A recipe for a great culinary adventure
Story and photography by Janet Wallace
Have you tried the oysters yet?” says a man I recognize as a vendor at the Dieppe Farmers’ Market. “They’re amazing! Just take the first tunnel on your right.”
I nod, take a sip of wine and walk towards stone walls patterned with golden lichen. The air is filled with the mixed aromas of lamb stew and woodsmoke. Wind gusts carry the sounds of laughter and voices speaking English and Acadian. All around people are standing in clusters, eating, drinking or gazing at the panorama below—marshland covered with grass tinged rusty-red by frost, the pale water of the Chignecto Bay contrasting against dark hills in the background.
I’m at Fort Beauséjour, built in the mid-1700s, near the border of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. This “Eating Heritage” event encapsulates what I love about exploring New Brunswick—delicious food, beautiful scenery, fascinating history and interesting characters blended into a culinary adventure. The event, organized by Red Rock Adventures, features food from the Really Local Food Co-operative prepared by several NB chefs. Fort Beauséjour is home to occasional culinary events, such as oyster and wine tasting.
Embarking on a culinary adventure is like planning a meal. You can make a meal from scratch, go to a restaurant, or something in between. With a culinary adventure, you can harvest your own delicacies and cook them yourself, gather ingredients at a farmers’ market, or dine at a restaurant specializing in local food. At all stages, you can add a dash of adventure and discover a new food, experience or beautiful spot. We’ve listed a few examples to inspire you.
Get off the highway
Great food can be found in both cities and the countryside but rarely on the side of a major highway. Take the slow roads and you’ll likely get better views and more opportunities to find food fresh from the farm or sea.
•Among the rolling hills, cornfields and dairy farms on Route 890 between Petitcodiac and Sussex, you’ll find a three-generation, three-pronged business. Giermindl Farm provides meat for Adolf’s Butcher Shop (open Fridays and at Fredericton’s Boyce Farmers’ Market) and the Old Bavarian Restaurant (open weekends). Nearby, Corn Hill Nursery grows hardy roses, grapes and apple trees. Walk through the gardens and note the outstanding floral displays outside the nursery’s café.
Go to farmers’ markets
A visit to a farmers’ market can be an adventure in itself as you meet farmers, bakers and fishermen while buying the fruits of their labour. You can pick up prepared food from a world of cuisines or get local vegetables, cheeses, meat or seafood.
•At the Dieppe Farmers’ Market, two Acadian fishermen and their mother sell delicious shellfish (also available from Joe Caissie Seafood shop in Grande-Digue). Buying a bag of oysters, for example, can be a cultural experience as the vendors describe in a thick accent, the risks involved in harvesting oysters between ice floes on a windy winter day.
•The Boyce Farmers’ Market in Fredericton has an excellent selection of produce, meats and prepared food; be prepared to line up to get the excellent samosas!
•Thursday nights in the summer, sample food from around the world while listening to live music at the Garrison Night Market in Fredericton.
Talk to the producer
When you talk to the people who grew, caught or made your food, you discover more about what you’re eating and better appreciate the work behind it. However, it’s important to respect the producers’ time; buying a dozen eggs doesn’t entitle you to a free gardening lesson. Many farms host tours or open farm days, which provide great opportunities to see the farm and ask questions.
Pick your own
The drive to the U-pick is part of the adventure followed by a fun outing harvesting fruit or vegetables.
• At Verger Belliveau Orchard on the banks of the Petitcodiac River outside Memramcook, NB, pick your own apples and enjoy cider and a snack in their café. The orchard hosts events including apple blossom days, concerts and wagon rides.
Enjoy a view and fresh air when dining outside, whether it be on the deck of a restaurant, a picnic table or sitting on driftwood on a beach.
•In Saint Andrews, several restaurants have waterfront decks. At the edge of the main drag, the Niger Reef Tea House nestles among tall trees. The deck of this historic log cabin overlooks Passamaquoddy Bay and the Blockhouse.
•In Alma, gather materials for a picnic at the Octopus Garden Café. Pick up organic bread and vegetables, local cheese and meats, along with decadent desserts to enjoy at Fundy National Park. (Or take the easy route and ask for a meal to go.)
Stop for hand-painted signs
“Smelts for sale. Fresh samphire greens. Brown eggs; $4. Red, white and blue potatoes...” On backroads, you can find home-made signs announcing the sale of wild foods, like goosetongue greens and blueberries; seafood, such as clams and mackerel; garden produce and herbs (particularly summer savory in Acadian areas). You have the opportunity to meet and support local food producers, get fresh local food and experience the friendly, down-home culture of rural NB.
Try food from other cultures
New Brunswick is Canada’s only officially bilingual province. This contributes to cultural diversity in that anglophone New Brunswickers have opportunities to sample Acadian foods. Also, NB attracts immigrants from the world’s francophone nations, including many African countries.
•Gulliver’s World Café in Gagetown uses local ingredients in recipes gathered from around the world. The result is an ever-changing menu of multicultural dishes.
•Check out multicultural festivals in cities and towns.
•On a guided tour of the Metepenagiag Heritage Park in Red Bank outside Miramichi, explore the site of the 3,000-year-old Aboriginal community, gather tea ingredients and sample fish or game cooked over a campfire with wild rice.
Feast at festivals
Food festivals offer ways to sample new dishes and try foods from various chefs. Many incorporate live music and outdoor events.
•Some focus on a particular food, such as the Richibucto Scallop Festival, Florenceville-Bristol’s National French Fry Day, Maisonnette’s Festival des Huîtres (oysters), Shediac Lobster Festival, Grand Falls’ Regional Potato Festival and St. Stephen’s Chocolate Fest.
•Other festivals celebrate a range of foods. For example, Saint Andrews hosts Flavours New Brunswick and Indulge.
•Cities have special events in various restaurants such as Chop Chop Restaurant Week in Saint John or Dine Around Freddy in Fredericton.
Raise a toast
Eat local and drink local. NB has seen a huge growth in small breweries, wineries, distilleries and cider houses.
•Find a designated driver and tour several microbreweries on a weekend, sampling as you go.
•Sample local beers and foods while listening to live music on Fredericton’s walking bridge at Beer on the Bridge.
•At Distillerie Fils du Roy in Petit-Paquetville, sip on gin, absinthe or beer while touring the distillery/brewery. Sébastien Roy brings life (and spirit!) to Acadian history as he recounts battles, love affairs, ghost ships and epic adventures while describing the stories behind his drinks and colourful labels.
Intro caption: Boyce Farmers' Market attracts producers from around the province.
Header caption: Candied salmon and pickled fiddleheads at the Indulge Festival