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The ham and scalloped potato special from the Esquire in Bedford, NS (Ian Brown/The Globe and Mail)
The ham and scalloped potato special from the Esquire in Bedford, NS (Ian Brown/The Globe and Mail)

21 unexpected delights across our flavourful nation Add to ...

Fruit in the Okanagan Valley, B.C.

It is also possible in Vernon to receive tongue-on instruction in the difference between a Lapin and a Lambert cherry, where previously you might have thought it was Bing or bust. I bought a bag of plums, which I ate all day in the car, and a jar of pickled asparagus, which I ingested in the front seat of my car in the parking lot of the market four minutes after I bought them.

Specials at the Esquire Cafe in Bedford, NS

8) The Esquire café, on the Bedford highway, north-eastern edge of Halifax. Left hand side of the road as you head north, just past Clearwater’s giant roadside lobster. Choosing between the Esquire’s specials and The Battered Fish fish stand’s perfectly coated and cooked haddock and sweet potato fries could break a lesser man - they're side by side. Fortunately, I had just picked up my brother Tim at the airport (he was joining me for a few days of eating, our traditional shared pastime).

The brother, Timothy Giles Brown

It is true we were headed to Wolfville to have dinner at Tempest, but it’s an hour-long drive, and Tim was always a delicate child, someone who has been making up for it ever since. “Just one piece of fish,” he said, as he spotted the stand. He’d been in the car five minutes. I ordered the fish, but by then he’d disappeared into the Esquire: five minutes later he emerged with a piping hot baked ham and scalloped potato dinner in a Styrofoam box. It was so good I may have entered a trance state and chanted in tongues. I remember Tim saying “This is not just a slice of ham,” and thinking, that is so profound. Nothing arty, just perfectly cooked and well-cheesed. The haddock from the Battered Fish was just as good. Then it was off to Tempest, and brain-changing lobster and mussel alfredo. One must prepare for a great meal by consuming several others beforehand.

Lobster and mussel alfredo at The Tempest Restaurant, in Wolfville, NS

9) Malpeque oysters at The Malpeque Oyster Barn in Malpeque, PEI. From the window you can see the oyster bed where, until very recently, the oyster in your mouth was happily sleeping. Chew them, for more flavour. I wasn’t wild about the mussels, which were carelessly cooked, or the lobster roll, which could be renamed A Fold of Bread with Some Lobster Bits, but the oysters were the freshest I’ve ever eaten. The local Gahan Brewing Co. Island Red ale is the kind of beer that makes you want to go outside and say charming things to women. Alas the more of the beer you drink the less capable you are of doing so, as Lucy Maud Montgomery did not say.

10) The mussels at the bar at the Blue Door restaurant in Fredericton (where $350,000 will buy a vast, pristine, Craftsman period house, just FYI), cooked perfectly in an orangle, chipotle, thyme and basil broth. Consume with a pint of Picaroon’ Brewery’s Door Yard Ale. Add a conversation with Kelly Grant, the manager. There are probably better ways to spend an hour, but they’re hard to find on the long road up through New Brunswick.

11) The newly released Bleu de Brebis de Charlevoix, from famous Maurice Dufour’s Le Migneron cheesery in Quebec’s Charelvoix region on the north shore of the mighty and very pretty St. Lawrence River, two hours north of Quebec City. Dufour produces half a dozen well-known cheeses-including Mignernon, a semi-firm washed-rind cow milk cheeese aged for either 60 or 130 days (I preferred the former). Dufour currently milks 500 sheep he is using in the fledgling movement to establish sheep milk cheese-making in North America. In Europe, pecorino and feta and Roquefort have already made brebis famous.

Bruce Jordan, co-proprietor, Sea Cider Farm, Vancouver Island, BC

12) Any of the ciders made by Kristen and Bruce Jordan, proprietors of Sea Cider Farm half an hour outside Victoria on Vancouver Island. Inspired by scrumpie, the owners take cider to places - dry and semi-dry English and French places, mostly- you never expected to go if you’re used to standard sweet or hard cider. This cider is so dry it wakes you up and makes you go for an early-morning walk with your shooting stick.

Just some of the fare at Sea Cider Farm

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