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.
As with any kind of a road trip some of the best discoveries often happen when you least expect them and that’s certainly been true of my Nova Scotian adventure. I put on nearly a thousand miles during my tour of the Province and discovered serendipitous finds all along the way.
A fortuitous announcement on the radio just as I was driving out of Halifax alerted me to the fact that a little restaurant in Dartmouth had just been named by Canadian Living Magazine as having the best fish and chips in Canada. I punched the coordinates into the GPS and within minutes I was pulling into the driveway of John’s Lunch, a tidy little nook of a shop in an industrial part of town.
All of the red vinyl booths were occupied but I found a stool at the counter. An illuminated menu board that looked like it dated back to the restaurant’s opening in 1969 listed the offerings: clams and calamari, halibut tips and shrimp, all of it subjected to a quick dip in one of the many bubbling fryers manned by serious looking cooks. Resisting the urge to supplement my lunch with a huge plate of the delicious looking fried clams my neighbour was eating I stuck to a huge plate of fried haddock and chips. The excellent airy batter and ultra fresh, glistening fish needs no fancy accompaniment to earn its status as the best in the country.
On Pictou’s main street I had to circle back because I couldn’t resist checking out the grand brick building with a giant knife cutting through its side. Turns out this is the home of Grohmann knives, one of the world’s leading manufacturers of kitchen and hunting knives. I was invited on a tour of the factory where I learned that the techniques have hardly changed since the company started in 1949. What’s left of a large stretch of walrus hide (strips off it are used to finish polishing the steel) that was given to the company in the 1960s hung on the wall next to a large whale vertebrae. A shower of sparks filled the factory floor where workers ground the blades on wooden spinning wheels. Indonesian rosewood handles were carefully shaped by another artisan to provide a snug fit in the hand. I picked up one of their famous Canadian belt knives, a design classic that’s been around since the late 50s. I imagine that it will become a family heirloom, passed down from generation to generation just like the company that made it.
Nova Scotia Tourism Agency
Guests sample the latest vintage inside the
converted church that now serves as the
tasting room for Avondale Sky Winery.
Driving from Wolfville to Pictou one afternoon I passed through the little town of Newport Landing where I’d heard there was a temple to wine. While I was imagining some kind of altar with, perhaps, a picture of Bacchus above it, what I found was something much more literal. The pretty Carpenter Gothic style cream building with its steep pitched red roof is now home to Avondale Sky Winery, but for nearly 175 years before that it was the St. Matthews Church.
Inside, where the light is filtered through stained glass windows and classical music plays quietly on the stereo, I met up with Stewart Creaser and Lorraine Vassalo, the owners of the winery. Over a glass of their Stubborn Head wine they told me the amazing history of the building. “The old church was being closed. There were only four people left in the congregation,” Vassalo said. “They deconsecrated the church and it would have just fallen into disrepair so when we had the opportunity to buy it we had to,” Creaser continued. “The only problem is that it was in another town 40km away. Getting it here was a bigger challenge than we even imagined. With the help of a lot of talented people we drove it to the river, strapped it to a barge and shipped it across the bay.”
Today the great travelling church is one of the most tranquil and lovely wine tasting rooms in the world. Formal tastings happen at the harvest table near the chancel while more informal tastings take place at a counter that’s divided by the old baptismal font. What was once the sanctuary is now filled with comfy chairs and a big couch for people to relax and rest beneath the colourful stained glass.
If I hadn’t made a wrong turn off the Evangeline Trail outside of New Minas, I never would have discovered the Port Pub, a co-operative pub owned by forty community shareholders in the small town of Port Williams. In addition to having some of the best lobster dip (made luscious with apple smoked cheddar) it also shares its building with Sea Level Brewing, a microbrewery specializing in handcrafted ales. At the friendly bartenders recommendation I paired the pub’s Planter’s Pale Ale, a easy drinking hoppy beer with a sweet malt flavour, with a plate of the lobster poutine, loaded with local lobster, Fox Hill cheese curds and a rich lobster cream sauce. Getting lost never tasted so great.
Nova Scotia Tourism Agency
Fresh lobster tails pick up a smoky sweetness
from the grill..
My road trip adventure has covered hundreds of kilometres and included some of the best that the province has to offer and yet I know I’ve only scratched the surface.
Where will your Nova Scotia Adventure take you?