Thankfully, the Nova Scotian cuisine promoted today is very different from what locals traditionally dined on. In what was a difficult environment, generations past were happy eating salt pork, salt cod, hardtack (a type of vegetable), and vegetables that were boiled longer than necessary. Locals have traditionally shunned hot spices and go lightly on other condiments. While country-style cooking embodies the essence of provincial style in the smaller towns and seaports, dining in Halifax offers more sophisticated global fare.
If you travel on your stomach, look for the Taste of Nova Scotia emblem affixed to restaurants’ front windows or doors. The emblem is awarded to dining places judged noteworthy by the province.
Highlights of Nova Scotia Food
Local delicacies include wild chanterelle mushrooms, smoked mackerel pâté, and seafood from lobster to locally caught Digby scallops and Solomon Gundy (pickled herring).Regardless of cooking styles, seafood, red meat, and produce abound. Local lamb originates in Pictou County. Fruits and vegetables are fresh and are often picked from backyard inn and restaurant gardens. Local delicacies include wild chanterelle mushrooms, smoked mackerel pâté, and seafood from lobster to locally caught Digby scallops and Solomon Gundy (pickled herring). Preserves are generally homemade. Soups vary from lobster chowder thickened with whipped cream to pea soup brimming with corned-beef chunks.
Salmon is often cooked on a cedar board plank before an open fire, as the Mi’kmaq historically prepared it. Desserts know no limit and vary from trifles rich with raspberry jam and sherry, to cheesecakes concocted of local cheese and cream, to molded flans embellished with fruit toppings.
While Anglo cuisine features red meats, Acadian fare is based on seafood. Common Acadian-style dishes include seafood chowder, shellfish (shrimp and crab), and fish (especially mackerel, herring, and cod). For variety, Acadian menus might offer chicken fricot (chicken stew), poutine râpé (boiled or deep-fried pork and grated raw potatoes, rolled into a ball and dipped in corn or maple syrup or molasses), and rappie pie (filled with a mixture of clams or chicken with grated potatoes as translucent as pearls). Desserts include sugar pie, apple dumplings, and cinnamon buns. Acadian cooking may be terribly hard on the waistline, but it’s delicious. The best places to sample Acadian cuisine are along La Côte Acadienne (Fundy Coast) and in Chéticamp (Cape Breton Island).
All the popular Canadian and American beers are available at bars and liquor stores, but you should be drinking the Halifax-brewed Keith’s if you want to look like a local. Halifax also has a number of microbreweries.
Nova Scotia has 70 grape growers and 550 acres of commercially harvested grapes. Local wines are prominently displayed on wine lists throughout the province, especially those from Jost Vineyards, along the Northumberland Strait. Most grapes are French hybrids, but the local specialty is ice wine, made by a process in which the grapes aren’t harvested until after the first frost; the frost splits the skins and the fermentation process begins with the grapes still on the vine. These concentrated juices create a super sweet wine. Ice wine is generally marketed in a distinctively narrow 375-milliliter bottle and promoted as a dessert wine. The website Wines of Nova Scotia is a good source of information.
The legal drinking age in Nova Scotia is 19, the same as all other Canadian provinces except Québec, Manitoba, and Alberta (where it is 18).
Excerpted from the Fifth Edition of Moon Nova Scotia.