A true taste of Nova Scotia
In Nova Scotia, freshly prepared locally-sourced food isn’t a special treat; it’s the norm. Thanks to the Atlantic Ocean which surrounds the island, there’s an incredible selection of maritime offerings available all-year-round, the most famous of which is the iconic Nova Scotian lobster, said to be better than any other. But it’s not all about seafood. The maritime climate and fertile soil provide the ideal conditions for almost every kind of fruit and vegetable imaginable which are often both farmed and foraged from spring until autumn. The climate and land type also create the perfect environment for growing wine-producing grapes used to make a great variety of red, white, sparkling and fruit wines. Although Nova Scotian cuisine is largely indigenous, there is a sprinkling of non-native foods thrown into the mix, too, introduced by immigrants from across the world.
Traditional Nova Scotian dishes
They say if you haven’t had Nova Scotian lobster, then you’ve never really had lobster at all. Many fishing communities and seafood restaurants across the island have this famed crustacean to thank for their success, with foodies travelling from all corners of the globe to tick it off their must-eat lists. Because it’s so readily available and is such a popular dish, you’ll find lobster in all shapes and forms in Nova Scotia: served in a white fluffy bun and known as a ‘lobster roll’, deep-fried and turned into lobster cakes, smoked and set on top of crusty bread as a canape and often simply boiled with spices and served whole.
Chowder is another Nova Scotian seafood speciality. The soup base is a wonderfully thick and creamy blend of milk, cream, white wine, potatoes and onions in which float all kinds of delectable seafood. Common ingredients include mussels, clams, lobster, sea scallops, prawns, haddock, salmon and cod, but it really depends on what’s freshly available and who’s making it. If you fall in love with this soothing soup after your first bowl, you might want to sign up for the Nova Scotia Seafood Trail which includes trying fresh-from-the-sea chowder prepared by some of the island’s best chefs at various different restaurants.
Traditionally served in southwest Nova Scotia, rappie pie is often referred to locally as ‘glue pie’ because of its glue-like texture. Although this is somewhat true, don’t let this unusual feature put you off! Instead of a traditional pastry pie, rappie pie is a casserole-like dish made by layering grated potatoes with meat or fish stock, leftover meat or fish and onions. The dish is then baked in the oven until golden brown and an enticing golden brown crust forms on top. Often coated with a generous serving of butter or molasses, this really is a hearty comfort dish which will leave you feeling warm and full on a freezing winter’s day.
In the UK, ‘hodge podge’ means a mixture of different things and in Nova Scotia, it means exactly the same, but all on a plate. Nova Scotian hodge podge is a delicious autumn stew at it’s very finest when made from freshly harvested vegetables. A selection of green beans, peas, turnip, carrots and potatoes are boiled together in a blend of cream, milk and butter for up to an hour until soft and tender. The result is then served without blending down the veggies, giving the stew a chowder-like appearance with loads of colour and texture. Just like many of the province’s traditional dishes, hodge podge is meant to be enjoyed as a soul-warming comfort dish on a cold night.
If you start feeling peckish in Nova Scotia, you don’t reach for a packet of crisps – you grab a packet of dulse instead. The healthy version of the much-loved fried potato crisps, dulse is pieces of dried algae popular all across Northern Ireland, Iceland and Japan, as well as Nova Scotia. It’s dark purple in colour, thin and crispy in texture and has got one of the most intense ocean flavours you’ll find anywhere, apart from in a mouthful of seawater. Although it’s definitely an acquired taste, the crisp texture is incredibly addictive and the high vitamin, mineral and protein content makes dulse one of the healthiest snacks there is.
Food and wine tours
The best way to try as many different local foods and wines as possible in Nova Scotia is to hop on a gastronomic tour. Put yourself in the hands of an experienced and passionate guide and get ready to be taken to all the very best foodie spots on the island for a day you’ll never forget.
Whether you’re already a total seafood lover or haven’t quite found a fondness for it yet, Nova Scotia’s seafood trail is one of the best culinary highlights of the island. The trail includes more than a staggering 85 seafood experiences, from tucking into seaside lobster boils and bowls of seafood chowder to learning how to pick out the freshest seafood from fishmongers and finding out how the seafood is sourced directly from the producers. You can organise a tour yourself or leave the driving to someone else and sign up with a local tour company.
Good Cheer trail
Celebrating Nova Scotia’s rich culinary history which dates back to 1606, the Good Cheer trail offers an exciting blend of tastings, tours and special events. For beer lovers, there are plenty of craft distillery, craft brewery and winery tours, naturally with ample opportunities to sample the local fare. There are also craft cidery tours where you can meet the cider makers, learn about the different apple varieties and sample the end products. For something with a bit of history, try one of the historic experiences. These tours take place at Port Royal and the Fortress of Louisbourg and really encourage you to immerse yourself into the region’s past, with a strong focus on the history of food and drink in the area.
Food and wine festivals
As if food and wine tours weren’t enough to highlight the enthusiastic foodie culture that reigns supreme in Nova Scotia, the province also hosts incredible food and wine festivals all-year-round. Here is just a small selection of must-visit festivals from the island’s seemingly never-ending list.
The Savour Food & Wine Show
The Savour Food & Wine Show is one of the biggest food and wine festivals in Nova Scotia. Held each winter, this series of unique culinary events is designed to celebrate the province’s love for great food and drink. During the festival, which spans several months, you can enjoy discounted prixe-fixe menus at some of the island’s best restaurants, legendary cocktail parties led by master mixologists and international food, wine and beer tastings.
Devour! The Food Film Fest
The world’s biggest film festival dedicated to all things foodie, Devour! The Food Film Fest celebrates cinema, food and wine together each autumn in the Bay of Fundy & Annapolis Valley. Some of the most popular events include the opening gala in which the island’s best chefs come together to showcase their signature dishes, the workshops in which you can learn all kinds of expert kitchen know-how and the culinary excursions which take you on all sorts of foodie adventures.
Halifax Oyster Festival
Savour the finest Nova Scotian oysters, craft beer and wine at the Halifax Oyster Festival. Held on the Halifax Waterfront each year in autumn, this festival is best known for its amazing all-you-can-eat oyster sessions which take place twice on the big day. As you indulge in some of the finest seafood known to man, there’ll be like DJ sets and other entertainment running from start to finish.
Having such a huge selection of fresh and seasonal produce readily available makes dining out in Nova Scotia a true delight. But with so many restaurants offering exemplary local cuisine prepared by passionate chefs and delivered to your table by friendly servers in beautiful surroundings, choosing where to eat can sometimes seem impossible. To give you a bit of guidance, here are some of the island’s finest restaurants we can certainly vouch for.
Gio in Halifax
Labelled ‘the foodie’s adventure’, this restaurant is best known for taking the highest quality local ingredients and turning them into awe-inspiring dishes, like elk wrapped in bacon and sea bass with a sourdough crust. The talented and passionate kitchen team ensure there’s always something new and exciting on the menu with plenty of additions and seasonal changes, but the chowder is so popular it’s a staple on the menu.
Blomidon Inn in the Bay of Fundy & Annapolis Valley
Well established on the Nova Scotian dining scene since 1980, the Blomidon Inn treats diners to real country fare sourced fresh from the sea and Valley. Their award-winning wine list offers a huge selection of local varieties, with something to complement every dish, from the crispy chickpea fritters to the duxelle chicken brreast . The inn’s signature dish is the must-try lobster linguini, served in a horseradish cream.
Shore Club Lobster Suppers in South Shore
After 80 years of serving the public, Shore Club Lobster Suppers’ original concept is still doing the owners proud. This standout eatery offers a generous serving of freshly boiled lobster alongside an all-you-can-eat buffet of freshly cultivated mussels, an impressive salad bar and melt-in-the-mouth home-baked bread rolls.
Snow Queen in Northumberland Shore
Home of the famed all-day breakfast, Snow Queen has been feeding locals and visitors alike since 1962. This restaurant specialises in homely comfort food, including lightly battered fish and chips, creamy seafood chowder, mouth-watering burgers and pan-fried fishcakes. The chefs work closely with local artisans, farmers, fishermen and butchers to ensure all ingredients are as fresh and seasonal as possible. Try the fish and chips for a real taste of home.
Simple lobster boil recipe
Creating restaurant-worthy lobster at home is a lot easier than you might think. This simple lobster boil is one of the easiest and most traditional ways to serve lobster so that it’s juicy and packed full of flavour. The recipe takes less than 30 minutes to make from start to finish and really lets the delicious, buttery taste of the lobster shine through. Pair it with some freshly-baked crusty bread, high quality melted butter and bottle of Nova Scotian sparkling white wine for the ultimate Canadian seafood feast.
This recipe takes just 5 minutes to prep and 20 minutes to cook. It makes enough to serve 2 people as a main meal.
6 litres seawater (or 6 litres tap water + 200g sea salt)
4 red potatoes
4 garlic cloves
1 1/2 tablespoons ground cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground paprika
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon chilli flakes
2 bay leaves
2 lobster (each lobster should weigh approximately 575g)
2 corn on the cobb
1. Pour the seawater (or tap water and sea salt) into a large saucepan and bring to a boil over a high heat.
2. Slice the lemon and potatoes into rounds and set to one side. Peel the garlic cloves, roughly chop them and set them to one side, too.
3. When the water is boiling, stir in all the ingredients except the lobster and corn on the cobb. Reduce the heat down to medium and leave the pan to simmer uncovered for 8 minutes.
4. Add the lobsters to the pan, cover with a lid and leave to boil for 6 minutes. After 6 minutes, the lobsters should be bright red.
5. Place the corn on the cobb into pan and cook for a final 4 minutes.
6. Use a slotted spoon to remove the lobster, corn on the cobb and potatoes from the pot. Divide the food evenly between two plates or bowls and serve with fresh crusty bread, butter and a crisp sparkling white wine.