Sausage Fest 2016: Morris East

Morris East (downtown) is widely known for two things: wood-fired pizza and keeping the menu very seasonally inspired. Chef Tim Andersen says he likes to do things well and make a simple pizza that lets the ingredients shine. Andersen says the pizza for Sausage Fest Halifax 2016 was inspired by Nova Scotia: “I love Nova Scotia apples and I always try to work them in this time of year.” One flavour led to another, and Andersen found himself incorporating caramel, apple and fennel to create a pork sausage that would go on the pizza loose, outside of casing.

The base of the pizza is a lemony ricotta cheese, it is topped with sliced, spiced apples, crumbled sausage meat, and caramelized onions that are rich in colour and deeply flavoured. The combination of apples baked in the wood-fired oven, hints of cinnamon, super savoury caramelized onions and caramel notes give this pizza a super cozy, autumnal feel. This pizza is perfect for people who love sweeter, aromatic pizzas, and autumn spices.

Sausage Fest 2016: Ace Burger

What happens when you ask a burger joint to participate in a festival of sausages? They find a way to turn a sausage into a hamburger. Which really isn’t  that hard, when you think about it. Take the ground meat out of the casing, form it into a patty, slap it on a burger bun and you’re in business. Ace Burger did much, much more than that for their decadent Sausage Fest Halifax 2016 creation.

Chef Andrew Prince has interpreted a historical sausage recipe, the first ever appearance of hamburg meat (this is not fact checked) in a written recipe. According to Prince the recipe is titled “To Make Hamburgh Sausage”. He says “the ingredients listed are pepper, cloves, nutmeg and a great quantity of garlic, bay salt, red wine and rum. Those are the ingredients I used as well.”

“The 1758” — named after the year the recipe was published — does taste much different than your typical all-beef patty. The additional seasoning and spices give the beef a sausage-like vibe, and the insanely rich toppings bring it to a place of pure indulgence. The bun is buttered with bone marrow, there is a thick slathering of whipped blue cheese, big, crispy bacon bits and the patty itself is smothered in a smoked tomato and onion jam that comes off more like a sauce. Underneath the patty is a crunchy peppercorn cabbage and apple slaw. In the end, the flavours and textures do balance out to make a very memorable… sausage burger?

 

Dinner on the Ocean Floor

About two weeks ago, we were loaded onto a tour bus that was heading to Burntcoat Head Park on the Bay of Fundy, site of the world’s highest tides. There, we were to be treated to a feast on the ocean floor, paired with the new line of Alexander Keith’s small-batch brews, which are being made at the original Lower Water Street location in Halifax.

The bus ride to Hants County, Nova Scotia, took about an hour and a half from Halifax. After arriving at the park we were separated into two smaller groups and taken on tours. The constant mist and generally grey skies didn’t take away from the spectacular topography and stunning formations along the ocean floor, where the world’s highest tides ebb and flow. Most of us were wearing the proper footwear, so we trudged close to the ocean, checking out tidal pools and tiny crabs along the way.

Once returning from the tour we were greeted with an East Coast-style shellfish boil, complete with live Maritime-inspired music and lots of cold beer. We were each given a huge bowl of boiled mussels, clams and lobster claws, topped with fried dulse, accompanied by a delicious homemade biscuit. Lounging in a circle of colourful Adirondack chairs, we took turns throwing our empty shells into galvanized steel buckets that were placed in the centre. We were supplied with a seemingly unlimited amount of Keith’s newest small batch creation, Fundy Lowtide WIPA, a white IPA made with sea lettuce and dulce from the Bay of Fundy.

Second course surf and turf, succotash.

Second course surf and turf, succotash.

We headed back to the ocean floor, where a long white tent was set up for dinner. Tables decorated with tartan and centrepieces made of sea greenery were set up in the sand, waiting for us. First course was a cheese and house-made charcuterie plate with crispy flat bread crackers and mustards, which was intended to pair with Keith’s best-known beer, their India Pale Ale. The main course was a generous surf and turf, featuring a super flavourful poached lobster tail with saffron mayo, toasted barley succotash, and hop-crusted beef tenderloin; this was paired with Keith’s Cornerstone EPA. Dessert was wonderful, a stack of layered airy cinnamon phyllo, chocolate mascarpone cream, and sautéed cherries, topped with crunchy, pure cocoa nibs, paired with Keith’s Lunenburg Coffee & Cocoa Stout. The brewmaster, Stefan Gagliardi, acted as a host of sorts, mingling with guests and introducing each beer before courses at dinner.

This event was catered by Flying Apron Cookery, and was put on by Seaboost and Labatt (who own Keith’s). I was invited complimentary as part of a media and industry group.

One-Night Oceanstone Getaway

Just prior to Nova Scotia’s busy tourist season starting to take off, we snuck away for one precious night in Indian Harbour, at the gorgeous Oceanstone Resort. Located only five minutes from Peggy’s Cove, a trip to Oceanstone from Halifax proves to be just far enough outside the city to let yourself relax, for real.

We stayed in Gray Owl cottage, which allowed us to walk directly onto the beach from the back entrance. A raised deck surrounded by trees and foliage offers privacy without blocking the dreamy, straight-on view of the ocean. Individual fire pits on the beach, along with cozy wood stoves inside, allow for the ultimate cottage experience. The layout of Gray Owl is perfect for a couple: a one room open-concept cottage with high ceilings, decorated with upscale rustic charm.

Although it was foggy when we first arrived, the sun soon burst through and we kicked off our shoes to set up shop in the sand and enjoy a beverage. The early evening sun was hot enough to fight off the cool ocean breeze; the backdrop and soundtrack were absolutely unbeatable. We stayed there until we were too cold, then retreated to enjoy the wood stove inside.

After an extended period of intense relaxing (virtually doing nothing) we got to work on dinner. We used the outdoor barbecue to grill beef tenderloins from Getaway Farms with bone marrow butter (my first time picking this up — delicious), along with grilled vegetables and creamy mash. A perfect evening. We fell asleep on the insanely comfortable bed (which you can see the ocean from, by the way) with the window slightly cracked, the sounds of crashing waves wandering in.

Oceanstone is definitely my new go-to for an easy, calm and quick getaway from Halifax. The perfect place to recharge.

 

Sip ‘n’ Shuck by Taste of Nova Scotia

Despite the pending storm on Friday, January 29, Sip ‘n’ Shuck went ahead that evening, in the panoramic Baronet Ballroom at the Delta Halifax. I arrived with frozen hair and a soaked jacket, having travelled a horizontal route through downtown from Grafton Street, in the very wet snow (which was blowing sideways).

The first half hour provided those on media passes (me!) with exclusive access before the crowd arrived. I took this opportunity to taste every oyster that was there, including Pristine Bay, ShanDaph, Malagash and Eel Lake.

Oysters and cider.

Oysters and cider.

When the doors opened for the masses, I was happy to see that the turnout was still quite high. Despite the forecast, ticket holders were not going to miss this delicious event. Partnering with The Aquaculture Association of Nova Scotia and the Delta Halifax, this is a fantastic annual event put on by Taste of Nova Scotia that offers a massive amount of local seafood in one room, and the opportunity to pair them with an array of Nova Scotia beers, wines and ciders (a perfect match). In short, if you love seafood, this is heaven.

I sampled a diverse selection of items that night, from beer steamed mussels with Oulton’s double smoked bacon, to maple-glazed Atlantic salmon on potato latkes to cold smoked halibut. My favourite thing that night was ShanDaph oysters.  These were huge, meaty, beautiful briney things with such incredible flavour. They didn’t need any accoutrements. I enjoyed these with both a Bulwark Gold (an award-winning cider that’s finished with local honey) and Benjamin Bridge Tidal Bay.

Browse through the gallery for more photos!

Beverage participants included:

Garrison Brewing Co., Propeller Brewing Co., Ironworks DistilleryBulwark CiderL’Acadie VineyardsAvondale Sky WineryBenjamin BridgeBlomidon Estate WineryDevonian CoastGrand Pré WinesLuckett Vineyards and Planters Ridge.

GLYNNEVAN Whisky Launch

It was a sunny and crisp autumn morning in downtown Halifax when I entered Lot Six on Argyle Street for the GLYNNEVAN Whisky launch. Produced by Authentic Seacoast Company out of Guysborough, Nova Scotia, GLYNNEVAN is another in a long line of products that were thought up and brought to life by serial entrepreneur Glynn Williams.

“About 27 or 28 years ago Mike [Nicholson] and I went on a fly fishing trip in Nova Scotia and ended up in northern Cape Breton and thought: ‘What a place for a distillery!'” Said Williams during his retelling of the extended history of GYLNNEVAN.  “We had had a few scotches at that point,” he added, making the crowd laugh.

Inspiration

On this day, a group of about forty people slowly trickled into the bright atrium space in Lot Six, quickly filling it with lively chatter and anticipation. Williams took the stage to briefly outline what he’s proud of accomplishing in the last few years in regards to Authentic Seacoast products, particularly Fortress Rum and its relationship with Parks Canada. Williams also took the time to introduce and thank his team at Authentic Seacoast, before telling the GYLNNEVAN story in greater depth.

“It’s a story about fathers and sons; it’s a story about the great nation that we live in,” said Williams. The whisky is indeed a tribute to Williams’ son, Evan, both in name and in the spirit of the journeys they’ve taken together all over the world. “It’s about sharing that spirit with someone you love,” said Williams. “It’s about creating new traditions.”

The Canadian rye whisky is made from prairie grain in Western Canada; it journeys across the country, then is second-barrelled on its arrival to the Maritimes. The second barreling is said to add depth and complexity. As described by Authentic Seacoast, GLYNNEVAN Whisky’s “well-balanced taste is sweet and creamy offering vanilla, spice, hazelnut, butter, toffee and caramel sensations.”

Manhattan.

The Fish Hook.

Whisky in Action

Lot Six mixologists Jeffrey Van Horne and Shane Beehan took the stage to describe the cocktails they’d created for GLYNNEVAN, giving the crowd a full demonstration.

“This is an exciting time,” started Beehan, offering some opening remarks. “There’s no other company in Canada right now with the ambition for growth that Authentic Seacoast has.” He then spoke of the creative process for creating cocktails that would showcase the nuances in the whisky. Beehan prepared a shaken cocktail and Van Horne a stirred cocktail, so that the crowd could understand the flavour differences between both methods.

“When I taste a heavy oaked whisky, the first thing that jumps into my mind is a classic Manhattan,” said Van Horne. “We’re going to add a little twist on this drink, called a Red Hook.” Named after the Red Hook neighbourhood in Manhattan, this variation uses a Maraschino cherry liqueur to sweeten the drink. Van Horne chose to use vermouth and also orange bitters. He called his version The Fish Hook; the drink strongly showcased the rich, oaky flavours of the whisky and didn’t mask the booze.

Beehan’s shaken cocktail, High Tides, was inspired by a classic sour. “During high tides, especially in Nova Scotia, you get to see the enormous power that our ocean has.” Said Beehan, “I think in the craft spirit world, Nova Scotia is at it’s first high tide.” High Tides also used fresh lemon juice and fresh honey, creating a light, citrusy, sour cocktail that didn’t overpower the smoky characteristics of the whisky — instead it balanced them.

IMG_6723 — Click to watch the video of Shane Beehan in action!

Last year I attended the Sea Fever Rum launch by Authentic Seacoast, and in my coverage, talked a little bit about Williams, how he ended up in our province, and his passion for growing the Nova Scotia economy and producing export-worthy products. Revisit that post here.

Devour! Dinner & a Movie… Cinema Paradiso

It sure is tough being a food blogger sometimes. Last night I was treated to a complimentary ticket (thanks Lia!) for Devour! Dinner & A Movie Series, inspired by Cinema Paradiso. Which meant a five-course Sicilian feast, paired with fantastic Italian wines. Yeah, it was a hard night’s work.

Executive director of Devour!, and chef, Michael Howell teamed up with chef Scott Colwell of Certainly Cinnamon to serve up flavourful Sicilian dishes, while screening the Italian film Cinema Paradiso. Lia Rinaldo, managing director of Devour!, explained to us before we sat down to dinner not to feel obliged to quietly watch the film, it’s about having fun and feeling relaxed. I’m not sure anyone at our table even glanced at the film, but it created a fantastic atmosphere to have it playing in the background while we enjoyed great food, wine and company.

The venue!

The venue!

The venue was Certainly Cinnamon’s new catering kitchen on the north side of Barrington Street, what was formerly a car wash. It has high ceilings and real industrial vibe, but felt cozy with the strung lights and added touches by the Devour! team.

While all the courses were delicious (I love Italian food), the boneless lamb osso bucco (pictured at the top) deserves to be singled out. This dish was amazing. Having been slow-braised, the lamb absolutely fell apart and melted in your mouth, the Primitivo-enriched demi brought out deep and complex flavour; the polenta was soft and supple, and the gremolata atop the lamb was just perfect, offering fresh acidity and bright parsley. I ate every bite. Including my helping of the family-style side dishes: perfectly cooked, lemony asparagus and roasted spring vegetables with fresh mint and eggplant caponata. The shrimp alla diavolo seared in saffron brodo, our first course, also stuck out for me; the sauce had a real kick (as it should), and really danced with the fresh parsley.

Sicilian shrimp alla diabolo with lemon couscous

Sicilian shrimp alla diabolo with lemon couscous

The Dinner & A Movie series is a great idea, this was the first one I’d been to. There’s a real social, relaxed vibe, even with the service. It felt like a big dinner party with friends… and once again proved there’s something so comforting and satisfying about eating from-scratch Italian food. I have to give a shout-out to Jenny Gammon with Bishop’s Cellar, who nailed her pairings and did a great job explaining the wines before each course. Salute!

Oyster Shucking & Road Tripping with Ford

On one of the first truly warm, sunny days in May, I was invited to attend another fantastic Ford Canada event. This time, we’d be headed to Oceanstone Seaside Resort near Peggys Cove, to hear author, TV host and travel columnist Robin Esrock speak about his new book The Great Atlantic Canadian Bucket List.

Our ride.

Our ride.

When I arrive at our meeting point, Steele Lincoln Ford, I see my co-writers at Local Connections Halifax Magazine, Lia Rinaldo and Tiffany Thornton. We manage to nab the white Ford Mustang and Lia gladly agrees to get behind the wheel for the 40-minute(ish) road trip to Oceanstone.

Upon arrival we’re immediately swept out to a deck overlooking the ocean, snacking on delicious canapés (smoked salmon crostini and bacon-wrapped scallops) while sipping on Benjamin Bridge Nova 7 sparkling wine.

Nova 7 on the patio.

Nova 7 on the patio.

It’s the kind of day in early spring where you finally feel everything has come back to life. The air smells pleasantly salty, the breeze is warm and the deck offers a quintessential Nova Scotia view: a white lighthouse across the bay and a stunning combination of rocky beach and blue ocean. Operator Lizzie Moore speaks to us briefly about the property and promises to show us around the cottages after lunch.

First course for our lunch is hands-on oyster shucking (and eating) with chef Bryan Corkery. After the demo, a few of us shuck our own, and Bryan makes oyster shooters with clamato juice and vodka. At this point I’m glad Lia has agreed to drive the Mustang. We sit down for lunch (lobster stuffed chicken, potato rosti and seasonal vegetables).

My delicious oyster shooter.

My delicious oyster shooter.

Sometime during dessert Robin takes over for a presentation about his travel experiences and books The Great Canadian Bucket List, and now, the Great Atlantic Canadian Bucket List. The storytelling  and photos are the type that immediately make you want to quit your day job and buy an around-the-world plane ticket. But if you can’t do that, for now, you should at least check out his book on Atlantic Canada and plan some adventures closer to home.

After lunch, as promised, we take a look through some of the seaside cottages (which are unbelievably charming) and soak in the sun, view and ocean air just a little bit longer. I manage to win the prize draw (one night in a Rhubarb suite), which means I’ll be back soon, to eat fresh seafood at the on-site restaurant Rhubarb, and drink Nova 7 by our fire pit on the beach, listening to the waves crash in front of our beautiful cottage. Because there’s no way I’m not upgrading!

Thanks again to Ford Canada for the invite to this event, Oceanstone for the food, drink and views and to Lia for being our road trip DD. Check out the cottages in the gallery below…

NS Chefs Pop-up Series with Ray Bear

The Nova Scotia Chefs Pop-up Series made an impressive start just over two weeks ago, with chef Ray Bear inviting guest chef Dave Smart to help take over the kitchen space at the Scanway Bakery and Café on Grafton Street. About 18 lucky food enthusiasts, including myself, were just able to squeeze into the space and enjoy an exclusive meal from two of the most creative and artful Nova Scotia chefs around. It proved to be an intimate and, understandably, very social pop-up venue. Each chef, demonstrating his distinct style, created one dish per course, transforming your typical three-course meal into a six-course feast.  And yes, that means there were two desserts. Impeccable wine pairings were provided by Jenny at Bishop’s Cellar.

Dave's first course: confit squash, mushrooms, roasted pearl onions, brown butter, toasted hazelnuts, sage croutons, lemon-ginger.

Dave’s first course: confit squash, mushrooms, roasted pearl onions, brown butter, toasted hazelnuts, sage croutons, lemon-ginger.

First course was brought to you by Dave: A salad of confit squash, mushrooms, roasted pearl onions, brown butter dust (which melted in your mouth and became brown butter), toasted hazelnuts, colourful sage croutons, and tangy lemon-ginger gel.  Presented in classic Dave style, a gorgeous asymmetrical plate with styled pops of colour and a plethora of textures. But don’t worry — it wasn’t just pretty; everything about this salad came together in a nicely balanced way, a great first course.

Ray's first course: fresh ramen, vegetable infused pork broth, crispy bits salad, kimchi aioli, herbs

Ray’s first course: fresh ramen, vegetable infused pork broth, crispy bits salad, kimchi aioli, herbs

Second course (second first course, actually) was from Ray; I really enjoy when he uses Asian inspiration. This dish had fresh, house-made ramen noodles in a vegetable-infused pork broth. The broth was infused using a vacuum coffee maker, shortly before the course was served. I thought it was just so flavourful. Also in the broth was crispy bits salad (pork with crispy bits), fresh herbs, enoki mushrooms and, rimming the bowl, a kimchi aioli. Umami deliciousness.

On to Dave’s main course, cured and cold smoked scallop, cauliflower pureé, green apple, pickled raisins, and curried granola. Dave explained that the scallop was seared on one side only, bringing two temperatures to the plate and some colour to the top. The pickled raisins were perfect, a great way to offset the sweet-rich scallop and velvety cauliflower pureé. The crunch of the granola was fantastic, I was a huge fan of this plate.

Ray's second course: NS spring lamb, calamari, olive, fingerlings, almond romesco, saffron-vanilla pudding

Ray’s second course: NS spring lamb, calamari, olive, fingerlings, almond romesco, saffron-vanilla pudding

Ray’s main course had so much fun stuff going on, a Spanish-inspired lamb dish that showed off a lamb sausage stuffed purple shallot, calamari, olives, fingerlings, almond romesco sauce, and saffron-vanilla pudding. Showcasing both the calamari tube and tentacles gave this plate such a great visual aspect, and I loved the two different preparations of the lamb, both delicious. That heavenly well of jus inside the pudding was unbelievable. It was a beautiful main course.

On to dessert, which I typically skip. Dave’s dessert was perfect for me… it was savoury and involved cheese. An Urban Blue cheese cheesecake schmear, black currant, pistachio crumb, and beet sorbet. The earthy flavour of the beet really came through here, and again, all the flavours and textures were superbly balanced, it was, for me, the perfect level of sweetness (not much).

Ray's dessert: Butterflies & Drops of Jupiter

Ray’s dessert: Butterflies & Drops of Jupiter

Ray’s trippy-looking dessert, described on the menu as only “Butterflies & Drops of Jupiter” was a big wow for the crowd. Pete Luckett jokingly referred to it as the dessert Ray must have thought up on LSD.  In reality it was an amazing dessert with many intricately designed and placed elements. The main part (the green thing) was passionfruit around a white chocolate-lime Bavarian. The raspberry ball had rose water, elder flower juice and yuzu. The butterfly looked as though it would just be fondant or something similar but was a delicious paper thin biscuit. The other “drops” of foam on the plate were blueberry and blackberry. It tasted even better than it looked.

Keep an eye out for the next edition of the Nova Scotia Chefs Pop-up Series; I’m sure there are many more impressive meals like this one in the works.

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.