2018 in review

What was hot, cold and oh-so good in the food and drink scene

The highs, lows and deliciousness of the last year.

The highs, lows and deliciousness of the last year

As you're raising a glass over this Christmas season, here's our look back at all things food and drink in Newfoundland and Labrador in 2018. (Yellowbelly Brewery/Twitter)

A bold year deserves a bold statement: 2018 was the one that saw the food and drink scene in Newfoundland and Labrador branch out, build up, with some buzzworthy bibs and bops.

It wasn't all good news, of course. We'll get to that. 

First, let's start off with what went right this year.

Some drinks to start? Yes, please! 

Just like at a restaurant, where the first thing you're asked about are drinks, let's start with the beverage selection. And what a selection!

There's more choice than ever, at least if you're a beer drinker when it comes to new breweries that opened their doors. And in different parts of the province, too — which can make for a fun staycation. Just ask Peter and Sandra Troke. Not only do they have the memories, and the logged kilometres, of their trip hitting all the craft breweries in Newfoundland, they have growlers, too.  

Sandra Troke poses with a pint at Dildo Brewery. (Submitted by Peter Troke )

One of their favourites is the Dildo Brewing Company, in the community of Trinity Bay. Staff opted to skip the puns, despite the plethora of um, NSFW suggestions, and went for some understated names for its beverages, like Blue Eyed Buoy. 

The brewery that opened in Gander gave a tip of the glass to the town's aviation history with the name Scudrunner. David Jerrett decided to step away from the skies after 20 years as a pilot and give the beer-brewing business a try. 

And Landwash Brewery, on Commonwealth Avenue in Mount Pearl, is another one that is sneaking in before the calendar flips over to 2019. And who knows? Maybe more are eyeing a career in drinks, what with the tax breaks that the provincial government announced last month, aimed at making things easier for the growing industry.

Peter Wilkins, co-founder of the Newfoundland Distillery, tries a gin and tonic made with the company's popular seaweed gin (Peter Cowan/CBC)

But it's not just beer that was brewed here this year. The Newfoundland distillery in Clarke's Beach continues to make a name for itself, winning a double gold medal at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition this year — and it did so with a gin that's made with seaweed.

Some of the above-mentioned places even put customers to work — soliciting juniper berries, crabapples and issuing an SOS to return the stand-out-from the crowd blue beer bottles. 

Chow down!

Restaurants in this province have definitely made a splash on the national food scene, but this year, one local chef had the equivalent of a cannonball. 

Ross Larkin, a key factor in the success of Raymonds in downtown St. John's, was crowned the winner of Top Chef Canada's sixth season, beating out 11 contestants. 

And he let local ingredients take centre stage in the finale - with dishes that included moose heart tartare, cod chitlin with capelin gold leaf a diver scallop and a dessert made of parsnip and partridge.

The St. John's Farmers' Market opened the doors to its new location, and boy, did people ever come in and make themselves at home and what used to be the Metrobus depot. The Clarenville Farm and Market also got a new home base, after the first one got swept up in high winds. 

Speaking of farmers' markets, the provincial government is really hoping more people will get involved in the industry. (Spoiler alert: young people and immigrants are more than welcome).

The St. John's Farmers' Market opened for business in July. (John Pike/CBC)

From farms to forager Shawn Dawson, who turned his passion for wild food into a full-time job, collecting ingredients for local breweries and restaurants.

The food scene seemed to expand this year, and people on two different coasts of Newfoundland are enjoying some Syrian food, courtesy of two different families who have made this province their home. 

Safaa Thome, left, serves Syrian dishes at the St. John's Farmers' Market. Maysaa Al-Omar, right, opened Jasmine Syrian Food in Corner Brook. (Malone Mullin and Colleen Connors/CBC )

And while there were new businesses, there was also a blast from the past. The famous Lar's custard cones are back at the Newfoundland Embassy, a new eatery that opened in the new space that used to be home to iconic Lar's Fruit Market. It's a place that hundreds of you hold near and dear to your heart.

Speaking of dessert (is anyone else getting hungry?!), we brought you a couple of innovative bakers who are doing it their way: one without eggs and dairy products, and another that focuses on Asian desserts. Don't knock 'em until you try 'em. 

Winnie Crocker, also known as Mrs. Lar, was on board to turn out a custard cone, or two, for the grand opening of the Newfoundland Embassy in October. (Eddy Kennedy/CBC)

Meals-on-wheels are picking up steam in the province — food trucks, that is. There appears to be a good camaraderie and network, with vendors of all types of goods, wanting to help each other. 

Oops ... Tim's did it again

In the category of "whoopsie daisy," Tim Hortons stands alone. Sure, there might have  been other restaurants with national gaffes, but we're keeping it local here. 

Stop us if you've heard this one before. A Roll Up the Rim contest with no rims. Well, blank rims to be precise

Some Tim Hortons customers found empty rims. A Canadian crisis. (Philip Tompkins/Twitter)

Then, a month later, a woman ordered a sandwich from the coffee giant. She was handed a bag, but it definitely wasn't a sandwich.

Closures, criticism, complications

It proved to be a tough year for several downtown and area St. John's businesses that announced they were closing their doors: The Reluctant Chef, Bacalao, Bad Bones Ramen and the Fifth Ticket among them. 

Unfortunately, food security — or insecurity — is still an issue. The Nutrition North program, which has been criticized in the past, seemed to reach an apex, with the federal minister responsible for the initiative admitting the program had "lost its way." The Nunatsiavut government said it's happy changes have been made, but say serious issues remain

The town of Happy Valley-Goose Bay saw both of its major grocery stores damaged by fire within days of each other, putting jobs and food in jeopardy

Fire ravaged NorthMart in Happy Valley-Goose Bay in September. (Rhona Rea)

And, hunters renewed their calls to try and convince government to make it easier to donate wild game to food banks.

Bourdain brings buzz 

While the prolific former chef turned food writer and television host made his much-discussed trip to the Rock in 2017, the Parts Unknown: Newfoundland episode aired on CNN on April 29, 2018.

Chef Anthony Bourdain has been making the rounds across Newfoundland and Labrador while filming an episode of the television show Parts Unknown. (Instagram)

Thanks to Anthony Bourdain and his crew, the search term "Newfoundland" spiked after the Parts Unknown episode aired on May 13, according to Google Trends data — which was good news to the tourism industry.

Some in the restaurant scene talked about the bump in business thanks to what's called the Bourdain Effect.

The episode featured Bourdain pal around with, and go moose hunting, with local executive chef Jeremy Charles, of Raymonds fame, and his business partner Jeremy Bonia. Other highlights included fish and chips at Chafe's Landing in Petty Harbour, and an epic boil-up.

(Twitter/@Bourdain)

People here in Newfoundland and Labrador shared the shock and sadness that poured in around the world following the announcement that Bourdain had taken his own life on June 8. 

But hopefully people take away this advice that a Montreal restaurateur said Bourdain gave to him.

What's next?

Here's hoping the food and drink scene continues to grow — the more, the merrier, right?

There are some big makeovers, announced in 2018, that are on the horizon. 

Templeton's was open for 150 years. (Mark Quinn/CBC)

Templeton's in downtown St. John's is on its way to housing a distillery. The brewery in the works for the old fire station on Duckworth Street generated some buzz when it tweeted its official name: Bannerman Brewing Co. 

Outside the capital city, a 100-year-old church is getting a makeover (big time!) from the team behind Yellowbelly brewery. 

The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, which has laid dormant since 2014, is poised to become a brewery. (CBC Archives)

And Port Union is set to get its open a craft brewery and will call the old union electric building home.

So, a toast to 2019: here's to good food, good drink and good company to enjoy it with.

Cheers!

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