Focus on my City: An exploration of Halifax

Wow, so summer flew by. But before it ended, Ford hooked me up in a big way with a sweet 2015 Ford Focus SE,  to cruise around HRM and (eventually, some day) blog about my experiences. Being me, I agreed, as long as I could explore in an edible way… as in, drive to different neighbourhoods and eat some food. Luckily, they were down with that.

My ride for the day!

My ride for the day!

I started with Quinpool Road area/West End, where I hit up a dumpling and ramen joint I’ve been wanting to visit for a very long time: Truly Tasty. Here, we ordered the vegetarian ramen and the spicy braised pork ramen, along with chicken dumplings to start. Awesome food. The dumplings were fantastic, pan-fried and fresh, made in-house. The ramen bowls were huge, beyond what I could eat — with homemade whole wheat ramen noodles, the vegetarian in a soy-based broth and the pork in a meaty broth. We both agreed the pork ramen was better, but the vegetarian still had a lot of great stuff (like delicious steamed mushrooms). I felt like I was eating for an hour and the broth never went down. I still feel like a whole table could split one bowl of ramen here.

The adorable North End.

The adorable North End.

Next up I cruised to the North End where I met an old friend for coffee at Lion & Bright. Nothing fancy, just fantastic coffee in the always-busy atmosphere of this great coffee / wine bar / workspace. Another chance to parallel park the Focus and use the backup cameras with reverse sensing system… a tool that actually helps you park better. I need that.

Spicy spaghetti with mussels, salsa verde.

Spicy spaghetti with mussels, salsa verde.

That night we decided to drive a little further — across the bridge — all the way to King’s Wharf, in Dartmouth, where Il Trullo, a new Italian restaurant had just opened. The place was packed, and it happened to be the same night as a food truck party (by The Coast) in the parking lot across the way. Another great vibe over there with tons of people milling about the area and a busy, hectic restaurant. Here we started with a caprese salad and beef carpaccio. My carpaccio was the star, with a great flavour, texture and powdered truffle on the plate. Our meals were hearty and tasty. Mine was surprisingly spicy — a handmade spaghetti with salsa verde and mussels (lots of them). I wasn’t expecting the rather large sliced chiles, but luckily I love some heat.

During my time with the Ford Focus SE, I tried out Sync, the fully-integrated voice-activated system, using the Bluetooth on my iPhone, the rear view camera (of course), the reverse sensing system I already mentioned, but, luckily didn’t have to use the brake assist. My bright red ride was very fun for a summer day in Halifax, exploring three neighbourhoods (one of which I don’t get to much — Dartmouth) as well as doing my usual business in downtown.

Explore the full photo gallery below!

 

 

Que Tal: Authentic Mexican in HRM

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Being a lover of Mexican food, I’m always on the lookout for authentic offerings in Halifax. Embarrassingly enough I’ve never made it to Que Tal’s booth in the historic brewery market… but when I heard they opened a full-service (and licensed) restaurant on the Dark Side, I knew I’d have to make the trip soon. Yesterday, this finally happened.

Que Tal is located on Portland Hills Drive right off Portland Street. When we got there around 2 p.m. it was entirely empty. The space is small, bright and colourful (decked out in full cantina mode) and the open kitchen allows customers to see what’s going on at all times. We were hoping to catch the brunch menu, but learned that it ended at 1 p.m. The rest of the menu looked so fantastic, we weren’t that disappointed.

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We were hungry and overly excited about the offerings and unbelievable prices, which is why we ended up ordering a silly amount of food. I kicked off the meal with a shaken lime margarita (awesome).

Our starters were: queso fresco, chicken taquitos, jalapeños con queso and sopa azteca. You can’t really find queso fresco anywhere in Halifax as it has almost no shelf life, and we don’t have many Mexican restaurants. It’s a soft, fresh white cheese made on-site. Delicious; a treat for cheese fanatics like ourselves. While the taquitos and stuffed jalapeños were both tasty, it was the sopa azteca that made an impression: tortilla soup garnished with ancho chiles, fresh avocado, queso fresco and sour cream. It was the broth that got me. Not much heat, just an extremely memorable, complex and satisfying flavour that screamed it was made with time, effort and care.

sopa azteca

sopa azteca

My main, the fish tacos, I enjoyed: battered haddock, cabbage salad and roasted tomato salsa. But it was the chile rellenos that really impressed. I hadn’t seen this dish served like this before: the pepper of course stuffed with cheese, battered and deep-fried, but then served actually swimming in a bowl of chunky tomato salsa. Topped with sour cream and cilantro, it almost looked like another soup. So the chile’s batter does lose it’s crunch, but.. this salsa was absolutely incredible. The combination of everything in this dish and the fact it’s all swimming in this amazingly bright, flavourful sauce was wonderful.

Service was fast and friendly, and the owner came out to greet us as well. We complimented her on the authentic dishes, which she claimed to have learned from her grandmother. It shows