Thursday, September 21, 2017

The Pearl Jam shells out culinary creativity

Ring in Oyster Fest with local chefs, oyster producers and bartenders

Posted By on Thu, Sep 21, 2017 at 3:25 PM

Pearl Jam 2016 - RILEY SMITH
  • Pearl Jam 2016
  • Riley Smith

Back for its second year as an Oyster Festival kick-off is The Pearl Jam, an intimate, chef-focused event hosted by John Bil (owner of Toronto's Honest Weight) and oyster shucking champ Eamon Clark (of Rodney's Oyster House, also in TO) and presented by The Coast.

"It’s a chance to show off what's really happening right now in the kitchen," says Dennis Johnston, the event's executive chef. "It’s a good platform for that. And I think we need to push our bright stars whenever we can."

For this year's Pearl Jam (Thursday, September 28 on the Halifax Waterfront) he's gathered the culinary talents of Joe Martin (Stillwell), Jason Lynch (Le Caveau), Alex Jolin (The Barrington Steakhouse), Stephanie Oglivie (Brooklyn Warehouse), Tyson Watcher (Mother's Pizza) and Lachlan Culjak (Eliot & Vine), who'll each put their own spin on the shelled delicacy.

"Most people eat oysters raw, 
  • Riley Smith
but in a prepared situation it gives the chance for the chef to work their magic in accenting the flavours of the oyster that one wouldn’t normally recognize," says Johnston.

The roster of chefs will team up with local oyster producers and create dishes that'll be served to Pearl Jammers alongside a cocktail pairing from The Clever Barkeep crew.

"What Christine"—Orsekovich, The Coast's publisher— "has done is she's created has the best oyster festival in Canada. Any other festival in Canada becomes primarily a showcase for local restaurants because a lot of suppliers cant afford to travel two or three thousand kilometres with two or three thousand oysters in tow," says Johnston.

"We’re lucky that we live by the ocean and have an enormous oyster culture here."

Sound like it might be your jam? Get tickets here.

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Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Memories of north end treasure The No Name Cafe

After 24 years of perfection, Gottingen Street cafeteria The Cafe is closing on Friday

Posted By , and on Wed, Sep 20, 2017 at 4:28 PM

The best there is - LENNY MULLINS
  • The best there is
  • Lenny Mullins

The No Name is inextricably linked to my Coast life. When the office moved from downtown to the north end—first across from the Marquee, then to its current location on Cunard—there was a staff-wide bemoaning of lunch options. The neighbourhood was not trendy then; there was Bob & Lori’s on Gottingen, and that was about it. Production manager Amy Campbell was the first to mention the The Cafe, and the one who dubbed it The No Name Cafe. Art director Kate O’Connor, who loves doling out nicknames, is the one who christened George “Uncle Jesse,” because he was Greek and looked like John Stamos. I would get my coffee there in the morning—shoutout to Van Houtte—and even though my travel mug was giant, Uncle Jesse only charged me a dollar. It’s always been crazy cheap, in fact, even since the neighbourhood exploded and lunch became $15. Every year Darlene would do a Christmas dinner option for the last few days before the building shut down. The clientele was probably the most diverse in the area. Uncle Jesse remembered all your ordering quirks, a rare thing in this town, and if you were short he let you sort it the next day. It was simple and hearty and full of value. It didn’t take 40 minutes or cost more than $10. It’s not a place everyone knew, but if you did, you loved it.

—Tara Thorne’s favourite meal was Thursday’s chicken parm. Backup: Bacon quiche.

It’s a very accepting group at the No Name. Everyone was treated with the same polite, efficient respect. The only thing that rivals this consistency is the taste, quality and reliability of the food, as you could set your watch to shepherd’s pie Tuesdays. Once, in my early 20s, I was going through what I’m sure was a highly annoying phase of trying to avoid garbage. So, when I went to take out places, I had to have my own container and utensils, and to their credit, the only place that would take my beat up Tupperware without even a second glance was the No Name. God bless their little cottons.

Nowadays—less so when I started to work in the neighbourhood—there are a lot of places to get some kind of a meal/baked good/coffee on Gottingen Street, but harder to find is a place that will give regular customers credit without hesitation. The No Name was generous and sympathetic to folks who were a few dollars short, or flat out forgot their wallets (hi and sorry).

The No Name was cozy—circular tables provided a comforting sense of privacy, and the chairs are unfancy but comfortable, a total neighbourhood rarity. Dear every restaurant and bar owner: An unfinished slab of wood isn’t that awesome to sit on. Other than a delightful wall mural, the decor is minimal—the simple and unchanging white board listing the sandwich selection and a small chalkboard listing the day’s soups is functional and easy to understand. Mostly, it’s a great backdrop for emotional conversations. I’ve cried many times in the No Name and have never once felt weird about it.

If you want to know how to do a breakfast sandwich right, just take a tip from the pages of the No Name cookbook. On its face, it sounds middling: Toasted, buttered bagel, microwaved egg and bacon, processed cheese. However, it’s a real sum-of-its-parts scenario. You won’t get a dry, lukewarm product here. It’s greasy, it’s filling, it’s piping hot, and it will beat the hangover or morning sickness right out of you, trust me.

—Stephanie Johns’ favourite meal is the breakfast sandwich (on a sesame bagel, with bacon), backup is the shepherd’s pie and let’s be honest—a giant pile of those potatoes.

Comfort is probably the best word to sum up The Cafe. It was a place that didn’t care if it was Cool or if its dishes were photogenic, it used a microwave and styrofoam with no remorse and never judged if you ordered a side of potatoes with your already potato-y shepherd’s pie.

You could remain guilt-free while treating yourself to a lunch combo, coffee, dessert and maybe chips the day before payday because you knew it wouldn’t, couldn’t cost more than $7. And it was always cool to sit around (bitching, moaning, loitering)  long after you’d finished eating because no one gave a shit who you were or what you were doing. The Cafe made sure its own were always comfortable too, keeping one VIP table Reserved in perpetuity for staff meals and breaks.

George always sort of smirked saucily when he asked, like clockwork, “Would you like a dinner roll with that?” because he knew that, of course you wanted that Saran Wrapped white roll and little cup of butter —even if you were just saving it for a 3pm snack.

And you were totally OK with that.

—Allison Saunders would kill for some shepherd’s pie right now


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Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Sackville's Chef's Menu has closed

Posted By on Tue, Sep 19, 2017 at 2:28 PM

Goodbye pulled pork
  • Goodbye pulled pork

Repeat winner in our Best of Halifax Readers' Choice Awards for Best Sackville Restaurant has closed its doors after six-plus years in business. Chef's Menu (518 Sackville Drive)—which served up chef Derrick Giffin's homey comfort food from an unassuming strip mall—took to its website to share news of the closure.

Read Melissa Buote's 2012 review of the restaurant here.
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Thursday, September 7, 2017

Ace Burger is closing its Gus' Pub location

Don't freak out, it'll live on in Dartmouth

Posted By on Thu, Sep 7, 2017 at 8:17 AM

  • Riley Smith

“It was always meant to be burgers and beer,” says Ace Burger Co.’s Leo Christakos. “Really what we wanted to do was something simple and really different from what we were doing at Brooklyn Warehouse. And it all worked.”

It's true. Wednesday, September 27 will be the last day you can get an Ace burger on the Halifax side of the bridge. After five years of flipping patties for the masses from north end watering hole Gus’ Pub (2605 Agricola Street), the popular restaurant will call Battery Park Beerbar & Eatery (62 Ocherloney Street) its flagship location and home base. But this closure isn't a case of slow business or a landlord dispute, it's just an opportunity for change.

“Our commitment with Dimo [Georgakakos] at Gus’ had always been year-to-year, and the project was really meant to be a one to three year project. It far exceeded our expectations,” says Christakos, who launched the diner-style, no-frills, local-focused burger joint with his son (and co-owner at both Brooklyn Warehouse and Battery Park) George in summer 2012, after a successful pop-up during Open City.

“It does come down to just setting priorities over the last little bit of time, and realizing there’s just only so much you can do,” says Christakos of the reasoning for re-focusing Ace’s efforts in Dartmouth. “One of the things I’ve come to realize is that since 2014, when we opened at Bearly’s, we haven’t stopped.”

The Christakos’ closed the Bearly’s location of Ace Burger in summer 2015 as they geared up for launch of Battery Park, which opened alongside North Brewing Co. the following December. Battery Park went on to host a handful of burger pop-ups alongside its own menu before finally bringing Ace to Dartmouth permanently in April, when it started serving burgers for lunch seven days a week.

“The original idea for Battery Park with Peter Burbridge, the owner of North Brewing, his idea when he pitched it was Ace Burger and North together over in Dartmouth— which made sense, but we took it in a different direction. We’re pulling it back to what the original idea was," says Christakos, adding that the closure of the Agricola's Ace will make way for a menu shift over at Battery Park, where chef Andrew Prince leads the kitchen.

“We’ll be moving it further towards an Ace, diner concept—almost what we were doing over at Bearly’s—so there will be a dinner menu, but it’ll feature more of an Ace-quality than a finer dining experience,” says Christakos. “It just goes hand-in-hand with the whole beer bar concept, too.”
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Freshen up at FRESHFest

The Halifax Central Library wants to feed you and teach you.

Posted By on Thu, Sep 7, 2017 at 4:00 AM

Participating vendor FOUND making forgotten food smoothies - HALIFAX PUBLIC LIBRARIES
  • Participating vendor FOUND making forgotten food smoothies
  • Halifax Public Libraries

Sunday Sept. 10, 12-4pm
Halifax Central Library
5440 Spring Garden Road

Karen Dahl feels libraries have a role to play when it comes to supporting food education, and the Halifax Central Library is embracing that role.

“Connecting people to resources is sort of a fundamental piece of what libraries can do,” says Dahl, the manager of Program Development at Halifax Public Libraries. She’s also one of the organizers for FRESHFest, an event of drool-inducing activities and focused on Food Resources Everyone Should Have. It’s part of the libraries’ Tastes Like Home program series, which aims to celebrate Nova Scotia’s food culture.

“We’re really looking at stories and recipes from founding cultures in Nova Scotia, and then we’re also exploring the diversity of today’s cuisine: Things that newcomers have brought to the region.”

Tastes Like Home has workshopped various aspects of “culinary literacy,” including “basic kitchen survival” for young people and “lost arts” such as preserving and pickling. FRESHFest is offering knowledge about community gardens, old-timey food production methods and even beekeeping. Taste of Nova Scotia, a province-wide food marketing company, will part the culinary stage in Paul O’Regan Hall, where local chefs and producers will show off their skills and offer some sampling.

“I think really anything that’s talking about the local food community here in Nova Scotia is something that we love being involved in,” says Emily Haynes, Taste of Nova Scotia’s executive director. “We were really excited to have an opportunity to just bring more awareness to out membership and to the broader local food industry.”

On top of tasting, FRESHFest will serve as a community forum to discuss issues such as food access, health and sustainability.

“So, Food Resources Everyone Should Have—I think we’re speaking about food justice but we’re also saying, ‘Everybody eats,” says Dahl. “Everybody needs to know what’s available locally and everybody needs to have an opportunity to cook and taste and try.”

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In Print This Week

Vol 27, No 17
September 19, 2019

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