The Kitchen Witch
It used to be an annual tradition, getting our tea leaves read. My mother, my sister, and I would take a scenic drive through the country from my parents’ house in Rusticoville, past the kids gleefully throwing themselves off of Stanley Bridge, past the gleaming white and green historical kitsch of Lucy Maud Montgomery’s birthplace in New London, to Long River Road. To The Kitchen Witch.
The cracked white paint job of the refurbished 19th-century schoolhouse turned into a homey restaurant and gift shop, has been a familiar sight for almost as long as I can remember at this point. I was always happy to scramble through the gravel parking lot, up the rickety steps and into the old fashioned dining room, eager to see what banalities my future would hold. Homemade soups and sandwiches, like the classic open-face ham and Swiss with a ring of sweet pineapple, set the scene for a whole lot of tea drinking. Orange Pekoe and Earl Grey were our standards back then; there weren’t as many exotic and floral options available to us in rural PEI. So we’d sip our steaming cups and then hope for the best.
After a while, we stopped going. The food took a turn for the worse, and then—insult to injury—the homemade fare took an even worse turn for frozen and fried. The future was clear: we were not going back. That is, until a few weeks ago when, on a scenic drive through the country, my mother and I happened upon it. We took it as a sign and decided to go in. I’m glad we did.
Seven years ago, a sweet couple from Texas apparently took over the Kitchen Witch, and brought it back to its roots. They are focusing on home cooking and using local ingredients, buying Island meats from the Riverview Market in Halifax, sourcing cheese from the fantastic Gouda Cheese Lady in Winsloe, and buying organic veggies from Crystal Green Farms. The menu focuses on homemade soups and sandwiches again, with fresh made bread and seasonal flavours. They also have a Tex-Mex menu with vegan and gluten-free options, which brings their Texan point of view to customers. It’s a cool mix. I would never expect to find homemade corn tortillas in PEI, but there they are.
We happened in during one of the Island’s very well executed marketing initiatives for local food, Porktoberfest. (Seriously: PEI knows what’s up when it comes to putting together creative campaigns that feel inclusive of a lot of different types of restaurants, and that feel like they have the potential to reach audiences outside of so-called “foodies,” who can be a bit of a self-congratulatory echo chamber. They also always look well-planned to outsiders, which is also really great.) We both ended up ordering the When Pigs Fly sandwich, a rootbeer-marinated pulled pork sandwich with black forest ham, apple chutney, and smoked bacon on a dense and delicious apple brioche. We also ordered some of their delicious desserts—a s’mores bar and a butter tart square. It was all wonderful.
A friendly, funny lady by the name of Janice reads leaves, and the readings are simple and straightforward. She only focuses on the positive, which was nice. Although I did have vengeance in my cup, which is something. (“Live life with a vengeance!” she suggested. We’ll see. Oh, yes. We. Shall. See. ) The novelty still hasn’t worn off for me, and I’m really glad to have this wonderful little place back on my radar. I guess if I’d had my leaves read sometime in the past seven years, perhaps I’d have known sooner.