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Nova Scotia Eats

2009/08/19

As you may have read from my Lobster Dinner post a few days ago, I was in Nova Scotia last week to take care of some business. That meant a lot of eating out and by extension, a lot of food photos. Good ole’ Internet searches combined with recommendations from colleagues resulted in some decent eats for the week. Nothing mind-blowing, but usually pretty solid. Here’s a selection of some of the more interesting dishes (unfortunately no photos of the lobster club (Tuesdays only) or fish bits (Wednesdays only) I had at R&G’s in Hantsport during lunch).

Haddock and chips

Haddock and chips

Haddock and chips at The Spitfire Arms in Windsor, NS. The beer batter ended up a little greasier and heavier than I would have liked, but the haddock was moist and flavourful. You’ll notice the portion was quite generous – a common theme during my trip for both food on my plate and the people I met. Washed down the fish with a pint of hand-pumped Peculiar beer from Nova Scotia’s own Granite Brewery.

Crab cakes with green curry mayonnaise

Crab cakes with green curry mayonnaise

Dinner at Cocoa Pesto Bistro (also in Windsor) yielded some tasty and spicy crab cakes cooled nicely by a green curry mayo. Great for sharing if you had a few people. Cocoa Pesto is located in the Woodshire Inn and has an attractive, bright, open dining room with high ceilings. There’s also an outdoor dining area for when it’s not raining (like it was the night I was there).

Pan-seared haddock, lemon butter, scallions, cherry tomatoes

Pan-seared haddock, lemon butter, scallions, cherry tomatoes

The crab cakes were followed by a ridiculously large portion of seared haddock. By ridiculous, I mean three massive fillets. If I knew the portion was going to be so large, I would have skipped the crap cakes regardless of how tasty they were. The haddock was light and well-cooked. Too much lemon-butter on the plate, but my biggest criticism goes to the vegetables. What a sad, sad state of affairs. The Green Giant called and he wants his peas and carrots back. It’s summertime and fresh produce is readily available. Use it! It’s even worse when an establishment that presents itself as a more upscale dining option pulls this kind of stuff. If there’s a common thread across all the meals I had on my trip, it’s that the vegetables were uniformly awful. Proteins – usually quite good. Vegetables – not so much. It’s probably not much of a stretch to say that the best vegetable was the crisp lettuce on my McLobster (more on that later).

Lobster Neptune

Lobster Neptune

One night I decided to drive to the South Shore and made my way through Chester, Mahone Bay, and finally down to Lunenburg which is the home port of the Bluenose II. Situated just off the water, I stopped for dinner at The Rumrunner Inn. I settled on Lobster Neptune, which was half a steamed lobster with seared scallops and shrimp. The lobster was alright, but the scallops were fantastic. Considering I could see the scallop packing company from my table on the patio, I expected nothing less. If you can walk the day’s catch across the street to the restaurant, they’re going to be fresh, fresh, fresh. Moving on to the abominations on the plate, there’s a rice pilaf with parsley (hellooooo 1980s – or even worse – 1970s?), and more disastrous vegetables. I can envision Stewie acting on behalf of The Green Giant and the conversation going something like this: “Knock, knock. Hi there. Just me. So, uh … you got my vegetables man?” Horrible. They sat on my plate virtually untouched. Washed everything down with a cold Keith’s Amber Ale, which I’ve never seen in Ontario. Tasty stuff.

Waterside in Chester, NS

Waterside in Chester, NS

Yes, I actually took pictures of things OTHER than food, so here’s a photo standing on the pier in Chester. Unfortunately it was a little too dark to take pictures as stunning as this in Lunenburg, as pretty as it was. Even more so with pink skies in Mahone Bay on my way back to the hotel.

Lobster risotto with basil oil

Lobster risotto with basil oil

Tempest is located in Wolfville, the home of Acadia University. Based on some research and discussions with people that have eaten there, I heard the food was of quite good quality and in the past has received an award as the best restaurant in the Maritimes. I decided to have two meals there; the first a regular meal, the second with their “late night” tapas menu. “Late night” in quotation marks (visualize Chris Farley “air quotes”) because they start at 8pm. 8pm. I had to look at my watch and make sure I wasn’t waiting for the early bird special in Boca.

Anyway, the lobster risotto was pretty tasty considering there were some decent chunks of lobster and lobster stock was used to prepare it. The big flaw was that it was served to me approximately eight minutes after I ordered it. It’s impossible to make risotto in eight minutes, so in typical restaurant fashion the riso was par-cooked. And it was arborio instead of my preferred carnaroli, which results in creamier risotto while maintaining a firmer, al dente bite. Arborio turns to mush when the same creaminess is established. Based on my previous portion size issues at restaurants earlier in the week, I asked my waiter about the serving. He said it was a smaller portion. I disagree. It was more than healthy, and still allowed me to finish up with some bacalao croquettes from the “Late Night” tapas menu:

Bacalao Croquettes

Bacalao Croquettes

The salt cod fritters were delicious. I love salt cod. The two on the outside were just salt cod, the one in the middle salt cod and potato. Nice crispy exterior, not too greasy, and just right on the inside. It’s a good thing I had the fritters on my first trip because they were sold out the second night.

Chorizo in Spanish tomato sauce

Chorizo in Spanish tomato sauce

The second night I went tapas only. Very reasonable prices on the menu as the most expensive items were $4. Once again, portions were quite substantial. I had four different items and was stuffed when I was through. I started with the chorizo in tomato sauce. I’ll be honest and say I didn’t get much “chorizo-ness” from the sausage. There was nothing distinct about it and could have been any kind of sausage and had the same presence.

Tortilla Espagnole - Egg and potato

Tortilla Espagnole - Egg and potato

The tortilla espagnole was tasty but needed a hit of salt. Once that was corrected the dish was much better. The sauce from the chorizo plate added an extra flavour. Good thing I ordered well and had them at the same time!

Calamari

Calamari

My first dishes were followed up by a plate of calamari. Very lightly breaded and fried just until crisp, the calamari was tender and delicious. Plenty of tentacles in my plate also so I was quite pleased. I love the crunchiness that they provide.

Steamed mussels with chorizo, sherry, and garlic

Steamed mussels with chorizo, sherry, and garlic

I finished up with a plate of mussels steamed with chorizo, sherry, and garlic. After having the first plate with chorizo and not being overly fond of it, I probably should have known better than to order this. But I was in the mood for a bit more shellfish during my trip so I ordered anyway. The chorizo was pretty off-putting in texture because it didn’t have the crispy edges of the previous plate and you already know what I think of the flavour – uninspiring. I think cured chorizo would have been more successful. The mussels on the other hand were well cooked, tender, and very flavourful. The broth in the bowl was also quite tasty. Unfortunately they didn’t have any baguettes or other standard bread that night, only cornbread. Cornbread unfortunately doesn’t dunk too well so I had to improvise with a spoon, ladling broth onto the cornbread and eating it before it disintegrated.

There was only one more thing to eat before I made my trek back to Toronto:

McLobster Sandwich!

McLobster Sandwich!

Prior to this, I hadn’t eaten at McDonald’s in quite some time. I’ve been to other fast-food burger joints, but for some reason McDonald’s is off my radar for anything other than the odd sausage biscuit (no egg) and hashbrown. Even then, I don’t think I had set food in a McDonald’s restaurant in well over a year. I’d heard about the mythical McLobster sandwich in the past and knew I couldn’t pass up the opportunity having a McD’s within walking distance of my hotel. The McLobster is made only during lobster season from the local Atlantic catch. To be honest, it was pretty darn good. There were two healthy scoops of chunky, fresh lobster bound together with very little mayonnaise in a horrific hot dog bun with crispy shredded lettuce. I had to let it warm up a bit since the lobster salad is served cold, but once I did it was pretty darn tasty! If McDonald’s would get rid of that awful hot dog bun and use good bread, they’d be golden (arches?) No pun intended! If I lived out East, I’d just transplant the filling into good bread and be done with it.

Overall, a good trip to the east coast. It was my first time in Nova Scotia and if I get the opportunity to visit again I will. I’ll probably pack some fresh vegetables in my suitcase to supplement the seafood though.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Lisa permalink
    2009/08/19 5:42 PM

    Yay! That made me very happy and missing beer from Granite and Halifax in general!

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