So, we just got back from a 2-week trip to Nova Scotia and I thought I'd share a few finds. My recollection of the drive between Toronto and New Brunswick involved little in the way of good food, and lots in the way of fast food at rest stops, so before leaving T.O. we stopped at Rose Cafe and stocked up on Vietnamese subs for the road - three sandwiches a piece left us satisfied well into Quebec. (I can't stress how good a deal these subs are - $1.50 for a fresh mini-baguette with cilantro, cucumber, marinated carrot and daikon, and your choice of fillings, including shredded chicken, shredded pork, marinated tofu and meatballs...you can stuff yourself on excellent fresh food for $5).
We stopped for dinner in a small community just outside of Quebec city (alas, I haven't been able to figure out what the town was called - there were 3 town names on the sign for the exit, one of which was St. Etienne, I think, but there was absolutely no indication of which one we were in when we pulled off - the best I can do is tell you that immediately after we got back on the trans-Canada there was a sign that indicated 24 km to Quebec City). At any rate, we pulled off the highway and into a small mall where we came across a place called 'La Fourchette D'or' - the mains were standard truck stop sort of food (I had a smothered salisbury steak, my S.O. had a hot chicken sandwich, our friend had chicken fingers and fries, canned/frozen veggies all around), but the big winner was dessert. They served pouding chomeur, a small piece of yellow sponge cake soaked in a warm brown sugar sauce. Very rich, very tasty.
The next day we stopped at an Irving Big Stop on our way through Fredericton - these spring up so frequently along the side of the highway in Atlantic Canada, you'd think they were weeds. We ate at Big Stops several times over the course of two weeks, and I definitely learned that not all of them are created equal. The one outside Fredericton was the best we found - the restaurant itself is called the Blue Canoe. The notable dishes at this stop were the Fish n Chips (hand-breaded fresh haddock, all you can eat on Fridays, sided, unfortunately, with frozen fries), and the intensely chocolate cake with boiled icing.
We made it to Halifax on the evening of July 1st. As it was our anniversary, the S.O. and I ventured out for a nice dinner, but were thwarted multiple times by closings (Il Mercato, Chives and Deco were all closed for Canada Day). Eventually discovered that the Cavern on Blowers St. was open - it's in the space that used to be La Cave. We had a very pleasant dinner there - the mains were the standout. I had the steak with Boursin and portobellos, which nicely contrasted the earthiness of the mushrooms with the richness of the cheese. The boy had the rack of lamb, crusted with dijon and onion brioche, if memory serves - also excellent. Both were cooked medium, as we'd ordered, and were sided with delicious smooth mash and still-crisp sauteed veggies. Starters were decent - the crab cakes were tasty, but had rather more potato in them than I prefer...the lime aioli they were served with had quite a kick. Dessert, while quite tasty, was a bit of a disappointment. We ordered chocolate fondue for two. The fondue itself was beautifully smooth, and kicked with a bit of Calvados. Unfortunately, it was sided with pear, banana, granny smith apple - not an in-season local strawberry in sight. The pound cake was fresh, but clearly store bought. It all tasted fine, but it could very easily have been incredible.
We took most of our remaining meals in Halifax with friends, with a few notable exceptions. We picked up picnic fixings from the Italian Gourmet one afternoon and went to the Public Gardens on Spring Garden Road - excellent fresh meats and cheese as always, but ridiculously expensive. $50 for 6 sandwiches worth of meat and cheese, some ciabatta buns, canned pop and a few squares. Also picked up some of their garlic and wine sausage for a BBQ the next day - highly recommended, but they only have it fresh between Thursday and Sunday. The other meal worth mentioning was notable more for the ambiance than the food - we had fish and chips from the Harbourside Market at a table right next to the boardwalk, with a beautiful breeze off the harbour on a gorgeously sunny day. Nice fish, if a bit overcooked.
Since this post is already ridiculously long, I will write about some discoveries from the trip to Cape Breton separately.