Thursday, July 31, 2014

Road Trip: Nova Scotia (Part 1--Halifax)

One of Canada's Maritime provinces, Nova Scotia was a new experience for me. My husband had been up that way before I knew him, years and years ago, but for me this was terra incognita.
My knowledge of Canada in general was woefully inadequate, so one of the best things about taking this trip for me was to learn something about our neighbor to the north.
N.S. markets itself as part of "Atlantic Canada" or the "Atlantic Lifestyle." Along with Prince Edward's Island and Newfoundland, N.S. has a thriving tourism industry in summer and early fall.
The weather was warmer than we had expected -- never wore the windbreaker I'd packed, and stayed in shorts more often than jeans -- but otherwise it was just about as I had expected and imagined it would be.
That goes for the food, as well.
Lobster is plentiful, if not especially inexpensive, and for the most part, seafood rules.
In fact, by the end of our 10-day visit, we started seeking out non-seafood menu items.
We started and ended our trip in the capital city of Halifax, population about 300,000. What my husband remembers as a sleepy coastal town in the 1970s seems to be in the midst of a building boom along the waterfront, although we heard from many locals that young people still tend to leave in droves. (That is even more true in the province's rural areas, of which there are many!)
Not surprisingly, Halifax has the best and most varied choices for foodies, although it also dishes out plenty of mediocre meals for tourists.
Seafood @ Salty's
 First night in, we hit one of those tourist spots, the long-established Salty's on the waterfront. The lower level, which includes a large patio, serves standard fare to families and young people on dates or in groups (mostly). We stopped there for a drink and appetizer before going upstairs to the more refined dining room, which was populated by our own demographic of old fogeys who want wine with dinner instead of tropical cocktails.
I had a decent linguine with lobster meat and sun-dried tomatoes, while hubby had a seafood sampler that he later named as one of his top seafood entrees of the trip.

We also tried and very much liked a trendy spot at the other end of the boardwalk called Bicycle Thief (named after the famed Italian film of the 1950s). We overindulged there at dinner one night, ending with a decadent and FABULOUS butterscotch cake that our waitress said was "life-changing" and drinking too much wine. On another day, I went for lunch on my own while George went on a sightseeing cruise, and had a much healthier and quite delicious meal: asparagus soup, barbecue chicken panini and spinach salad.
Lunch @ Bicycle Thief (Halifax)
 One disappointment was a place called Press Gang: it's in one of the oldest buildings in Nova Scotia and has an appealing ambiance. But the food was overpriced and mediocre. We wouldn't recommend that one; it seems to be living on tourism and some kind of past glory.
Press Gang: Ambiance Galore, but otherwise....

One day, we took a longish walk to have breakfast at Cora's, known for elaborate, fruit-based breakfast entrees. It was interesting, but actually a bit over the top and we didn't go back again. All in all, it's hard to find anything interesting at breakfast in downtown Halifax.
Breakfast @ Cora's

Our favorite restaurant turned out to be one called Two Doors Down, where we had a great lunch, then stopped that night for dessert, and back the next night for dinner. There was nary a false note in everything we ordered, from cocktails to wine to generally healthy and not expensive savory fare. We WOULD recommend that one, along with Bicycle Thief. Two Doors Down is the stepchild of the more high-end Chive's, which we just didn't get the chance to try.

Two Doors Down: Cod and Veggie Korma
NEXT: Dining around the province -- Good stuff up on Cape Breton!

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