In an industry where flux is the norm, where restaurants can open and close faster than cash register drawers during a sale, it's difficult to keep track of everything that happens in a year. But there are always notable events that come to mind—those big things that define the year in food—and here are a few of mine.
Some of the more notable openings in 2007 included yet more entries into very familiar territory: Lebanese cuisine is now served in style with newcomers Mezza, Kebabj and Tarboosh all providing great food (and in the case of Mezza and Kebabji, belly dancing.)
And sushi lovers welcomed two new entries, one on each side of the harbour, from the Hamachi chain: Hamachi Kita in the Hydrostone and Hamachi Grill and Sushi House on Portland.
Thai, the trendiest cuisine of 2006, appeared again in grand style with the opening of Chabaa Thai, providing upscale food in simple, elegant surroundings.
And in what has to be one of the more unusual marriages of restaurant style and location, the lovely Bedford Prime Steak and Chop House set up shop in the Stardust Motel, one of the seedier looking motels (harking back to the glory days of automobile touring).
Though there was plenty from which to pick, my two favourite new entries into the dining scene this year have to be Mosaic and Coastal Coffee, both taking a different, fresh approach and both doing it very well.
Coastal Coffee is what results when you take a classically trained fine dining chef and let him open his own place. The cafe boasts breakfasts to die for, and brunch line-ups round the corner. A humble coffee shop rose to a whole new level.
Mosaic is chic, urban and sophisticated and brings big-city style to what is, for the most part, still very much a small town. Incredibly prepared sharing plates, an exceptional wine list and seamless service make Mosaic a great spot to go and play grown-up.
We were especially hard hit with the loss of two long-time favourite haunts this year: the North End Pub and Diner (forever known as Joe Comeau's to sailors) was razed in a devastating fire; more recently, Mediterraneo on Barrington closed its doors. Goodbye, all-day breakfast! Goodbye, Coast readers' fave clubhouse sandwich!
Outside HRM, Tempest rose from the ashes of last year's fire to reopen in fabulous style, "new and improved" (not that Tempest needed to be either). But Wolfville has found serious competition as an out-of-town dining mecca from the rapidly burgeoning food scene in Lunenburg, which scored two major coups this year: Martin Ruiz, the chef/owner of the incredible Fleur de Sel, won the prestigious Gold Medal Plates competition, edging out tough competition, and former Five Fishermen chef Terry Vassallo opened Trattoria Della Nonna, an Italian restaurant which has everyone abuzz.
But the biggest food news of 2007 has to be the sudden ignition of smoldering interest in locally produced food. Sourcing produce, meats and other ingredients from local suppliers is something a handful of chefs have always done: Dennis Johnston of Fid, Scott Vail of Stories at the Halliburton, Craig Flinn of Chives and Michael Howell of Tempest are masters of the art of local sourcing, and an early morning Farmer's Market visit is sure to net you a glimpse of one or more of these guys browsing, planning, chatting and buying for that night's specials.