Canadian columnist promotes The Hog Penny’s fish chowder recipe
A chance sampling of a traditional Bermudian dish by a repeat visitor has put the Hog Penny restaurant on the world wide web via the National Post based in Toronto, Canada.
In a special report, Doug Pepper, who's wife has family ties to Bermuda said he has visited the Island “almost every year since the mid-1990s”.
“My only complaint was that the food did not match the majesty of the setting and the lovely and complex nature of its inhabitants,” wrote Mr Pepper.
“How I missed sampling the chowder for so many years is beyond me, but I did, and it wasn't until a chance visit to a pub in Hamilton called The Hog Penny — the kind of dank old watering hold I could live in — that I ordered my first cup.”
The popular writer recounted how he happened to go to the Burnaby Street eatery, just before lunch with “two cranky, overheated and hungry children”.
He opted to have fish chowder and a beer, the children had lemonade and fried calamari.
“The chowder, a deal at $7.95, was dark, tomato-based, made with local wahoo and laced with Outerbridge's Sherry Pepper Sauce, which has a nice fruity and heat-packed bite, and dark rum that came in vinegar shakers. It was served with crusty bread.”
“Where had this been all my life? The colour, consistency, the rum (fermented from molasses in charred oak barrels) and the peppers call to mind pirates and sunken ships.
“While I am generally a bigger fan of tomato-based chowders than their creamy counterparts, this concoction was crimson or even blood-red and altogether a different thing,” he wrote.
“I've now made it several times myself, but nothing compares to that first cup and the discovery of something unique, delicious and home-grown.
“A recent bowl at the famous Swizzle Inn came very close, and my father-in-law, who grew up in Bermuda, claims the best on the Island is at The Mid-Ocean Club, where Churchill and Eisenhower used to golf.”
Mr Pepper continued: “Fish chowder is considered Bermuda's national dish, not a big leap I suppose for an island in the middle of nowhere.
“It dates back to the mid-1600s and is British in origin, not American as some people (Americans) think.
“The Hog Penny version may have had some paprika and lemon, and perhaps a pinch of cinnamon and nutmeg.
“Besides the pepper sauce and rum, which is added just before eating, the key is the long-term commitment to the fish stock that acts as the base and therefore the soul of the chowder, not unlike the role of the homemade broth in Chinese noodle soups that makes or breaks the dish.
“Since my initiation, I have sourced many Bermuda fish chowder recipes on the Web and in cook books from the Island.
“A good number of them call for clam juice, ketchup and other substitutions and abominations.
“Outside of Bermuda, wahoo can be replaced with king fish and is akin to Spanish mackerel
“With its razor-sharp teeth, it's not for the faint of heart, just like the chowder itself. For the Outerbridges, you either need to go to Bermuda, or tap somebody who is going.
“The Goslings Black Seal Rum or something comparable is usually available at any liquor store.
“The last time I made Bermuda fish chowder on the Island I went to a supermarket in town and asked for Bermuda onions only to be told they were out of season.
“The only onions they had were “Made in Canada”! Same with the tomatoes. If you can't find fresh tomatoes, good canned marzanos will do. And Bermudans themselves often add tomato paste.
“Bermuda is a far cry from a culinary haven, save for some decent chefs having their way with the local seafood, but their chowder does stand apart.
“It hasn't changed much since the British landed looking for something decent and familiar to eat.
“And you can't argue with any dish that requires a shot of rum and a few splashes of something as delicious as Outerbridges to finish it off.
“Any self-respecting Bermudian would demand it as their last meal, and I'm starting to think I would do the same,” he wrote.
When contacted restaurant owner Philip Barnet was pleasantly surprised to hear of the positive review.
“We are thrilled that the Hog Penny Fish Chowder continues to be so highly rated after all these many years, and with so many great competitors (as what self-respecting restaurant doesn't have a fish chowder on the menu!).
“Truthfully it is the perfect dish for Hog Penny, as it is hearty, nicely spiced, flavourful and chock full of fish, and because of that is sincerely comforting.
“The good news is, we will never change the recipe at Hog Penny, so here's to the next 55 years in business serving delicious Hog Penny Fish Chowder,” said Mr Barnett.
The Hog Penny's recipe for fish chowder is also posted on the Canadian website.
Mr Pepper writes a monthly review on the exploration of esoteric dishes and delicacies for The National Post.
The link to his review is: http://life.nationalpost.com/2012/09/22/delicacies-a-Bermudan-dish-worth-importing/