The main industries on Grand Manan Island are fishing, aquaculture and tourism. Although we had a hard time finding a cottage to rent last minute-ish, and many of the license plates are from away, the island doesn’t feel crowded at all. We’ve been the only folks at many of the places we’ve visited, despite it being high season.
In its heyday, the island supplied smoked fish, especially herring, to the world. Today, except for a bit of artisanal smoking, there is no fish processing on the island. There may be evidence of fish and shellfish everywhere you look but procuring some is another story: most of the lobster caught off Grand Manan is earmarked for foreign buyers, mainly in China.
Scallops seem to be a bit easier to come by. If you know where to look (convenience/liquor store hint hint), are persistent, and very lucky, you’ll find yourself paying $13-$16/lb for fresh large scallops. If you miss that boat ;-) you’ll probably find yourself with the chance to buy “fresh scallops – frozen”. I did scratch my head the first few times I saw signs for this oxymoronic product. But it does describe the shellfish well.
These scallops bear no resemblance to the ones you buy in big bags from the Costco deep freeze. Local entrepreneurs will snag a whack of scallops directly from the fishing boat, bag them up in 1-pound bundles and sell them fresh. Any that aren’t sold within a day are frozen. These frozen scallops still sell quickly and are a perfectly acceptable stand-in for fresh.
We went über-decadent with our scallops and pan-fried them with the fresh chanterelles we had bought in Kamouraska, Quebec. Delicious! We also bought some clams from Sunrise Fish. They were large and tasty but very gritty.
The Bay of Fundy provides another product that locals love – dulse. Dulse is picked in two areas of Grand Manan but those in the know claim that the dulse from Dark Harbour is the best. Not the best on the island, but rather the best in the world. When buying dulse, we were instructed to ask if it was from Dark Harbour and whether or not it was crispy. Apparently, crispy Dark Harbour dulse is even better than best.
Another famous local institution is “the bakery”. We had heard about this legendary place long before we reached the island. In fact, we heard about it from every single person we met who had ever visited this place. We knew it was in North Head but failed to find it on three separate drives there. In case you’re wondering, it is right on the main road, directly across from the hospital, so, yes we were blind. The bakery lived up to its reputation – you can tell a great bakery before you take your first bite. The look and smell of the loaves tells you everything you need to know.
Today’s Quote of the Day comes from our Ontario friends who became permanent residents of Grand Manan last November:
For an island we’re surprisingly hurting for sea food.