A Late Fall Trip to Nova Scotia

photos: top left: Squash, Pear and Three Cheese Tart with greens, top right: 7oz. Organic N.S. Beef, Quebec Raw Cheddar Oulton’s Double Smoked Bacon from Brooklyn Warehouse, bottom right: daily lunch special Jane's, bottom left: Chef Ray Bear & Fresh Crab Cakes at Mix Fresh Kitchen, credit: Julie Pegg

Not that long ago, the refrain, “fresh, local and organic”, reached little beyond September. After all, it is a struggle to hoe and harvest late fall in Canada’s less kinder temperatures.

But by 2010 we saw avid farmers, fishers and producers of all geographies buck the weather. They grew, produced, harvested, and people came. Fresh, local, sustainable, and /or organic, became a recurring motif among markets and restaurants across the country. Add to that a bourgeoning cool climate wine industry and craft brews, and the word local became etched firmly in our culinary lexicon. And the bonds among chefs, winegrowers, farmers and fishermen continue to strengthen.

On a late fall trip to Nova Scotia I am bowled over by the late-fall availability of fresh produce among small town markets over the last four or five years — weather be damned. Wolfville Farmers Market is one of them. Bivouacked into the curling club, due to an Atlantic squall,  sixty Annapolis Valley vendors, with customary Maritime humour, set up last minute indoors to pedal curly kale, chard, cabbage and spinach, (sometimes a mix of all four) sweet/sharp Northern Spy apples, white turnips, nugget potatoes, bumpy squash, and honey, cheese, and artisan breads. Tousled haired chefs, sporting wool shirts, slickers and gumboots roust themselves from bed (or, from the looks of it, perhaps never went) to select early morning best; many have already in their clutch briny Malpeque oysters, and pretty-in-their-shells scallops.

Sensibly, local markets are licensed to sell local wines. I try (at 8:30 am!) an array of wines that include L’Acadie Blanc, Nova Scotia’s signature grape. The taste is similar to a grassy Sauvignon Blanc. Chef Jason Lynch of Grand Pre Vineyards Le Caveau restaurant partners a buttery oak-treated version wonderfully with scallops in an almond broth. L’Acadie Vineyards methode champenoise bubble does this varietal proud too. It brims with lemon, toast, honey and nut notes. Owner/winemaker Bruce Ewart honed his skills in the Okanagan at Summerhill Pyramid Winery and Hawthorne Mountain Vineyards (now See Ya Later Ranch).

Unfortunate timing prevents me, this visit, from getting to the Halifax Market, which has relocated from the Alexander Keith’s Brewery site to its new “green” home, the gorgeous airy Seaport building on the waterfront. From all accounts it’s a success. Looks like I have to make another visit — and bring the gumboots.

Below are a few Nova Scotia eateries that do wonders with local ingredients.

 

Brooklyn Warehouse (Halifax) fun, casual, heavy on the meat

Fid (Halifax) relaxed fine dining,

Gio (Halifax) upmarket casual, mixed

Jane’s On the Common (Halifax) casual, upscale home cooking

Morris East (Halifax) casual, pizza, charcuterie.

Wooden Monkey (Halifax) vegetarian, casual

Sea Level Gastropub (Port Williams, near Wolfville) great pub grub

Blomidon Inn (Wolfville) fine dining

Fleur de Sel (Lunenburg) relaxed fine dining

Fishcake Café (Lunenburg), Fleur de Sel’s casual cousin-great lunches.

Mix Fresh Kitchen (Halifax) craft food, a sommelier-designed wine list and food-pairings

In the next installment, Julie heads to Quebec.

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