Homegrown eats in Halifax

bacon_scallopsHalifax is used to being misunderstood. The weather is rotten, people say, and there’s also the misconception that the town’s only worthy sustenance is lobster.

It’s true that the weather isn’t great for about eight months of the year, but when it’s good, it’s stunning. And the lobster is certainly worth a mention (it’s so common and abundant in Nova Scotia that McDonald’s serves a McLobster sandwich) but crustaceans aside, Halifax is a really good place to eat.

I got three reactions when I told people I was heading to Halifax: “Where?” “Halifax, Virginia?” and “Why?”

It’s not that Halifax, Nova Scotia gets a bad rap, it kind of just gets no rap unless you’re a fifty-something cruise passenger, a Western Canada local or a really savvy lobster connoisseur. But I think this sweet town in Canada’s second biggest province deserves a little more play.

I had been to Halifax before as part of an epic road trip, but this time I really got to understand the city in all its culinary glory. I just kept eating. Everything.

I’ll start with the bacon-wrapped scallops. First of all, anything wrapped in bacon is bound to be good (apologies to the pork averse). And the scallops themselves are the best you’ll ever have—even if you don’t like scallops, you’ll likely like these. They come from Digby, a fishing town a little less than three hours from Halifax, famous for its fresh and unfussy scallops. So McKelvie’s, a restaurant in Halifax’s waterfront district took two already first-rate ingredients, drizzled them with Nova Scotia maple syrup, a touch of rosemary, served them with a wasabi tartar sauce, and made magic. Magic.

It was like five flavors of joy every time you bit into one and I wondered how I’d ever survive without these scallops. (The answer is: I won’t. I’ll be returning to Halifax sooner than anticipated).

Then there was the crab cake at Stories, a restaurant housed in the historic Halliburton Hotel. I’ve been eating crab cakes for years. I’ve had them at the Sydney Fish Market, at fancy restaurants, at not-so-fancy supermarket seafood counters, all over the place. But tasting this cake at Stories, it felt like my first time.

It was a sautéed queen crab cake with avocado and a harissa cream and I wanted to kiss the chef for blowing my mind with this one little dish. The avocado was more like a perfected homemade guacamole and the cream made from harissa, a Tunisian chili pepper paste made from red roasted peppers, serrano peppers, herbs and spices gave it just the right kick.

I also popped into the Seaport Farmer’s Market where local foods makers and artisans share their treats. It’s the best place to taste test Halifax with a little of this and that like Maritime gourmet beer nuts, barberry (a Vitamin-C-rich, delicious berry I had never heard of before) jam, gluten free sausages and all the honey and maple syrup you can dream of.

Considering I ate way more than fathomable for a girl my size, I could go on, but since I already did for a story in Mariner magazine, I’ll post that piece once it’s published.

Anyway, long blog short, go there and eat. You’ll love what you taste, the good people you discover and the surprising warmth of a place that’s so often cold.