Change of Menu: Dining at The Fogo Island Inn
The Fogo Island Inn takes care of you like a good Newfoundland nan does — enveloping you in a constant onslaught of pastries from the moment you walk in the door until you drive away with a bagged lunch for the road. And you know there’s always a drop of tea on the stove (or in the inn’s case, delivered to your room in a stainless steel carafe). Dining at the Fogo Island Inn has undergone some major changes in the past little while. In February, 2018 Chef Jonathan Gushue took the lead of the kitchen and has revitalized the culinary repertoire. His experience working in kitchens all over the world at places like Four Seasons and Langdon Hall brings a whole new way of dining to the classic Newfoundland ingredients.
The food at Fogo Island Inn I devoured during my first visit was great; a plethora of baked goods and traditional dishes like moose stew and chowder. But this time I brought Adam along and dining at the Fogo Island Inn was on a whole other level. During our visit at the end of the summer (otherwise known as berry season on Fogo), the fall ingredients were starting to appear — the precursors to heartier meals composed of thick root vegetables. Foods that were grown out of necessity, for their ability to survive in the harsh climate, are elevated into something beautiful and modern at the inn. Newfoundland food is hip people!
The chameleon dining room
One of the things I noticed right away about the inn on my second visit is the ever-changing nature of the dining room. Every meal is eaten in the same dining room, but it feels different every time. The white walls and the intricate chandeliers but a canvas for the quiet, slow breakfasts, lunches bustling with people excited for their afternoon excursions, and the dark moody dinners that make the dining room feel metropolitan and isolated at the same time. Staring out to sea last November the ocean churned under a grey sky, beating against the orange rocks covered in changing juniper. But now, during the summer months, the blue sky seemed to reach out over the ocean, beckoning all diners to inhale deeply and dive into whatever Chef Gushue puts on the plate.
A warm bed and a cool breeze
Daybreak service may still be my favourite part of the food at the Fogo Island Inn. If you saw my Instagram story during our stay this summer, you might recall me running to the door at 7am so see what treats were waiting for me in the wooden toolbox that doubles as a treasure trove of pastries and coffee. Here we are again with the onslaught of goodies, and it just makes you feel good inside. A warm bed, a cool breeze from the open window and a hot cup a coffee does the soul really, really good.
Just pause — doesn’t this look like an Alex Colville painting? I want to live inside this photo.
Breakfast of champignons
Chef Gushue has really upped the breakfast game. There’s no pineapple, mango or soggy hash browns to be found on this “breakfast buffet.” Instead a morning devotion to Newfoundland ingredients with overnight oats, carrot and apple salad, partridgeberry muffins, mussels and Niagara cheeses greet you at the entrance of the dining room. That’s just for starters, and there are multiple courses if you so desire. And of course we do. Adam’s lobster stew with leeks and chanterelles was like nothing I’ve ever seen for breakfast before, but somehow it worked. The side of bacon probably helped a little. My poached egg was cradled by a mound of al dente spiced split peas (split peas not done to mush in a soup? Now I’ve seen it all), with a tart, thick yoghurt for a dose of freshness. Perfect cappuccinos and carrot, beet and apple juice perk up the taste buds for the day.
If you aren’t keen on such a lux breakfast, they will do up tea and toast for you just like nan does, or maybe a simple bowl of fruit and granola. Dining at the Fogo Island Inn is all about sense of place, and if you’re place is with a fried egg on toast, I’m sure they would do it for you.
Loitering over lunch
I would say I loved the salad bar at lunch, but those two words diminish the dishes. The table of salads showcased island beets with yoghurt, shrimp salad with kohlrabi and caribou rillette en croute. Delicate hand-line caught poached cod perched on chanterelles and white kidney beans, while my foie gras got a punch of local sour with gooseberries adorning it like jewel buttons. A balance of rich and delicate, of traditional Newfoundland ingredients with modern application. Let’s just say we loitered over lunch, especially with Beau’s 49° 54° Fogo Island myrrh-smoked gose accompanying our meal. This beer was made exclusively for the inn, and the patridgeberries and sea salt foraged from the island make for a smoky, malty good time.
Dinner is served
Setting the scene for dinner, servers lay out white tablecloths to receive the four course meals about to be devoured. The accompanying wine list has a healthy selection of Canadian products, along with plenty of international choices. The chilled apple and kohlrabi soup surprises and refreshes at the same time; somehow rich, heavy, and fresh all at once. On the next plate, the char on the broccoli adds a level of earthiness to an otherwise ambivalently-flavoured vegetable and mussels serve as salty parcels to bring the dish together. What was good before is now great. The Newfoundland experience is as immersive in the dining room with the sommelier as is it is out in the dory with the local fisherman.
One of the more recent developments with dining at the Fogo Island Inn is that they have opened up reservations for those not staying at the inn but still wanting a taste of place. Lunch offers three courses for $50, while dinner’s four courses is $115 per person. Gratuity is included.
Falling for dining at the Fogo Island Inn
Along with channeling the sense of place, seasonality is such a big part of dining at the Fogo Island Inn. There are seven seasons on the island — winter, pack ice, spring, trap berth, summer, berry, latefall — which all merit their own dishes and focus and the inn hosts many events through the year around food. This fall (aka berry season) there are tons of food-focused events going on. In just a few weeks, Newfoundland musician Tim Baker is popping up for Thanksgiving (the Canadian one) debuting his new solo stuff and of course there’s gonna be a deadly old Thanksgiving feed. Fromager Afrim Pristine will accompany Chef Gushue with tastings and outings from October 26-28, honouring his new book “For the Love of Cheese,” and Devour! Food and Film Festival is basically taking over the place from November 2 to 4, curating food and films for guests.
Like I said, dining at the Fogo Island Inn is like being at nan’s house; if nan had an infinite budget and 1000 children.
Disclosure: THANKS TO THE FOGO ISLAND INN FOR THE OVERNIGHT STAY. AS ALWAYS, ALL OPINIONS EXPRESSED IN THIS POST ARE MY OWN.