 - May 24th, 2006, 10:28 am
    Hi Kristen,

    the ones I had were lightly floured and fried golden brown. They were triangular and pretty good sized -- maybe seven for a dinner portion?

    Here's a picture someone put up on the internet: ... brador.jpg

    The ones in that picture look like they might have been battered, then fried. The little cubes are the "scrunchions".

    I hope Cynthia can give more details from her very recent experience!

  • Post #5 - May 24th, 2006, 10:39 am
    Post #5 - May 24th, 2006, 10:39 am Post #5 - May 24th, 2006, 10:39 am
    Thanks for posting the pic, Amata. Cod tongues and schrunchions sounds like the perfect meal! My husband's ancestors were Newfies, and we've been wanting to make a trip up there for some time now. These posts are making it seem more urgent.


    ps: I found this page when I did a search for more cod tongue pictures. It appears to document a lesson on sealing and the traditional foods of Newfoundland for some Canadian high school kids.
  • Post #6 - May 24th, 2006, 11:19 am
    Post #6 - May 24th, 2006, 11:19 am Post #6 - May 24th, 2006, 11:19 am
    Thanks for the links. The picture of the fried bologna reminded me that that was another item I tried -- but, while it's tradtional, it didn't seem as exotic as seal flipper pie.

    The locals think seal flipper pie is better than steak. I don't, but then, I grew up eating steak, and they grew up eating fish, and so they may not notice the vague hint of fishiness in seal flippers. That said, the flippers are like very rich, dark meat (very rich -- seals were traditionall caught for their oil, and even today, seal oil is a valued source of Omega 3 fatty acids) -- somewhere between beef and dark meat turkey in texture. So worth a try.

    I've seen recipes for a a variety of cod tongue preparations (couldn't eat all that stuff and not come home with a couple of cookbooks), but all three times I had them, they were pan-fried, as described above and shown in the pictures.

    Yes, St. John's is charming and quaint. The rows of brightly painted houses, known as jellybean houses, delight the eye, as do the fishing boats lining the harbour and Cabot Tower at the top of Signal Hill. There is heaps to do in town -- the Johnson Geo Center would probably be worth the trip alone if you have any interest in earth science, plus their Titanic exhibit is excellent (Newfoundland gets lots of icebergs, so iceberg-related stories are always of interest there). The Railway Museum, the Rooms, and the Fluvarium (where you get an underwater view of the river that cuts through town) are other excellent museums. Dandy restaurants, from the homey to ambitious bistros, line Water Street, said to be the oldest street in North America.

    But, if you get to St. John's (and make sure you go to St. John's, and not St. John, which is in New Brunswick -- I met people who had made travel plans that landed them in the wrong town), leave yourself time to get out of town. The coast is lined with charming fishing villages, and now that the fisheries are dying, many of the villagers are turning charming Victorian homes into B&Bs. Inland is wilderness -- glaciated, rocky hills and valleys covered with scrub and short black spruce and dotted with glacier lakes. Just lovely. Don't be surprised if you see a moose or two. In June, you can go iceberg watching, in July, whale watching, but what we watched was seaabirds -- at the Witless Bay Ecoreserve, we took a cruise out to some of the most densely populated islands in the world, where an estimated 2 million breeding pairs of puffins, gannets, murres, kittiwakes, and other wonderful seabirds nest on rocks, skim along the water, dive, fish, and fly overhead in flocks of astonishing size. It was a real National Geographic day, when we went on that cruise.

    And be sure to visit Cape Spear, the easternmost point of the North American continent.

    The accents are sometimes a bit incomprehensible, but as people come in from the fishing villages to get jobs -- and as kids grow up with TV and radio -- the accents are beginning to modify and fade. But it is still possible to hear many of the accents that hark back to the origins of the island's settlers, including West and South England, Scottland, Ireland, and Wales.

    If you have any interest in going, I'd encourage you to go. However, based on my experience, I'd probably recommend going after June 1, as the weather begins to improve a bit more by then.
    Last edited by Cynthia on May 24th, 2006, 3:16 pm, edited 1 time in total.
  • Post #7 - May 24th, 2006, 12:43 pm
    Post #7 - May 24th, 2006, 12:43 pm Post #7 - May 24th, 2006, 12:43 pm

    Nice write up.

    Based on your review, I was ready to book a trip. Unfortunately, the airfare Chicago-St. John's, NFLD is $700 with advanced purchase. WOW. I will have to save up for that.

    Is fried balogna REALLY a food eaten in NFLD or is it a NEWFIE joke? (A Newfie joke in Canada is the Canadian equivalent of a Polish joke of years past.) .

    With the development of oil fields off the coast of Labrador, I think that Newfoundland will grow in stature as a destination. I would assume that high season is May-September as in Alaska.
  • Post #8 - May 24th, 2006, 1:34 pm
    Post #8 - May 24th, 2006, 1:34 pm Post #8 - May 24th, 2006, 1:34 pm
    jlawrence01 wrote:I would assume that high season is May-September as in Alaska.

    j, I realize you are comparing tourist seasons and not weather, but it's worth pointing out that Newfoundland's climate is quite different from that of Alaska. I was told, by a friend who had lived in both places, that the winter in St John's is much milder than that of upstate New York, for example.

    I was there at the end of October and it was not too different from what we have here at that time, light coat weather. Like the weather in mainland Canada then. (I say this as someone who is almost always somewhere in Canada for the last weekend in October.)
  • Post #9 - May 24th, 2006, 3:01 pm
    Post #9 - May 24th, 2006, 3:01 pm Post #9 - May 24th, 2006, 3:01 pm
    I was thinking that the climate would be more like Maine. Tourist attractions roll up the sidewalks after the summer months.

    I like to travel in September and October after the crowds head home ... if there is anything open.
  • Post #10 - May 24th, 2006, 3:15 pm
    Post #10 - May 24th, 2006, 3:15 pm Post #10 - May 24th, 2006, 3:15 pm
    Yes, on both counts.

    Yes, they really do eat bologna -- thick-sliced and fried. I ran into it the first time at the Sunday brunch at a relatively nice hotel. The second time I encountered it was when I was "screeched in."

    And yes, they close a lot of things during the "off" season, or shorten the hours. "On" season begins June 1, though I suspect that it's at its busiest July and August. It doesn't get drastically cold, but it is rainy and foggy in the off season, though with brilliant days mixed in. AAA has a book on eastern Canada that was quite useful, and let us know which things were on short hours because we were there in advance of the season. You might find that September is a fine option -- you'll just miss the icebergs.

    If you don't mind flying out of Midway, I know someone who got an airfare of closer to $500. I used Air Canada out of O'Hare and flew through Toronto, and I paid about $580. Just keep checking -- and maybe try Priceline or Travelocity. And just as an fyi, flying straight to St. John's will probably be cheaper than flying somewhere else and taking the ferry, as the ferry can be costly -- but that said, it might still be worth looking into.
  • Post #11 - May 24th, 2006, 3:31 pm
    Post #11 - May 24th, 2006, 3:31 pm Post #11 - May 24th, 2006, 3:31 pm
    What's so odd about fried baloney? (Excuse me if I reserve Bologna for mortadella.) It's common enough in Pittsburgh, in NY, and even has a solid home in Chicago -- as the centerpiece of "the jailhouse" special at Jeri's grill. Fried jumbo, yum.
  • Post #12 - May 24th, 2006, 3:54 pm
    Post #12 - May 24th, 2006, 3:54 pm Post #12 - May 24th, 2006, 3:54 pm
    Precisely why I didn't mention it in the first list of culinary accomplishments. I didn't think it was an odd concept. However, Newfoundland bologna is darker than the stuff we get down here in the States (at least in the packaged luncheon meats aisle), and it is cut at least twice as thick.

    The only thing that might be considered odd is that bologna is identified as a classic comestible in Newfoundland.
  • Post #13 - May 24th, 2006, 4:22 pm
    Post #13 - May 24th, 2006, 4:22 pm Post #13 - May 24th, 2006, 4:22 pm
    I should probably note that, when speaking of the glories of Newfoundland, the people are high on the list. Newfies are among the nicest people in the world -- cheerful, often chatty, always eager to be of help. I can hardly say enough about how much a part the Newfoundlanders themselves played in our enjoyment of our stay.