A few years ago, word crept up to me of a chef who held amazing private dinner parties in Hubbards. As his wife worked in television, some of their friends were the media cognoscenti, so stories of these elaborate meals traveled up the shore to Halifax.
That's where Larry Fogg's reputation started for me. Question was, would he ever open a restaurant for the rest of us? Recently, Fogg came close. He's opened a small take-out shop in Hubbards.
Standing in the St. Lawrence Kitchen (see stlawrencekitchen.com), a wee shop that looks and feels like a domestic kitchen, Fogg says he's always been interested in regional cooking that favours rural culture over restaurant culture.
"It is almost anti-restaurant cooking," he says. It's true. From what I've tasted, the St. Lawrence Kitchen lacks the finessed attitude of high-end restaurants, but quality and love live there in spades.
Fogg does have a restaurant pedigree, though. Before moving to Nova Scotia in 2006, he lived in Manchester, England, where he spent 10 years working in a busy brasserie, part of a small staff of "cowboys" serving 300 people a night.
Even then, staff meals---"the food we were eating between times" as he calls it---turned him on more than the finely stacked plates sent out to diners. Likewise, he learned a lot eating scraps from a Michelin-starred restaurant, Juniper, across the street.
"We would give them frozen chips and we would get their leftovers," he recalls. "I was eating Paul Kitching's leftovers. That really opened my eyes."
Fogg developed his own style when he quit work to stay home and care for his daughters. That's when his obsession for home cooking started. "I had time on my hands and I put it to a study. I tried to develop as much as I could," he says. He would spend days preparing for dinners. One summer, he grew a field of barley. He collected, winnowed, ground and baked bread with it. At that point, his wife told him he'd make the denim for his own jeans if he could.
Nelson Millett, of Rocky Top Farms in New Ross, works closely with Fogg. He provides all the shop's meats and eggs. They share a similar DIY aesthetic. With Millett's help, Fogg can cook close to the land, influenced by the culinary heritage of the countryside, drawing on the British tradition like a Scotian Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.
I see a good trade in this, because it's impossible to find these foods anywhere else locally. He makes excellent black and white Irish puddings, a variety of sausages ($6 a pound, I tried the Toscana), peameal bacon, great British rashers and a decent pancetta, too (all $8 a pound).
Sandwiches, made to order, are only $5.50. Selections vary, but I ate an Irish spiced beef (corned beef) with pickled onion and a meatloaf sandwich with sweet relish. Substantial stuff. Fogg made literally every part of the sandwiches.
A simple, soft curried cauliflower and a chicken noodle soup with savoy cabbage and hand-made noodles (prices range from $3.50-$4.50) were generous and well-done.
We brought home a steak-and-porter oven-ready pie with a thick English-style crust. The filling is cooked and the crust needs 45 minutes in the oven. Very rich, a touch salty, but, at $20, it easily fed six people.
Stop at Fogg's kitchen on your country drives with the family. Pick up lunch or take something home for dinner. If this takes off, we might even get a full restaurant out of him one day.
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