Sunday, June 29, 2008

Pull pork at Coco Pesto Bistro

As mentioned in my previous post about Opera Bistro, I have a particular fondness for restaurants serving fresh, local Bay of Fundy ingredients in creative ways. Another of my favorite dining experiences is Coco Pesto Bistro, located in the Woodshire Inn, in Windsor, Nova Scotia. This bistro opened nearly two years ago and, in my opinion, was quite a refreshing addition to the mostly pub and fast food dining scene in this part of the bay.

The Bistro reflects the seasonal abundance of our region, with three licensed dining rooms and outdoor terraced dining. An applewood fired smoker provides diners with the opportunity to enjoy such favourites as dry-rub pork ribs, smoky pulled pork on a bun and signature sauces such as house-made, smoked, sweet pepper compote. Coco Pesto also offers a fine menu of local and international wines. Due to the Bistro's popularity, reservations are recommended!!

Friday, June 27, 2008

A sample of dyked farmland - Shepody Marsh

Further to my last post about dyked farmland around the Bay of Fundy, here's a great view of reclaimed land, the Shepody Marsh, in Albert County, New Brunswick. I snapped this photo just as I stepped out of my car on Route 114 between Hopewell Rocks and Riverside-Albert.

If you get your magnifying glass out for this photo you may even be able to see the teeny tiny cows grazing happily in the fertile fields. There's also a ridge of dyke cresting the top edge of this picture where the fields meet Chignecto Bay (one of Fundy's two smaller upper bays).

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Farmland below sea level?

Here's a peculiar sign that often catches the interest of passersby in the village of Grand Pre, Nova Scotia; it says: "GRAND PRE DYKE 3013 acres below sea level"

Now, you may wonder exactly how this can be so read on "...behind 28455 feet of dyke."

The fact is: a high proportion of our most fertile coastal farmland around the Bay of Fundy is actually reclaimed salt marsh. What's even more interesting is that many of these dykes were constructed in the 1700s by our earliest European settlers (who became the Acadians) from France.

Although some of these dykes eventually eroded so that several low-lying areas reverted to salt marshes, hundreds of miles of dyked farmland still exists in the upper part of the Bay in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.

If you know what you are looking at you can see dykes in dozens of coastal, flat field locations quite clearly as you drive or walk by. In some communities, such from Wolfville to Canning, Nova Scotia, the top ridge of the dyke has become a popular walking & mountain biking trail!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Blueberry lavender scones

My small veg and herb garden is coming along nicely; it's responding well to our 25-30 degree sunny June days and foggy evenings. Like many folks in our gardening zone, I struggle away with indoor potted herbs all winter only to breath a sign of relief when summer's warmth arrives.

I got this recipe from Alive (Canadian Health magazine) awhile ago. It's an strange one that combines two great tastes: blueberry and lavender. This is when you need to remember that lavender is an herb (related to the mint family) and not a perfume! These scones are a bit odd but really quite endearing...

Blueberry Lavender Scones
3 c. all-purpose flour
1/4 c sugar
1 T baking powder
1 t. dried lavender buds or 2 t chopped fresh lavender
1/2 t salt
3/4 c cold unsalted butter, diced
3/4 c + 1 T milk
1/4 honey (or maple syrup)
2 t vanilla extract
1/2 c dried blueberries
icing sugar for dusting

Oven at 375.

Place all dry ingredients in a large bowl. Cut in butter until it resembles coarse meal. Stir together liquid ingredients in a separate bowl; add to dry ingredients. Mix just until dough comes together. Mix in dried blueberries.

Turn dough onto floured surface. Roll twice to 1 in thickness, each time folding in half (secret to a flaky scone). Roll dough into 3/4 in. thickness, cut into shapes. Place on cookie tray, brush with remaining milk, bake for 15 to 18 minutes until tops browned. Makes 12.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Exploring Cape d'Or Lighthouse

Here's a post that can easily fit in both the 'lighthouse' and 'places to eat' categories of my blog: the Cape d'Or Lighthouse. Cape d'Or is one of the best places to see Fundy's tidal rips: wild, upwelling tidal currents.

The site also offers a panoramic view of the upper part of the Bay of Fundy in the exact location where it splits into its two smaller bays: Chignecto Bay and the Minas Basin. And, even better, there is an amazing restaurant in one of the former lightkeeper's houses (the other house is used as a tourist guest house!).

Here a fun video of Darcy, the operator of the restaurant and guest house describing what makes Cape d'Or so cool.

Although the lighthouse was de-staffed in 1989 (automated), there's been a fog whistle at Cape d'Or since 1875 to warn mariners of the Cape's extreme tidal rips. Now the site is a great reward for those who take the time to drive 20 minutes up the dirt road from the nearby village of Advocate Harbour, Nova Scotia. One caution though: the cliffs are quite extreme here, ranging from 300 to 500 feet sheer vertical drop so this is not a great place to visit with little kids.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Whale watching season has begun

We're fortunate to have various whale watch tour companies in the Bay of Fundy. All the folks operate in the "Fundy Aquarium" ecozone off the coasts of Digby Neck, Long & Brier Islands (in Nova Scotia) and St Andrews & the Fundy Isles - Grand Manan, Deer & Campobello Islands (in New Brunswick).

Now, I have to caution you: this isn't Seaworld we're talking about here...our whales move around a wide radius at the wide mouth of the bay and can't be "called with a whistle". Still, being on the water and being part of the search for whales here, in their summer migratory feeding ground, is part of the adventure! Our whale watch companies (who also, by the way, follow a strict whale watching Code of Ethics) are quite adept at locating the areas where Fundy's upwelling tidal currents stir up lotsa good whale food. Where there is whale food there are whales!

The first reported whale sightings happened this week: some finbacks & humpbacks. Check out a couple of the whale watch blogs to get the scoop: Brier Island Whale Watch (NS) and Quoddy Link Marine (NB). This is a photo of a humpback's fluke (tail). Our humpbacks are named by our whale researchers and are completely identifiable by their tail markings: this one's name is Moustache.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Vote for Fundy in New7Natural Wonders of World

I've been busy for the past few weeks trying to get the Bay of Fundy officially nominated in the New 7 Wonders of Nature contest.

For awhile now, it's been bothering me that the Bay of Fundy occasionally turns up on various lists of "7 Forgotten Wonders of the World"... I mean, really....

So, last year, I was intently following the contest for the 7 New Wonders of the World; the winners of which were announced in Lisbon on 07.07.07. That initiative was so successful that the 7Wonders folks decided to run a second contest this year for the New 7 Wonders of Nature.

I'm pleased to report that, as of today, the Bay of Fundy is a official nominee. You can go on the 7 Wonders website to vote. Over 1 billion votes worldwide are expected in the contest which will last 'til the end of this year. And the people speak....

Monday, June 16, 2008

Take the road less traveled

Here's a Bay of Fundy travel tip: be sure to get off the main highway and explore the secondary roads! Today I traveled a coastal section of the Bay of Fundy from Margaretsville to Hampton, Nova Scotia.

It had been many years since I'd taken particular roadway but it was absolutely delightful. There are several small ports along this shore; all of which are great places to see the vertical tidal effect of the Bay. Access this section of coast by going up (west) over the North Mountain outside Bridgetown (at one end) or at Middleton (the other end). Total kilometres about 30.

As luck would have it, I was passing by at low tide so I was able to snap these photos. You might like to take along a map but do allow yourself to 'get lost' a bit along this coast (and don't worry, the locals will help...we love helping visitors find themselves on the BoF).

Sunday, June 15, 2008

My first restaurant review

Okay, I can't take it any longer.... I've been resisting making suggestions for dining experiences around the Bay of Fundy because, well, I've got a confession to make: if I tell you about my favorite places to eat you'll never find the best Bay of Fundy hamburger or steak. The thing is: I don't eat red meat so any thoughts I'm going to share in my new blog category: "best places to eat" are going to focus on fresh, local, regional, sometimes seasonal cuisine that's veg, fish or chicken served up in picturesque or artful settings around the Bay of Fundy. If you're up for this kind of culinary adventure then hop aboard!

So... allow me to introduce my first memorable dining experience: Opera Bistro in Saint John, New Brunswick. I like Opera so much that I ate there several days in a row this week. Owners Margret and Axel Begner (Chef) have infused Opera's decor, service and menu with their infectious European flair and charm. The menu (and wine list) is creative, eclectic and fun!

This photo shows me agonizing over which flavour of tartlette or homemade gelato to take back to the hotel for a midnight snack...would that we all faced this dilemma daily!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Saint John favourite places

I enjoyed the first really summery summer night this week while in the "Fundy city", Saint John, New Brunswick. It was a perfect night for a walk along Harbour Passage and the Hilton hotel boardwalk on the waterfront.

I don't have a category on my blog for favourite places around the Bay of Fundy to enjoy a Guiness but if I did then the Brigantine Pub in the Saint John Hilton (at end of the boardwalk on the right side of my photo) would be the spot. The Brig's outdoor deck overlooks the bustling harbour, where coast guard vessels, tug boats, tour boats and even cruise ships come and go. At the Brig the glasses are frosted, the staff is delightful and the Guiness is fresh off the boat from Ireland!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Sand sculpture competition at New River Beach

When I introduced you to New River Beach a few posts ago, I forgot to mention a really fun event that has taken place there every year for the past 23 years: the sand sculpture competition! Folks of all ages come out to stake their claim to a patch of sandy beach in exchange for a donation to the local food bank.

The only limit to the number of teams participating is the size of the beach! The event is held on a different day every July - needs to be one of the really low tide days. This year it's July 26 (rain date July 27). Locals, assorted radio personalities from the area and tourists enjoy the even as participants and spectators.

This is a fun photo of some nasty sand pirates and their treasure chest! arrrr, maties!

Monday, June 09, 2008

Weir fishing on the Bay of Fundy

You've probably figured out by now that I'm easily intrigued by all aspects of life and work around our beautiful Bay of Fundy.

Weir fishing is just another ordinary occurrence that I think is really neat. Last year I posted some video of the guys in action during the 2x daily spring harvest.

This year I met their truck coming up from the beach as I arrived, however, my dog (see a teeny tiny yellow lab in the photo) and I enjoyed exploring the clean, empty weir at sunset. Click here for weir fishing FAQs.

P.S. When the tide is in it's at the top of those poles - that's part of the 50 ft tide thing we have going here!

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Rhubarb's going crazy!

Conditions around the Bay of Fundy are absolutely perfect for growing rhubarb and this year, especially, our rhubarb is going crazy - I've got some stalks that are over 2 feet long!

After the wild harvest of fiddleheads a couple weeks ago, rhubarb is the first 'edible' from most people's spring gardens. Indeed, rhubarb is the perfect cool weather perennial for our region. It prefers at least 2 months rest in frozen winter ground (under a blanket of snow - even better), slightly acidic soil, and lots of sun & rain in spring. I also have a theory that rhubarb loves fog!

Winter freeze-up of its roots makes rhubarb immune to most pests and diseases so it's an ideal candidate for organic growing. I do absolutely nothing to my rhubarb and it faithfully produces more stocks than we can eat each spring! Took this photo in the garden today...

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Another type of Fundy beach: sandy!!

Just looking over my collection of beachscape posts and realizing that you may think all our Bay of Fundy beaches are full of sculpted cliffs and massive boulders - yikes! not so....

Here's a great example of a Bay of Fundy beach that could rival those of Florida or California:
New River Beach, located in Lepreau (between Saint John & St Andrews, New Brunswick). This is a perfect 'umbrella beach' for sunning, frolicking in the sand and, yes, even swimming. (well, maybe the water is a bit cooler here than it is in Florida!).

There is also the site of New River Beach Provincial Park with camping, boardwalk & trail hiking, etc.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Amazed (again) by Fundy geology

Although I make a point of checking out Fundy's various geology exhibits, such as those at the New Brunswick Museum, Hopewell Rocks, Fundy Geological Museum and Joggins Fossil Cliffs, there is really nothing quite like taking a guided interpretive hike along the beach at low tide tagging along with someone who knows what they're seeing!

Last week, a visit from an Outpost Adventure Magazine travel writer gave me a great excuse to take a few hours away from the office to take in a Fundy Geological Museum Field Trip with its curator.

We took an awe inspiring walk on the ocean floor alongside about 350 million years of towering basalt and smooth sandstone cliffs. It reminded me that the Bay of Fundy's geological tale is vast; it's about dividing continents, glacial deposits, rift valleys, reefs, tropical sea, desert sands and volcanic flows. Indeed, it's the tale of the Bay of Fundy then and now.

These museum field trips take in various sections of coast around Parrsboro, Nova Scotia, on a regular schedule throughout June, July & August; otherwise for group and school bookings. By the way, such tours are also a very safe way to explore our tidal coast.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Fundy blog in the news

Well, this is article about my blog just ended up on the front page of the business section of Nova Scotia provincial paper. Interesting how new media and traditional media are starting to overlap! Here's the article at Chronicle Herald online.