Delicacies belong on The Great Canadian Bucket List. We’ve chased lobsters in Prince Edward Island, powered into the world of poutine and smoked meat in Montreal, and tested our metal with prairie oysters in Alberta. Next up is that muscularly white wonder of seafood candy we call the scallop.
Breading and deep frying does this ocean fruit no justice. Wrapped in bacon, seared with soy sauce – would you dare do such a thing to an oyster? As I was to discover at Aqua Labadie, an operational scallop farm located in Quebec but serviced by Labrador, scallops are best appreciated raw or poached in seawater, and always in good company.
Agritours are fun, educational, and in the case of scallops, rather delicious. Located in a largely unknown stretch of exquisite scenic beauty, heading west 50km from the Labrador border past the ferry town of Blanc Sablon, Aqua Labadie is the brainchild of Philippe and Clara Labadie. Through trial and error, Philippe learned how to successfully farm scallops, while Clara, inspired by a Champagne tour in France, is building a growing tourist attraction. After all, it’s not every day one sees how scallops are gathered, much less in a location as striking as Salmon Bay. Each summer, when the tundra-lime hills roll into the sparkling Gulf of St Lawrence, the Labadies invite tourists for a lifestyle tasting. It begins with a smooth boat ride up the channel on their luxury pontoon, passing abandoned fishing communities, a working fishery, and rocky beaches. During my visit, the sea is as smooth as the face of a Geisha doll, although admittedly this isn’t always the case. Back on land, Philippe demonstrates how scallops can grow into the size of dinner plates, their age determined by lines on the shell – just like rings of a tree. I learn how they are carefully placed in nets, protected from predators like starfish and lobster. When I pick up a live scallop, it opens it shell and interacts, an evolutionary step up from oysters and mussels. This is very much a live creature, with dozens of pinhead black eyeballs on its meaty exterior. Returning to the tastefully decorated tasting room, it’s time to taste what all the fuss is about. Shell in hand, Philippe scrapes away the meat with a knife, leaving the familiar white muscle. He hands the shell over to me. Completely raw, as fresh as any seafood could possibly be.
“Go ahead, taste that.”
I plop it into my mouth and saviour the familiar texture, only juicer, and sweeter than any scallop I’ve tried before. Philippe is clearly proud of my reaction, proud of introducing visitors to the wonders of unfrozen, uncooked scallop.
Next, Clara has prepared a tasting tray of scallops on the shell, poached for two minutes in seawater, and accompanied by a bake apple and red berry drizzle. They are firmer, but just as delicious, especially with the sweet/sour condiments. Finally, it’s time to taste the full meal deal – the muscle, meat, tendons and caviar. All together, it looks unappetizing, as gizzards and organs and intestines often do. I get past my sight aversion and fork a chunk into my mouth. It tastes like a large mussel, sandwiched by scallop meat. Delicious, although aesthetically speaking, I don’t expect full scallop to appear on many menus anytime soon.
Tours to Aqua Labadie are arranged through a company called Tour Labrador, or if you’re mobile, drive north on the Jacque Cartier Highway from Blanc Sablon until you see the yellow signs. Tours typically lasts one to three hours, depending on what you go for, concluding with a tasting, or even a full seafood meal. I make a solemn promise to never again desecrate this morsel with breading and a deep fryer. That would be like deep-frying an apple. Canada’s Bucket List salutes the Atlantic scallop, another home-grown culinary treasure we can all appreciate.
Click here for more info on how to tick this one off the bucket list!