A haze of sweaty fog hangs heavy on the treetops, and the sun is hot, but struggles to actually shine. My companion drives the twisted roads to Lunenburg, while I enjoy cool ocean air along the coast cutting into the steady thickness of the humidity. We're taking a day trip.
A day trip really is a perfect holiday. It's still an escape---a getaway from everydayness and an opportunity to see and do something new---but you never really leave home. Take the south shore---thick with forests and dotted with quaint fishing villages and towns, it's a postcard come to life an hour outside of Halifax.
Upon arriving in Lunenburg, we stroll though town and into Fleur de Sel, a sunny 19th century house where a twinkling of chimes rings out every time the door opens. Homey and contemporary, the restaurant has a menu of French country cuisine with local inspiration and ingredients. We order the valley pig's head appetizer ($16) and entrees of Lunenburg scallops ($28) and the trio of lamb ($34).
The meal starts with the delivery of an expansive amuse bouche of spring pea soup with smoked eel and creme fraiche, julienned carrot with a mascarpone dip and a Spanish tortilla with salt cod and red pepper sauce. A big fan of salt cod, I am sad to miss the flavour, which is lost in the egginess of the tortilla. Our favourite is the soup, which is delectably creamy, bright and smoky.
Two small, plump towers topped with perfectly cooked quails' eggs, the pig's head roulade sits by a plash of chanterelle cream and a simple watercress salad. The delicate outer crispness gives way to feathery richness. I can't help but sigh, as the salty roulade, soft earthiness of the cream and mild egg find perfect harmony with the slightly sweet acidity of the watercress salad.
Our server delivers a snowy poached pear sorbet to cleanse palates before our entrees.
The seared scallops---plucked straight from Lunenburg's wharfside fishery, Adams & Knickle---are sweet and tender, edged with crispy caramelization. The rich, creamy risotto is peppy with mint, and pops with fresh peas and smoky bacon. Sweet pea green tendrils and salty parmesan shavings top it. I order a glass of crisp, floral Bouvet Ladubay brut de blanc ($10) to accompany my meal. The dryness and carbonation easily cut through the heaviness of the risotto.
My companion is drinking 2006 Peter Lehmann Clancy's Red ($11.50) with the lamb dish. Slices of rosy roasted loin sit beside crispy, brown schnitzel. The third cut of lamb, a confit of saddle, is mixed with orzo, diced zucchini and a vividly creamy zucchini puree, which gets a bit more depth from a drizzle of jus. The loin is moist and delicious, but the tender, crusty schnitzel is a highlight. The plummy red wine blend is actually a little sharp for the dish as a whole, but drinks well with the peppery confit.
For dessert we go sweet and sour, with a rhubarb and lemon tart ($12) and creme brulee ($12) with an ice wine suggested by our server. The tangy rhubarb is accented with kicky hints of citrus. The crust is rich and soft, like shortbread. Slightly savoury buttermilk ice cream and a grappa creme anglaise are a milky complement.
Crack after satisfying crack run through the hard caramel crust covering the wide, shallow brulee. It gives way to deliciously mellow, velvety custard, which tastes very nice with the accompanying Chantilly cream and local berries.
The sun is halfway through its journey to set when we leave. Boats bob in the water as we drive back to Halifax. The day has been a dream, and we're happy to be home.