Saturday, March 28, 2020

Friday, March 27 COVID-19 in NS news update

More booze delivery, more time away from schools and 17 more cases.

Posted By on Sat, Mar 28, 2020 at 10:00 PM

Key points as of March 27, 8pm
  • 17 new cases for a total of 90 COVID-19 cases in Nova Scotia
  • None are connected to the St. Patrick’s Day Party in Lake Echo, but…
  • …there was potential exposure at an Antigonish hockey tournament
  • Restaurants will be able to deliver booze
  • Remote learning may be coming for public schools
  • Robert Strang is more than a meme

  There are many ways to show respect. A good firm handshake is one—or at least it used to be, until handshaking was cancelled. Salutes have a distinguished history, although currently they're risky because you might touch your face. Tipping your hat always works, if you have a hat. And the dexterity during the doffing not to touch your face. Or any part of the hat that might later touch your face/head region. Actually, let’s just say the hat thing probably doesn’t work, either.

Luckily in our society where it’s getting hard and harder to offer a sign of respect, we will always have Photoshop. There’s nothing like a well-meaning bit of image manipulation to show a public display of deference. Witness this take on Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer of health, Robert Strang.

Strang and premier Stephen McNeil have kept up reassuring webcast news briefings every day for almost two straight weeks, becoming a pandemic duo that has earned comparisons to superheroes (not just Marvel’s, either), Muppets and enhanced lab mice. It’s gotten to the point where Strang addressed the issue at yesterday's briefing, held as usual in the media room on the ground floor of a government office building across the street from Province House.

"I get the humorous memes, and it's good to get a laugh once in a while. I thank you for that," said Strang. "But I'm here representing hundreds and hundreds of people in the health-care system—in public health, primary care, acute care, continuing care—who are working extremely long hours to do what needs to be done to help all of us stay safe. So when you're thanking me you're thanking all of those people.

The briefing had another bit of fun, well suited to a Friday afternoon. With governments at all levels and in many countries turning to extreme measures in hopes of maintaining economies through the COVID-19 doldrums—for example, prime minister Justin Trudeau today announced the government will cover 75 percent of salaries at qualifying small and medium-sized businesses to forestall closures—McNeil offered a lifeline to local eateries.

"There are a number of restaurants trying to stay open by doing take-out and delivery," the premier said. "We will now allow them to include alcohol with take-out and delivery orders." This change takes effect Monday, and the only hitch is that the alcohol in the order can’t cost more than three times as much as the food. Skol!

In the more serious parts of the briefing, Strang said there are 17 new cases of COVID-19 in the province, for a total of 90 cases diagnosed in Nova Scotia so far. The spectre of community spread raised at Thursday’s briefing was neither confirmed nor denied today.

"With some of our cases, investigation is still ongoing, and it remains too early to say if there may be community spread. I can say that none of the new cases are connected to the St. Patrick's Day gathering in Lake Echo which we talked about yesterday," said Strang. "All of the attendees at that event have been contacted and testing has been done on those individuals and results are pending."

The Nova Scotia Health Authority put out an alert today "advising of potential public exposures to COVID-19." Two specific dates and places were mentioned: March 11 at Highland Eye Care in New Glasgow, and March 12 at the Bantam AAA provincial hockey championship in Antigonish. If you were there, then, and otherwise have been living under a rock, we have some disturbing news: You need to join the rest of the world in watching yourself for a new cough and/or fever and/or breathing difficulties. Call 811 if you develop those symptoms.

When the province started bringing out changes to prepare for COVID-19—last week, in other words, although it feels more like a month ago—the decision to close public school temporarily wasn’t that big a deal. Because March Break was happening anyway, tacking on an extra two weeks without school seemed more like an extension of the holiday than a hint that society was grinding to a halt. Now, however, reality has set in. Today was the end of the first extra week off, and there had been no indication of what comes next. No extension of the closure, no talk of re-opening schools, no plan for distance learning, know nothing. But today McNeil broke the silence.

"I think it's fair to say that the closure of schools will be longer than the next week," the premier said.

Grade 12 students in particular may be concerned about things like grades and university applications, assuming there is something like the old normal waiting on the other side of the coronavirus crisis. "Our main focus is following the advice of Public Health to keep our children safe, to keep our students safe," said McNeil. "And then focus on making sure that we can salvage the year for them so they can go off to university." He also talked about "an ongoing conversation" that’s happening around ways the province can deliver education online, promising "we’ll have further announcements to make about the public education system."

No sooner did McNeil speak it, than some parents saw action. Less than two hours after the briefing ended, Citadel High School parents received an email. "In preparation for a provincial plan for learning at home, we are gathering information about the possible needs of students and families to be able to complete work at home," the email reads. "We would like to know if you are set up adequately to do some work at home through technology…namely if you have a computer with the internet."

Students don’t all have the same access to online tools, so the education department can’t just roll out a webcast curriculum. Today’s briefing introduced a provincial plan with Telus to get 100 phones to vulnerable Nova Scotians who may be self-isolated without any other way to communicate. The premier also said the province is buying up to 800 iPads for distribution at long-term care facilities in April, "to make it easier for the elders to stay in touch." Similarly, there will be students whose learning experience would be transformed by iPads or laptops or free internet from Telus. Hopefully, they'll be addressed in a briefing sooner rather than later.

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Wednesday, February 19, 2020

From Hangzhou to Halifax

A celebration of our favourite authentic Canadian cuisine

Posted By on Wed, Feb 19, 2020 at 4:35 PM

Jean’s Chinese Restaurant. - LENNY MULLINS
  • Jean’s Chinese Restaurant.

If you're looking for a quintessentially Canadian dish, you could do a lot worse than Albertan ginger beef or Newfoundland-style chow mein (cabbage, not noodles). Just about every small town from coast to coast boasts at least one thriving Chinese restaurant, and Chinese food has become a culinary backbone of Canadian culture. But in the past month, coronavirus panic has elicited a flurry of fear and discrimination affecting Chinese restaurants. The Globe and Mail reported last week that some Toronto restaurants are seeing drops in business between 30 and 80 percent. In Vancouver, business has declined similarly for some restaurants.

We wanted to know how Halifax's 60-plus Chinese restaurants are faring. We're happy to report none of those we spoke to have noted any decline in sales. We hope it stays that way. So consider this a celebration of the most Canadian cuisine of all. Whether you never outgrew sweet-and-sour chicken, or gravitate to peking duck with steamed pancakes, there's bound to be a nearby restaurant that makes your gastronomic dreams come true. Here are five of Halifax's favourite Chinese-owned restaurants, and why we love them:

Chinatown Restaurant
213 Bedford Highway
Jane Chen, owner of Chinatown Restaurant, is constantly busy these days thanks to Chinatown's new location, which boasts crystal light fixtures and a seaside view of the Bedford Basin. Yet, perhaps the most breathtaking thing is hidden from sight: "We have so many authentic dishes that aren't on the menu," Chen says. "When people come and they're looking for something more authentic, I have so many recipes in the back of my mind that I can make."

A few of these dishes include XO sauce with seafood, and black pepper beef with king mushroom. Chinatown also provides homemade dim sum, including options otherwise hard to find in Halifax, such as their durian puff, egg yolk cream bun and sesame ball with salted egg yolk.

Fan's Chinese Restaurant
451 Windmill Road
Fan's Chinese Restaurant on Windmill Road has earned plenty of awards over the years. There are many mouth-watering favourites on the menu, including northern dumplings, Dan Dan noodle soup, Ma Po tofu and three-course peking duck. The restaurant also boasts a lengthy dim sum menu, and a sizable gluten-free menu that covers noodle dishes, seafood, beef and pork and chef specials.

On top of the food, Fan's provides a cozy, family-friendly atmosphere filled with dark-wood accents, warm lighting and an aquarium that houses several glorious specimens.

Jean's Chinese Restaurant
5972 Spring Garden Road
Jean's Chinese Restaurant has been downtown 17 years, and owner Kong On Jean has long watched his customers' preferences evolve. "In the past couple years, people seem to like healthier options, vegetables and spicy foods," he says. "A lot of people are looking for gluten-free noodles, so we sell a lot of those every day."

The restaurant also makes homemade hot sauce and soup stock, two ingredients that both pack a flavourful punch. But says Jean, sweet-and-sour chicken remains the bestseller, followed closely by beef and broccoli and fried rice.

Whether customers are searching for something heavy or light, they're in good hands at Jean's.

May Garden
Multiple locations, see
May Garden traces its roots back more than 40 years, to a small take-out spot on Beaverbank Road in Lower Sackville. Owner Eric Yeung bought the business from his relatives in the early '90s, turning the tiny take-out experience into a sit-down restaurant. Now there are four May Gardens across HRM, each with an extensive menu including both authentic and Canadian-Chinese food. Yeung prides himself on paying close attention to customer feedback, often incorporating suggestions into the menu. Several options include a crispy and flavourful barbecue-roasted duck (which has to be ordered 24 hours in advance) and siu mai, a dim sum dumpling stuffed with pork and prawns.

Truly Tasty. - SUBMITTED
  • Truly Tasty.
Truly Tasty
6214 Quinpool Road
Because ramen is a Japanese dish, some might forget that Truly Tasty on Quinpool has Chinese owners. But what's impossible to forget is the flavour of its ramen broth, which boasts an umami-filled balance of sweetness, saltiness, earthiness and richness. There are multiple types to choose from, such as the spicy tan tan ramen with homemade sesame paste and Sichuan black pepper, or the customer-favourite crispy fried chicken ramen. Whatever ends up in your bowl, the noodles are sure to be tender and springy. With warm service and a minimalist atmosphere, Truly Tasty consistently offers a little slurp of heaven.

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Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Eater, know thyself?

Pull up a chair to Megan Dean's talk tonight.

Posted By on Wed, Jan 15, 2020 at 9:08 AM

Megan Dean comes back to King's to talk about such issues as how eating can fight the patriarchy. - HAMILTON COLLEGE
  • Megan Dean comes back to King's to talk about such issues as how eating can fight the patriarchy.
  • Hamilton College

If you’ve ever wondered what exactly a professor of food philosophy thinks about every day, make a date for Wednesday, January 15's homecoming lecture by King’s College grad Megan Dean, now a food-philosophy prof at New York state's Hamilton College. 

While we all know that eating should be about more than shovelling calories down your gullet, Dean goes beyond discussions of healthy vs. unhealthy (ever hear of healthism?). Her work is premised on the idea that eating can be about a lot more: resisting patriarchy, embracing freedom and in general shaping who we perceive ourselves to be. The flip side is that it also shapes who others perceive us to be, making labels like “unhealthy eater” all the more damaging.

So if you’re interested in some heady talk about matters of the gut, get down to King’s for 7 pm January 15

Megan Dean: Why it matters how we eat
Wednesday, January 15
New Academic Building (Archibald Room), University of King's College
6350 Coburg Road
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Thursday, November 14, 2019

Halifax Taco Week is on!

The inaugural celebration of the hand-held meal rolls into restaurants around town.

Posted By on Thu, Nov 14, 2019 at 8:44 AM

Halifax Taco Week is your chance to become a wrap star. - KYLEE NUNN
  • Halifax Taco Week is your chance to become a wrap star.
  • Kylee Nunn
The idea behind the taco is simple—protein, vegetables and condiments in a starch wrapper—but the results are spectacular. We hope the same will be said of Halifax Taco Week. In this event put on by The Coast, restaurants across the city are offerng a taco special from Thursday, November 14 to Wednesday, November 20, giving everybody a great reason to enjoy eating out while raising money for Feed Nova Scotia.

This is the first Taco Week, and 90 restaurants are participating (in comparison, The Coast’s first Halifax Burger Week started with about 20 restaurants, and it’s grown to become the single biggest Feed NS fundraiser in the province). There are beef tacos and vegan tacos and Indian tacos and pork tacos and $5 tacos and tacos with clever names and donair tacos, because Halifax.

Your favourite restaurant probably has a taco special. That place you’ve never been but have been meaning to go DEFINITELY has a taco special. Find out about them all by picking up a Halifax Taco Week passport around town, or click with
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Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Shucking right: a Q&A with David Burns

Hamilton's oyster connoisseur shells out some pre-festival wisdom.

Posted By on Wed, Oct 2, 2019 at 1:54 PM


Halifax Oyster Festival
Fri Oct 4, Sat Oct 5
1521 Lower Water Street

D avid Burns is the founder of Maisy's Pearl, an oyster-focussed catering company in Hamilton, Ontario that focuses on education as much as consumption at its pop-ups, parties and private events. (And, cutely enough, is named after his two daughters, Maisy and Pearl.) This year he's bringing his bivalve know-how and shucking skills to Halifax Oyster Festival for the first time. So, naturally, we had some questions.

Do you remember your first oyster?
"I was 15 and out for dinner with a good friend and his family. His dad was like, 'You've gotta try these.' I was like, 'How do I do it?' and he was like 'throw a bunch of Tabasco on! Down the hatch!' I didn't chew it, just swallowed it. It was clearly just a vessel for sauce, I didn't think too much about it. Then, I started working at Rodney's Oyster House around 2011 or 2010—I've always loved seafood and had an appreciation for seafood. I met some really cool people there and they were like 'Have you ever had oysters?' They opened it properly, it was pristine, and said: 'Add a couple of drops of lemon to cut the salinity, chew a few times and swallow.' And it was unreal.

It's funny, I moved to Hamilton and there's nothing really going on in the city. My wife was like, 'start a catering business, educate the people on how they're supposed to be perfectly shucked, how they're supposed to be consumed.' And I did. People have been really receptive. Now I'm educating people from my first experience to my first real experience."

What was it that made you want to bring oyster culture to Hamilton?
"This city is very communal, they’re very hard working. The nickname for the city is Steel Town, and these people will not spend their money on anything unless they see value in it. Before moving here, I went to different bars and restaurants and tried to sort of what I would do for a job. I’m going to these places and ordering oysters and I thought, this is just a way for restaurants to boost up their cheques, or bills. There’s no real experience involved. I think enjoying oysters is all about experience and its a very social thing. And not that they’re bad restaurants, they just didn’t know what they were doing.

I’m very good at what I do when it comes to opening an oyster and educating people about it. So I was like, 'I’m going to bring that to this amazing city. Quality product the way it’s meant to be.' "

Why is proper shucking important?
"You think about the person on the other end who's put the hard work, time and effort in to making sure this product is alive and well when it gets to us, and then to have someone massacre it? It's almost an insult. I always try to make people aware these people are working hard, that it takes a lot of time for an oyster to get to your table. I'm the last guy to touch the product, so I want it to be perfect."

What's your advice for someone trying an oyster for the first time?
"It's my favourite thing to do. My go-to is: 'Listen, if you've haven't had an oyster, today's your lucky day, and you're going to experience an oyster the way it's meant to be.' And then I show them the gills, the mantle, the belly, the adductor, how it's all been severed properly, the way it's supposed to be. As opposed to if you're drunk at a restaurant with your buddies, feeling daring on a big bold red wine. It's smooth and crisp and exotic and it has a nice mouthfeel, when it's been opened properly. 

Interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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Thursday, September 19, 2019

Propeller’s on the level

The Propeller Arcade presents Level Up—a weekend of extra fun/games.

Posted By on Thu, Sep 19, 2019 at 1:00 AM


The closest thing to getting inside Ian Matheson's brain is spending some time at the Propeller Arcade. The Propeller Brewing Company staffer and resident pinball nerd was the champion behind the north end brewery's no-frills, ultra-lax basement bar, which opened about nine months ago. Now he's helping it level up.

"We thought it would be so cool if we could use the brewery floor for something. Fifty percent of the people who come down here are in shock and awe of these games they haven't seen in a long time, but so many others are taken aback by the brewery itself. When people see it, so many want to go down and explore," says Matheson of the idea to expand the Propeller Arcade offerings—and square footage—for one weekend only. After calling up some friends and collectors ("I love to get stoked on this stuff, and so do they," says Matheson) the brewery is ushering in fall by hosting Level Up—three days of maximum fun. Think black lights, disco balls, classic arcade basketball, air hockey, driving games and a claw machine, plus the usual old school classics you can always find at 2015 Gottingen Street.

The XL Propeller Arcade experience takes place Friday, September 20 and Saturday, September 21 (from 4pm to midnight) and again on Sunday, September 22 (from noon to 6pm for all ages, and until 10pm for the 19+ crowd) when Hopyard Beer Bar will join in on the fun, with snacks on hand.

"It's all about having fun really," says Matheson. "I just really wanted to fill a room with fun stuff, and thankfully they let me." 

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Friday, September 6, 2019

A Hurricane Dorian grocery list for procrastinators

Does anyone else get instantly hungry as soon as the power goes out?

Posted By on Fri, Sep 6, 2019 at 5:47 PM

You know times are tough when even the President's Choice brands are dwindling
  • You know times are tough when even the President's Choice brands are dwindling

Hurricane Dorian is coming. Like the worst visitor ever (an uninvited one), that hot mess is going to show up, over-stay his welcome, lock us indoors, knock some stuff over and probably take our electricity with him as he storms his way towards Cape Breton to mess up somebody else's weekend.

If you've seen the fuss online—the closures and cancellations, the warning you'll  need food and supplies for up to 72 hours—yet haven't done anything to Be Prepared just yet, here are 10 things to grab at the grocery store that'll help you get in and GTFO as quickly as possible.

Living through the last-minute pre-storm shopping experience is nearly as bad as accidentally swinging by the Quinpool Superstore on student night, but together we can get through this.

1. Chips
Forever number one on the shopping list, but especially in these stormy times (thank you, Stephanie Domet). Buy food flavoured options—pizza! roast chicken! loaded baked potato!—and make like you're eating a meal or just stock up on your faves. Chip aisle ravaged? Here's a snack hack: Pre-pop a bunch of popcorn, season it and fill a few Ziploc bags.

2. Bread and peanut butter
Go crunchy for maximum protein intake.

3. #stormcharcuterie
Is this an Italian trattoria or your dark-ass, candle-lit apartment? Bouj it up with some crackers or bread, hard cheeses, dry-cured sausage (maybe soppressata salami or a stick of Brother's pepperoni), figs and a jar of pickles. They'll all keep without the power of a fridge.

4. Tuna
Nothing says un-sexy storm preparedness like a can of fish.

5. Trail mix
Nuts and dried fruit will get old fast, but will keep your belly full.

6. Cereal
With non-dairy milk, or by the fistful.

7.  Avocados
When you're eating all of the carrots and cucumber out of your crisper, whip up some guacamole to bring a little bit of good fat to your raw snacks.

7. Fruit
After you've ploughed through your chocolate supply, turn to nature's dessert: Apples, citrus, bananas and other long-lasting, countertop-friendly sweets.

8. Canned beans and legumes
Bean salad, anyone?

9. Gatorade
Electrolytes, baby! If water gets scarce, a neon sports beverage is smart to have on hand and it doubles as a way to combat a day-drinking induced hangover.

10. Good company
Drown your sorrows and your internet-free boredom—yes, no power = no wifi—with some pleasant, invited company. (You're probably not going to find that at the No Frills, but who knows?) Build a puzzle, play a board game, maybe If, like Dido, you're determined to go down with this ship, you might as well do it with a good friend by your side.
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Wednesday, September 4, 2019

DRINK THIS: Domaine de Grande Pré’s Moscato

This aromatic bottle pairs perfectly with September swimming and potato chips.

Posted By on Wed, Sep 4, 2019 at 1:39 PM


September is good for crowding enjoyment into late summer days, much in the same way that the Bay of Fundy's rising tidal waters push beach-goers together onto shrinking patches of sunlit shore. Domaine de Grand Pré's Moscato ($25), launched in the height of summer this year, is my choice of wine to accompany the glow of late summer afternoons.

The wine's peachy colour matches the long sunset hours of September, thanks to the skin colour of New York Muscat, of which Grand Pre's new wine is made. I was surprised the winery, which makes table wine from the same grape, would be able to source enough to craft another single-varietal wine. New York Muscat is notoriously frustrating to grow. The vines' yield tends to be very inconsistent. Plus, it is an in-demand ingredient in many Nova Scotian wineries' Tidal Bays due to its signature aromatics of lychee, rose and pink grapefruit.

"We've figured it out," says Jürg Stutz, winemaker at Domaine de Grand Pré, when I ask him about the winery's ability to commit to another wine style featuring the grape. "We give it a high trellis, let it droop over and let it go. It's difficult to maintain, looks wild, but it seems to work."

Then again, at another vineyard, Grand Pré uses vertical shoot positioning, a more traditional trellising method, to grow New York Muscat. "We've learned over the years which methods to use where," says Stutz, reminding me how specific the demands of viticulture can be, and that Nova Scotia is still very much in the learning and experimenting phase of this fast-growing industry.

Domaine de Grand Pré's latest experiment is a delicious one and, so far, a success.

"We're down to the last couple of pallets," says Stutz. "There's big demand for the Moscato because of its low alcohol and's a great summer sipping wine."

This Moscato is beautifully aromatic, with a perfect balance of acidity, sweetness and fizz that calls for a dip in the Bay of Fundy, or a bag of salty potato chips if you don't have the bay at your toe-tips. The bitter endnote of New York Muscat gives this wine an added dimension of body that fully satisfies, leaving beach-goers and chip-munchers licking from their lips the flavour of gratitude. a

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Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Eat this: Elaine’s Brazilian Bakery

Thanks to an ISANS pilot program, Elaine Sphair’s authentic baked goods are turning heads in Halifax.

Posted By on Wed, Jul 24, 2019 at 2:19 PM

Find Sphair’s schedule on Faceboook. - CAROLINA ANDRADE
  • Find Sphair’s schedule on Faceboook.
  • Carolina Andrade

T here is a very friendly baker at the Seaport Farmers' Market who you should pay a visit to. Elaine Sphair wakes up at 4am to bake delicious the Brazilian treats that she sells every other week, on Mondays and Tuesdays at the market. There you'll find her spread of freshly made pão de queijo (a gluten-free Brazilian cheese bread that is the tastiest snack you'll ever discover), brigadeiros (dark chocolate and coconut truffles), gooey coconut cake and doughnuts filled with doce de leite or custard cream. These delicacies are so rare to find in Halifax, let alone Nova Scotia, and Sphair is happy to be sharing the taste of Brazil with her customers.

Her new business, Elaine's Brazilian Bakery, is a part of Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia's Bridge to Entrepreneurship pilot program, which supports immigrant entrepreneurs in bringing their businesses to life. Sphair immigrated to Canada in 2017 with her family and comes from a bank management background, but a love for baked goods fed her drive to switch careers months before she arrived in Canada.

"I was already planning on changing jobs when I got here. So a few months before my move to Canada, I started working in my brother-in-law's bakery where I could learn several baking and cooking techniques," she says. "The opportunity to open Elaine's Brazilian Bakery came along with the ISANS organization, where I study English every day in the morning."

She also attends business-based courses four times a week through the pilot entrepreneurship program, which provides space at its incubator table/market stand at no cost to clients. This is where you can find vendors like Sphair selling their products and practicing their English in conversation with market-goers.

"I do everything with a lot of love," says Sphair of her one-month-old business. Over time, she hopes to work towards running a permanent market stall and, eventually, a stand-alone bakery. "I love cooking and I believe that food brings people together."

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Thursday, July 18, 2019

G-Street Pizza opens next week

Gottingen Street's newest eat-in restaurant focuses on consistent pies and solid ingredients.

Posted By on Thu, Jul 18, 2019 at 4:12 AM

  • submitted

Childhood friends Moe Alhaj and Paul Jebailey had home on their minds when they dreamt up G-Street Pizza. The pair, who grew up in Dartmouth and have spent most of their adult lives living away—Jebailey on the west coast until recently; Alhaj lives in Dubai—and wanted to make a mark on their community, together. And pizza was the answer.

“We wanted to bring different ingredients and put a little more thought into the process of it all,” says Alhaj of the concept. The restaurant’s design came courtesy of Attica Furnishings. “We wanted to put effort into the design, decor and atmosphere. You’re leaving home and not eating lunch or dinner at home for a reason. We want to give that full experience to people.”

G-Street Pizza, which will make its debut at 2302 Gottingen Street (in the Velo building) next week, brings a tight menu of pizzas, burgers, salads, apps—and donairs, obviously— to the table, zeroing in on consistency. Alhaj and Jebailey brought over chefs from Italy to help create and test the perfect dough, sauce and pizzas of their dreams. “We got it down to a science. We had about two-and-a-half months of practice—cooking food, testing food, inviting family and friends to try it,” says Alhaj. A little menu of beer, cider and wine will complement the quarterly-changing food lineup, which will include halal, gluten-friendly and vegan options.

“It’s simple and creative, that way we can perfect everything we have on our menu,” says Alhaj. “Everything is the way it should be, and the way we would want to eat it.”

G-Street Pizza opens Wednesday, July 24.
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Tuesday, July 16, 2019

North end institution Smith's Bakery is closing next month

Unless you want to buy it? (Please?)

Posted By on Tue, Jul 16, 2019 at 2:24 PM

  • via Facebook

Smith's Bakery & Cafe has been bringing fresh bread, major cakes and a top-notch lineup of squares to Haligonians since 1932.

Let that sink in for a second.

Yesterday, the north end institution and Halifax's oldest indie bakery took to its social media accounts to let the world know that as of August 10 it would be losing its current location at 2525 Agricola Street and therefore closing.

"It’s basically just a leasing issue, that’s the nuts and bolts of it. We can’t stay here and we don't have the money to move," says Dennis Evans, who's been part of the business for the last 15 years. He took over as co-owner with his wife Tara Fleming when the bakery's former owner (his father) retired about five years ago.

The decision to close became a reality after the building's sale was made official last Friday. Evans says the going rate for similar square footage in the neighbourhood is upwards of double what he currently pays. "When I started here 15 years ago, you could pretty much give places away, the neighbourhood is a victim of its own success in a way."

The costs associated with moving and renting a new space aren't the only ones that have made business challenging for Smith's in the last stretch of time. "People are unaware because they don't pay attention when they buy stuff at the grocery store, but we’ve seen a 30 percent increase on basic items," says Evans. "When was the last time you saw someone weigh their fruit and vegetables at a grocery store? We make stuff from scratch. We’re very labour intensive, obviously. If the margin goes up, the rent goes up, the labour goes up...."

The best-case scenario, he says, is if the bakery sells. For anyone interested, Evans is offering a "highly discounted" rate for the business, trade name, beloved recipes and equipment. All that and the rights to the city's best breakfast sandwich.

"Instead of buying a crappy franchise, you could buy a place with 87 years of history," he says. "It’s sad, I feel sad for the longtime customers, but it’s not something we really wanted to do."

Smith's will remain open as normal and baking old favourites until August 10.

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Tuesday, July 9, 2019

The Watch That Ends The Night has closed

Canada's Best New Bar of 2018 signs off

Posted By on Tue, Jul 9, 2019 at 12:44 PM

  • Alexa Cude
Dartmouth's slick and stylish The Watch That Ends The Night (15 King's Wharf Place) announced today that the bar/restaurant had closed its doors for the last time. Owners Mark Gray and Alissa Maloney took to Facebook to share the news, writing, "It is with an extremely heavy heart that we must say this, but say this we must. The Watch That Ends the Night is officially closed for business. All we can say is thank you all!!! To our absolutely incredible staff, clientele and suppliers for showing us so much love and support in allowing us to do what we could do."

The Watch (called after the Hugh MacLennan novel of the same name) was originally opened by Joe and Bethany Gurba in fall 2017; Gray (former executive chef at Brooklyn Warehouse, Battery Park Beer Bar) took over ownership of the restaurant in May 2018. Last year, it was named Canada's Best New Bar of 2018 by enRoute magazine.

"It is crazy, in a way, that you can be number one on a national stage and nine months later shut your doors. It goes to show the uncertainty and variability of this industry," says Gray. "It's crazy to go through that high-high and that low-low, but it comes with the territory."

Gray says in the end, the closure came down to finances.

"It's not ever the way people want their business to end. Those are the cards we were dealt, and we couldn’t keep up," he says. "You can speculate all day long about what went wrong but there’s just so many moving parts, I have no idea what happened really."

The Watch That Ends The Night's closure will also signify the end of a chapter in Gray's life—his culinary career. He is currently studying to be an addictions counsellor and has plans to focus his lens on the restaurant industry.

"With my personal struggles with addiction and the process of recovery thus far—it has been an incredible process—I want to give back the gift of sobriety and recovery I was given." Gray, an addict in recovery, is nine months sober. "I want to help others who are in the shoes I was in when I was 20, 22 or 25. I can’t help but think if there was something for me then it might have prevented a few things."

Gray says The Watch's journey was a fantastic one from day one, and that despite its ending he looks back on it with pride and gratitude—for the staff, suppliers, partons and supporters.

"We’ve learned a lot and made tons of great memories there. We achieved great things and tried to push the envelope, and we had an incredible team—now, people who’ve come and gone and people who remained until the end. It’s been a wild ride, for sure, but a great one nonetheless."
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Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Mind the brain freeze: Glory Pops gearing up for summer

Just a modern day Dickie Dee

Posted By on Wed, Jul 3, 2019 at 1:49 PM

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You’re either old enough to remember chasing the sound of the Dickie Dee through your neighbourhood, or you’re young enough that a bicycle selling frozen treats is totally novel. For Jacqui Keseluk, either option works. The pastry chef-turned-entrepreneur is ringing in her first summer on wheels, selling hand-crafted popsicles under her newly launched business (run with longtime friend Brian Larter) Glory Pops and sums up her early success simply: “People like fun things.”

Keseluk bought the bike and popsicle-making gear earlier this spring, stoked on the idea of being her own boss and having a creative culinary outlet. “It’s interactive and it’s easy to eat,” she says of the appeal of her handheld snacks. “You see food trends every year—right now it’s all about doughnuts and tacos, before it was macarons, there was the burger craze, but no one in the city is really doing gourmet popsicles. They’re very big in New York and LA and I hope I’m ahead of something.” So far she’s been experimenting with straight-ahead options like raspberry-mango, strawberry—“that’s what the kids want”—as well as flavours like peanut butter banana and cucumber lime. “As long as I have a solid inventory of the basics, I get to play,” she says.

Apart from selling her treats at The Atomic Cafe (6451 Quinpool Road), Local Source (2530 Agricola Street) and Raven Espresso  (14 St. Michael’s Avenue), Keseluk will be peddling (and pedalling) her pops all over central Halifax, around the Common and at special events. “I plan to be out on the bike any time it’s sunny and hot out,” she says.

Glory Pops won’t melt away with the short-and-sweet summer—she’s got plans to partner with Halifax bars in the name of boozy popsicles (think prosecco and mixed berries) as well as venturing into protein popsicles for the fitness-focused community. But for now, the best bet for finding Keseluk’s bike is to find her on Instagram. “The ’90s seem to be repeating themselves as far as fashion trends,” she says, “so maybe it’s going the same way with food.”
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Thursday, June 27, 2019

DRINK THIS: Eileanan Brèagha's rosé

With a soft start and dry finish, this summer drink reps Cape Breton grown grapes.

Posted By on Thu, Jun 27, 2019 at 1:00 AM


Nothing decorates a deck party better than glasses of pink wine glinting in the sunlight. And no wine checks all the boxes of refreshment, food-friendliness and affordability like Nova Scotian rosé.

Rosé suffers the unfortunate misconception that it is cheap, sweet wine, a rap left over from the '80s when white wine was more fashionable than red, and producers in the US were trying to find a market for their red grapes. "White" Zinfandel was crafted into an off-pink, off-dry guzzler from red Zinfandel grapes, a massive success for its producer and a massive disservice to those who would like rosé to be considered serious wine in North America.

The French take rosé seriously and have perfected the dry rosé, especially in Provence and the Loire, where rosé is drunk merrily as a thirst-quencher and heartily as a food wine. Rosé is traditionally made by crushing and immediately pressing red grapes, separating juice from skin, giving the juice little opportunity to absorb the skin's purple pigments (and flavours and textures). The result, pink wine, is technically a blush, or vin gris.

Nova Scotian rosé tends to be intense magenta and cranberry rather than the delicate pink and salmon hues of European rosés. This is because our thick hybrid grape skins have more pigment, so even immediately pressing skins off juice leaves it deeply stained. (As Nova Scotians grow more European varieties of grapes, you will see more lighter-coloured rosés on the market.)

But this deep pink colour does not signal a syrupy wine, I promise! Nova Scotian rosés are beautifully dry, and if the winemaker does leave a little residual sugar, it is usually just enough to balance the acidity that makes these wines so good with food.

Eileanan Brèagha's 2018 rosé ($19, NSLC) is made primarily from Marechal Foch and Marechal Joffre, two hybrid red grapes grown at the Cape Breton winery's estate vineyard in Marble Mountain on the Bras d'Or Lakes. The wine comes across with softness on the first sip but finishes dry, acidity and bitterness in just the right amounts washing the mouth clean. This crisp rosé tastes like sour cherry and cranberry, buoyed by a hint of tannic texture that is the mark of rosé for me: just mouth filling enough to remind me that wine, too, is food.

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Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Holey shit, it’s a doughnut crawl

Nine local bakeries encourage a day of delicacy

Posted By on Wed, Jun 5, 2019 at 6:37 PM


For many, National Doughnut Day will just be any other day, but this year nine cafes and bakeries in Halifax are hoping it will be busier than usual. The first Halifax Doughnut Crawl will start and end on June 7, to coincide with and celebrate the legacy of deep-fried dough covered in icing. Organized by Scanway Catering and Grafton Street Cafe (1567 Grafton Street) the hope is to get more people out and about to their favourite local spot and to "highlight the growing foodie culture in Halifax."

Die-hard apple fritter and Dutchie purists may feel like there is no need to reinvent the wheel, but hate it or love it, doughnuts have now become experiments in design and flavour combinations. Although it is safe to say that Tim Hortons enjoys its steady dynasty, doughnuts are gaining popularity with smaller coffee shops, becoming more Instagrammable as the topping combinations get more artistic.

All participating businesses will try to outdo each other via the creation of one specialty doughnut for the crawl—and half of the proceeds from the sales of these speciality doughnuts will be donated to the Phoenix House.

Competitive local foodies know the drill: There will be a passport and stamps to be collected. One location, one doughnut, one stamp. The most ambitious and adventurous of stomachs who can knock off each location, and collect all nine stamps will be entered to win a $500 goodie bag. Completed passports can be handed in to the Grafton Street Cafe by June 10 for the draw. For a full list of participating spots (from Rinaldo's to LF Bakery) find the event on Facebook.

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