This post should really be titled “My Top 4 Tastes – and 1 I'm Not So Sure About.” But we'll get to that later.
This summer, I visited Nova Scotia for the first time. My goal, food-wise, was to eat local, fresh fish and seafood at every opportunity. And so I did. But I also tried a few other flavors of Nova Scotia. Here are my top five food and drink experiences from this trip.
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Fish Chowder at Ye Olde Argyler
Ye Olde Argyler is both a stand-alone restaurant and a lodge. It's one thing for guests who are renting a room to eat downstairs, but as they say, you know the food is good when the locals come back time and again. This is where I tasted my first Nova Scotia chowder. It was delicious – a rich, savory broth absolutely loaded with fresh fish, served hot and delicately seasoned. Exactly what I needed to soothe my disappointment about the heavy fog ruining my opportunity to view the famous sunset from the long wraparound porch of Ye Olde Argyler.
I would taste a number of other chowders on this trip, but this remained my favorite. I guess it's true: you never forget your first.
Scallops at Le Caveau
Le Caveau is the restaurant at Domaine de Grand Pré winery in Wolfville. Their Pan-Seared Sea Scallops, served with Massaman curry and a carrot fritter, were another of my favorite flavors of Nova Scotia. Living in Toronto, it is just impossible to get such fresh seafood, and scallops are a particular love of mine. These ones were big and meaty and juicy, the curry delicate enough that it allowed the full flavor of the mollusks to shine through. Le Caveau also offered wonderful house-smoked salmon, and it was a tough call to choose between them for this list. But smoked salmon, unlike scallops, travels well, and I can actually get that at home – though it's probably still not as good as what I tried here. Clearly, I need to spend more time in Nova Scotia!
Rum at Halifax Distilling Co.
I visited a couple of wineries on this trip (you can read about them in my post about Wolfville) but tasting rum was an unusual experience for me. I stopped by the Halifax Distilling Company to learn a little about what they do, and to taste their J.D. Shore Gold Rum. It's a great story of a couple leaving the United States for Canada, leaving behind careers in dental hygiene and psychology, and starting a distillery in Prince Edward Island where they produced potato and blueberry vodkas and gin. Their new distillery on the Halifax waterfront, open only since July 2016, offers tours and includes a bar and gift shop where they sell a variety of products, including a delicious rum cake.
At the bar, I braced myself for the shock of sipping straight liquor, but much to my surprise, found it to be incredibly smooth and easy to drink. Maybe a little too easy! At the time that I visited, they were just getting the bar area up and running, so I look forward to returning to try some rum cocktails.
Lobster at Hall's Harbour
In addition to having great food, Hall's Harbour Lobster Pound & Restaurant is a really interesting place to visit. I recommend trying to get on a tour of the lobster pound. I wasn't able to go inside on the day that I visited, as they were loading up a big shipment, but I got a lesson in lobster anatomy and history – including the fact that lobster was not always considered the delicacy that it is today, but was once the food of the poor, and was fed to prison inmates. Oh, how things have changed!
This was my first experience of eating a whole, fresh lobster. At Hall's Harbour, you choose your lobster according to size from large tanks in the back of the gift shop. It is placed in a bin, which you carry around to the cook shack. When it's ready, it is brought to the dining room, looking just as it does in the photo above. Thankfully, the staff pre-crack it for you, and teach you how to get at the good stuff. It was a delicious, drippy, messy experience. Trust me, you'll be grateful for the plastic bib that they offer!
Donairs at Johnny K's
Haligonians, I don't know about this one. The allure of the Halifax Donair may be lost on me. I really wanted to try it, and I really wanted to like it, but I'm still firmly on the fence here.
The Donair is so much a part of the local food scene that it has been named the Official Food of Halifax. But it's a specific type of donair, with a sweet sauce made from evaporated milk, vinegar, sugar, and garlic powder. Personally, I don't generally like to mix my sweet and my savory, but, when in Rome…
On a food tour with Taste Halifax Food Beer Wine Tours, I visited Johnny K's Authentic Donairs to give this much-loved concoction a try. While I am a fan of other versions of meat-in-a-pita, like shawarma and souvlaki, I found the sweetness of this sauce confusing to my tastebuds. I'm glad I tried it – and I think everyone should at least try it at least once – but I may not need to do so again. Hence, my alternate title for this post.
I enjoyed so much great food on this trip that it was difficult to whittle down the list to only five. Have you traveled to Nova Scotia? What were your favorite tastes?
This trip was supported by Nova Scotia Tourism. As always, the opinions and experiences are my own.