Tuesday, September 29, 2009

"Why Not Now?"

Myself and some other bloggers from Halifax and the surrounding areawere invited on a tour of St. Margaret's Bay by Colour, a marketing and advertising firm based in the city. The idea behind the trip was to encourage city folk to get out of town for the evening and play tourist in their own province. Using the trip tagline "Why Not Now", the concept was that we'd take some photos, write about our adventures, and display how easily one of these day trips can be accomplished.

We meet at the Colour offices at 11 am on Sunday, geared for a day of sightseeing and dining. We board a big Ambassatours bus, and head out to the Aspotogan peninsula. Our first stop is Bayswater Beach, a lovely length of sand. During the summer season, the beach is staffed by lifeguards, and families picnic in the park across the road. When we arrive, however, the beach is virtually deserted, with the seabirds being it's only occupants. Though I file away the thought of hot summer beach nights for next year, I make a mental note to pack a thermos of soup, a crusty baguette and some crisp white wine for a late-fall picnic.


Our next stop is Northwest Cove, where I'm fascinated to learn that the tuna fishery thrives. Japanese buyers come to purchase tuna that are cultivated in pens in the little town's harbour. This area is breathtaking. Walking down the windy road, I can't help but feel as though I'm back in another fishing community- my father's home in Newfoundland. I take a couple snaps that don't nearly do the area justice and wish that I had a hard-core camera like the rest of my travelling companions!

At this point- almost 2 pm- my stomach is growling, and we head toward the Dauphinee Inn in Hubbards for lunch.

We arrive at the Dauphinee Inn and are greeted by the owner who gives us a quick history of Hubbard's, an area whose slogan claims that "It's always sunny in Hubbard's, even when it's raining." He goes on to chat about the Shore Club, "the last of the great dance halls." Opened in 1946, the Shore Club hosts a dance and a live band every Saturday night in addition to a Lobster Supper with all the trimmings.

For lunch, we're treated to some Nova Scotian favorites; homemade baked beans, a crab cake and fishcake with tomato chow and a buttery tea biscuit made from scratch. For dessert, a blueberry shortcake in a bath of sweet blueberry sauce pairs nicely with a steaming cup of tea.


After lunch and a light stroll, we head to Shining Waters Marina where Capt. Kenny Merlin takes us on a sunny tour around the opening of St. Margaret's Bay. Capt. Merlin's boat tours have been in operation since 1985, and he often finds himself host to groups from the city who come down for an evening of R 'n' R.

When we arrived at our dinner destination, Oceanstone Inn & Cottages, we are greeted by owner Ron McInnes, who proceeds to take us on a little hike of the Peggy's Cove preservation area. This is an area of land off the beaten track with great trails to hike. All that the Peggy's Cove Area staff ask is that you stick to the original trails-please don't make your own!

Arriving back at Oceanstone, I'm greeted by the most-loved sound of the clinking of a bottle's neck to a glass' lip; the sound of wine being poured. We are ushered into a lovely dining room overlooking the cove for a wine tasting, hosted by sommelier Sean Buckland of Valley Wine Tours. Sean leads us through a simple wine tasting with two reds and two whites from Nova Scotia. After a quick wine tasting lesson where he does a brief wine etiquette summary, we are invited to try Grand Pre's L'Acadie Blanc (2008) and Gaspereaux Vineyard's Seyval Blanc (2008). Sean also offers some cheese nibblies from Fox Hill Cheese, suggesting the Dill and Chive Havarti's creamy texture as the perfect compliment to the dry, crisp whites.

We then move on to the earthy reds in the form of Blomidon Estate's Baco Noir (2008) and Benjamin Bridge's Taurus (2004), which we pair with Ran-Cher Acres smoked Gouda and Fox Hill's white cheddar respectively. To finish, we're treated to an indulgent glass of Jost's Vidal Icewine- a glass of liquid gold that coats your throat on it's journey down, warming you up from the inside, out. Buckland suggests an equally flavorful pairing here, naming creme brulee as an appropriate sweet, while blue cheese is a complementary savory.

As we head down to dinner, full of lovely libations, I'm intrigued by the amuse bouche that's sitting at my place. The restaurant is the Rhubarb Grill, and head chef Paul McInnes has created a seven course tasting menu with a namesake rhubarb gelee, topped with a strawberry foam as a starter.

The third course of spinach salad tossed in a rosemary-blueberry dressing and studded with pecans blueberries, raspberries and strawberries is preceded by a light grainy slice of cornbread that I slathered with butter. I don't know what it is about a good breadbasket, but the more butter in the bread, the more I want to spread on top!

For a fourth course, we get into a slightly more substantial dish of a single Digby diver scallop in the shell, nestled next to a carrot-ginger puree. If root vegetables could be candy, this would be the dish. Aside from the exclamations as to the amazingness of the puree, the table is fairly silent for this course.

Next comes a simple dish; a piece of perfectly-cooked salmon fillet with a touch of brown sugar and simply adorned with a few spears of grilled asparagus.

The final savory dish, as we move on from lighter fare to something a little richer is the juxtaposition of pork. Pork medallions are nestled in a bed of slightly sweet parsnip puree, accompanied by tender cauliflower and topped with a smokey-sweet sauce of pulled pork.


And then we come to dessert, a tiny trio of sweetness in a variety of flavours and textures. First, I go for the shooter-type dessert which reveals a silky-smooth lemon milkshake. Next, I try the creamy ginger creme brulee, with just a touch of a crust on top. I save the rich, fudgy brownie for last- the perfect way to end such an indulgent meal.

As we head out into the crisp fall night, I'm amazed at the amount of ground we've covered in one day. Beaches, hiking trails, award-wining wines and incredible food make for quite the experience when playing the tourist in Nova Scotia. The fact of the matter is though, that these experiences can all be had within an hour's drive of the city. While it's fine to plan for excursions such as these in advance, why not take a walk on the wild side and experience Nova Scotia when the mood strikes. The name of the tour was "Why Not Now?", and I can't think of a good reason "Why Not."

Big thanks to the folks at Colour, and all those involved in the planning for treating us to such a fantastic day!

8 comments:

Anne Chisholm said...

So many great things to do in the Peggy's Cove Area. A great place to spend a day or a week.

Brad said...

Wow, great post! It's nice to see all the things we missed from having to leave early. It was a definitely a fun day!

arch chisholm said...

You all had a great day according to write up .Love the pictures...good job.

Jim Young said...

Dine and Stay in the Bay
Kristen's comments are so true; the SMB area is so beautiful and only minutes away from Metro. The pictures of the prepared meals are delicious and speak for themselves about the great places to dine and stay, in the Bay, Jim Young

novascotialocal said...

Thanks for the inspiration to travel in our own backyard, so much to discover.

Jaime (Embracing Balance) said...

Kristen,
Thank you so much for this. Being relatively new here I'm always looking for suggestions of things to do...and this is totally up our alley!

Charlene Corkum said...

It looks like you had a fantastic day and there is so much more to discouver ( sights sounds and tastes) you will have to come back.
Great photos.

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