Dear Reader, in case my last few Canadian posts and obsession with lobster rolls gives the impression that Nova Scotia is just about lobster, there are other things too. Foxhill Farm and Cheese House in Port Williams is a cheese maker and dairy. Their proposition is that they sow the seed that grows into grass that feeds their cows that makes the cheese that comes to you.
Their herd of just 50 Holstein cows provides the milk on the six generation farm. It is a family business owned by Jeanita and Rick Rand and daughter Melissa is the cheesemaker. They use non homogenised full fat milk for their products which include a range of cheese, yogurt, ice cream and milk.
The cheeses are interesting and the picks were the parmesran (sic) a play of the word parmesan and their last name "Rand" which is a less dry version of reggiano. Their flavoured quarks are also excellent. Their milk is sold in traditional glass bottles and the chocolate milk is very good indeed. The gelatos are made from fresh fruit.
Back in Grand Pre, one of the three UNESCO world heritage sites is the very intriguing shop called "The Tangled Garden". Walking into their store is like entering another world where chairs are reserved for fairies and elves and dried herbs scent the air.
The business started in 1985 and commenced with just one acre of land and five products and now almost 30 years later they've expanded to five acres and sixty five products. All of the herbs are grown on site and 90% of the ingredients are local. Beverly shows us many of her products ready for tasting - they are best known for their beautiful savoury jellies suspended mid jelly with herbs and hot, spicy jellies.
We try a radiant raspberry jelly with a touch of rose, a zest spring onion and one of my favourites a horseradish jelly. But really, they're all superb.
All of the jellies are made in small batches-and they mean small batches as there are just 6-9 jars's worth in a batch. They make their own pectin and the jellies are a soft set jelly. The lemon thyme ice cream is also gorgeous as are their alcoholic popsicles with whole raspberries lodged inside their icy exterior.
Our hotel for the night is the Blomidin Inn, one of the prettiest buildings in the area. A former Sea Captain's mansion built in the 19th century, it has been beautifully restored.
Nova Scotia was famous for its wooden boat building and this was built during that time. It's regarded as one of the best places to stay in Wolfville and pulling up to the grand building causes excitement in the car.
I'm in the Canard room - each room is named after a ship as befits the hotel's history. Each room is individually decorated with vintage furniture and my room has a four poster bed, antique wing back chairs, a toile bedspread and tapestry chair.
There are modern touches too like an enormous flat screen television. My favourite part would have to be the bed with a little footstool to help you up on the high bed-it was very princess and the pea!
The bathroom is sizeable with a spa bath and amenities in a small bowl. The towels are soft but not especially large but the bath is large with spa jets to soothe tired travelling muscles.
Wifi is free and easy to connect to and I settle in to do some work. When I look around for tea making facilities I'm unable to find any. They make the tea for you and it arrives quickly and just as ordered with a smile. Afternoon tea is offered in the downstairs drawing room from 3-4:30pm and features tea, coffee and cakes.
Dinner is at Le Caveau at the Domaine Grand Pre Winery, about 10 minutes drive away. Set up by Hanspeter Stutz who purchased the property about 20 years ago, the restaurant and winery is a family affair.
His son Jurg is the winemaker while his wife Cacilia runs the wine shop. Hanspeter's daughter Beatrice runs the restaurant with her partner Jason Lynch as chef. Le Caveau or "The Cave" was also voted in the world's top 20 winery restaurants by Wine Access magazine. Despite this, prices remain reasonable.
Lobster and Scallop Chowder $10CAD/$10.35AUD
This lobster chowder is done slightly differently from others in that it is made Spanish style with ground almonds that give the soup a different consistency. I have to say that this is the best chowder of the trip so far-it is smooth and rich but never cloying or too thick. The lobster and scallops inside are plentiful and the seasoning is spot on but the star is the creamy texture that isn't too thin or too thick.
Green onion and cheddar soup $10CAD/$10.35AU
It was a cold night so soup was the order of the day. The soup is excellent with a similarly creamy texture but with tiny melted crumbles of cheddar cheese dispersed throughout it.
Pate tasting, piccalilli, shallot compote and spiced bread $16CAD/$16.56AUD
After my lobster fest, I didn't want an enormous meal so I went for the pâté tasting plate. There is a chanterelle mushroom pâté, a chicken liver pâté and a duck terrine. All three are excellent and moreish and I particularly enjoy the last two with the whole baked caramelised shallot. But the thing that brings this all together is the spiced nut bread which is heady with spices and chunky with nuts and fruit. It's so good that we ask for extra bread and the recipe from the chef.
Caramel Nut Tart with malt marshmallow ice cream $10CAD/$10.35AUD
The pick of the desserts for me is the caramel nut tart. Thick and requiring both a knife and a fork, this is sweet, studded with nuts and absolutely tooth stickingly good, like a version of a pecan pie. The ice cream is interesting with the texture of marshmallow and served frozen as a ball of ice cream.
White Coffee Ice Cream with a shot of espresso $12CAD/$12.42AUD
This is another favourite, an affogato made with white coffee ice cream to double the coffee flavour.
Milk Chocolate and Vietnamese Cinnamon Pot de Crème $14CAD/$14.49AUD
This is a light chocolate moussey style of dessert which has a layer of orange ground Vietnamese cinnamon on top.
Cheese Tasting $12CAD/$12.42AUD
There are three cheeses on the cheese board and they are a local Dragon's Breath blue cheese which has the flavour of blue cheese but in a distinctly different texture, almost wet and moist. There is also a Spanish Bonvallis cheese, a triple cream cow, sheep and goat's cheese which is lovely and dry and an Avonleigh Clothbound Cheddar from nearby Prince Edward Island. They're served with a house chutney, raincoast crackers and local honey.
See Dear Reader? It's not all about lobster! ;)
So tell me Dear Reader, do you ever ask chefs for recipes when you dine at restaurants?
NQN travelled to Canada as a guest of the Canadian Tourism Commission, Destination Halifax and Nova Scotia Tourism Agency.
Fox Hill Cheese
1660 Lower Church, Wolfville, NS Phone: +1 902-542-3599
The Tangled Garden
11827 Hwy 1, Grand Pré, NS B0P 1M0, Canada Phone:+1 902-542-9811
195 Main St, Wolfville, NS B4P 1C3, Canada Phone:+1 902-542-2291
11611 Highway 1, Grand Pré, N.S., BOP 1M0, Canada Phone:+1 (902) 542-1753