Nothing brings people together like an unforgettable meal. In Nova Scotia, fresh and local isn’t a fad – it’s a way of life. We’ve sent one of Canada’s best food and travel writers on a culinary road trip to 5 destinations, stopping to experience seafood just pulled from the ocean, mouth-watering produce from our traditional valley farms, and acclaimed wine from our vintners. Now take yourself there, and dine in modern world-class restaurants, lively pubs, or beachside at an authentic lobster shack. Set out on a delicious culinary adventure as varied as the communities that dot our province.
Nova Scotia Tourism Agency
Baskets of Honeycrisp, Jonagold and Northern Spy
apples tempt buyers at Noggins Corner Farm Market.
Just outside the town of Windsor, Nova Scotia (famous as the birthplace of hockey) a sign informs me that I’m halfway between the equator and the north pole. It’s the Goldilocks location, I think: not too hot, not too cold, just right.
That would explain the abundance of family farms that this area supports: orchards, vineyards and pastures stretch to the horizon on both sides of the road. I’m on my way to a seventh generation dairy farm here in the Annapolis Valley. Fox Hill Farms sits, as the name suggests, at the top of a hill overlooking the Minas Basin. Jersey and Holstein cattle graze in the fields around the property. At the end of driveway is the farm’s latest addition, the Fox Hill Cheese House, is a classic dairy store with a modern twist.
I’m greeted by Jeanita Rand who, along with her husband and family runs the farm. Like any good hostess, she offers me a drink: a glass of milk so fresh and cold it’s got a small cap of cream on the top. “We started out as milk producers,” she tells me, “but expanded into fresh cheese as a way of increasing the value of our products.” Today the farm makes several varieties including an excellent, sharp aged cheddar, gouda spiked with different seasonings and a fresh German cheese known as quark. The success of the cheese has enabled the farm to expand into the creamiest natural yoghurt and seasonal gelato as well as returning to its roots with super fresh, non-homogenized and chocolate milk in classic glass bottles.
“We work with local businesses,” Rand says. “A French baker brings us bread, a neighbour makes the granola we sell that goes with our yoghurt. The maple syrup we use in our gelato is local and our honey is made from bees that feed on the fields all around here.” “There’s an energy around local food that’s very prominent in this region,” Rand says.
Nowhere is that energy better experienced than at Noggins Corner in nearby Greenwich. Part farm and part theme park, Noggins Corner is not your average farmer’s market. The parking lot is jammed with cars, trucks and buses. Kids swarm over the jungle gym, create elaborate sculptures in the sandbox and get their hands dirty digging around the U-pick pumpkins. From August to October the giant corn maze attracts families from around the globe. Of course, it’s not just about geocaching and trail hiking, Noggins Corner is first and foremost a working farmers market. In the summer the shelves heave with pears, peaches, plums and raspberries as well as 52 kinds of apples, and that’s just the fruit! With 80 acres of vegetable crops and a state of the art warehousing system fresh local fruits and vegetables are available year round.
Pretty much the only thing that Noggins Corner doesn’t grow are grapes. Fortunately, there are plenty of other places around specializing in them. At Domaine de Grand Pre winery, one of the oldest in the region, a cobblestone courtyard leads to a candlelit staircase and up to a pergola, surrounded by flowering perennials. Once again, the view stretches all the way down to the Bay of Fundy. The modern tasting room is buzzing with visitors who have come to taste the wineries famous vidal, Leon Millot and cabernet foch. I’m driving so stick to a small taste of the award winning Champlain Brut – named after Samuel de Champlain who mapped Nova Scotia during the early French and Acadian settlement days – a crisp, dry sparkler made from Seyval Blanc and L’Acadie Blanc. It would be the perfect thing to start a great meal and I’d stay for dinner (Chef Jason Lynch oversees the wineries award winning restaurant, Le Caveau), but I’ve got a reservation at the historic Blomidon Inn in Wolfville.
The only thing more charming than the elegant Burgundy and white facade of the Inn, a meticulously restored sea captain’s mansion, are my hosts, Sean and Mike Laceby, Blomindon’s chef and sommelier respectively. I’ve asked chef Sean to cook for me using the best Nova Scotia ingredients and Mike has agreed to pair each dish with an appropriate local wine.
“You know you’ve got a good product when it moves when it hits the pan,” chef Sean says presenting me with the first course a trio of seared scallops that were swimming (or whatever scallops do) in the Bay of Fundy mere hours earlier. Mike pours a glass of sparkling Brut from L’Acadie Vineyards and the wine’s toastiness is enhanced by the fresh fruit salsa that accompanies the scallops.
Nova Scotia Tourism Agency
Blomidon Inn chef Sean Laceby’s fresh homemade linguini
with tomato and scallions in a horseradish cream is barely
visible beneath an enormous fresh lobster tail.
Up next, huge hunks of lobster meat are piled atop a tangle of fresh, homemade linguini with tomato and scallions in a horseradish cream sauce. Michael uncorks a bottle of Eagle Tree muscat to pair with it and tells me, “This was the first white from Nova Scotia that made me think, we’re really going to make some good wine here.” One taste and it’s hard to disagree, the wine’s rich aroma and full, tropical flavour is underpinned by a crisp acidity that cuts through and complements the pasta’s creamy sauce.For dessert there’s Acadian
Levi Pie, a traditional Acadian apple crisp made with apples that may very well have come from Noggins, with a glass of golden Pomme d’Or sweet apple wine from Domaine de Grand Pre. It’s a perfect pairing: not too sweet, not too sticky, just right.