The Mi’kmaq is an indigenous tribe in the Atlantic provinces of Canada and northeastern Maine. Recently, I got to spend time with the fine folks at First Nations Tourism and over at Red Bank Lodge.
Talking to tribal elder and FNT proprietor Stephen Paul, I learned that they have been through extraordinary tough times — but never with food! The reserve in New Brunswick province is teeming with the natural bounty of salmon, rockfish, lobster, oysters, deer, duck, geese, moose, raspberries, blackberries, chokeberries, fiddlehead ferns and hazelnuts — the best to be had, too.
After building up an appetite while kayaking on the Miramichi River, I was able to try wild salmon and fiddlehead ferns as traditionally prepared by the Mi’kmaq. Bob Patles — one of the tribal elders — has worked in several fine dining establishments and so, is their go-to chef to impress. Some of his secrets: soak a hand-hewn local Eastern cedar plank in water (or else it would be tinder), make yourself a nice campfire, sprinkle your just-caught salmon with steak seasoning, cook.
Lightly boil just-picked wild fiddlehead ferns. They have a very short season and taste like a cross between green beans and asparagus.
Back at the lodge, Stephen Paul has sources right there for the finest oysters, mussels and lobster. He asked me if the raw oysters needed salt, but their bay oysters are plenty salty thanks to Mother Nature. Reading up on Village Bay Oysters here, I learned this about them:
- Specie: Crassostrea virginica
- Origin: Bedec, New Brunswick(CAN)
- Farmed: 4 to 6 years
- Average Size: 2.75 inches
- Available: January through May
Flavor Profile: Medium salinity with a bright clean finish.
Suggested Pairing: Sancerre
Bob keeps the natural flavor of shellfish highlighted by keeping things simple. A little lemon, a little hot sauce . . . and here’s a secret: herb compound butter!