Sunday, May 22, 2016

Eating up the Hill: A taste of Nova Scotia

Last Tuesday was a reception I and many other hill dwellers had circled on our calendar weeks ago: the Taste of Nova Scotia reception. And with dreams of lobster rolls and scallops in our heads, we descended on the Sir John A. MacDonald building in droves.

Unfortunately, many of us were turned away. For the first time I can recall, the RSVP list was being strictly enforced -- even for pass holders. If you weren't on the RSVP list, with the exception of MPs and Senators you were turned away. Luckily, while I don't always RSVP, for this one I did (perhaps the fear of losing out on fresh seafood being too much to risk) and was able to venture inside.

It was a lot more upscale than I was expecting -- I'd been picturing a kitchen party with donairs and beer. Instead, it was much fancier, with chefs preparing small plates at a variety of food stations and a series of bars offering selections of Nova Scotia-produced beer, wine and even the harder stuff. The wine was decent, but the rum was quite nice. The food was the main attraction, though, and I definitely left full.

My favourite was the Seared Scallop Escabèche, which was prepared with pickled red onions and dukkah (hazelnuts, sesame seed, cumin and corriander) by Chef Renée Lavallee of The Canteen in Dartmouth. The ingredients nicely complemented the flavourful scallops, which remain one of my favourite non-fish seafood choices.

Of course, there was lobster as well. Here we have soft poached Nova Scotia lobster with a smoked corn relish, bisque fluid gel, vanilla bierre noisette, corn shoots, micro watercress and radish paper. I don't know what most of that is, but I do know it tasted delicious. I managed to get one, but this station was constantly swamped by demand -- they couldn't plate them fast enough.

I did enjoy several of these crab on toast thingies (I neglected to snap a picture of the station sign for this one, so crab on toast thingee is the description you get.) I thought the bread took away from the crab a bit too much, but otherwise, delish indeed.

It wasn't all seafood. I inhaled several of these wild mushroom ravioli pockets, which could have used a bit more sauce but were otherwise delicious.

And a meaty hit was the Meadowbrook Pork Coppa, which was sous vide and charred pork with a sweet potato puree, black mustard seed and silver birch glaze, prepared by Chef Jason Lynchg of LeCaveau Reasturant in Grand Pré and Chef Jeffrey MacNeil of Prime Restaurant + Wine Bar in Lunenberg.

So it wasn't quite an East Coast kitchen party, but when I bid a farewell to Nova Scotia I had enjoyed a great deal of local specialties and spirits, and left with a new determination to always RSVP.

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