Dinner on the Ocean Floor - The Flying Apron Cookery

Posted On July 2nd, 2015 Author Lia Rinaldo  Comments: 4

There's no time to waste. Literally. I'm posting experiences as fast as they come in, like a tide rolling in on the mighty Bay of Fundy. But seriously, I didn't want to lose any momentum here to tell you about this one, as summer is far too short and sweet here. This past weekend, I was invited by Chris & Melissa Velden of The Flying Apron Cookery to come and check out their brand new and super unique Dinner on the Ocean Floor. It was in fact, the first run at it... so, there was potential for the tide to lick at our heels exiting the ocean floor. 

In my last post about The Wild Caraway Restaurant & Café, I referenced bucket list experiences. Well, I'll be damned if this isn't one. l'm going to chalk up last week's Foraging Dinner as a now annual pilgrimage for me (not a downgrade–just a reclassification) and frame up the Dinner on the Ocean Floor as one for the bucket list. I have spent a lot of time with Chris, as we served on the Board of Slow Food Nova Scotia together for a few years, and then across many events along with Melissa and their team. It's been wonderful watching them build their dream from a distance in a rural setting in this last little while–buying an inn in Summerville, renovating, and adding in a new kitchen and cookery school. They're hitting their stride in yet another unique part of Nova Scotia. I'm beginning to sound a bit like a broken record here but, once again, I have had many a fine meal at Chris' hand, but had never been inside the actual restaurant or to this part of Nova Scotia... at the very least, I hope I can inspire you too follow my lead and get out and see for yourself. 

Into my car I went on a beautiful sunny Saturday afternoon for the hour and 40-minute drive up to the site from Halifax–Burntcoat Head Park on the Bay of Fundy. There's no shortage of curvy roads that are a delight to drive along revealing big coastal vistas–all blue skies and earthy red cliffs. This area has the world’s highest recorded tides and was just declared in 2014 to be one of the Seven Natural Wonders of North America (think Grand Canyon & Niagara Falls!). To quote Johnny Cash, how high's the water, papa? I am sure Mr. Cash would be suitably impressed with the idea of one hundred billion tonnes of water flowing daily into the basin every 13 hours. So, why not cheat nature and try to host a meal on that ocean floor? I actually bought a PVC dry bag for my camera gear. You just can never be too sure. 

The day started out with a two-hour tour with Burntcoat Head Park interpreter Nancy Pick–who guided us from the Lighthouse, through the wooded area on the cliffs and finally down to the ocean floor–which was a delightful, leisurely walk around dramatic rock formations with fossils, to the tidal pools packed with a ton of interesting little creatures and plants. From whelks laying eggs to hermit crabs to baby barnacles to interesting little sometimes edible seaweeds and plants. Nancy is an engaging and knowledgeable guide with no shortage of sound bytes. This was early in the season for the park so she referenced the shoreline as one big nursery, and it really felt so with this closer look. At one point during our walk, she revealed a 300 million-year-old fossilized and beautiful teal-coloured part of the ocean floor–and then she looked out wistfully towards the bay and said the ocean floor is rusting. All in all, a pretty impactful little tour.

We then made our way over to the first part of our dinner–a shore boil. Fresh seafood served up on a comfortable little semi-circle of haystacks covered with plush blankets and towels facing the water. And note, at this point the tide was most definitely making its way back into us. We each received a bowl of lobster, mussels & clams with barbequed bread. Chris introduced each hyper-local course along with wine pairings by Stewart Creaser & Lorraine Vassalo from Avondale Sky Winery and beer pairings by Alan & Brenda Bailey from Meander River Farm & Brewery. It was already getting a little jovial as dinner guests pitched their empty shells into a big communal bucket situated in the centre of our half circle. But, there was more to explore! 

Next up, the infamous Jonathan Newell of Newell's Jewels Edibles joins us. This is someone who is revered by local chefs around these parts, delivering up fresh, wild, foraged greens and some that he grows himself to many a restaurant kitchen. We leave the ocean floor and head back up to the top of the park to work our way back down again. We were charged with picking some greens and flowers that would make their way to our plates in the next couple of courses. Funnily enough, he had us start out in some of the park's official manicured beds, which felt like cheating... until Jonathan revealed with a grin that they wouldn't have a problem with us weeding them. We spent about 40 minutes with him and there's pretty much something you can eat with every step. I'm sure everyone felt the same; I could honestly do this for hours, trailing along behind him. 

Back at the beach, with the tide edging a little closer, we all took our seats at two tables with linens and fresh flowers facing the water. It looked just like a film set or a moment from the Outstanding in a Field dinner series. It's the golden hour now and everything is bathed in that gorgeous, warm light. Honestly, we really had a beautiful, temperate day for this. At this point, all the guests are chatting away, now that we've had hours of leisurely walks together and a few sips of wine. It's comfortable even though the fact that this very spot will be 50 feet underwater a few hours from now. It's never lost on you... which is really part of the underlying dramatic thread to the whole experience. It's also fun to watch Chris and the team clear everything they don't need off the beach as quickly as it's used in the background. 

We were served up two more courses here–a beautiful cheese and charcuterie board called 'Celebration Plate' with proscuitto, bresolla, chorizo, Rancher Acres Goat Cheese, Blue Harbor Blue, Wandering Sheppard Ewes Milk Cheese, Knoydart Organic Caerphilly, ​artisanal bread, rye crackers, pickles and chutney. This was followed up by a dish Chris penned High Tide, Low Tide–local grilled, pasture-raised beef, butter-poached lobster tail, "Over Shore" Succotash with organic vegetables, foraged sea greens and kelp, foraged flowers. By the time you're licking your plate, the crew has moved pretty much everything except the tables and chairs you're sitting in. Awesome. 

And finally, we retreat to the wooded cliffs above to watch the sun go down with dessert–Sun & Moon Meet–fresh seasonal berries, lavender phyllo with Grand Marnier mascarpone cream with a strong cup of coffee for the trek home. The tide never even touched us, and I have to say, my image of sitting at a table eating with my ankles in ocean water was never realized. But, that's probably not what anyone really wanted, eh? So, Mr. Cash, how high's the water, papa? Well, it's 50 feet high and rising... 

The menu and all details about how you can experience this for yourself are after the jump. Remember, there is a big gallery of photos here too. If you've continued to read down here, you're going to have to go back to the home page and hit the gallery link. I know, I know... a new website is long overdue. Stay with me. 

Dinner on the Ocean Floor Menu 

Shore Boil

Lobster claws, clams, blue mussels, bread on the BBQ

Celebration Plate

Proscuitto, bresolla, chorizo, Rancher Acres Goat Cheese, Blue Harbor Blue, Wandering Sheppard Ewes Milk Cheese, Knoydart Organic Caerphilly, artisanal bread, rye crackers, pickles and chutney

High Tide, Low Tide

Local grilled, pasture-raised beef, butter-poached lobster tail, "Over Shore" Succotash with organic vegetables, foraged sea greens and kelp, foraged flowers.

Sun & Moon Meet

Fresh seasonal berries, lavender phyllo with Grand Marnier mascarpone cream.

I drove up there myself, but there is the option to stay at the Inn and be driven to the site for a full-blown evening away. I think that's the way you'd really want to do it. I just had to get back to town. All in all, I spent about six hours there before sunset. Here are some further nitty, gritty details for you:

Upcoming dates for this summer–July 25th, August 15th and September 12th. Exact times to be confirmed at time of booking to correlate with tide times. Accommodation packages and or transportation packages available at the Flying Apron Inn. Conditions: Minimum 6 guests - Maximum 12 guests. $250.00 + HST PP/$475 + HST Couples. 

What people are saying

  • on July 03rd, 2015, Beth said...

    Wonderful! Thanks for sharing this Lia.

  • on July 10th, 2015, johanna hudson said...

    your sure gave us a great feeling when we read this. |Like we were there.  I am a volunteer at the Walton LIghthouse.  Hope you come and visit us sometimes.

  • on July 15th, 2015, Elizabeth Poarch said...

    You have a lovely way of conveying how a special place, extraordinary event, and fabulous food mixed with friendly faces makes Nova Scotia particularly enticing.  And, I’ve never been to the Maritimes.  Time to go . . .

  • on July 31st, 2015, Lia said...

    Thanks for your lovely comments!

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