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.
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.)
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.