A decade later, Ferryland Picnics is still going strong
© — Photo by Karl Wells/Special to The Telegram
A view of the Ferryland lighthouse with a satisfied patron returning an empty hamper.
It’s hard to believe that Lighthouse Picnics in Ferryland has been a going concern for a decade. More power to Jill Curran for her dedication to the concept she developed all those years ago with then partner Sonia O’Keefe, and for her tenacity as a small business owner.
The concept was simple. (The best ones often are.) Create a kitchen in the old lighthouse in Ferryland and serve picnic lunches from it: fresh bread, salads, sandwiches, cakes, cookies and lemonade.
The natural terrain around the lighthouse would be the dining area. Blankets would be used instead of tables, hampers instead of trays and screw-top jars instead of stemware.
As backup during inclement weather, a small dining space would be created inside the lighthouse building.
We’ve had some glorious days this month. More importantly, Ferryland has had some very fine days. A group of friends and I chose one of them for a recent visit to the lighthouse. It had been quite a while since I’d been there and I was anxious to see if the experience was as good as I’d remembered.
The arrival of our picnic hampers was welcomed by our ravenous stomachs. I also felt slightly thirsty after the 20-minute trail walk from the last parking lot on Lighthouse Point. Each hamper contained jars of fragrant lemonade, making my first taste choice obvious.
A jar of lemonade kissed by sunshine in the open air looks more than tempting. That first mouthful was cold, tart and satisfying. I found a green leaf floating in mine, which I took to be mint. The addition no doubt contributed to the pleasing aroma of the drink.
Each lunch came with a lighthouse salad. The main ingredient of the salad was pasta, specifically the rice-shaped orzo.
Italians also refer to it as risoni, meaning large rice. While it looks like rice, its texture is like any small cooked pasta. The slick surface makes it slippery in the mouth.
The orzo was mixed with diced sweet pepper, sliced cherry tomatoes and grated Parmesan dressed with white wine vinegar and honey. I enjoyed the lightness of the salad, and the salty cheese made me hungry for the thick sandwich awaiting me.
Our group had ordered three different sandwiches. The most interesting, for many, would be the seafood sandwich. It reminded me of the fine, thick fish sandwiches I’ve enjoyed with a pint of ale at many a countryside pub in England.
Between two toasted slices of freshly baked, buttered oatmeal bread were layers of smoked salmon, shrimp, sliced sweet pepper and avocado.
The difference between the Newfoundland and English version of the sandwich is that in England, butter and mayonnaise would most likely be used in the filling. With or without, it’s a great sandwich.
The chutney glazed ham and brie sandwich has been a mainstay of the menu at Lighthouse Picnics from the beginning, and it’s still one of my favourites.
Glazed ham is not something you’ll find in my larder on a regular basis, so when I can have it in a beautifully made sandwich with exceptionally good cheese, it’s a treat. The hearty creation also contained sliced green apple for crunch and extra tang.
It would be a strange trip to the lighthouse if none of my companions ordered the curried chicken sandwich — another popular item from way back.
I wasn’t surprised when two of the group asked for the curried chicken. It contained chunks of tender, moist, fresh-baked chicken mixed with curried mayonnaise, almonds and fresh mango. Loaded with protein, it looked like a sandwich that would keep you going for at least a month.
Desserts change more frequently than sandwiches at Ferryland Picnics. There was an ample selection of sweets, some of which I’d seen before, but I saw less familiar ones as well.
The orange-flavoured scone with raisins was new to me. It was sliced in half and buttered. (Scones are meant to have something slathered on them, I think.) When I saw how wonderful it looked, I wished I’d had some thick cream and jam to put on it — as they do in Britain. That, along with a strong cup of tea, would have been perfect.
The chocolate ganache cake looked about as inviting as any chocolate cake could.
It came on a square plate with smooth, glossy chocolate icing sprinkled with powdered sugar. A single edible purple flower was added for colour. Finally, a large spoonful of freshly whipped cream hugged the piece of cake. Think of the ultimate chocolate brownie and you’ll have an idea how good the cake tasted.
My final and favourite dessert was a trio of Newfoundland jam tarts: bakeapple, blueberry and rhubarb. Jam tarts are the quintessential Newfoundland baked delight. So many of us remember our mothers or grandmothers making them.
Ferryland Picnics’ tarts were excellent. The shell was buttery, delicate and flaky, and the fillings had a robust, fresh-picked wild fruit flavour.
Lighthouse Picnics will continue operating for a few more months. If you’re looking for a way to reduce stress and spend some quality time with the special people in your life, this is a good way to do it. A picnic for two costs approximately $60. Reservations are strongly recommended.
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For regular updates on “One Chef One Critic,” my Telegram Dining Out column and the latest developments on the local culinary scene, please follow me on Twitter @karl_wells.
Karl Wells is an accredited personal chef and recipient of awards from the national body of the Canadian Culinary Federation and the Restaurant Association of
Newfoundland and Labrador.
He is also a restaurant panellist with enRoute Magazine.
Contact him through his