I love getting to know a destination through its cuisine. Like many travelers, I think it’s one of the best ways to get to know the culture and get closer to experiencing daily life, wherever you are. Having done food tours in the past, and loving the opportunity to combine food, wandering, and history, I thought it would be a fun way to add in to my hometown travel adventure this summer.
As luck would have it, I happen to know someone I the food tour business. Back at Open City in May 2012, I learned Emily Forrest was starting a food tour business this summer. This past weekend, I finally had the chance to join Local Tasting Tours and see for myself.
With six tastings in 90 minutes, a Local Tasting Tour covers a lot of food territory for a great price ($25). On top of that, I was pleasantly surprised to discover the tour is as jam-packed with history as it is with tasty treats.
The Fish Shop
Our first stop was our meeting point, the Fish Shop at Pier 20. Located at the Halifax Seaport Farmers Market, the shop serves market-goers and local restaurants alike.
As a life-long Nova Scotian, I’ve had my fair share of seafood chowder, but I can attest the Fish Shop’s offering is among the best I’ve ever had. EVER. It was accompanied by a healthy serving of delicious hot-smoked salmon from St. Mary’s River Smoked Salmon in Sherbrooke, NS.
Halifax Seaport Market
After warming up with some chowder, Emily took us further into the Halifax Seaport Farmers Market to introduce newcomers to the market, and see it in action on its busiest day. Even well into the afternoon, the market is buzzing with activity.
Our tour included some stops along the way, where Emily would share her knowledge of local history, the buildings in the surrounding area.
We popped into one of my favourite coffee joints, Uncommon Grounds. It’s a local entrepreneurial success story, and their seedy oatcakes are an important part of the mornings of many Haligonians.
Our next stop, Talay Thai, was an unexpected stop for a destination like Halifax, one that is better known for its seafood than its spring rolls. However, once Emily started telling the story of the family who owns the shop, the connection was immediately obvious. Nova Scotia’s food culture is what it is because of new entrants, like Thai cuisine (which is still relatively new here). The infusion of new flavours to our traditional cuisine has kicked off an exciting period in Nova Scotian food, where experimentation is being encouraged and pursued more ever. By the by, Talay Thai’s spring rolls are divine.
Our next stop, Morris East, is well-known within Halifax foodie circles for its delicious thin crust pizzas served up in inventive combinations, top quality ingredients, and delightful desserts. Like a s’more made in their wood-fired pizza oven.
We got a great introduction to Morris East’s approach to food, as well as the special meals in store for their fifth anniversary.
For our tasting, we were treated to Morris East’s peach pizza with goat cheese and caramelized shallots on a thin crust with aioli. It left me hankering for more.
Rumrunners in the Old Burying Grounds
Our next stop was quite unexpected. I knew we were going to sample some rum cake from Rumrunners, but the destination, Halifax’s Old Burying Ground, was a fun surprise. We got a short history lesson of Nova Scotia’s colourful history with rum running – it sounded equally fun and dangerous.
I’m a huge fan of Rumrunners’ delicious rum and whisky cakes and a visit to their shop on the Halifax waterfront is highly recommended for visitors. It’s a store, commercial kitchen, and rum running museum all wrapped up in one.
Our big finish was at one of Halifax’s finest restaurants, Chives Canadian Bistro. Using the best local ingredients, Chives presents the best of Nova Scotia’s cuisine in an elegant environment. For our visit, we got to sample the delicious wild mushroom soup topped with goat cheese and Chives’ famous buttermilk biscuits – a must-have. The soup was rich and flavourful, enough of a teaser to convince me to return to Chives as soon as possible.
I’ve been to Chives many times, but I had never seen their special dining room, a vault left behind from the days the Chives building was a bank. Part wine cellar, part romantic hideaway, probably the most unique table in the city.
With that, our tour came to an end. I’m happy to report that tour participants don’t leave empty-handed. Emily sent us off with a legendary Halifax treat, Unni’s famous florentines from Scanway, as well as detailed menu information about all of our stops.
For visitors and newcomers to our city and long-time residents alike, I guarantee you’ll learn something new and have an a lot of fun eating your way through Halifax. Just in my own experience, our group had eight people, all of whom were from Nova Scotia. Judging by the questions and the reactions as we went along, I wasn’t the only one learning a lot while enjoying the eats.
The tour is well-paced, and I thought it particularly commendable that Emily kept us moving and entertained, with the six stops and accounting for traffic and questions. I was so pleased to hear Halifax was finally going to have a food tour of its own and now I’m pleased to report the experience is definitely worth adding to a visit to Halifax.
The opinion presented about the tour is my own, and I would like to extend my thanks to Emily Forrest of Local Tasting Tours for her kind offer of a discounted ticket. Any time I receive a discount or complimentary service in my capacity as a travel blogger, I disclose it.