Sunday, August 30, 2015

Halifax; Fredie's Fantastic Fish

During our stay in Halifax we took a whole afternoon to visit Peggy's Cove and Lunenburg, located at a rather short distance from the city. Before heading there I suggested we make a stop at Fredie's for lunch.

The place is basically a small fast food joint specialized in fish and chips, lobster rolls, and fried clams. Located in a suburban type of outdoor shopping center it's quite popular despite its location and size.

We were quite curious and eager to try out the food there after reading mostly favorable reviews online and after seeing the relatively good prices they had to offer. When we got there we could clearly see the cooking station and there were quite a bunch of locals seated having lunch or waiting for their order to take out. They don't have many seats so we considered lucky to have spots. You may choose to sit directly at the counter right across the fryer and stove tops or by the windows.

We decided to go for a lobster roll, Newfie fries, and a half seafood sample platter.

The lobster roll was quite simple, with a light dressing and some green lettuce at the bottom. The roll was soft and fresh. There was much more lobster than what we had from Dave's as you can tell from all the meat overflowing from the roll and onto the plate.

Instead of getting regular fries we traded them for Newfie fries, which are basically fries covered with gravy and seasoned fresh bread crumbs. The fries were fresh off the deep fryer, crispy outside and fluffy inside. The portion was actually quite big and we didn't finish it, and we liked it though we did think to ourselves someone probably came up with that recipe while drunk or high.

The half seafood sampler platter was also a lot of food : deep fried clams, a few scallops, a piece of haddock, and a side of fries.

The haddock was fresh and covered in a generous amount of golden batter. The scallops were soft and buttery. The clams were crunchy outside and had their distinctive flavor and texture that may weird out some people but that I actually enjoy. We barely touched the fries because it was too much even if they were good on their own.

The staff at Fredie's was very friendly with us. Once our order was ready a lovely lady brought it directly to us where we were seated. Everyone in the place also spotted us quite fast because we came in while talking to each other in French, and so the cashier asked us where we were from and that she did learn French at some point in school but never got to use it in real life. When we left they all said thank you and wished us a nice stay in Halifax.

Overall our experience at Fredie's was pleasurable, the food was good, and the prices were interesting. Far from being a fancy place (it looks like a small diner from the 60s) they seem to put much more care and love into the food than the decor. Honestly if you have the chance to pass by or if it happens to be somewhat on your way then you should do the small detour. You won't regret it.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Halifax; Peggy's Cove and Lunenburg

Going to Halifax just to go to Halifax isn't the most exciting thing to do. During our stay there, we decided to take a day to get out of the little city and explore a bit. Phil's father had suggested we go to Peggy's Cove and Lunenburg. So we did.

Both destinations aren't too far from the city. On our way to Peggy's Cove we realized how landscapes around Canadian highways look pretty similar from a place to another. Okay maybe not all Canadian highways look the same, but you get what I mean.

When we got to Peggy's Cove we parked the car and started walking towards the rocks which act as a limit between the peninsula's land and the Atlantic Ocean. It was quite windy and cloudy that day, and being close to the water wasn't quite helping and we were shivering despite wearing appropriate clothing. Or in my case, let's pretend it was appropriate (mini dress and raincoat is such a killer combination).

While Phil was being cautious about where he'd set foot, I couldn't help myself but jump from rock to rock, then realizing that if my foot got caught between rocks I would be more than just screwed.

Despite being a highly visited touristic place, the surroundings are actually quite dangerous. Warning signs are all over the place, telling people to stay away from the black rocks (basically those that are wet) and to watch their step.

As you can tell from the human figures standing next to it, the lighthouse itself is quite modest in height and size. The lighthouse is obviously painted frequently, because it looked very well maintained. Salt water is known as being destructive for buildings, especially in windy areas. If you want to know what buildings that have been exposed to such elements should look like if not cared for, Marseille in France is full of them.

But why do people go to Peggy's Cove? To admire the lighthouse and risk getting killed by slipping on rocks, but also because it's sort of a getaway from the city. Mother Nature has designed the region in such a way that whether you are a fan of hiking, kayaking, or whale watching, there is something for everyone on this natural playground.

Unfortunately, or fortunately, the success of the region has turned it into a very touristic kind of area. Most of the buildings you come across are restaurants, equipment rentals, bed and breakfast, souvenir shops, or cottages. I had the feeling that not many people actually lived there, and if they did, it's probably because they had a business in the area.

After seeing what we wanted to see and fooling around in the souvenirs shop, we hoped in the car and drove to Lunenburg.

On our way there I would stare at the landscape and find myself amazed by the sight. I didn't take pictures (I can't stand snapping pictures in a moving vehicle) but imaging rocky lands covered in small sturdy trees and bushes and a wide variety of flowers, weeds, and plants that can survive tough conditions. It was beautiful.

When we got to Lunenburg my brain almost short circuited by all the vibrant colors in which the buildings were painted.

Remember in my post about the Waterfront Boardwalk, I mentioned how memorials were just all over the place? They also are in Lunenburg.

Just like Peggy's Cove, this small village is an enjoyable way of getting away from the city life. Obviously, close to the water you will find restaurants, shops, and so on. It's also a UNESCO Heritage Site and it is considered one of the prettiest cities in Canada. I can understand why.

The waterfront, however not as extended as Halifax's, has undergone a few aesthetic renovations to make it as pleasurable as possible.

If you walk away from the water you will come across a few interesting findings, such as this church painted in black and white.

Eras and styles just seem to mingle in this small city. I haven't seen much that seemed like new construction, but rather well maintained buildings that have changed purpose over time and have been renovated or modified rather than teared down.

Because my eyes are always all over the place and don't miss the oddest details, I couldn't help but observe that commercial streets would have elaborate fish signs hanging.

The person who chose the colors for the cladding and moldings of this house (now used as a commercial/office space) is simply brilliant.

I wasn't a fan of the color scheme for the Masonic Temple, but if ever you are interested, now you know there is a Masonic Temple in Lunenburg.

Hey look, a little something of our home city!

When we passed by that bench Phil said "The guy there is Bob ... and that one is Bob ... and that's Bob."

After seeing enough of the city we decided to go back to Halifax. I have to admit I wish I could have had a view on the village from the other shore, because that's where the view is most interesting, as you can see from the pictures on the Town of Lunenburg's website.

And so that's it for today. If you are in the area, you can always get a peek at the Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic, do a tour of the marina, or even take the time to visit the various galleries and admire the local artisans' works. After all, how could one not get inspired when they are surrounded with nature and such vibrant colors?

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Halifax; Phil's Seafood

As you may have guessed, one of the reasons why we went to Halifax was to enjoy fish and seafood that hasn't spent hours or days in a freezer or on ice on the way to Montreal. After spending a whole afternoon on the Waterfront Boardwalk, we decided to grab something to eat before heading back to the motel.

Though Halifax has a few fancy restaurants, we wanted to keep it as simple and rustic as possible. We also didn't want to spend too much and risk being disappointed. I had seen reviews online about Phil's Seafood and Phil thought "Well it's Phil's, it has to be good, obviously." That guy.

We got there slightly before actual normal people's dinner time so it was only us and a couple. The place is quite big and clean, with no feeling of pretension at all in the decor.

Their specialty is obviously seafood and fish. Apparently chowder is a thing to try while you're in Nova Scotia. Phil decided to go for the fish chowder, made with fresh haddock.

For my part I went for the seafood chowder, which contains shrimp, scallops, and lobster.

We were quite surprised with the portions we got and thought we should have went for cups of chowder instead of bowls. The broth was light and very flavorful and fragrant. However I think the texture and the presentation would have been more interesting it they used bigger chunks of fish and seafood. Served with some crackers and a roll of white bread, we soon realized we were going to have trouble eating the remaining of our order.

Speaking of which, we also ordered deep fried clams. As weird as it may sound, it is a legit thing in Nova Scotia. We decided to try out this specialty and see for ourselves if it really is that amazing.

Those were lightly breaded in flour and then deep fried and served with a slice of lemon. Clams have a chewy texture outside and a mussel-like texture inside. Deep frying them made certain parts crispy so the whole thing was sort of a game of textures. Phil wasn't exactly a fan of them because he thought it was kind of weird but I thought that was an interesting way of eating clams. The breading was light and seasoned just right, and a fresh squeeze of lemon with some hot sauce was all it needed.

As if that wasn't enough, we also ordered a seafood platter : shrimp, scallops, and a piece of haddock, all breaded and deep fried, and served with hand cut fries. It was served with a side of cocktail sauce.

Unlike what I'm used to when I order fish and chips, theirs was breaded in flour instead of battered. It gave it a much lighter texture, the fish surprisingly still moist without being wet, and the whole thing was tender enough so we didn't even need to use a knife. The shrimp were quite big and the scallops were juicy, though a little bit overdone because they had a slight rubbery texture. The fries were rather disappointing (but I'm difficult when it comes to fries), and I'm thinking it's probably because they had been cut too much in advance, so the time spent in the fridge removed a lot of crispiness.

Overall we had great service and the portions were huge. We actually took a doggy bag for the clams because we couldn't finish them and barely touched the fries. For a restaurant that's not trying to prove anything in a pretentious way, we thought we had a good deal for our money, but some items could have been better. At least the fish and the seafood were fresh, which makes a difference, but there is a little lack of fineness in the execution.

Don't worry, because this place has great potential, but some things need to be worked out a little bit more. And so that's it for today. Until next time!

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Halifax; Cows and Dave's Lobster

On our second day in Halifax we decided to take it easy on the Waterfront Boardwalk. Being an important touristic attraction, it's the perfect place to open up a restaurant or a shack and ensure you will always have customers. Well at least during the Summer time. Since people just walk around, they will eventually stumble upon your eatery.

Obviously, just like any touristic part of any city, just because a restaurant is located there and seems to be doing great business doesn't mean it's good. Since I didn't want us to fall into the tourists' trap, I did some research online before heading out just to know which places on the Boardwalk are worth trying and which ones are to be avoided based on the quality of food and service or how bad it could hurt our wallets.

Right in the historic properties we stumbled upon Cows, a Prince Edward Island based ice cream parlors chain. More than just an ice cream bar, it's also a store that sells t-shirts and lots of fun stuffs featuring cows. Yes, there are cows all over the place. More cows than you'd find in Switzerland.

We got in out of curiosity. The ice cream flavours all looked delicious, including classics such as cookie dough, chocolate, and strawberry, as well as funky ones like bubble gum or birthday cake. Some recipes sounded just as amazing with funny names Cowsrispy crunch and Wowie Cowie. They had my favorite flavour, pecan nut maple, but I decided to go for the PEI apple crisp.

The single scoop (a generous scoop by the way) on a waffle cone is about five bucks with the taxes and it's totally worth it. Though it tasted a bit like diabetes, it really felt like someone had taken an actual apple crisp pie and mixed it with vanilla ice cream.

So rich and delicious, I can understand the popularity of the place and the notoriety of the chain. Too bad we don't have one in Montreal! So if you have the chance to stumble upon a Cows somewhere in Canada, stop by, even if you're lactose intolerant. It will be worth the pain.

Located in the more crowded spot of the Boardwalk is Dave's Lobster, which I had read online had good stuff. After all we came to Halifax to relax and have lobster, and we were starting to be hungry so we gave it a try.

The selection isn't big because their specialty is lobster roll. On the menu is the Local, the Some Fancy, the Lobster Taco, and the Featured Lobster Roll. The Featured that day was a half half of the Local and the Some Fancy.

All meals come with a dill pickle (a big one by the way) and a small bag of Covered Bridge Potato Chips. Phil decided to go for the Some Fancy.

The Some Fancy is simply lobster warmed in butter, served on a grilled roll, and topped with chives. Simple, delicious. We're both not fans of lobster overly done with tons of dressing.

For my part I decided to try the Lobster Taco.

Basically lobster tossed in some mayo, lime, cilantro, and a bit of chili pepper, served on top of a simple coleslaw and in a soft tortilla shell than topped with fresh cilantro. Once again it was very simple but good as it was, though I would have liked a little bit less coleslaw. I had a bit of trouble eating my taco and even dropped two pieces of lobster (did I cry? I tried not to).

The portions we had were quite generous. Perhaps it wasn't one whole lobster each (or maybe it was but it wasn't a big lobster) but it was at least a whole claw and the whole tail in one serving. You can tell they put care into what they do because we had to actually wait for our food. The lobster mixes are made to order and they make sure the presentation is pleasing to the eyes (it doesn't look like it was just dumped onto the roll or the tortilla). I have to admit the bill was a little bit high : it came to about 18$ each with the taxes. Still affordable considering the size of the portions and the location. Oh and the potato chips? Great choice. From the pickle, to the lobster roll, to the chips, everything was of good quality.

And so that's it for what the food we had on the Boardwalk. Restaurants and shacks are all over the place so whatever you like you'll find it and won't starve. However look out for the quality and the bill : some of those places are not that worth it from reviews online. Still, if you happen to take a stroll on the Waterfront, pay a visit to Cows and Dave's Lobster. You won't regret it.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Halifax; Waterfront Boardwalk

Hey guys! Two weeks ago I was on vacations for the first time in ... I can't even recall. The week before as I was having dinner with Phil I said "I'm on vacation soon. I wanna go somewhere". He responded "Well, let's go to Halifax" "K" I said. And that was it. We booked a room at the Four Season Motel located just a few minutes away from the city center.

Because I can't drive (don't worry I'm working on this) Phil drove all the way there and on the way back, a good thirteen hours non stop (26 hours in total for the whole trip). Do I feel bad? Kind of, but he knew that's how we were going to deal this out. So on Monday the 20th we left Montreal and got there during the night.

On Tuesday we decided to pay a visit to the Waterfront where, apparently, there is a lot to do and see. Being naturally attracted to water I thought it was a good idea to just chill by the water and take it easy. Also, I wanted to see if their waterfront could measure up to Toronto's (it actually does considering the much smaller scale of Halifax). Truthfully Halifax is such a small city there isn't a lot to do anyway. We parked the car at one of the Waterfront's parking lots and started walking.

The Waterfront being a touristic destination as well as a historic site, some of the original settlements have been preserved and that part of the city is protected. It did undergo a lot of changes over the centuries so whenever possible bits of history such and anchors or memorials can be found around.

Here is a mandatory picture of a child playing with bubbles. Just because.

Store, souvenirs boutiques, and restaurants are the new tenants of the old houses located in the historic properties. Being a historic site the rent must be quite high, so expect to spend a few bucks more than you would elsewhere.

That place right there, the Lower Deck, is apparently a very good place to spend the evening at according to reviews online. Besides, just look at the facade. Isn't it inviting?

Have a picture of a badass lobster riding a motorcycle. Just because.

Located just a bit south from the historic properties is a part of the Boardwalk where people can hop on a boat for a tour of the surroundings. Many shacks selling snacks, food, jewelry and souvenirs are also located in that part. We found it was also the most crowded part of the Boardwalk.

After sitting down to eat a lobster roll, we decided to head to the Alexander Keith's brewery for a guided tour of the notorious home of the famous Nova Scotia's IPA. We happened to have our student IDs and benefited from a discount on the regular admission fees as well as an extra 15% reduction for a limited-time promotion.

Most of the building is exactly as it had always been since 1820. The tour lasts about an hour and the guides are dressed in clothing that resembles the fashion of the 1860s. They also speak with what I think is supposed to sound like the accent from back then. After hearing the history of Mr. Keith and the brewery, you get to have a peak at the process of beer making and also get to have a few samples of IPA and Red in what used to be the pub. The guides also tell you funny stories and sing songs in their beautiful voices.

After coming out by the tunnel Mr. Keith would use to roll barrels of beer to his friends at the pub, we kept heading south on the Boardwalk, where the development is more modern, with mixed used buildings, apartment complexes, and restaurants.

The huge glass building right here seems to be the head quarters of Emera. Knowing that there is a design school in Halifax I thought it was one of its buildings but turns out I was wrong. Oops.

If you keep heading south you'll come across the Seaport, home of the market of the same name, the Garrison Brewing Company, the Canadian Museum of Immigration, as well as the Cunard Center.

Farmers' markets being a very popular thing in Quebec (and in Montreal all year round) we decided to take a look inside and maybe try some things out. Unfortunately we realized that even though a few stands were there, the farmers and artisans actually come over on the weekends. The place was basically almost empty.

We didn't visit the other "attractions" because we honestly weren't in the mood for them so we walked back north.

Right next to the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic is the information kiosk as well as playgrounds for the young ones. We thought about going to the museum later in the evening but ended up not going. Now I kinda regret not going.

People are not supposed to climb on the wave but the ground has been padded anyway because of course people will want to climb it. I had to restrain myself from climbing on it because I didn't want Phil to be ashamed of being seen with such a child like me (those who know well you know I have the tendency to climb whatever I can).

As I was taking pictures of the children playing Phil said "Admit it, you want kids". Pffff no.

After all that walking and sightseeing, and considering the fact that we slept like crap the night before, we decided to go grab something to eat, grab some beers and chips, head back to the motel and be couch potatoes. We watched that weird episode of South Park in which goth kids are being turned into emo kids by emo plants.

And so that's it for now! We didn't experience Halifax's nightlife because we're both lazy introverts and because it doesn't seem to be the number one reason why people visit Halifax. Also, I don't know if it had anything to do with the fact that it was the construction holidays, but we realized there were a lot of Quebecers all over the place. Exactly when you try to get away from home, home is following you ...
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