Savouring seafood in Halifax, Nova Scotia

Savouring seafood in Halifax, Nova Scotia

by Karen Burns-Booth 16 November 2017

Karen Burns-Booth heads to the Canadian city of Halifax and enjoys all that the sea off the coast of Nova Scotia has to offer.

Karen Burns-Booth is a freelance food & travel writer, recipe developer and food stylist with a passion for local, seasonal ingredients.

Karen Burns-Booth is a freelance food & travel writer, recipe developer and food stylist with a passion for local, seasonal ingredients. She is a member of the prestigious Guild of Food Writers and regularly contributes to a variety of print publications and online recipe sites, as well as creating bespoke recipes for numerous major brands and supermarkets in the UK and Europe. Key brands Karen has worked with are: McCormick, Organic UK, Maille, Cath Kidston, Churchill China, Le Creuset, Le Parfait, Tala, John Lewis, Celebrity Cruises, Asda, Waitrose, Aldi, Sainsbury's, Tesco and many more. Karen specialises in preserving, baking, seasonal fare and healthy low-calorie recipes having recently lost weight on the 5:2 intermittent diet. In addition to writing for her own site, the award winning “Lavender and Lovage” blog, she also writes for Great British Chefs and runs a seasonal cookery school in SW France. When she is not in the kitchen she can be found travelling the world with a camera and notebook, searching for new ingredients and recipe inspiration.

Halifax is in one of Canada’s three Atlantic Maritime Provinces, and this vibrant city is the centre of a truly unique food scene. From lively pubs and ubiquitous lobsters to its unique donair takeaway restaurants and its numerous craft breweries, it’s also a city of farmers’ markets with fresh seafood available. It’s not just fish and chips that lure the visiting food lover to this seaside city, however, but the thought of enjoying its world-famous fresh lobster and local giant Digby scallops.

I visited Halifax at the beginning of autumn, when the leaves on the trees were starting to turn flaming crimson and glittering gold, and there was palpable excitement in the air as the lobster season in the southwest of the province approached. But it’s not just the seafood which is a magnet for all serious travelling foodies; the region boasts award-winning wineries and organic vineyards, high-end restaurants, lively bars and pubs too, as well as historical and modern eateries that hug the Waterfront Boardwalk.

If I’m honest, even though I enjoy a glass of good wine and I’m an avid supporter of local craft beers, it’s the seafood that is the main attraction for me when I visit Halifax and Nova Scotia. And on my recent visit, I was treated to an orgy of lobster enjoyment at the beautiful Lightfoot & Wolfville Vineyards, in Nova Scotia’s Annapolis Valley, which is home to many of the province’s award-winning wineries.

Halifax is a port city on the peninsula of Nova Scotia, and is the capital of the province
Seafood in all its forms – including fish and chips – is at the heart of the local food scene

Lobster comes in many forms in Halifax, from the simple boiled lobster as I enjoyed above, to lobster Thermidor in Michelin star quality restaurants and of course the much-loved lobster roll. So, what should discerning diners be looking for in a lobster roll? It is a snack after all, but any recipe should take advantage of fresh, locally caught lobster. I’ve done a bit of research, outside of eating them for quality control you understand, and it seems that less is more when it comes to this tasty Atlantic dish.

The key components for the perfect Nova Scotia Atlantic lobster roll are: a soft bread bun, usually a hot dog bun, but brioche buns are now making their mark too; fresh lobster meat, both the claw meat and the tail meat; good quality mayonnaise mixed with lemon zest and juice; some finely chopped celery and crisp freshly chopped lettuce. There are recipes that suggest spring onions, chilli sauce and Old Bay seasoning, but the best rolls allow the lobster to sing as the main ingredient.

The lobster roll is one of Nova Scotia's most famous culinary attractions, making the most of the abundant local lobster caught daily
Nova Scotia is also home to some of Canada's best wineries, which make the most of grapes grown in the unique cool climate

Although the lobster is the seafood symbol of Nova Scotia and you can even buy fresh lobsters in Halifax Airport to take home, the province boasts many more delectable types of seafood, and what better way is there to sample all of it than by taking one of the Nova Scotia Seafood Trails. The Seafood Trails cover the whole of the province, from shucking oysters in Halifax on the Oyster Trail to a stop on the Seafood Chowder Trail in historic Lunenburg and tucking into freshly fried fish and chips in Yarmouth.

As well as exploring delectable food on the Seafood Trail, there’s also a Nova Scotia Good Cheer Trail. As the name implies, on the Good Cheer Trail you will be treated to fabulous local beers, wines, ciders and spirits, as well as visiting the breweries, wineries, cideries and distilleries where they are produced, grown and made. One of my favourite craft beer places to imbibe, for the ale and the atmosphere, is the Seaport Garrison Brewing Company in Halifax. Here, you can sit inside or outside when the weather is warm and enjoy flights of premium and carefully crafted beers; from their famous spruce beer and raspberry wheat beer to one of my favourites, Sugar Moon Maple beer, they have a beer to suit every taste.

I can’t end this article before mentioning the local wines, and on a trip to the province a few years ago, I had a most enjoyable day exploring the Annapolis Valley wine region on a bespoke Wine and Lunch Escape, with the tongue-in-cheek named company Grape Escapes. The lunch tour lets you experience three wineries located in the heart of the Annapolis Valley, whilst you pleasantly sip your way through Nova Scotia wine country and learn about their cool climate wines. We all enjoyed lunch (with wine of course) at Luckett Vineyards, which overlooks the beautiful Minas Basin fed by the Bay of Fundy.

The Five Fishermen is one of Halifax's most popular restaurants, serving up the province's best seafood
The Press Gang Restaurant & Oyster Bar specialises in two things – oysters and lobster

So, if you are fortunate to visit Nova Scotia soon, make sure you take full advantage of what the province and the capital city of Halifax has to offer, by way of excellent fresh seafood, craft beers and wine. You will find a great selection of amazing eateries in Halifax too, including my top five favourite places to eat and drink. The Five Fishermen, which is reputed to be haunted and offers an extensive choice of superb seafood dishes, has a must-try dish of Nova Scotia seafood chowder.

Next on my list of favourite places to graze in Halifax is McKelvies, another great seafood restaurant and their must-try dish is the Signature Fish Platter, which includes half a lobster too. For modern Canadian food with an Italian twist, The Bicycle Thief is the place to go, and I always enjoy their old-school lobster Thermidor when I’m there, which is served with spaghetti and asparagus. Next to make my top five in Halifax is Bluenose II, named after Nova Scotia’s Grand Banks fishing and racing schooner. The restaurant has been open since 1964 and is the best place for a classic lobster dinner.

Last but not least, I love The Press Gang Restaurant & Oyster Bar, which is located in the heart of downtown Halifax and is one of the city's oldest historic stone structures dating back to 1759. Here you have to try their oysters, as well as the lobster gnocchi, which is utterly scrumptious!

Whatever you do and wherever you eat and drink in Halifax and Nova Scotia, the local seafood, wines and beers will certainly not disappoint! Cheers and bon appetit!