2004 Trip to Eastern Canada (cont'd)
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| 3. Last updated
20 September, 2009
Itinerary | Sights
| Activities | Fine dining
| Items purchased | Lessons learned
We at an alarming number of incredible meals on this vacation—to
the point where we were almost getting blasé about it! Here are some
highlights. Star ratings are from Where to Eat in Canada, a book we're
kind of addicted to. Any links are to the restaurant's Website, if I could find
Sweet Basil Cafe, Halifax not
We had skipped lunch and were really hungry when we choose this
place, largely on the basis of its being open early for dinner. But it turned
out to be a very nice place where Jean had the first of many clam chowders (I
went for gazpacho), followed by a variety of seafood: grilled scallops, Cajun-spiced
salmon, and basil-encrusted fish.
Seven, Halifax **
This restaurant has a distinct look, with soft lighting, exposed
brick, and old wood. We were there for lunch, so didn't go for the full, three-course
experience. We shared a nicely done sushi appetizer, then I had farfelle in
a rosé sauce with duck while Jean had pasta in a wild mushroom, prosciutto,
and chèvre sauce. I found my pasta dish pleasantly rich without being
overwhelming, but Jean felt that his was just a little too salty.
This was nice but not fantastic meal. Certainly the Inn itself
was lovely—a 1907 Edwardian house. We did very much enjoy the crab cakes
with mango and Thai spices appetizer, as well as the silky strawberry sabayon
for desserts. (Strawberries were in season at this point and were quite delightful
everywhere.) As a main, Jean had chosen lobster in truffle oil, but it unfortunately
sounded better than it was.
Newman's, Annapolis Royal *
Where the three previous restaurants listed all looked like places
that served excellent food, Newman's looks like it's in dire need of renovation.
Not dirty or anything; just out of date. But the food is superior to the surroundings.
The mulligawtany soup was very nice, and while the pâté
with pistachio and cornichon looked nothing like I expected it to (speckled
and solid rather than creamy), it did taste good. Jean wasn't overly thrilled
with his pork and fish stew, a new trial item on the menu, and my halibut with
almonds was a bit dry. We had strawberries and home-made chocolate ice cream
for dessert—hard to go wrong with that.
Harbour Restaurant, Parrsboro not
This is one of those seafood restaurants located right at the
harbour. It was mainly notable for its unexpectedly excellent soups—both
the seafood chowder and chicken vegetable were excellent. The mains featured
really fresh seafood at good prices, but... while my scallops were fine, all
the sides (veg, potato, salad) were pretty yuch. And Jean learned
a lesson about three-pound lobster.
Prince Edward Island
The Landmark Cafe, Victoria-by-the-Sea
Here's another place that looks like any casual, basic little
cafe but serves really excellent food. I took a little break from all the seafood
to have their Lebanese lunch special, featuring humus, grape-leaf rolls, and
parsley couscous salad—all excellent. Jean just raved about his grilled
tuna. We were a bit surprised that dessert was included, but that didn't stop
us from eating up the delicious strawberry rhubarb pie.
Sirenelli Ristorante, Charlottetown not
Mainly notable because we found it ourselves, without help of
any guidebook. It was a perfectly acceptable little Italian restaurant, where
we both enjoyed varieties of marinara pasta with seafood.
Blue Fin, Souris
With the regular weekend ferry traffic augmented by a regatta,
this diner-type place was completely insane. It was fortunate that, as pedestrians
on the ferry, we did not have as tight a deadline to get to the boat. That allowed
to enjoy the food that was much better than you would have expected looking
at the place, particularly the broiled hake, the fresh fish of the day. Not
a relaxing meal, but it certainly held us well through our five-hour ferry ride.
Does this place even have any bad restaurants? If so, we didn't
find them... Even the smallest, most casual place had really excellent offerings...
Chez Diane, Cap-aux-meules not
We ate both our first and last meals on the Islands here. Both
times we sat in the back area, which has wood-paneled walls and a fireplace
(not lit, of course). The waitress was lovely. The food highlights were the
locally made cranberry cider appérot; the seafood bouillabaisse, featuring
an entire half-lobster (much easier to eat than whole lobster); and the tarte
au sucre dessert.
Hôtel Vieux Couvent, Havre-aux-Maisons
We had to try this place after not one but two of the locals recommended
it. As the name suggests, it is housed in an old convent, which gives it a very
interesting look. We were housed the sun deck area, with a view of the sea.
Our waitress, I am informed, was very cute.
They specialize in mussels, so I went for the “moules et
frites” option. They were, in fact, probably the best mussels of the vacation.
As the special, they also came with a chocolate mousse for dessert. It was small
but delicious. Jean opted for making a meal of two appetizers: oysters with
cheese and clam chowder.
Auberge de la P'tite Baie, Havre-aux-Maisons *
A really nice little place set in a century-old home. Our meal
started with a bowl of soup that featured cream of cauliflower on one side and
cream of carrot on the other. So very pretty as well as tasty. Jean decided
to try a seal meat (yes, you read that right) burgundy stew. It has a very rich,
sort of earthy taste. We both then ordered the seafood pot-en-pot, the specialty
of the house, though we didn't quite know what that was. It turned out to be
like a seafood pot pie. And dessert was crêpes with bananas and rum.
Near the end of our meal, the restaurant was disrupted by a group
of Americans carrying cameras. It turned that PBS is working on some sort of
travel special about les Iles. We were to encounter this group of journalists
again on our cruise. We'll have to keep an eye out for the actual show...
La Table des Roys, Cap-aux-Meules ***
Only 25 restaurants in Canada have earned a three-star rating
from Where to Eat, so we had high hopes for this meal. The restaurant
itself is quite small, with only 12 tables, but it does have an elegant air.
And the food really was fabulous, from the sparkling cranberry cider appéro
to molten chocolate cake dessert (crispy chocolate on the outside, warm gushing
chocolate on this inside).
In between we swooned over the lovely California cabernet sauvigon
wine, a nice change from the fine but bland house reds elsewhere; the exquisite
scallop sashimi (so weird that fresh fish is better the less you cook it) and
Jean's silky foie gras; the outstanding lobster-mushroom ravioli (my only complaint
is I wanted more); the onions so sweet I seriously though they were raisins;
and the rhubarb-strawberry mille-feuilles Jean had for dessert.
Our only slight complaint was the somewhat slow service. Every
course seemed to take just a little longer than it ought to.
Québec City, Montreal
It was quite lovely to enter the bright, colorful back area of
this restaurant on the rainy day we were in Québec City. It was like
walking into sunshine. Even though we were there for lunch, Jean could not resist
ordering off the regular menu, so this ended up being perhaps our most expensive
meal of the trip. All quite lovely, though. Here's what we had for dessert:
Crémeux Manjari à la fève de cacao supérieure coeur
fondant au Brandy d’érable sauce vanille et chocolat glace à
la lavande. Don't you kind of want that, even if you don't read French?
Lunch at Laloux is quite a bargain, so we had to take advantage.
It's a white linen sort of place, and we were in jeans, but I joked that the
could just seat us at the back, near the kitchen. Which is what they did! But
really, there was this very big, very loud great at the front, so it was good
to be as far from them as possible.
This is where Jean had his best soup of the trip, the orange-tinged
soupe aux moules. I was quite happy with my salmon salade niçoise, again
with the lightly cooked very fresh salmon, and I was just blown away by my dessert.
A very innocent-sounding chocolate ice cream, it was the richest, creamiest
stuff imaginable, all in a dark chocolate coated cup. Yowsa. Jean's three flavours
of fruit sorbet were also excellent.
Located in a interesting-looking old building in Old Montreal,
we called this our anniversary dinner, though we'd had any number of candidates
for that previously. It had a lot of wines available, but few by the glass or
half-liter, and all rather heavily marked up. The one we chose was nice, but...
All the food well-prepared and the service was attentive.
left is a clock made of sand. We also bought a clock made of sand, though not
that particular model, and a candle lantern as a housewarming gift for Jo and
Jon. This was all at Artisans
du Sable on Iles-de-la-Madeleine—a really cool shop to visit.
We also bought a couple of paintings from a gallery in Lunenberg,
after talking to the artist, Daniel Richards, for about an hour. He was interesting
guy, using interesting paint techniques to make his art more affordable. You
can some samples of his work here.
Old Montreal has a store that specializes in wine-related
items. I bought one of those little gadgets to remove the plastic covering the
cork (after seeing one at Robin's). I also bought a couple other items I won't
mention, lest I decide to give them as gifts.
At a PEI shop, I picked up earrings in which one is in the
shape of a treble clef, the other the bass clef. They appealed my musical side.
In Montreal, after resisting the many fine clothing stores
there, I bought a pair of shorts and tank top, together, for $15 including tax.
It was just too hot to keep wearing jeans...
I bought a cookbook called Summer Drinks,
with a lot of yummy-sounding recipes for smoothies, punches, iced coffees, mocktails...
I've already tried a few, and so far, so good.
As a joint gift, we acquired the DVDs Le déclin
de l'empire américain and Les
And we bought food! Of course we did. Chocolates
in PEI, chocolates on the Islands, Island cheese...