“Look at those whitecaps on the pond,” I exclaimed to my husband and as we barreled down the highway towards Placentia. The early October Saturday we had chosen to do our Roots, Rants and Roars picnic had a less-than-ideal weather situation. Let’s just say it was more than a little gusty with weather reports of storm surges and hurricane-force winds. But in true RRR spirit, we were going to have a meal outside, rain or shine.
Let’s be honest, no one travels to Newfoundland and Labrador in the fall for the nice weather. In the before-COVID times when Roots, Rants and Roars attracted thousands from across the country every September, all attendees knew the weather could be unpredictable — some years you’re taking the iconic Food Hike along the coast in rain gear, other years it's a t-shirt and flip flops.
This year, for the second installment of the COVID friendly “My Food Hike” experience offered by Roots, Rants and Roars, there were picnic bags offered all across the province from just down the road of RRR’s birthplace at Two Whales Coffee shop to all the way up to Labrador at The Florian Hotel. And unlike previous years, the My Food Hike offering is up for grabs until mid-October, so prepping for NL’s inclement weather is even more important.
We saw rain showers, sunny skies and even a rainbow as we made our way to Placentia. We picked up our picnic at the charming Three Sisters Pub and started to search for the ideal picnic spot.
There are tons of vignettes around Placentia proper (the town has picnic tables and viewpoints all over the place) but it was just too windy to sit out in the open. So up to Castle Hill National Historic Site we went and discovered there are several picnic situations just next to the interpretation centre that are sheltered from those chilly October breezes.
The sun broke through the heavy grey clouds as we unpacked our picnic bounty from Three Sisters Pub. First up the sandwiches, both made on spongy, herbaceous focaccia bread: the Shrimp Salad made with small and delicate local coldwater shrimp was super flavourful, while the P.B.L.T. was piled high with thinly sliced pork belly, shiny from the spiced molasses, along with tomatoes, lettuce and roasted garlic aioli. We shared a bottle of the Landwash Da Pearl Saison beer to wash them down.
Then came the sides. We demolished the Tomato and Peach salad in minutes, dunking chunks of roasted peach and plump tomatoes into the whipped mozzarella, while we luxuriated over the Split Pea and Onion Dip, spooning the creamy dip with crispy flatbread. It was as if a Newfoundland pease pudding and a Middle Eastern hummus had a baby and made a dip — topped with spicy kimchi and charred brussels sprouts.
For dessert, the double chocolate brownie was topped with a light and airy cream cheese icing and the vanilla panna cotta with NL berries was the perfect finish to our al fresco meal. I’ll be back to have a proper inside meal at Three Sisters sometime soon.
After lunch, we cruised over to neighbouring Argentia to hike some of the Backland Trail, a remnant of the American Naval Army base that overlooked the harbour there for half a century.
While the trailhead itself is not super well-marked, the path, which consists of 16km of different trails and viewpoints overlooking the Port of Argentia, is easy to navigate. Pass by old army bunkers, World War Two gun bridges, not to mention gorgeous oceanside cliffs. The hills were alive with wind gusts but it was an easy hike with some great views.
We were lucky that day. Our Placentia picnic turned out to be a pleasant one indeed, but we’re always up for a Roots, Rants and Roars picnic and hike — good food, great views and a Spotify playlist to enjoy, rain or shine.