Pop-up chef series finale at Front & Central

Dessert course - White, milk and dark.

Dessert course – White, milk and dark.

What better way to avoid a Nova Scotia winter rut (food and morale) than design a series of delicious tasting menus with your friends?

“Tasting menus are the way I like to eat. I enjoy running the restaurant that way,” says Dave Smart, chef and owner of Front & Central in Wolfville. “This was the second year for the series. I start them in January when the dust settles from New Year’s.”

The “pop-up chef series” for 2014 ended on April 25, and I was lucky enough to be invited, as Dave’s guest (his treat), to cover the last of the event via social media. The guest chef on this particular date was Peter Dewar – and man, do these guys’ styles work together well (not to mention Peter is a member of Culinary Team Canada). They presented a five-course tasting menu at an unbelievable price of $50 per person, along with an optional wine pairing at only an additional $25. Tickets were sold in advance.

Of course I brought Geir along (nothing like chefs cooking for other chefs) and we made a night out of it in Wolfville, taking advantage of the special rate for this event at Victoria’s Historic Inn. To make it even more convenient, the inn is within walking distance from Front & Central.

Second course (my favourite) - "bread and butter", which was chive hollandaise and rye bread pudding.

Second course (my favourite) – “bread and butter”, which was chive hollandaise and rye bread pudding.

From the pop-up series Dave says he’s “had lots of great feedback from guests, and many repeat diners.” It’s no wonder. The service is fantastic — it’s easy to tell the staff genuinely enjoy the tasting menu format — and the restaurant is beautiful. The food absolutely went beyond our expectation in creativity, taste and plating.

A highlight for me was second course, called “bread and butter”. This was chive hollandaise paired with a rye bread pudding, meant to be eaten together… each spoonful was better than the last. Check out our dinner, starting with some fantastic gin cocktails, course-by-course in the gallery below.

Brunch need not be complicated

Smoked salmon bagel at Sully's.

Smoked salmon bagel at Sully’s.

If you follow me on Twitter or Instagram, you may have noticed, I eat a lot of brunch. Like, a lot. I never miss a weekend brunch. And while I do appreciate creativity on a brunch menu, I’ve found time and time again, you don’t really need to stray far from the classic flavour combinations to create a satisfying brunch experience, especially if they’re done well and with a little love.

BLT + fried egg at the Tin Pan.

BLT + fried egg at the Tin Pan.

For example, we spent a night in Grand Pre during ice wine festival last month, and on the recommendation of our amazing server at Le Caveau the night before, ended up at local institution The Tin Pan in Port Williams. Now, The Tin Pan, in reality, is someone’s home and their dining area is what was once a living room, and in many ways still feels like it. They don’t even have commercial kitchen equipment. We ordered a couple B.L.T.’s (served on homemade bread) plus a fried egg, and pan-potatoes. Amazing. Cash only.

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Smoked salmon croissant at Tess.

Another example was our recent visit to Tess. Aside from having unbelievably reasonable prices, this is another small, quaint neighbourhood go-to that serves consistent, simple brunch items (and of course their famous crepes). My dish was a combination of smoked salmon, cream cheese, maple syrup and capers inside a buttery croissant. The sweetness of the maple really balanced out the smokiness and acidity of the other ingredients. The rich buttery goodness of the croissant made this an outstanding take on one of my favourite things to eat for brunch, ever.

Just today, we visited Sully’s Roast Beef & Smoked Meat, now open on Agricola, where I indulged in a similar combination once again. This time it was Willy Krauch smoked salmon featured on a Montreal style bagel with cream cheese and a generous sprinkling of chopped red onion. (Side note: They just reopened a couple weeks ago at this new location, and so while it was a little rough around the edges, we enjoyed the food and they smoke the meat in-house.)

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The breakfast sandwich at Morris East, Bedford South location.

Morris East has expanded their brunch offering in the past few months and now serve up this little beauty, a classic breakfast sandwich. Local bacon and cheese, a fried egg, lettuce and tomato on the exceptionally soft buns baked by Boulangerie La Vendeenne. Add some kind of potato on the side, in this case a rosti, and you’ve got brunch. Plus they have a deadly caesar featuring their house-made clamato mix.

Where’s your favourite joint for a simple, sometimes greasy, brunch fix?