Emily Forrest is handing out samples of seafood chowder. The broth is silky, yet thick with haddock, scallops and potato. A diner mentions to her that when they were in New England, they found the broth thin in comparison to this. "That's because that's the way we do it here," Forrest says.
Forrest is the brains behind Local Tasting Tours, a walking tour that takes people on a short jaunt through the south end of Barrington Street.
Forrest fell in love with food when she worked as a server over a decade ago. Since then, she's been bitten by the food and travelling bugs. She's travelled to parts of Europe, and recently walked the coastline of Nova Scotia, all the while discovering little tasty tidbits along the way. Forrest loves discovering cities by walking, and thought it would be a great way for others to discover her city. And so Local Tasting Tours was born.
Forrest contacted various businesses in the south end about her idea, and over the span of a few months had found several receptive partners who were eager to get in on the action.
"I think it is a very special thing that Emily is bringing both to Halifax, and to my business," says Peter Boudreau, the owner of The Fish Shop. "She has an ability to put a face to, and highlight, what makes these businesses unique to Halifax, as well as provide her clients a high value tour of a few of our local eateries."
"I chose restaurants who had a reputation for being 'home-grown' and sourcing their food locally," says Forrest. "I chose the south Barrington area partly because it's close to our Seaport Market but also because it's often missed by tourists who are here for short visits."
The trip starts at the Seaport and travels up Barrington Street, making for close to a kilometre trek. "When I began to look at the restaurants in the area, I was amazed at the variety of cuisines and styles in one short strip." Forrest gives her clients the opportunity to snack while they go around, stopping for everything from oat cakes to pizza to Thai food. During a stop at Talay Thai, what seems like an unlikely choice for a "local" tasting tour becomes apparent when Forrest reveals how the restaurant is essentially a local success story, and an example of the diversification of Halifax's culinary capacity.
During the walk, Forrest will talk about the history of the city, the buildings and spaces that mark the streetscape, even taking time to pause in the old cemetery on Barrington Street to talk about rum runners while noshing on rum cake. Tours happen from Tuesday to Sunday, in the early afternoon. Forrest is a conscientious host, offering umbrellas and ponchos to people when it rains. She keeps the numbers of participants to no more than a dozen, otherwise she feels that it loses the feel of an intimate experience among friends.
"I think part of what we do is offer a new, hands-on Halifax experience for both locals and tourists," she says. "It's just another way to spread the word about what great food we offer here and what talented chefs and business people we have in our downtown."