Big feast of small plates at Field Guide

If you haven’t been to Field Guide, at the corner of Gottingen and Falkland in Halifax’s north end, make plans to go this weekend. Whether you’re in the mood to sip and savour what are, in my opinion, the most expertly made cocktails in Halifax, indulge in local craft beer, wine, or experiment with small plates, Field Guide has achieved the hipster neighbourhood vibe without any pretension. No cold shoulders here; it seems we’re always greeted by the server named Josh, whose mannerisms and friendliness seem to suggest he’s an owner, although he’s not. (Best kind of server to have.) I’ve been to Field Guide a few times, to sit at the bar for drinks, to eat small plates at a low top table, and once even to interview head bartender Shane Beehan for a magazine article.

Classic gin sour.

Classic gin sour.

Just under two weeks ago, we met a couple friends there who like to eat like us (lots of different things in one meal) to fill up on small plates, before heading to the Matt Andersen (with the Mellotones) show at Olympic Community Centre. With Shane at the helm and Jeff Van Horne as a bar consultant, there’s no wonder the cocktail list is ever-changing and exciting, mastering, as Field Guide puts it, both “the classic and the contemporary”.

Hands down this place has the best negroni in the city, a favourite of both Geir’s and mine. As is encouraged, I ordered “off-menu” and asked for a classic gin sour. It did not disappoint. Next, we tried to please my friend’s tastes by requesting a gin cocktail that also had elderflower liqueur in it. Nailed it. Once over the summer I enjoyed a blackberry gin fizz here that I’m still thinking about. (I have a thing for gin.)

Trouts and beets.

Trouts and beets.

Food-wise, the chef and co-owner Dan was present in the kitchen, so you know there’s a lot of care being put into the preparation. The open kitchen is just behind the far end of the bar, not a very elaborate setup, but they make it work.

We perused the chalkboard menu and chose a few priorities; starting with a small charcuterie board and also the cheese selection, accompanied by house-made sour dough. Next, the trout and beets, such a delight, and what a pretty plate; crispy skinned trout, delicately roasted purple and golden beets, pickled onion and fresh dill. Next up the pork carnitas.  This was the second time I’ve enjoyed these. The beer-braise on the pork really amps up the depth of flavour and makes this dish; sour cream and a crunchy slaw seal the deal. We then tried the halibut with kimchi and sunchoke purée (this worked) and finished off with their famous donair steam buns. Josh deliberately served these last, as he says, if you’re enjoying a series of small plates, they obliterate your taste buds. Thanks, Josh. The texture of the steam bun is incredible, housing all the flavours (in one or two bites) of the ultimate guilty pleasure food… the Halifax donair; as one Instagram follower commented on my photo of them “these are crack”. Yup.

Travel Review: MTL’s historic Dominion Square Tavern

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Inside the scotch egg, with “Swedish” sauce.

After a short 13-hour drive (with only one stop for gas, and the best road trip snacks ever) we arrived in Montreal from Halifax, for an IKEA run. We had left before the sun came up and made very good time. The first nice spring weather we’d seen (having come from Halifax, in early May) got us excited; so immediately after checking into the Sheraton Centre-ville, we walked a couple blocks to Crescent Street for beverages on a patio.

Cocktails - Tom Collins, Basil & Rye

Cocktails – Tom Collins, Basil & Rye

The highlight meal of our very short Quebec adventure was dinner at the Dominion Square Tavern later than night. Having been a restaurant or lounge in one way or another since 1927, this historic establishment in the heart of downtown was on our list for a while. Favouring the sharing plates format, we opted to order a silly amount of appetizers between the two of us and asked that they come out staggered. We tried a lot of different dishes, some fantastic wine, and left very happy. Also, the cocktails we started with were expertly prepared and super refreshing.

Pate de campagne (rustic pork terrine)

Pate de campagne (rustic pork terrine)

A couple favourites during dinner were the country pȃté (made with pork), served with dressed greens and homemade crostini, as well as their impeccably executed scotch egg. The smoked trout salad with curry oil was the perfect spring dish, and a great way to start off our meal.

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smoked trout

homemade nutmeg donuts with sour cream

homemade nutmeg donuts with sour cream

We even pushed ourselves to order dessert, and I genuinely enjoyed the freshly made nutmeg donuts (and donut holes) with sour cream. The tartness of the sour cream made this dish for me — a dessert I would actually come back for!

Classified as a gastropub, the Dominion Square Tavern has a lot to offer. The interior pays homage to their lengthy history, achieving a classy, not hipster, vibe, the service was more than personable, and the high-level English-inspired comfort food menu  brings it all together. On top of that, with the wine list and cocktails…  I like everything about this place. Thank you MTL for another fantastic visit — even if it was too short.