Better Late Than Never: the 2014 Slow Food Nova Scotia Spring Supper

So, I had meant to blog about this two weeks ago, but I realized I had lost some of my notes, and one thing led to another, so…better late than never, it’s my review of the 2014 Slow Food Nova Scotia Spring Supper!

East Coast Chefs Collaborative hard at work plating Course #5

East Coast Chefs Collaborative hard at work plating Course #5

6 courses, plus fresh oysters as appetizers–I was set to be a happy camper! This was my first time ever attending the Spring Supper–I guess traditionally, it’s been billed as the “down home” food affair of the year for Slow Food lovers.  It’s also normally held in Dartmouth, however because the Slow Food Canada conference was being held in Tatamagouche this year, the Spring Supper was moved to Wentworth (about a half hour drive or so from Tata) for delegates and local food lovers like myself to enjoy.(Tickets were $110 for non slow food members–I’m not sure how “down home” a meal can be for $110 a pop, especially seeing as how one of the tenets of the Slow Food movement is good food for all people. I was able to go to the dinner because someone gave me a ticket they weren’t using. I wouldn’t have been able to afford that ticket price on my own.)

Fresh oysters with the ginger and cucumber dressing

Fresh oysters with the ginger and cucumber dressing

The reception began around 5:30pm with Fresh Oysters. Coming from Alberta, I’ve never had fresh oysters in my life. There were three stations set up around the entryway to the hall from three different oyster venders (Including Bay Enterprises from Malagash, NS–just a short drive down the trail from me on the North Shore). Each vender had different sauces to try with their oysters–my favourite was the cucumber and ginger sauce. The oysters were paired with the most amazing wine I’ve ever had in my life–2013 Nova 7 by Benjamin Bridge (Nova Scotia). I would’ve been happy if all we’d had to eat that night was that Nova 7 wine and oysters! So would this kid I came across at one of the vender’s tables–he pounded back 5 oysters one after the other. I wasn’t sure whether to be impressed or disgusted with his zealous demonstration…

original image taken from 5th Annual Slow Food nova Scotia Spring Supper Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/events/1409045336031711/)

original image taken from 5th Annual Slow Food nova Scotia Spring Supper Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/events/1409045336031711/)

Once folks were seated and the initial speeches to the Slow Food delegates were finished, we were introduced to our chefs for this evening. This year’s Spring Supper dinner was also the launch of the new East Coast Chefs Collaborative, consisting of Chefs Mark Gray (The Brooklyn Warehouse, Halifax), Bryan Picard (The Bite House), Andrew Aitken and Sarah Griebel (Wild Caraway Restaurant and Cafe), Dave Smart (Front and Central). and Andrew Farrell (2 Doors Down). The group supposedly came together at a Slow Food Spring Supper one year to create beautifully artistic meals around the province of Nova Scotia.

photo 3The first course consisted of Striped bass (turns out the fish was actually farmed fish, which I guess caused a huge stir the next day at the Slow Food conference!), with a rhubarb ginger sauce, buttermilk, peas, cucumber and drizzled with camelina oil. Regardless of whether the fish was farmed or not, it was amazing. The rhubarb ginger sauce was the perfect combination of sweet and tart, and the peas and buttermilk went so well with the camelina oil drizzle (which came from the Annapolis Valley in Nova Scotia).  This course was paired with 2011 Black Dog Riesling from Gaspareau Vineyards.

photo 2 (3)

 

photo 5

If we had stopped at the second course, I think I would have said I’d died and gone to heaven. Chef Bryan Picard created a smoked sunflower seed soup with turnip, cress, and smoked grains as garnish. Oh my God, I could have licked my bowl like it was ice cream! Who knew sunflower seeds could be so delicious?! I seriously recommend trying out a take on this soup in your own home sometime. photo 1 (4)The soup was paired with the 2013 Tidal Bay wine from Benjamin Bridge (Nova Scotia) and, once again, I was floored by this company’s wine (they also did the Nova 7 wine with the oyster apps). Everyone at my table agreed that if we didn’t have to drive ourselves home that night, we would have helped ourselves to a lot more of that wine…

 

 

 

I had been super pumped for the third course all evening–Arctic char, lobster and scallop terrine wrapped in dulse and laver, with a salad of sprouts and foraged greens. I’d heard that there was going to be reindeer lichen and cat tails in this course, and I was super stoked to try them, however, I couldn’t find anything in the course that resembled lichen or cat tails. It occurred to me later that the beginning of May was perhaps a bit too early for cat tails, so I suppose I’ll have to save the culinary adventure for another time.photo 4 (2)

The terrine itself was good–it’s hard to turn down fresh lobster and scallops this time of year (the lobster fishing season just started the end of April on the North Shore and everywhere I go, somebody’s having a lobster dinner for something right now)–but the salad was what really caught my attention. It consisted of dried dandelion flowers and fresh shoots and greens. The 2013 Tidal Bay wine by Blomidon Estate (Nova Scotia) was paired with this course and really, I have to say I wasn’t that impressed with the entire course. The wine was too bitter my taste to go along with the already bitter greens, the dulse and laver were just really hard to chew, and I missed my cat tails. I didn’t hate this course, but after the soup, it was kind of a let down.

photo 5 (3)

The 4th course was also a let down. Root veg “pot au feu” with smoked mushrooms, spring greens, and dumplings was too smoky for my taste. The smoked mushroom broth tasted more like burned mushroom broth to me, but was redeemed somewhat by the delicious (but really tiny) dumplings. During this course, I went back to the 2013 Tidal Bay wine by Benjamin Bridge to wash my mouth from the gross burned mushroom taste…

photo 1 (3)

By course number 5, I was ready for bed. It was about 10pm, and we were just getting to the hay smoked lamb belly and shoulder with toasted barley and early season veggies. The lamb was plated to look like a beet, which I thought was really cool. The first few bites of the lamb were absolutely delicious, but everyone at my table soon started to comment on how salty the dish was. The toasted barley was also delicious, but the course was generally much heavier than I am used to eating at 10:30 at night. I couldn’t finish the whole course, and had to drink a few glasses of water to wash down all the salt.

photo 5 (2)

The 6th course was simple and lovely. Maple icecream with toasted oats, blueberry friand and knotweed and rhubarb. It was a small portion which, by 11pm was a good thing for most of us, I think. The flavours were so different, and yet they mixed really well together, and it was neat to find a dessert use for knotweed which (as a congregant who was sitting next to me told me) is pretty much just a weed on the North Shore. It made me think I’m going to have to learn to forage for knotweed! (It tasted pretty much the same as rhubarb).

By 11:45pmish, we were done. This was seriously the longest meal I’ve ever eaten in my life, but I’m glad I went. On the whole, the food was delicious, the wine was fantastic, the speeches were fairly interesting, and my supper company was fun. It still left me wondering how in the world this slow food could ever be available to the general public, but perhaps that was what this supper was meant to do? Plant the seed the sparks my imagination for good quality food that’s sustainable and economically viable for all…

(thanks to Erin LeFrense-Pope for her dinner conversation and pictures of our meal!)

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