tantalize your senses in Fredericton, New Brunswick

I have a fascination with fiddleheads–the curled bright green sprouts of the Ostrich fern. My love of fiddleheads began in May, 2002, when Angela Watson, (then) Tourism Coordinator for Fredericton Tourism invited my husband and me to go fiddlehead picking with her along the shores of the Nashwaak River–a small tributary of the mighty Saint John River that connects St. John, New Brunswick, to the capital city of Fredericton.

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I still love looking at this whimsical drawing of fiddleheads that I purchased in 2002 at the Fredericton Farmers’ Market from David Brewer, a Fredericton artist specializing in Celtic imagery.

It was a fascinating experience! Angela had rubber boots for both of us to wear, as fiddleheads are found along the wet mucky banks of the river. We cut the buds from the plant near to the ground, rinsed them in the river, and brought these local delicacies back to Angela’s place, where we learned how to clean and cook the fiddleheads. In North America, the fiddlehead is the East Coast version of asparagus–a delicious green vegetable that only grows in the spring. You can interchange the two vegetables in most recipes.

picking-fiddleheads-fredericton-new-brunswick

You’ll truly feel like a Maritimer if you go fiddlehead picking.

After shaking off the ‘cling-ons’ (the brown skin that clings to the surface of the delicate green buds), we steamed them for 10 minutes and then enjoyed our pick slathered with butter, and a touch of salt, pepper and vinegar. I now felt like a true maritimer rather than a tourist.

taste sensations of fredericton new brunswick

Fast forward to 2017, and on a return visit to Fredericton, I had the opportunity to return to the Fredericton Boyce Farmers Market and buy some fiddleheads along with a lot of other tasty treats. Quite a few of the vendors had chocolate offerings of various types. But without question, my favourite flavour of the day was the delicious coffee I enjoyed at Whitney Coffee. If there is better coffee being made in Fredericton, I didn’t find it.

fredericton-farmers-market

Ron Whitney of the Whitney Coffee Company makes a great cup of coffee. Find him most Saturdays at the Fredericton Boyce Farmers Market.

the vibrant art scene of fredericton new brunswick

But my visit to Fredericton wasn’t just about indulgence. I’d come for the annual conference of the Professional Writers Association of Canada, and as part of our program, we had the opportunity to visit two fabulous art galleries.

A small city of just over 58,000, Fredericton is easy to navigate and fun to walk. Our hotel was within blocks of pretty much everything you’d want to see, and walking from place to place gave us a chance to take in the historic landmarks and scenery along the way.

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We enjoyed our walk past the beautiful grounds of the Legislative Assembly of New Brunswick.

Our opening reception was held at Gallery 78, a lovely contemporary gallery of local handcrafted art housed in an 1898 property that has been refurbished to be home to New Brunswick’s oldest privately run art gallery.

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It took seven years to complete the major renovations that transformed the 19th century private residence to this stunning 21st century public gallery.

Gallery 78 is bright and welcoming, with big windows overlooking the St. John River. We were entertained by a local actor portraying Lord Beaverbrook–the early 20th century business tycoon who owned several newspapers in Britain and Canada and became involved in politics during World War II alongside Winston Churchill.

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I love this contemporary portrait of Lord Beaverbrook (whose real name was Max Aitken) painted by artist John Boyle. It is hanging in the lower level of the Beaverbrook Art Gallery in Fredericton.

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Peter Pacey is the talented actor who portrayed Lord Beaverbrook at our Welcome Reception at Gallery 78. He is pictured here with local writer Jackie ย Webster who was being honoured for her lifelong career in journalism.

I also enjoyed perusing the art at the Beaverbrook Gallery. The main floor offers a small but lovely gift shop. The main floor galleries are adorned with a selection of life-sized art–primarily British and Canadian art–and it was nice that we were allowed to take photos (without flash.)

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The “Wedding of the Red Horse” by Nancy Morin was one of my favourite pieces in the Atlantic Art Gallery at the Beaverbrook Gallery in Fredericton, New Brunswick. This form of art is called Magic Realism.

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I stayed at the Crowne Plaza Lord Beaverbrook Hotel while in Fredericton and loved the artful staircase decorated with beautiful wrought iron that took us up to the meeting rooms on the Mezzanine floor. The Lord Beaverbrook is a great venue for conferences.

I am so grateful that I returned to Fredericton, and was able to continue my exploration of this very lovely city. Have you been to Fredericton? Was there something that left a lasting impression with you?ย 

Doreen Pendgracs

Known throughout the Web as the "Wizard of Words", I've been a freelance writer since 1993. I'm currently researching and writing volume II of "Chocolatour: A Quest for the World's Best Chocolate". Volume I was published in September, 2013.

70 Responses

  1. Trudy
    Twitter:
    says:

    So glad you had a nice return visit and enjoyed so many of the many treasures of Fredericton while here for the conference, Doreen. It’s so much fun reading about your experiences like fiddle head picking! Trudy.

  2. Linda
    Twitter:
    says:

    Fredricton sounds like a very hip little village. I once bought some fiddleheads at my local farmers market. Had no idea what to do with them or how to prepare them. Thank heavens for Google! I found them to be very labor intensive to clean, but tasty. I’ve never bought them since but enjoy eating them when someone else does the labor.

  3. So glad you enjoyed Fredericton – and fiddleheads – twice. I love those little ferns. I eschew freezing them, though, as they remain ‘special’ when fresh picked, in season and served as you described.

    I lived in Fredericton twice – once as a young bride, mother and school teacher. Later on I returned as a property / marketing manager. I like the city and it’s cozy feeling. Glad that you enjoyed it too!

  4. Kathe says:

    Fredericton was a fantastic place to hold our conference. Another highlight for me was the tour of Christ Church Cathedral with the verger, who knew so much about church lore and architecture and had a great sense of humor. Staying at the Crowne Plaza, right by the river, was great. We joined the throngs of walkers and cyclists and parents pushing strollers along the shore. Loved the farmers’ market, too – they even had Montreal bagels brought in every week!

    • Hi Kathe. Thx for sharing some of your Fredericton experiences with us. I didn’t make it into the church, but it looked intriguing from the exterior. Yes, the paths along the St. John River are heavily used. That’s a sign of a healthy city! And I, too, was surprised to see the Montreal bagels at the farmers’ market in F’ton. Looking forward to tasting one in Montreal next month! ๐Ÿ™‚
      Doreen Pendgracs recently posted…tantalize your senses in Fredericton, New BrunswickMy Profile

  5. Suzanne Boles
    Twitter:
    says:

    I had a wonderful time at the conference. It was so great seeing you there, Doreen, and enjoying the sites and tastes of Fredericton.

    I didn’t get fiddleheads there but I did get them here, in Ontario. Yes, they actually have them here in grocery stores – maybe not as fresh but definitely good.

    • Hi Suzanne: I think they actually grow Ostrich ferns in Ontario, so the fiddleheads you may were probably local. We’re so lucky to have such great variety in the foods we eat. Glad you enjoyed F’ton. It’s a lovely city where it’s easy to have a great time! ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. Kathy Andrew
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    says:

    What a beautiful town. I love places so walkable and these buildings are beautiful. Rare to see such quality artwork in such a small venue. Looked like a great trip.

  7. Linda Strange says:

    HI Doreen. I very much enjoy your writing. The colours, flavours and personalities of the places you visit really shine through.
    I’ve never been further east than Montreal; but it’s descriptions such as this that make the entire east coast region and it’s people so enticing.
    Thanks, talented friend.

    • Thanks for this wonderful comment, Linda. It means so much to me to have friends and readers like you (virtually) along with me on my journeys. I think you would truly love the east coat. It is strikingly beautiful, friendly, and the music is phenomenal.

  8. Donna Janke
    Twitter:
    says:

    I haven’t visited Fredericton yet, but would like to. It’s also been years since I’ve had fiddleheads. It would be nice to have them fresh on the east coast!

  9. What a wonderful tour – I enjoy visiting anywhere I can spend time just wandering around! I’m not familiar with fiddleheads but they are really lovely looking. I can’t imagine what they taste like, but if I ever have a chance to give them a try I will think of you when I do!

  10. satinka
    Twitter:
    says:

    Doreen, I grow ferns but didn’t know I could eat the fiddleheads. Interesting post!

  11. Doreen, thank you for capturing your time in Fredericton, on both occasions, quite well. I’d been to Fredericton in 2005 and remembered that riverside trail, so I was happy to see it again and do a little bit of a tour the day after the conference wrapped up. It was great to have visiting the market, the art galleries, and other landmarks built into the conference schedule, providing a great opportunity to experience a small bit of the city we were in. That really added to the PWAC 2017 conference!

  12. I had never heard of Fiddleheads! How strange. I have however heard of Brunswick and hope I get the chance to explore one day!

  13. Lenie
    Twitter:
    says:

    Hi Doreen – we are able to have fiddleheads every Spring and you’re right, cleaned well and steamed they are delicious (and free for me, my favourite thing).
    Thanks for writing about the East Coast, it has always fascinated me. At one time I wanted to move to PEI – even had a chance to buy property on a river but passed on that – the family didn’t want to go. Big sigh!!

  14. Roxanne Browning
    Twitter:
    says:

    When I was in Ecuador’s jungle, we harvested fiddleheads, thought it was just a tropical plant.

    • Hi Roxanne. I think fiddleheads primarily grow in Northeastern North America. I know there are fiddlehead farms in Ontario, and Quebec, Canada, now, and they grow primarily in the wild in the Maritime Provinces. Interesting to learn they also grow in South America. Thx for sharing. ๐Ÿ™‚

  15. Phoenicia
    Twitter:
    says:

    Doreen – I have never tasted or even heard of fiddleheads! I now feel a tad “uncultured”. The grounds of the New Brunswick Legislature looks so clean- not a hint of dust anywhere.

    The Crowne Plaza Hotel looks stunning – I could stare at those staircases for hours. I imagine being escorted down whilst wearing a beautiful gown of course. The joys of being a woman!

    • Thanks for your comment, Phoenicia. Not feel uncultured! You live in the UK, and it is likely that fiddleheads are not readily available there. Yes, indeed, New Brunswick appears to be a very clean province. I didn’t see any litter in Fredericton, or in any the other destinations we visited.

  16. Kristina
    Twitter:
    says:

    Hi Doreen. Thanks for sharing such an interesting experience. I really like the paintings btw, especially one contemporary art portrait

  17. I’ve not tried fiddleheads but would love to! Our Seasons 52 restaurant in Indianapolis advertises them as a special in the spring. Next year I’ll make sure to try them. I love asparagus so if they have a similar taste, I think I’ll like them.

  18. I love continuing to learn about all the fantastic things to see and do wayyyyy north of where I am. Canada’s diversity is wonderful. You know how much I love architecture, so just looking at the buildings is fun, let alone finding a great cup of coffee!

  19. Emily
    Twitter:
    says:

    I love art galleries. I love seeing the works of other people and interpreting it my own way and learning about the context and history behind it. I really do like the contemporary portrait of Lord Beaverbrook. Very eye-catching.

  20. Fiddleheads- what a name! It is the first time I heard of this, I wish to taste it someday in future. Gallery 78 seems to be one great place for art lovers. Even the outside of the building looks so pretty!

  21. Nancy Painter says:

    Great blog, Doreen – I really enjoyed Fredericton, too. I didn’t get to taste fiddleheads while I was there, but the young man at the produce stall at the market told me they’re “like a cross between spinach and asparagus!”

  22. It might be small, but Fredericton does sound like a fun place to visit. I’ve never heard of fiddleheads before, but I’d love to try them.

  23. Josie
    Twitter:
    says:

    Hi Doreen,
    I enjoyed the visual of donning rubber boots out into the boggy bits to retrieve the fiddleheads. Quite pastoral.
    Your whole visit seems quite pastoral! Good food and good art.
    Regards,
    Josie

    • Thanks for your comment, Josie. Yes, I love having these experiences that transport you to a different place, time or lifestyle. Come to think of it, I was wearing rubber boots in Perus and Ecuador as well when we were in the Amazon region on cocoa farms. It’s pretty mucky there, too!

  24. Fredericton, New Brunswick certainly has a lot to offer. It sounds like you had a fantastic time!! And, I sure learned a lot about fiddleheads…I had never heard of them before. ๐Ÿ™‚

  25. Michele
    Twitter:
    says:

    I’d love to go picking fiddleheads … and love that painting of “Wedding of the Red Horse” it reminds me of the art in Oaxaca

  26. Sue Reddel
    Twitter:
    says:

    I’ve never been to Fredericton nor heard of it. I am a fan of fiddleheads and of interesting little towns like this one. Thanks for the introduction.

  27. Sandy N Vyjay
    Twitter:
    says:

    Loved reading this post, right from fiddlehead picking to the visit to the art gallery. I too was riveted by the painting of Lord Beaverbrook. It has a strange and enigmatic quality that the painter has brought out so well.

  28. Fiddleheads are such a delicacy. I have the ferns all over my yard, and although I did try tiger lily buds one year from the garden, I haven’t quite gotten up the nerve to forage them from my own yard! We recently had a buffalo variety-kind of a spin on buffalo wings. They were tasty as all things fried usually are (especially when you add in blue cheese) but I prefer them nice and crunchy in an omelette. Have never been to Fredricton, but any spot that has fiddleheads on the menu I’d be happy to visit!

  29. Ami Bhat
    Twitter:
    says:

    The Gallery was no doubt, really beautiful and lovely with its array of paintings but I loved the place you stayed in. That staircase is quite beautiful indeed. Something really artistic and lovely about it.

  30. Ana Watts says:

    I’m so glad you enjoyed Fredericton, fiddleheads and PWAC friends, Doreen. And thank you for sharing your experience with your followers. I wouldn’t mind if a few more people called Fredericton home, but maybe not too many. There’s a lot to be said for a small city with a great market and a coffee brewer like Ron Whitney, who used to fix my Mac. Gotta love a small town!

  31. Suruchi
    Twitter:
    says:

    Great post and I liked Fredericton too.The first picture of the fiddleheads is worth admiring. The Wedding of the red horse painting definitely goes to my favorite list. The staircase is really special and the architecture of gallery 78 looks quite fascinating. I loved everything about this post.

  32. Abhinav Singh
    Twitter:
    says:

    Itโ€™s refreshing to see someone talking about fiddleheads. So many people love it and still it has not been able to come to mainstream. In Bhutan, Nepal and hills of India it is widely eaten. I had my first taste in India.

  33. Sherryl Perry
    Twitter:
    says:

    Fredericton sounds like a lovely town. I’ve never been to New Brunswick before but I’m certain I’d enjoy visiting there. As for fiddleheads being a version of asparagus, I did not know that!
    Sherryl Perry recently posted…Do You Sell Online? Want To?My Profile

  34. Beverly says:

    Imagine finding your own fiddleheads. That was an authentic travel experience for you and Reg. I love a great cup of coffee and I am glad you found one at Whitney Coffee. The art work you featured in your article is vibrant and adds to the local colour of your upbeat article. I love the architecture of the building the art work is housed in.

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