Wednesday, October 07, 2015

When In Rome… or Nova Scotia

So, as I mentioned yesterday, the Nova Scotian eats deserved their own post.  And here it is.

I’m a lover of food, plain and simple, so of course I was looking forward to sampling the Eastern Coast fare on our trip.  I was probably a teensy bit too excited about it.  I had visions of fish & chips just dancing in my head for weeks in advance!  The funny thing is, just a few years ago, the thought of seafood anything would have made me curl up my nose in disgust.  For the first 30 years of my life, the only fishy thing I would even think about eating was tuna.  From a can.  Mixed with lots of mayo, celery, and onion.  (Get yo stinky salmon sandwiches away from me!! Tuna only!!)

The shift came when I started eating healthier leading up to my 30th birthday.  When you’re eating healthy and reading up on it, you hear a lot about how fish is a lean, healthy source of protein.  I tentatively tried baked white fish and grilled salmon filets… and found that I actually kind of liked them.  Then, on a whim, out for dinner with the girls for my 30th, I ordered the fish & chips at the Hard Rock Café.

And I loved it.  I haven’t looked back since.  

So yeah… I was excited to go all fish, all the time in Nova Scotia. And that I did!

Before I begin with the food reviews, I must apologize for the pics.  I tried channeling Nicole (my bloggy pal who takes pics of food all the time, and makes me drool when I read her posts!) – but most of the time, I forgot to take a pic before the food was half-eaten, or I’d forget to take one at all.  That’s me, though…always so eager to dive into a plate of yumminess that I don’t even think! haha!

I definitely started out on a bad foot, completely forgetting to take a picture of the delicious pepperoni and bacon pizza & breaded chicken wings with honey garlic dipping sauce from Pizzatown that we ordered in on our first night!  Whoops!  (But trust me… YUM!!!!)  This was  a place that Lindsay has ordered from on previous trips down there, so she knew it was good!!

The first place we sat down to eat at in Nova Scotia was another favourite of Lindsay’s, which we stopped at  for a late lunch on our way home from Peggy’s Cove:  The Finer Diner.  This place had a fun retro feel to it, with a vintage look and hits from the 50’s and 60’s piped in over the speakers.  We sat on the sun porch, and I chose a seat with a view of the boats bobbing in the bay.

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I decided to be adventurous, and ordered a cup of Seafood Chowder to start.  I’d never had Seafood Chowder before, but it came highly recommended by Linds.  Unfortunately, it was just a bit too “fishy” still for me – I liked the creamy consistency, but the combo of lobster, scallops, and haddock was just too much fish in one spot for this kid.  I didn’t hate it, though – I ate it all!  And the warm biscuit they serve with it was wonderful – the closest I’ve come to having a tea biscuit as good as my Mom’s!

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For my main course, I just had to do it… FISH & CHIPS!  It was going to be a challenge not to order it at every meal, because pretty much every place in Nova Scotia claims they serve the best Fish & Chips. ;) At the Finer Diner, they were absolutely delish!  Two big pieces of haddock in a light beer batter, served with tartar sauce, a lemon wedge, fries, and coleslaw.

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The pieces of fish were huge!  I’m glad I didn’t order the “extra piece” the menu offered! haha!

While at the cottage, we tended to have a breakfast shake before leaving the house, a bigger late lunch, and then snacked in the evenings… so you’ll notice my pics are all from lunchtime.

The next day, we were in Lunenburg, and decided to eat at the Old Fish Factory Restaurant and Ice House Bar.  It was right on the harbour, and we ate outside, with yet another beautiful oceanfront view!

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For an appetizer, I ordered the Lobster and Crab Dip, after Lindsay assured me she’d share it with me (just in case… I still wasn’t sure if I’d like it haha!)  It was a creamy mixture of lobster, crab, roasted red peppers, and cream cheese, served with tortilla chips.  Almost reminded me of a seafood version of nacho dip!

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As you can see – so yummy it was almost gone before I remembered to snap the pic!

It was a gorgeous sunny day in Lunenburg, but we were finding it cool out on the patio.  Still, I didn’t regret it, because we got to watch the Bluenose taking off on tour while we sat there enjoying our leisurely late lunch!

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For my main course, I resisted the temptation of Fish & Chips again, and instead ordered the Fish Factory Tacos.  OMG… YUMMMY! I’ve enjoyed several different versions of fish tacos over the past few years, but these rank at the top of the list!  You could choose between white fish or lobster as your filling, and I went with the safer choice of white fish.  Two soft taco shells filled with crispy white fish, chipotle lime mayo, topped with house-made cabbage slaw and pickled wild blueberry onions, finished with cilantro, a squeeze of fresh lime, and a pinch of sea salt.  Served with their natural thin-cut “chippers”. 

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I’ve eaten some good fish tacos in my day… but I’ve literally been dreaming of these ones!!  Savoury, with a bit of kick, and even a hint of sweet… mmmmm… I’m dying here!!

The next day, we were in Halifax, and I finally had a recommendation to bring to the table!  Before we left, our minister Rev. Nancy and her husband Reg had strongly encouraged me to go to Henry House in Halifax.  Nancy attended the Atlantic School of Theology during the summer months over the course of five years, working towards her MDiv., and she claimed Henry House was their favourite Friday night haunt.  I really wanted to try it out, and so Linds and I made our way to Barrington Street for our late lunch that day, and boy, were we happy we did!

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We chose to sit downstairs in the dark pub, but we were right at one of the open windows and noticed tour buses stopping at regular intervals.  Linds googled it on her phone, and discovered Henry House is a National Historic Site of Canada! William Alexander Henry lived there from 1854-1864, and he was a Father of Confederation, a co-author of the British North America Act, a provincial Attorney General, a Member of the Nova Scotia House of Assembly, a Mayor of Halifax and the first Nova Scotian to serve as a justice of the Supreme Court of Canada.   Who knew?!

This time it was Lindsay who suggested starting with the Lobster Dip. I liked it the day before at the Old Fish Factory, so said, sure, why not?  Sooooo glad we tried this one, too!  As good as it was the day before, this one trumped it.  It was totally different – a rich, creamy, garlicky, parmesany dip served with tortilla chips and wedges of flatbread.  I’d go back there just for this dip.  Seriously.

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Now, Nancy had told me Henry House had the best fish & chips, so I didn’t even really bother reading the menu.  I just ordered it.  And they didn’t disappoint!  A nice light beer battered white fish, hand-cut fries, house-made tartar sauce (the best tartar sauce I’ve ever had!) and coleslaw… everything tasted so fresh, not greasy… amazeballs!

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Both Lindsay and I have said if we ever get back down there for another girls weekend, Henry House will be a MUST!!!

Our last full day in Nova Scotia found us on the patio of a little bistro in Mahone Bay called Mateus Bistro, for – you guessed it - yet another late lunch.  We had scouted out all of the little restaurants along the waterfront, and settled on this one because they had live entertainment!  Two guys were out on the patio playing music, and they were great.  It was nice to sit and listen to them while we chatted, especially since service here was kind of on the slower side.

I decided to forego an app that day (I had ice cream on my mind and wanted to save room!), but Lindsay started with their soup of the day – some kind of curry zuchinni something or other topped with homemade tszatziki?? – that she said was maybe the best bowl of soup she’d ever had.

For my meal, I stuck with my “down East go big or go home” theme and had the Crispy Haddock Burger.  Local fresh crispy haddock, with lettuce, tomato & a dill creme fraiche. I subbed the organic greens salad for a side caesar, and of course it came with house slaw too.

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The burger was amazing, and although a similar fish dish to those I’d already had (lightly breaded haddock appeared every day, I do believe!), it tasted totally different because of the dill crème fraiche.  It was a light-tasting, fresh sandwich that I enjoyed immensely!  The caesar salad was also amazing – probably the most garlicky salad I’ve ever had in my life, but so so so good!  Loaded with bacon, croutons, and parmesan cheese, they sure didn’t skimp on this salad!

We spent probably two solid hours on this patio, and I appreciated the vibe at this place.  The two guys playing music were wonderful (I was too shy to snap a pic – it was a small patio, they definitely would have noticed!), and I thought it was cute that there was a basket of blankets at the door for anyone who needed one to keep warm.  (I had dressed for the chillier day, though, so I was OK!)

And that was it!  We actually did make dinner that night at the cottage – well, Lindsay made dinner… her famous pumpkin tortellini, and it was soooo yummy!  So yummy that I didn’t take a pic in time! haha!

My last meal in Nova Scotia was pretty ho-hum – we didn’t make it to the airport with much time to spare, so my last bite to eat on Atlantic soil was a Grilled Chicken Tuscan Panini, a Pumpkin Spice Donut, and a Creamy Chocolate Chill beverage at the airport Tim Horton’s, gobbled down quickly before we boarded. ;)

So yeah… the eats in Nova Scotia were awesome.  I’m drooling right now just thinking about them.  Anyone wanna take me back?? ;)

One thing I noted – nobody knows how to make good coleslaw down there!  I’d take a creamy coleslaw from St. Hubert’s (or my mom’s homemade!) any day.  But since the rest of the meals were so enjoyable, the coleslaw never brought me down lol.

I also never had a meal of lobster, which was one of my goals to check off the ol’ bucket list in Nova Scotia.  Truthfully, after having it in in the seafood chowder, and twice in dips, I wasn’t sure I liked it enough to “risk” a whole meal on it.  I don’t mind it disguised in chowder and dip, but beyond that, I’m not sure… Next time (maybe).

Now you see why the food needed its own post, eh?  I think it’s as long as the original post… maybe longer!! 

What can I say… I love food!!!!!

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

The Nova Scotia Trip Post

Well… I’ve been home from my trip to Nova Scotia for a whole week now, and it’s still on my mind, so I guess it’s high time I recap!  (I apologize in advance for the length of this post – I thought about breaking it up into several posts, but decided to just dive in and share it all at once.)

This trip wouldn’t have been possible without my dear friend Lindsay and her family.  Lindsay’s parents (family friends who also happen to be my bosses) bought a home on the Atlantic Ocean in St. Margaret’s Bay, Nova Scotia a few years ago (her mom grew up and still has many relatives there), and ever since, I’ve been dying to get down there to see it.  When Linds suggested we go for a girls long weekend trip this year, I jumped at the opportunity.  We booked our flight months ago for the week after Sue & Adam’s wedding, and then I kind of pushed it out of my mind.  There was so much going on this summer that I didn’t really have time to think about the trip!

The months flew by quickly, though (crazy quickly, actually), and before I knew it, it was time to pack my bags and get outta Dodge!  I realized somewhere during the packing process that I hadn’t been anywhere other than the camp in a really long time, and I couldn’t really remember the last time I’d gone on vacation without family members.  I had a little anxiety about this, and then reminded myself that Lindsay was leaving her baby (ok, I guess he’s a toddler now, but I still think of him as Baby Sam!) for the first time for more than 24 hours, so if she could do it, I could too. haha!

Our flight out of Ottawa on Wednesday September 23 went smoothly, and aside from a little hiccup at the Park & Fly in Halifax, we made it to the absolutely beautiful cottage safe and sound, just as dusk was falling.

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And there were treats to greet us!  Lindsay’s bro & SIL had been vacationing at the cottage shortly before us, and had left a giant basket of treats for her as an early birthday gift.  Her parents had also sent us flowers and chocolates!  So nice!!  Night one was spent acquainting myself with my new surroundings.  We were both beat from our day of travel, so we ordered in yummy pizza, watched TV, and headed to bed early.

The next morning, I witnessed my first sunrise on St. Margaret’s day.  It was stunning.  I was in heaven.

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We quickly settled into a wonderfully relaxing routine at the cottage.  We were both usually up between 7-7:30 (just in time to catch the sun rising every morning, I never wanted to miss it!), and then spent our time lounging, reading, drinking coffee, going for morning walks, and having a breakfast shake.  By late morning, we’d be ready to hit the road for our daily adventure.  The cottage is in a location that is pretty wonderful, and central to so many places that are “must-sees” in Nova Scotia. We went sight-seeing literally every day!

Day 1 was Peggy’s Cove.  This stop was a must on my list of things to do, because really, who goes to Nova Scotia and doesn’t visit Peggy’s Cove?!  I loved it there.  I loved the old-time fishing village vibe, the little shops and cafés, the breath-taking scenery… I loved every moment spent there, snapping photos, and just sitting on the rocks with my bestie, soaking it all up.

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On our way home, we swung into the Swissair Flight 111 Memorial site.  In 1998, the flight crashed there, not far from Peggy’s Cove, and over 200 lives were lost.  The feeling at the memorial site was somber.  It felt right to stop there to pay our respects.

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We returned home late that afternoon for more reading on the deck and relaxing. I felt pretty dopey that afternoon, and even had a nap… Can you have jet lag with only a one-hour time difference? haha!  I definitely felt outta sorts, so that nap and the quiet evening of snacks and Netflix was just what the doctor ordered.

For Day 2, Lindsay had a day planned at one of her favourite East Coast places: Lunenburg.  What a fabulous town this was, with streets lined with shops and restaurants, brightly coloured houses, and the best part: the Bluenose II docked and waiting for us to check it out!  The Bluenose is kind of a famous piece of Canadian history (it’s pictured on our dime), so it was fun to board the schooner and see it up close before it had to depart on a tour.

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After visiting the Bluenose II, we explored the Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic, which was very interesting.  It featured displays of different marine life, an opportunity to board a real fishing boat to see what it was like, and all kinds of historical exhibits and artifacts.  One in particular caught my attention – the story of the August Gales, which happened in the late 1920’s.  Two Augusts in a row, terrible storms whipped up on the ocean and many boats and fishermen were lost to the sea.  They came to refer to those two terrible months as the August Gales.

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After departing the Museum, we walked around the quaint streets of Lunenburg, popping into a few shops and enjoying some ice cream, before heading back to the cottage for another supper of snacks and watching Netflix.

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Day 3 was Saturday, and that was the day we were heading for downtown Halifax.  It was a busy day at the Harbour, as two massive cruise ships were docked there for the day.  It added to the exciting hustle and bustle!

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We started out at the legendary Pier 21 (a historical Canadian landmark, as it has long been considered the gateway for immigrants to enter our country), then visited the Halifax Seaport Farmer’s Market, and headed out for a tour down the Harbourwalk.  As with the previous days, the weather was absolutely perfect, and I thoroughly enjoyed strolling along, snapping pics, taking in the sights and smells of life on the ocean!

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Oh, and Theodore the Tugboat!  A relic from my childhood, come to life, right there in front of me!  I was probably a little more excited than a normal 32-year-old should be… (I didn’t even really like the Theodore TV show lol – but seeing him was definitely a highlight in Halifax!) 

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My only regret this day was grabbing a Beavertail instead of waiting – not far down the boardwalk was a Cow’s Ice Cream stand, which touts itself as the world’s best ice cream – and judging by the line-up of people waiting for it, it must live up to it’s tagline.  Next time!!

After the Harbourwalk, we made a stop at the Alexander Keith’s Brewery and took the tour.  It was lots of fun – actors who guide you along as though you’ve stepped back into the 1800’s, where they sing, entertain, share plenty of historical info, and, of course… offer you a mug of Mr. Keith’s finest!  “Those who like it, like it a LOT!!”

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This was the night we had originally talked about hanging out in Halifax to experience the “night life”.  We had forgotten, though, that we are kind of old ladies, and we quickly ditched the pub-hopping plan, opting instead to pick up Chinese on our way back to the cottage.  Comfy clothes, couches, Caesars, and more movies… I did say we had our routine down pat, didn’t I?? ;)

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Sunday was the last full day we had, and we made the most of it.  After a little visit with Lindsay’s mom’s cousins, we headed to beautiful Mahone Bay for a late lunch, and strolled around the main drag visiting more little shops.  I loved it there, such a cozy little village with more gorgeous scenery and a familiar, welcoming vibe to it.

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After several hours there, we headed back towards the cottage, and on the way, stopped in at Queensland Beach.  Talk about stunning!  Because it was the tail end of tourist season, and a cool late afternoon in September, we practically had the beach to ourselves.  I savoured the feel of my toes sinking in the soft white sand, and squealed in delight at the cold ocean waves crashing against my legs.  I definitely hope to return someday during warmer months… I can see myself spending a whole day there easily!!

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For our last night in St. Margaret’s Bay, we popped in to visit a few more relatives (salt-of-the-earth people, I loved everyone I met down there, and felt like family by the time I left!) – then actually made supper (a first! haha!) and settled in for – you guessed it – more movies!  This also happened to be the night of the Supermoon/Lunar Eclipse/Blood Moon, and I kept going out the deck to check on its progress.  I couldn’t think of a better place than on the ocean to witness its beauty…I didn’t see it through to the end, but what I did see was spectacular!! (and I was forced to “live in the moment” and ditch the camera when it became clear I wasn’t able to capture it the way I wanted to!)

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Our last morning at the cottage, we still had time to read and relax (while tidying up and putting things back in order), but I know my mind was definitely on going home. 

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This trip was just the right length for me.  As much as I would miss the amazing location, the laid-back routine, the fun adventuring… I was ready to go home.  Cousin Barb took us to the airport, and once again, our return home was pretty smooth and uninteresting – just the way I like my airport experiences to go. ;)

We had a blast.  I’m so grateful to Lindsay for inviting me to go, being my tour guide and co-adventurer, and smiling for the camera even though I know there were times she’d have rather shoved it up my ass than posed politely! haha!!  I’m also so thankful to her parents, Bill & Sue, for allowing us to use their cottage and vehicle while we down there, and for ensuring we felt right at home!

Now, I kind of lied when I said there would only be one Nova Scotia post.  Those of you who know me well have probably noticed one major thing missing from this post… Like… what did we EAT?!?!? 

That definitely gets a post of its own!  Stay tuned!!

(You can read Lindsay’s Nova Scotia posts here and here)