For 16 days we hit the coast

[Bonus points to anyone who gets the Thrush Hermit reference.]

Barring any travel hiccups, we’re just about to fly back to Toronto after 2+ weeks in Nova Scotia. Here’s the rundown.

SAT 13th

Just barely made our flight, but then we cooked on tarmac for a bit because of mechanical issues or some such. Guy in front of us wouldn’t keep his mask on. Read Pipette magazine on the flight. Landed in Halifax, met brother & sister-in-law #2 who generously provided us with a car for two weeks. Drove to Bedford, ate pizza, watched Bojack, and slept.

SUN 14th

Spent the morning being lazy. The four of us (me, Lindsay, Lindsay’s mom + brother) drove to Mahone Bay to visit Lindsay’s other brother, his fiancé, their dog, and two cats. We hung out at their place and had delicious pasta, garlic knots, and lemon tarts. I got my dog-petting and cat-snuggling fixes too. It was good for the soul, and I also realized I’d somehow never been to Mahone Bay (that I can recall, anyway).

We drove home, enjoyed the backyard, barbecued hot dogs, and played Taboo.

Mon 15th

Did as much nothing as was humanly possible. Only activity for the day was to drive the 2 minutes to the NSLC, load up on a case of wine, and drive back.

Lindsay’s grandparents came over for dinner. We played some more Taboo in the evening. THAT WAS IT.

Tue 16th

Somehow managed to do even less today than yesterday. Read a book. Watched TV. Loafed in the backyard. Drank wine. Major excitement was that we switched it up to Scrabble in the evening.

Wed 17th

Another day of chilling. More reading. Watched Goodfellas (finally after many years!) and The F Word (made Toronto look amazing!). Then — trumpet fanfare — the four of us actually did a dinner out, down the street at Il Mercato.

  • Cocktails
    • Negroni Fregola (Bombay Sapphire Gin, strawberry-infused Campari, Cinzano, orange bitters)
    • Pinky Promise (Amaro Averna, Vini dei Poeti Prosecco, raspberry purée, lemon)
    • glasses of L’Acadie 2017 Vintage Cuvée Rosé
  • Appetizers
    • Risotto Croquettes, San Marzano tomato, Prosciutto di San Daniele, fresh Mozzarella center, tomato, basil pesto sauce
    • Jumbo Shrimp, sautéed with roasted garlic, cream, white wine, Italian parsley
    • Bruschetta, brushed with garlic, topped with fresh herbs, chopped tomato, Montasio, Parmigiano
    • Marinated Grilled Vegetable Salad, organic greens, warm Goat cheese, basil pesto, balsamic vinaigrette
    • Bottle of Pieropan 2020 Soave Classico
  • Mains
    • Linguine Frutti di Mare, Mussels, Scallops, Clams, Jumbo Shrimp, tomato, garlic, fresh herbs, chilies, white wine
    • Gnocchi all’Aragosta, hand rolled gnocchi, fresh Atlantic Lobster, San Marzano tomato, garlic, white wine, cream, parmigiano
    • Handmade Ravioli, wild mushroom, roasted free range Chicken & Cambozola stuffing, Sherry cream sauce
    • Grilled Rack of Lamb, pistachio crusted, blackcurrant demi-glace sauce, rosemary potatoes, fire roasted peppers
    • Bottle of Banfi 2015 Brunello di Montalcino
  • Dessert
    • Coconut Chiffon Cake, layered with mango filling, lime zest, shaved coconut
    • Affogato al Caffè, vanilla gelato doused with Illy Espresso, splash of Baileys, fresh whipped cream, chocolate shavings
    • Port & cocktails

The 10 year Port on their menu was out, so they gave me a 20 year. I did not complain.

Thu 18th

Moving day. Left Bedford, drove downtown, checked into the Muir. Just as magical as last time — the view wasn’t as nice, but the room/suite was bigger. We relaxed for a bit before walking downstairs to dinner at Drift. Here’s what we ate, sitting outside on the patio near the water on a perfect evening:

  • Starters
    • maritime oyster w/ mignonette, lemon, horseradish
    • Maryann’s brown bread w/ organic honey butter
    • crispy mushy peas w/ malt mayo, pea greens, maritime sea salt
    • sustainable blue salmon tartare w/ salmon eggs, onion chip dip
    • Lightfoot & Wolfville bubbly
    • L’Acadie Vineyards cuvée rosé
  • Mains
    • roast chicken & rappie pie w/ parsnips, mushrooms, klondike potatoes
    • butter-roasted halibut w/ brown butter tartar, bubble & squeak, steamed greens
    • bottle of Leeuwin Estate, Art Series, Chardonnay, 2018, Margaret River
  • Dessert
    • Seafoam Royal Gin Fizz (Compass Royal gin, egg white, lemon juice, lavender syrup & bitters)
    • Penfolds Grandfather

It was all excellent, but the highlights were the brown bread, the crispy mushy peas (which basically tasted like falafel), the salmon tartare, the rappie pie, and the bottle of Chard.

We left the restaurant and walked over to the water, specifically to the steps leading down into the harbour, where we saw a school of little fish swimming around by the light.

Fri 19th

We slept in a bit (being back in a king bed felt like heaven) before ordering a big room service breakfast. Eventually we collected ourselves and went out to do a bit of shopping.

First up was Bookmark, where we bought three new books — two for Lindsay, one for me. Next up was The Port for a couple of gift bottles, then cortados at Coffeeology. In retrospect, ordering hot coffees on one of the warmest days of the year was a misstep. Anyway, we made it home, got showered, and prepared to head out to dinner. We were meeting Lindsay’s dad and brother…but first: wine.

We’d originally planned to have dinner at Obladee, my favourite Halifax wine bar, but decided to just have a little cinq à sept there instead. They have an intriguing-yet-delicious wine list, and it was a treat for a wine nerd like me. The list below shows what I drank before and after dinner (more on that later).

  • Glasses/flights I drank myself
    • Cederberg Bukettraube 2021 (Western Cape, South Africa)
    • Gruber Röschitz Grüner Veltliner 2020 (Weinviertel, Austria)
    • Domaine Gayda En Passant Blanc 2020 (Languedoc, France)
    • Holdvölgy Hold and Hollo Dry Tokaj 2018 (Tokaji, Hungary)
    • Hidden Bench Chardonnay 2019 (Ontario)
    • Petite Rivière Petite L’Orange 2020 (Nova Scotia)
    • Eileanan Brèagha Vineyards Rosé 2020 (Nova Scotia)
    • Chateau Ksara Reserve du Couvent 2017 (Bekaa Valley, Lebanon)
    • Bodega Aessir Bobal Tinto (Castilla-La Mancha, Spain)
    • Domaine Grand Pré Pomme d’Or (Nova Scotia)
    • Quevedo Special Reserve Tawny Port
    • Lustau Oloroso Don Nuño Sherry
  • Sips I stole from Lindsay
    • Planters Ridge Viognier 2020 (Nova Scotia)
    • Gustave Lorentz Qui l’Eût Cru 2021 (Alsace, France)
    • Longaví GLUP Rosado 2020 (Maule Valley, Chile)
    • Benjamin Bridge Small Lot Pinot Noir 2020 (Nova Scotia)
    • Judith Beck Ink 2020 (Burgenland, Austria)
    • Ochota Barrels Chardonnay (Coravin) (McLaren Vale, Australia)

One cool little story: that copy of Pipette Magazine I read on the flight down contained an article about Judith Beck…and now here we were drinking her wine.

For dinner we met said father and brother at the Black Sheep on Lower Water. I’d been to the previous incarnation off Dresden Row for brunch with brother #1 years before, but hadn’t tried this one. It was decent. We four shared calamari and brisket nachos; I had the pork chop for my main, and Lindsay had the lamb fettucine. We rejuvenated ourselves with coffees, and walked back into the perfect evening. Lindsay’s dad had had a long day, but her brother was up for another drink, so back we went to Obladee for a…uh, dix à une. We closed the place down, and rolled down the hill to our bed.

Sat 20th

Lindsay slept in while I got up for breakfast. I ate french toast and sipped coffee on the quiet Drift patio, looking out over the harbour. Eventually Lindsay arose, and we just relaxed in the room until noon-ish, after which we met her mom and brother at Café Lunette for brunch. It was a cute little place, and everyone seemed to like their food. Having already eaten breakfast I opted for the steak frites; the steak was especially delicious.

[Writing this several days later, I honestly cannot remember what we did for the rest of the day. Let’s assume we napped and/or watched something in the room.]

We did manage to negotiate schedules and sneak in a dinner with brother #1 at a place he’d not yet tried: Trattoria da Claudio, which funnily enough has moved into where Black Sheep used to be. The meal was quite good: picture authentic Italian cuisine using as many local ingredients as he could. All-Italian wine list, of course, and Italian opera on the speakers all night, so a little on the nose, but we didn’t mind. I had the Capesante E Prosciutto Di Parma (Seared Digby Scallops with Prosciutto di Parma fat, green pea velouté, crispy Prosciutto di Parma julienne, roasted cherry tomatoes rosemary emulsion) and Fusilli Al Pesto Di Noci (Speck, pecans pesto, sundried tomatoes julienne). Lindsay had the Caprese Pesche E Prosciutto (Grilled oregano white wine marinated peaches, arugula, tomatoes on the vine, Ciro’s local mozzarella, Prosciutto di Parma roses, balsamic vinegar of Modena gel) and Risotto Zafferano Ed Aragosta (NS lobster, white wine, thyme with saffron Arborio risotto). We had cold white wine (it was VERY warm in there) and cannoli and lemon-berry gelato for dessert. All in all, a very good find from brother #1.

Sun 21st

Moving day again. Phase 3 of the trip was to be spent on my family farm, so we got some breakfast sent up to the room, showered, packed, and checked out. We had one last lunch at Drift — where we saw Nathan MacKinnon, fresh off his Stanley Cup parade through Halifax — before leaving.

Our drive to the farm was uneventful, apart from a few dumb drivers, and we arrived in the early evening. It was weirdly quiet, as (a) it’s the middle of blueberry season, and (b) half the family was working at a nearby rock & mineral show. Eventually we collected everyone at home, hurriedly ate some sandwiches, and crashed.

Mon 22nd

Since my mom was free we decided to go on a daytrip: while mom did errands in Parrsboro, we chatted with the artists who were sculpting a log from my dad’s woods, then had lunch (including a big piece of butterscotch pie) at the Pier restaurant (or Harbour View or whatever it’s called) at low tide. After that we drove downshore toward Advocate, admired the view along the way, stopped at Cape d’Or and walked down to the lighthouse, and hung out at Driftwood Beach. It was a hot, sunny, beautiful day, perfect to revisit this area where two of my grandparents grew up, and which Lindsay had never before seen.

We picked up roast chickens and salads on the way home; brother #2 and 4/5 of the family (two kids are at home for the summer) came across the yard for dinner, along with the two pups. After dinner we took brother #2’s side by side out for a rip. Lindsay even took a turn on the back roads.

Tue 23rd

A mostly-lazy day marred by one incident: out for a walk around the home hill, Lindsay got something in her eye, to a very painful and traumatic degree. She was in severe pain for most of the evening, even as we tried to flush out whatever it was. She went to sleep with a warm facecloth across her eyes, hoping the next day would be better.

Wed 24th

It was better. Somewhat. Less pain than the night before, and more mobility in the eye, but far from fully healed. We decided to get on with our day the best we could anyway. We drove to Parrsboro, grabbed lunch from Tim Horton’s, drove down to West Bay (where, somehow, I’d never driven before) to get a great view of Blomidon and Cape Split, then backtracked to the beach at Partridge Island where we walked around, skipped stones, and enjoyed the sea air.

We got home and, within a few hours, were headed back to Parrsboro for dinner with my parents at the Glooscap. It was my first time there since it burned down a few years ago. We stuffed ourselves, drove home, and played a few games of crib. Lindsay’s eye was better, but still not good.

Thu 25th

We’d made an appointment with an eye doctor in Amherst for first thing in the morning where, it was discovered, something was still stuck in Lindsay’s eye. It was too hard to tell what it has originally been (my guess was an insect) but as soon as it was out, her eye started responding favourably. While we waited for a prescription to be filled we had a HUGE feed downtown at Breakfast at Brittney’s, then drove back to collect our goods and head home.

Later that afternoon, after everyone had taken off to different appointments and engagements, we packed up and began the drive back to Bedford. We drove the long way, along the old shore road, intending to stop at Diane’s for clams but somehow missing it, opting instead for dinner at Catch Of The Bay in Masstown (which involved a mediocre musician singing terrible songs, a nearby airshow, and the strong smell of cow manure) before driving to Bedford.

Fri 26th

After a slow morning we got on the road toward a cottage in the Annapolis Valley, but first we stopped at a couple of wineries. First up was Avondale Sky, which we’d never visited. It’s a lovely little spot away from the other wineries, and we really enjoyed our tasting. We left with two bottles of the Blanc de Noirs which just won gold at the national level, as well as a dry rosé and a weird 2012 white blend left behind by the previous owners.

The second winery was Blomidon, which I hadn’t been to in 12ish years. We did a hook around a freak rainstorm and found them at the end of a rainbow. It was too wet to sit outside, but we did a reserve flight and the reds flight; we were very pleasantly surprised with their Chardonnay and Pinot; we took two Chards (we got our mitts on a newer vintage too), a Pinot, and some bottles of Cremant to fuel our French 75 dreams.

We drove along side roads, admiring the trees and farmland, and met the rest of the family at the cottage. They’d ordered donairs in advance from Mama Sofia, and when they arrived…oh man. Consensus in the cottage was that they were among the best donairs we’d ever eaten. Messy as hell, but frickin’ delicious. We threw those down, got in a quick game of washer toss, had a campfire, played Balderdash, and drank A LOT of wine on the deck into the wee hours. Luckily, there was ample donair to soak everything up.

Sat 27th

No one was in any rush to activate on the day, so we slowly mobilized, had some coffee, ate some eggs benny casserole (it’s a thing), and decided to drive to a nearby beach, just over the mountains at Margaretsville. Not a sandy beach, mind you; this was a rocky beach just across the Minas Basin from the beaches we’d visited earlier in the week near Advocate. We spied the lighthouse and some beautiful early afternoon fog. We walked along the shoreline and found the waterfall of a stream cascading onto the beach. We spotted a seal who kept bobbing up and keeping an eye on us. It was a lovely little excursion.

Back at the cottage we had some hot dogs for lunch (summer!), played a few rounds of washer toss, did a little lying around and reading, drank the fancy Avondale Sky sparkling, and then got to work on dinner: steaks, potatoes, and salad. By then we’d switched to red, and — after some cleanup — carried on right into a long game of Taboo. We didn’t go as long as the night before; everyone knew we’d be on the move the next day.

Sun 28th

Lots of coffee and a breakfast sandwich later we set to the task of cleaning the place up, and got on the road.

We drove a half hour or so up the valley and gathered for lunch at Lightfoot & Wolfville. We had a pupper with us, so we sat at a picnic table and ate oysters and pizzas and drank glasses of wine. There was some management of dogs and fending off of hornets, but the food and the view made it all worth it.

We had arranged to give our borrowed car back to brother #2, so after dumping our stuff back in Bedford, we drove to Truro to meet he and my mom, who had driven him there. It was good to sneak in one more hug. 🙂 We drove back a new way, avoiding an accident, and saw some really nice homes along a nice lake. So much NS exploration in this trip!

Back in Bedford, on our last night before flying home, Lindsay, her mom, her brother, and I opted to maximize our east coast food exposure before leaving, getting both donair pizza and garlic fingers for dinner, and drinking the 2020 Blomidon Chard. We moved our Monday flight back a few hours, both to avoid a stopover, and to give ourselves a little time and space in the morning.

Mon 29th

Naught left to do but pack up and go. Thanks Nova Scotia, you were a delight.

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