Potatoes with a side of Seaweed Pie at PEI’s Potato Country Kitchen
Written by Jim Bamboulis
O’Leary is nestled in Prince Edward Island’s lush northwestern countryside. The province is synonymous with potatoes, and this small town of just over 800 is fittingly home to the Canadian Potato Museum, Antique Farm Machinery Museum, and “The Big Potato”, one of the quirkiest photo-op’s on Canada’s east coast. A self-guided museum, visitors can explore the history, culture, and journey of the humble, thriving spud.
Within the museum, the 40-seat Potato Country Kitchen opened in 2012. Pre-pandemic, patrons would build up an appetite while meandering around the exhibits and displays, grab a table, or order takeout. In the early days of the pandemic, takeout took over altogether, which was met with both triumphs and challenges.
According to Manager, Donna Rowley, “takeout definitely was a bonus for us. We kept it simple, reduced our operating hours, and in turn, didn’t need as much staff to prepare the food, and have it available. But, the finer things were difficult to come by; we had to make do with makeshift takeout containers”.
The menu features locally-sourced ingredients and is, of course, potato-themed with a couple of seafood favourites, including the Lobster Roll and Seafood Chowder, reflecting PEI’s maritime heritage. Order Chicken Topped Fries, Pulled Pork Poutine, Potato Skins or Baked potatoes smothered with everything from bacon and veggies, to sour cream, and even homemade chili. The Grilled Cheese is pan-fried with their signature potato bread, while the Potato Soup is a hearty, homely bowl of nutritious goodness. Here, the homegrown PEI potato is revered and respected, cooked and prepared authentically to perfection!
Save room for a slice of Seaweed Pie, a local dessert perfected by local legend Nick Doucette, the woman at helm of the Potato Country Kitchen. “It’s made with Irish moss, a locally harvested seaweed that grows along the shallow waters along some parts of the Island”, says Rowley who adds, “I don’t know exactly what’s in it but I can almost guarantee that Chef Nick will probably never share her recipe, which she has held near and dear for decades”. With a delicious, light, sponge-like angel food cake base, it’s topped with a layer of Irish moss filling, whipped cream, and your choice of strawberry or blueberry sauce.
The restaurant is open from mid-June to mid-September. Rowley stresses the fact that “although indoor dining is available, visitors can opt to enjoy their meal in a 100-seat outdoor space which was added to accommodate a far larger amount of people in a safe, physically-distanced dining environment”.