Seafood, Wine, and Scenery: A Delectable Journey through Southwestern Nova Scotia, Part 1
Practically every town you visit as you drive along Nova Scotia’s southern coast is described as “seafaring,” highlighting the importance of the fishing industry to this rugged province. Foodies will enjoy fresh seafood, artisan cheeses and locally grown fruits and vegetables, set off by the award-winning wines of this region. History buffs will love visiting a Loyalist town and Acadian villages. And everywhere you go there will be friendly faces making you feel welcome.
I started my culinary exploration of southwestern Nova Scotia in Halifax. The capital of Nova Scotia has many attractions, but I spent my time wandering around Halifax Harbor’s waterfront boardwalk, working up an appetite for some fresh seafood. The boardwalk is about a mile and a half long, and if the view of boats dotting the sparkling water palls, you can always stop in at one of its three maritime-related museums or even a casino.
I stopped in at McKelvie’s, which is located just a block from the Lower Water Street. This seafood restaurant has been a Nova Scotia institution since it was converted from the original fire station that had operated in this location since 1906. They serve jumbo-sized lobsters and a variety of seasonal fare. I chose the panko-encrusted roasted halibut with maple dill cream and mashed garlic potatoes. The halibut was tender with a crunchy outer coating; the taste was mild and had picked up some nice herb flavors of dill. They seem to be worthy of their motto, “delicious fishes dishes.”
Halifax to Lunenburg
For the remainder of my trip I joined a small group whose mission was to circumnavigate (by minivan) the entire southwestern coast of Nova Scotia — a “Sweet Southern Ride,” if you will — to sample the culinary fare and soak in the historic ambiance. An enjoyable mission indeed.
As our mini van rounded the corner into the little village, the famous red-topped white Peggy’s Cove lighthouse came into view. Massive weather-worn granite rocks surround the octagonal base of this seafaring icon and deep blue skies gleamed through the breaking clouds. This location is one of the most photographed spots on Nova Scotia and I could see why. Visiting cruise ships regularly bring passengers here to appreciate this romantic spot. From a distance, tourists climbing along the rocks to get the best angle for photos look similar to an ant farm.
When I imagine an idyllic seaside village, I think of one with colorful fishing sheds, nets drying in the sun and boats waiting for their next forage into the sea. Peggy’s Cove matches that ideal and it is postcard perfect. When you visit, make sure you stop in at their Sou'Wester Restaurant for a piece of their famous gingerbread.
There are a couple of nice stops south along Peggy’s Cove Road that were worth visiting:
Our first visit was to Acadian Maple Products in the village of Tantallon. The owner, Brian Allaway, started out making maple syrup thirty years ago as a hobby and it turned into a full-fledge business employing practically his entire family. The company now produces a myriad of products made from this sweet syrup. I did some syrup sampling (preferred the dark) and then watched the process of bottling and packaging the maple syrup for shipment.
A bit further down the road is the hard-to-miss bright yellow and pink façade of the White Sails Bakery & Deli. The windows proudly displayed large signs with various accolades from TripAdvisor users and other media outlets
Jacques, the proud owner, greeted us from behind the counter and started pointing to various bakery items, urging us to try each and every one. I was handed a piece of sugar pie which was quite good and not too sweet. He told us that everyone said his cinnamon buns were better than, well, anyone else’s. I took a few bites and tasted the savory cream cheese and top quality cinnamon and decided I agreed with that sentiment.
I marveled at how this man, seemingly more like a ringmaster than a bakery owner, effortlessly handled the growing number of patrons coming in to his shop while still dealing with us. He quickly pulled out some smoked meat and cut some slices for is. “Try this,” he said. The slices of beef were lean and cured just right and I thought, “Wow.” Frankly, his offerings rivaled anything similar I had tried in Montreal, which is known for their smoked meat establishments.