Our roundup of food, culture and travel news for Fall 2019

Our roundup of food, culture and travel news for Fall 2019
Photo by Gabby Peyton

The Ostrich Club
The best way to see if a restaurant has good service? Go with a group

It was raining when we gathered at the door of The Ostrich Club: five couples eager for a drink and a catch-up, reunited in Halifax after months of sporadic text updates.

After launching the award-winning Little Oak wine bar at Bishop’s Landing a few years earlier, Rachel Knox and her team opened The Ostrich Club in the trendy North End in June 2018. And trendy this restaurant is. Seating consists of vintage church pews and velvet-covered booths that alternate between camel and rose depending on the sunlight, with walls decorated in mirrored art deco installations and just the right amount of soft mood-lighting and candle-lit shadow.

Once the 10 of us stopped gabbing long enough to get organized, we ordered the Bread and Butter for the table. Though slightly confused if the three-dollar price tag was per person (always a pitfall when eating in groups), all was forgotten when it arrived at the table. Balanced atop three large, smooth beach rocks were cultured, whipped butter and crusty bread from Birdie’s Bread Co. in Dartmouth.

At least one of all the natural, low-intervention wines and local craft beers curated by sommelier Nicole Raufeisen made its way to the table throughout the night, but I started with a cocktail. My Spanish Fly ($12), above right, with Compass Vodka, Lilet, bubble wine, pomegranate and cranberry cordial was delicate and way too easy to drink, while one of my dining companions couldn’t get over the Florals, For Spring? Groundbreaking cocktail ($13). She’s probably still talking about it. With the cleverly-titled reference to Meryl Streep’s character in The Devil Wears Prada, the restaurant pokes fun at its own use of flowers in a spring-themed cocktail, along with Citadelle gin, lavender St. Germain liqueur, brunch fruit cordial, rosewater and soda with the rim of the glass decorated with crushed rose petals.

I started with the Torched Mackerel ($15) with house chickpea miso, tomato essence, smoke foie gras, pickled strawberries and watercress. It was one of the best broths I’ve ever slurped: full of flavour with a hit of the salty ocean from umami in the chickpea miso, though the tall-lipped plate made it cool quickly and hard to slurp up every last drop.

As with all group-ordering situations, something might be forgotten. One of my dinner mates found herself without the starter she ordered and while it took more time than it should have to rectify the situation, the server was more than apologetic and it was left off the final bill.

For my main, I had Sacchetti ($26)—little pasta purses stuffed with preserved lemon and roasted goat cheese, served with fresh basil and seared scallops. Being conservative on the quantity of scallops I get, but there could have been more of the Sacchetti. How much would it cost to pop a couple more pasta sacs in the boiling water? The portion was appetizer size at an entree price.

For dessert, the table shared a few things, including a delicious seabuckthorn semifreddo ($10), above left, with the perfect amount of creaminess cradled in a bed of edible flowers, while the chocolate tart with pine nut caramel and cultured cream ($10) got devoured in seconds.

Dinner for 10 put the service at The Ostrich Club to the test. It passed thanks to the courteous admittance of a mistake, lots of delicious natural wine and pasta so good I could almost forgive the smaller-than-I-wanted portions. Almost.

The Ostrich Club
5529 Young St, Halifax, N.S.
Tuesday-Friday 11:30a.m. to 2:30p.m. and from 5:30 p.m.
Saturday-Sunday 10 a.m. to 2:30p.m. and from 5:30 p.m.
Closed Mondays

Fall on Film

Back to school also means back to theatre time in Atlantic Canada: here are three festivals to eyeball this fall.

  • St. John’s International Women’s Film Festival
    October 16 to October 20
    This film festival celebrates its 30th anniversary this year, honouring decades of screening internationally-acclaimed programs that focus on women visionaries in film. Festival week is ripe with film screenings and talks, in addition to an industry forum, panels and workshops.

  • Devour! The Food Film Fest
    October 22 to October 27
    This Wolfville film festival has garnered worldwide attention in the culinary sphere, attracting chefs, restauranteurs and foodies with their delicious program of international food films and celebrity hosts like Jacques Pepin, Anthony Bourdain and Bill Pullman. This year celebrates Italian food and cinema with powerhouse chef Lidia Bastianich as the guest of honour for the opening night gala.

  • Charlottetown Film Festival
    October 23 to October 27
    Also known as the “little festival of big dreams,” the Charlottetown Film Festival is presenting its fifth annual program this year. Showcasing films made in and about Atlantic Canada, the program is accompanied by receptions and industry panels.

Aurora Browne and Meredith MacNeill from the hit TV series Baroness von Sketch Show at the St. John’s International Women’s Film Festival. (Ashley Harding Photography)

Patch me if you can
Once it’s time for the leaves to turn, it’s time for the New Brunswick Botanical Gardens to get lit! Every fall, the Edmundston landmark hosts La Grande Grouille, a festival showcasing thousands of pumpkins, brilliantly carved and lit. Last year’s festival featured more than 3,000 of those round orange squashes and what once started as a way to extend the botanical garden’s season has now become a must-attend event for young and old in the Edmundston area. Those who have visited this well-lit wonderland say it’s so magical you need to go twice—once in the daytime to see all of the features and once at night for the thousands of fairy lights and jack-o-lanterns. The 10th anniversary Grande Grouille festival is set to take place October 3 to October 6.

Photo by Daniel Aucoin

Sound business sense
Infotainment at its best; business podcasts from the Atlantic Canadian sound waves and beyond

  • How I Built This
    Produced by National Public Radio (NPR) since 2016, host Guy Raz interviews the people behind some of the world’s biggest companies like Whole Foods, Yelp and Compaq Computers.

  • Inspired Leadership
    Recorded out of Nova Scotia and Korea and hosted by Tyler Bayley and Susan Power, this podcast focuses on celebrating examples of leadership in the workplace.

  • The Daily Grind Podcast
    Host Colin Morgan interviews the world’s most successful business owners and entrepreneurs five days a week from Oakville, O.N.

  • Indigitech
    This Nova Scotian podcast is hosted by Richard Perry and gives a voice to the Aboriginal business ecosystem by chatting with Indigenous business leaders across Canada.

  • The Boiling Point
    Hosts Greg Hemmings of New Brunswick’s Hemmings House Pictures and Dave Veale of Vision Coaching Inc. interview entrepreneurs, thought leaders and movement makers about what moments shaped their careers.

  • The Business Leadership Podcast
    This award-winning podcast hosted by Edwin Frondozo features insights and guidance from North America’s most successful business leaders.

  • The Marketer’s In House
    Created in Halifax and hosted by Joel Kelly of The Family Knife Marketing Consultancy and Wedding Whisperer’s Jessica Murray, this podcast is one of the first aiming to help businesses shift their marketing strategy towards in-house creation.

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