I’ve had the pleasure of visiting Nova Scotia twice in the past year. The friendly Atlantic province is stocked with beautiful fresh seafood, wineries and award-winning chefs.
Earlier this week, Edible Canada played host to Chef Michael Howell, as Nova Scotia was featured in their ongoing Coast to Coast dinner series.
A born and bred Nova Scotian, Chef Howell’s first career was in acting. He later moved to Toronto (in 1984) to begin working in restaurants. A decade later, he met his future wife and moved to Chicago. He spent the next 10 years in the USA continuing in the restaurant industry before moving to the Bahamas and serving as executive chef of a small hotel on a beautiful island.
Sounds idyllic, however Howell’s goal at the time was to own a 50-seat restaurant close to both a university and burgeoning wine region. On a visit back home, his sites mentioned a place for sale in Wolfville. The restaurant was too expensive; in turn, the realtor suggested a spot right around the corner. Though worse for wear, Howell saw the potential and it did fit right into his criteria.
Another decade passed, and after a successful restaurant run, he sold it and began Devour! The Food Film Fest in 2009. In case you’re not familiar with Devour, it happens to be the world’s largest food film festival devoted to all things culinary. This year, the festival will take place from November 4 to 8. The jam-packed festival brings in world-renowned chefs from around the globe, all gathering in Wolfville, where they’ll prepare dinners inspired by the films shown.
Our five-course Nova Scotia tasting menu was complimented by glasses of Benjamin Bridge wines, starting with a Méthode Brut Classique Brut (the winery’s flagship sparkling wine) to marry with kataifi-wrapped scallops. The wine’s composed of L’Acadie, Seyval, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes, adding a wonderful minerality and a toasty hint that works well with food.
Located in the heart of the Gaspereau Valley on the Bay of Fundy in Nova Scotia, Benjamin Bridge is best known as the country’s finest sparkling wine producer. The region’s cool climate closely resembles France’s Champagne region.
Finnan haddie & chorizo chowder’s an elevated take on the classic chowder. With maple-smoked fish and chorizo in place of traditional bacon or salt pork, Howell’s kicked it up a notch. With the bowl came a glass of Vero, its Chardonnay/L’Acadie/Riesling grape trio offering a dry wine with white peach, pepper and citrus notes, a good palate-cleanser after the salty chorizo in the chowder.
A smoked salmon gateau with Hana Tsunomata seaweed, rice vinegar and maple syrup vinaigrette, plus balsamic reduction is inspired by Alsatian cuisine, with a potato salad neatly tucked inside the gateau. A glass of crisp Tidal Bay added notes of passionfruit and pineapple to the course.
The highlight of the meal was Nova Scotia lobster, served as a tasting portion complemented by fiddleheads in a beautiful spinach purée, tomato concassé and beurre rouge et blanc. Simple, rich, yet very flavourful, together with a glass of Brut Rosé (not my favourite pairing: the wild strawberry and cinnamon hints seemed to work against rather than with the spinach and lobster flavours). I much preferred sipping the Vero with this course. Luckily there was some left in my glass.
A light play on strawberry shortcake topped the meal, a deconstructed crumble with strawberry compote, meringue and fruit swashes on a long plate. My favourite wine of the evening, Nova 7, was poured with this course.
Nova 7 is Nova Scotia’s best-selling wine, with an acidity that cuts straight through the sweetness of the strawberries. Notes of lychee, mandarin and orange make for a pleasant meal-capper.
Here’s a schedule of upcoming Coast to Coast dinners:
September 1 | Quebec Month
Chef Derek Dammann from Maison Publique
October 1 | PEI Month
Chef Ross Munro, Owner/Operator of Prince Edward Island Culinary Adventures
November 2 | New Brunswick Month
Chef Chris Aerni of Rossmount Inn
Dinners run from 7 to approximately 10 pm, tickets for each dinner are $99, and it’s advisable to purchase in advance online. Price includes wine and beverage pairings, gratuities, plus 10% off all retail products purchased that evening. Visit Edible Canada online for up-to-date Coast to Coast Dinner Series info.