SE7EN'S A BANQUET, 9INE'S A BRAWL.

2015: the year in culinary… simply the best.

Posted On January 9th, 2016 Author Lia Rinaldo  Comments: 0

2015 was quite the year. Holy. 

Since New Year's, I've spent many days trolling through photos trying to narrow down the best culinary experiences in the last year. And then with a little closer inspection, I've spent some time looking at this sad blog... only seven bloody posts in 2015! It's both the good and bad, as my main focus has been getting Devour! The Food Film Fest off the ground for the last three years... and it has wings. Fly, little bird, fly. But frankly, it's been at a cost to this space. Seven posts is about one every two months and half the time there isn't even a damn recipe. And pray love, if there is a recipe, it's with ingredients that are not readibly available–like nduja, fresh oysters plucked from the frozen ocean or a smoked trout at the hands of a chef friend. Friends even chided me to share recipes like nasturtium salad rolls from this summer and I never posted them–even with a demand. I've certainly not made it easy to follow along. 

I'm heading into this brand new year resolution-less. I'm not that kind of girl anyway–bright-eyed, hopeful, excited, taking it all in as it flings itself at me. Work hard, play hard–a goofy and overused adage that continues to apply to my situation. Between Devour!, the paid food writing gigs and a few other fun things I am pitching behind-the-scenes, I can't promise it will remain easy to check in with this so-called food blog, but I'll aim to make it interesting for you when you do. 

Back to the year in culinary, I started to notice a theme as I pored through the many cities (Berlin->Los Angeles->beyond), restaurants (from the Michelin-starred to the hot dog carts), the press launches, dinner parties, restaurant openings, collaborative chef dinners, pirates, secret supper clubs, festivals and events (removing Devour!, of course)...really zoning in on the moments that put a smile on my face, made me feel like I was somewhere else, yet completely present with those around me. The ones that made me put. my. phone. down. (except for a quick photo grab obviously!) 

For me, 2015 was the year of the completely immersive, al fresco meal. How's that for a mouthful? In no particular order–Sober Island Oysters, the Annual Foraging Dinner at the Wild Caraway Restaurant & Café, Acadian Sturgeon and Caviar, Dinner on the Ocean Floor with The Flying Apron Cookery and Dinner & A Movie in the Vineyard with Le Caveau at Grand Pré Winery and in the gallery (go back to the main page & hit the gallery link) section a few more honourable mentions that are still close to home and in a few cases, a little farther afield.

With the exception of one trip to the Saint John River in New Brunswick, this is all Nova Scotia. I've culled together a list here that anyone reading this can plan for this upcoming season whether you're based here or travelling in. I made a promise to myself last year to get out to see as much of Nova Scotia as I possibly could, making trips to see chefs and producers that I have come to know through work. I had this realization when they were continually in front of me at our events that I couldn't visualize them in their own spaces, and let me tell you, it's well worth the many trips. Another wonderful aspect of each of these unique experiences is that they are all family-run efforts producing, growing and using everything around them.

It just so happens I was so excited about these adventure that I wrote about a few of them at length here on the blog, completely forgetting I was sharing recipes and taking photos in my own kitchen. Taking further stock, perhaps the natural evolution of this space is more of a focus on travel and culinary adventures? 

Here we go:

Sober Island Oysters–Trevor & Michelle Munroe have created a little haven on the Eastern shore. I went in January in a snow storm but normal people can book in the summer. I did love my day there–touring the grounds all bundeled up with Baileys in our coffee, chipping the oysters out of the ice and eating them there together looking out over the frozen landscape. Then back in their home, for a multiple-course lunch of oysters every which way–fresh, fried and in a salad and a chowder. They have now expanded their set-up and host tours, beach cook-outs and there's a tiki bar. They will post info when it starts to warm up again, generally groups can go out there from late Spring through early fall. Read about it here

Wild Caraway Restaurant & Café–A great overnighter with friends. Heading up another coastline in Nova Scotia to Advocate Harbour, a group of us rented a beach house and readied ourselves for a multiple-course, epic foraged meal at the hands of Chefs Andrew Aitken and Sarah Griebel. Super fun and, on a funny note, what do you think a group of chefs and food enthusiasts pack for snacks at a cottage post-epic meal? Booze and chips. We all brought chips. I was two seconds away from including dip. And someone who cooked the meal for us may have ended up back at the cottage with us falling asleep late at night with a bowl of said chips in her lap. There it is, folks. This dinner happens annually in June. Read about it here

Acadian Sturgeon and Caviar–This was a serious highlight of the year for me and it still bugs me that I didn't write extensively about it in the moment. It came around at a particularly busy part of the year and I will still put pen to paper; or rather, fingertip to keyboard. This was another overnighter on the way home from working at The Village Feast in PEI. Cornel & Dorina Ceapa and family have quite an operation at Carter's Point on the Saint John's River sustainably catching sturgeon while at the same time re-populating the stock from their hatchery. I've often described Cornel as a lovable mad scientist (he knows I say this!), and you'll see why if you make a trip for a Sturgeon Safari yourself. When we arrived we started with a tour of their extensive facility, where you are embroiled in the complex science of it all, we were then treated to a multiple course nose-to-tail meal of sturgeon on the lawn at sunset and well into the evening. From caviar and champagne to ceviche to smoked to barbequed skewers, all prepared by the family. The sun set, the fire flies came out, our laughs echoed out over the river... and then at 6AM without a cup of coffee we were back to meet him to go fishing. Out on the water, the scientist is transformed into fisherman and deftly pulls 100lb majestic sturgeon into the boat along with help from another fisherman. It really can only be described as a safari. After four hours of fishing, we were back at the compound for hot coffee and Cornel's favourite breakfast, fresh sturgeon caviar and butter on toast. You have to do this. 

The Flying Apron Cookery–One for the bucket list, a progressive dinner on the ocean floor as the tide comes in. I mean, c'mon! Chef Chris Velden, his family & friends have created a one of a kind experience. I spent six hours with them on this day–hiking, examining the tidal pools and rock formations with a park interpreter, foraging the cliffs and beaches with a master forager and then enjoying the many stages of a moveable feast cooked right on the beach. Bravo. They'll be posting next season's dates here. Read about it here.

Le Caveau at Grand Pré Winery–This one is a bit of a cheat as we helped plan it, but I couldn't help but include it. This dinner was a mash-up of a couple of successful Devour! & Le Caveau events and was at the request of Tourism Nova Scotia. We hosted a group of food & travel writers for an al fresco meal prepared by Chef Jason Lynch and a movie in the vineyard. Guests strolled through the vineyards with a refillable glass of wine in their hands, had oysters shucked as the sun set and then made their way to a multiple course meal in front of a screen served by Beatrice Stutz and her lovely team. The likelihood of them and us hosting more of these in the future is high. Stay tuned for details later in the year. 

Happy planning! And here's to a delicious 2016, however it comes at us.... 

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