Mess call | Drink | Halifax, Nova Scotia | THE COAST

Mess call

Halifax has enough restaurant diversity for 5,000 visiting sailors can find a familiar meal, says Melissa Buote.

Summer and the '60s go hand in hand for me. Not because I bought my first six-string at the five and dime, but because every time the mercury starts rising, I dig out my Frankie and Annette, Beach Boys, Drifters and Diane Renay records. All of the catchy oohs, ahhs and baa-daa-daas basically turn life into a non-stop Beach Party.

Diane Renay is currently at the top of my playlist. Summery sweet and dripping with Vietnam War-era lyrical love letters like "Navy Blue" and "Kiss Me Sailor," it couldn't be a better soundtrack to this week since the streets of Halifax will start looking like a scene from Anchors Aweigh when ships from Brazil, France, Denmark, the Netherlands, Germany, the UK and USA drop anchor for the 2010 Halifax International Fleet Review. In order to make everybody feel at home in Halifax, I'm navigating some familiar foods.

A dozen of the ships are Canadian, and some of those sailors might be looking for truly local food, which they'll find at Chives (1537 Barrington Street, 420-9626), Fid (1569 Dresden Row, 422-9162), Brooklyn Warehouse (2795 Windsor Street, 446-8181), The Wooden Monkey (1707 Grafton Street, 444-3844) and jane's on the common (2394 Robie Street, 431-5683). Known for their use of local products including Farmers' Market vegetables, Oulton's bacon, Bill Wood's lamb, Indian Point mussels, Coldspring Farm eggs and Fox Hill cheese, they're great choices for those who want an authentic taste of Nova Scotia.

But if it's a taste of Halifax you want, maybe the best suggestion is the city's favourite culinary cultural melting pot, the donair---a döner-meets-gyro-meets-sugary evaporated milk. Or take it one step further: donair poutine, a meal that's grounds for honorary Canadian citizenship.

A trip to the Farmers' Market (1496 Lower Water Street, 492-4043) on Saturday is also a great way to experience the province's best fresh food. French sailors from Martinique's frigate La Ventose might feel at home with the crusty breads and buttery pastries offered by Boulangerie La Vendéenne or Julien's French Bakery (5517 Young Street, 455-9717). Or they could hit Chez Tess (5687 Charles Street, 406-3133) and lunch on crepes and cider.

Sailors from the BNS frigate Independencia can find some delicious Brazilian offerings, from feijoada to ostras frescas at Pipa (1685 Argyle Street, 407-7472). The two ships from Germany have pretzels at Gingerbread Haus (1138 Queen Street, 425-4333) and schnitzels at Colby Ale House (920 Cole Harbour Road, 435-5148).

A bevy of boats from the UK will be docking, and they'll find themselves right at home with the numerous British, Irish and Scottish pubs around the city. Durty Nelly's (5221 Sackville Street, 406-7640), The Old Triangle (5136 Prince Street, 492-4900), Elephant & Castle (5171 George Street, 405-8875) and The Loose Cannon (1566 Argyle Street, 407-8797) are good for a pint or a pastie.

The most Danish thing Halifax has to offer sailors aboard the HDMS Absalon and HDMS Ejnar Mikkelsen are, well, danishes. Not exactly inspired, but at least they are easily available at pretty much any bakery, hotel breakfast buffet or Tim Horton's in the city. It's not much better for those aboard The Netherlands' HNLMS Amsterdam. With the Wooden Shoe Cafe gone from Bayers Lake, finding dishes that feature Dutchman's Cheese is as close as we get.

For our pals closer to home---the sailors on the six ships from the USA---Boneheads BBQ (1014 Barrington Street, 407-4100) and Q Smokehouse & Southern Barbeque (1580 Argyle Street, 407-4006) offer a smoky, saucy reminder of home before, as Diane Renay says, we say, "bye, bye!" and it's anchors aweigh once more.

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