Picking up recipes during travel: Newfoundland fish & brewis

DSC00629It’s only rarely that we pick up recipes in our travels.  As often as we dine in wonderful places and eat amazing dishes, it’s clear to us that recreating them at home usually leads to disappointment.  But there are sometime extenuating circumstances…

We haven’t traveled to Art’s original home in St. John’s, Newfoundland & Labrador, for a few years, which we wrote about in a previous blog post, but every so often the nostalgic memories of food from a different life and time overtake us, and we pull out the old fish and brewis recipe to embark on what we lovingly and respectfully call “Newfie Night” for a few dear friends.

But cooking fish and brewis for entertaining can be a challenge – have you ever smelled salt cod when it’s boiling away on the stove?  It is truly revolting.  So, we had to find a way to (a) reduce the cooking smell, and (b) involve the guests in the preparation of the meal.

DSC00466Traditional Newfoundland fish and brewis represents a culinary tradition that is based more on practicality than intention – but the practical obstacles to acquisition of ingredients seems to have sparked incredible creativity on the part of cooks all over ‘the Rock’ throughout its history.  For many years, the availability of fresh ingredients throughout the long, cold winters resulted in a plethora of salted cod and items like hard bread which were both practically indestructible – and no refrigeration needed.  So, cooks prepared a dish that used this hard bread and boiled salt cod with a dressing of pure pork fat and scrunchions – which are without any doubt the tastiest part of any dish to which they are added.  Scrunchions, for those of you who have not had the pleasure, are small pieces of pure pork fat fried to a delightful crispiness.  The taste is unadulterated joy – but be sure to have your cholesterol checked!

During our last Newfie Night for friends, we decided to document the method we use.  It’s a tweaked version of authentic fish and brewis.  Tweaks include using boned salt cod (to avoid having to remove bones and the possibility of missing one), adding oregano for flavor, and frying it up in the fat rather than pouring it over to improve both the color (visual presentation) and the texture (a bit of crispiness).

It is surprisingly delicious – and guests even asked for seconds!  Here’s the video…

One perfect end-of-summer day – in Nova Scotia

As you round the point from St. Margaret’s Bay into Mahone Ba,y the ocean can be sightly rough even on an otherwise calm day.

It seems like every time we think about a perfect day that we’d like to bottle up to take out at a later date to relive, we’re on a boat.  The first one we can remember was a day of sailing in the British Virgin Islands, the only time in her life when Patty sat at a bar (on an otherwise deserted island – Norman Island to be specific) in a bikini!  A couple of years ago, we rented a boat and a captain and motored along the French Riviera, glass of champagne in hand.

This past week, as we near the end of summer, we’re traveling closer to home.  Armed with a picnic and a full tank of gas, we motored our 24-foot Chris Craft out of our cove on St. Margaret’s Bay in the Halifax region of Nova Scotia.  We headed across the bay and rounded the point of land the separates St. Margaret’s Bay from Mahone Bay and headed toward the tiny village of Chester.   More of a summer refuge for both Americans and Canadians who can afford the fabulously large, east-coast-styled clapboard dwellings, the village is on every tourist’s travel itinerary as they make their way along what is known as the lighthouse route on the south shore of Nova Scotia.  Seeing it from the water, however, always imbues it with a different kind of charm.

The Chester waterfront dominated byt the pub-like “Rope Loft” restaurant.

After Chester, we made our way along the coast and into Marriott’s Cove that is home to the South Shore Marina and one of our favorite out-of-town restaurants, The Galley.  We pulled in to top up our gas and then were off to Oak Island.  Yes, Oak Island of the buried treasure fame.  Situated just on the shore that is connected to the island with a causeway is the Oak Island Inn and Spa.  Rather than pull into here for lunch, we dropped anchor just off the mysterious Oak Island and had a wonderful lunch in the sunshine.

Just after lunch it was about time to head home thinking that we’ll remember this day next winter when we’re gazing out a window to see the snowflakes dancing on the dock!

The iconic “three churches” from the water in the village of Mahone Bay itself.
In Nova Scotia, when they say a cottage is “on the water,” you had better be more specific!
Houses on the Chester peninsula.

A discerning guide to traveling close to home: Seeing Nova Scotia through new eyes

The iconic Peggy’s Cove lighthouse – with the Sou’wester Restaurant to the left.

How far away from home do you have to go before it counts as ‘traveling’?  Indeed, what are a couple of discerning (and inveterate) travelers to do when stuck in their offices, chained to their desks  for a few months with only the smallest of travel lights at the end of a seemingly endless tunnel?  We think that if they are true travelers, they can hop into the car, crank up the satellite radio and set out on a day trip that would make even the most jaded armchair traveler green with envy.  So, that’s what we did last week.

Striking out on the east coast of Canada is a no-brainer ; there are so many things to see and experience.

Sometimes we book a room at our favorite waterfront hotel downtown and spend a Saturday night pretending we’re tourists in our home town.  We have dinner, walk along the beautifully restored Halifax boardwalk and relish sleeping in and having breakfast served to us in the dining room with a front-row seat on the harbor.  Well, that’s for next week on Art’s birthday.  Last week, we set out around St. Margaret’s Bay, the home of Peggy’s Cove, and then around to Mahone Bay.

An iconic fishing village, Peggy’s Cove seems to be a tourist must-see in this part of the world.  The truth is that there are many just as charming fishing villages dotted along the Atlantic shoreline of Nova Scotia.  But Peggy’s Cove, at the entrance to St. Margaret’s Bay is synonymous with Maritime culture it seems.  It’s actually only a ten-minute drive from where we live, so we like to take a Sunday noon-hour drive there to sit at the Sou’wester Restaurant to indulge in fish and chips about twice a year.

The actual cove that put the ‘cove’ in Peggy’s Cove!

(We can’t justify following this lunch with their gingerbread – but you should try it!)In the fall, this part of Canada is subject to the ravages of hurricanes that make their way up the eastern seaboard of the United States.  This means that the day after a hurricane is the best time to sit and watch the grandeur of Mother Nature as she pounds the waves against the shoreline making mountains of foaming surf.

The other direction out our driveway takes us to Mahone Bay.  Larger than St. Margaret’s Bay, Mahone Bay is home to dozens of little islands, making it a haven for sail boats and small yachts.  We love to drive along, finding wonderful little places to lunch; and although we’re not ‘antiquers’ (as we’ve taken pains to mention before), we can still tell you that if you are, then you’re in luck because antique shops are dotted along the shoreline in many of the villages we pass through.

Where the Discerning Travelers day-trip.

Last weekend we were delighted to find a favorite restaurant had reopened.  Closed for some three or so years, The Galley, located at South Shore Marine, has reopened for business.  We did a U-turn in the middle of the road when we spied the ‘open’ sign so that we could once again sit in a window seat over the marina and watch the sailboats rocking in the breeze.  It’s a good thing that we didn’t have any hard and fast plans or we would have missed the best lobster rolls ever.  After lunch we continued on to our destination: the local nursery that stocks the best annuals and perennials in the area.  After a bit of shopping, we made our way home, happy in the knowledge that in spite of our currently busy schedules, we could find a short trip to take us away from our own yard.

A beautiful summer day on Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia

So, if you can only venture out for a day, here are our favorite tips for discerning travel in your own neck of the woods:

  • Don’t plan or at least don’t over-plan.  Although this is counter-intuitive to the discerning travel mantra, these kinds of trips are better left a bit loose.  We would have missed eating at The Galley last weekend if we had followed through on our loose plan to eat at the Seaside Shanty and Chowder House (which is kitschy and quaint).
  • Try something new.  This is your chance to turn down a road less traveled, a road that you’ve always wondered about.  Just go.
  • Take photos.   We’ve mentioned before that seeing the world through the lens of your camera might not make for the best experience of a place.  The truth is, though, that we often don’t take photos close to home.  This is a chance to turn this on its head: take photos of the things that you thought you knew.  Later, when you look at them, you just might see more-or-less familiar places from a different point of view.

Oh…and if you are actually planning a trip to the east coast of Canada (or will stop in on a cruise of New England and eastern Canada) we have a few suggestions for discerning travelers.  Here are a few of our favorites in and around the city.

Part of the Halifax weterfront

Favorite Restaurants: Il Mercato for chicken-filled ravioli and the best pizza anywhere, Da Maurizio for fine Northern Italian, The Five Fishermen for Nova Scotia seafood, The Bicycle Thief because it has the best harbor-front location.

Favorite Photo Ops: The Halifax Public Gardens, Citadel Hill, the Halifax-Dartmouth ferry from the middle of the harbor, Historic Properties, the Peggy’s Cove lighthouse (45 minutes from downtown)

Favorite Shopping Spots: Park Lane on Spring Garden Road (best shoe store in the city, ladies), Spring Garden Road in general (just stroll along).

But please remember: if you rent a car and take that day trip to Peggy’s Cove, remember that many of us live there and like to get where we’re going.  If you want to take in the views, please pull over!

Photo credit:

Halifax waterfront:  http://www.ecslcanada.com/UserFiles/Image/Halifax%20Images/Ship.jpg

Halifax, Nova Scotia: Remembering the lost Titanic souls

Titanic Deck Chair by Laurie Mireau.

Our little hometown city of Halifax Nova Scotia is marking the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic this weekend because Halifax, Nova Scotia is home to the graves of more Titanic victims than any other site in the world.

We love our city for the little gem that it is — and promise to write a guide to visiting it some time before the summer tourist season starts.  there is much to lure the discerning traveler and we do so love to play tourist in our own city from time to time.  Today, however, we thought we’d share with you a remembrance.

On our office wall just to the left of the desk hangs a beautiful watercolor that captured Patty one day when she saw it in a brochure for a local artist.  Finding Laurie Mireau in her Halifax studio, Patty was delighted to find that she still had the original of her painting of a deck chair from the Titanic, one of which is housed in the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic.

For us, the image is evocative of so many wonderful hours spent on ships at sea.  Hope you enjoy it as much as we do.  Laurie still has prints!