15 Things You Need to Eat and Drink When You’re in Atlantic Canada
Seafood, sweets, and seaweed—what more can you ask for?
Seafood lovers, rejoice! You’re in the perfect place if you’re visiting the Atlantic Canadian region. But the Canadian provinces of Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island offer treasures from the earth as well as from the sea. From Blue Dot Prince Edward Island steak to nice, warm bowls of Nova Scotia Hodge Podge, next time you’re in Atlantic Canada, be sure to feast on these 15 delicious local treats.
If you have a sweet tooth, try a traditional Nova Scotia blueberry grunt —a sweet, summertime dessert made from fresh Nova Scotia blueberries. Essentially a cobbler, the “grunt” is made from sweet biscuit dough and is best served with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream.
Blue Dot Reserve Steak
Blue Dot is the trademark steak of Prince Edward Island. You can taste the flavorful, well-marbled AAA-grade beef at nearly any restaurant on PEI, but local chefs say that today most of it is exported to small, upscale restaurants in Toronto. One of the reasons PEI beef is so good is because of the rich, fertile soil on what has been dubbed “Canada’s Food Island.”
Blue Dot Reserve
Acadian cuisine shares many flavors and techniques with its French-Canadian neighbors, and one sweet example can be found in pets de soeurs , literally translated as “nun’s farts” (yes, nun’s farts). These traditional cinnamon rolls are also known by other names that are equally as puzzling, including bourriques de viarges , or “virgins’ belly buttons.”
Yes, seaweed can be delicious. From the shores of the Bay of Fundy in New Brunswick, dulse is red seaweed that is best served dried as a snack or rehydrated and added to sandwiches, stir-fries, and salads. It has a slightly salty taste but is packed with B vitamins, potassium, iron, and iodine. The best place to try dulse is the town of Dark Harbour on the island of Grand Manan . Along the way, you’ll be able to witness the highest tides in the world in the Bay of Fundy while the cliffs of Grand Manan will offer stunning scenery to complement your chewy, ultra-healthy treat.
In 2015, the Donair became Halifax , Nova Scotia’s official food. Although it looks a lot like its cousins (the shawarma, gyro, or doner kebab), the Halifax donair is actually pretty unique. With shaved meat served inside soft pita bread, garnished with tomatoes, onions, and nothing else, it’s the sweet sauce that makes it distinctive, addictive, and totally delicious. The best place to get a true Halifax donair is King of Donair in the shopping district of Quinpool Road; they’re the original creators of the famous recipe.
Also known as a boiled dinner, a Jigg’s Dinner is a classic homemade meal consisting of salted beef, cabbage, potatoes, carrots, turnips, pease pudding, and sometimes a boiled pudding called blueberry duff for dessert. Considered a classic Sunday lunch in the region, it’s sometimes served with a roast turkey. If you want to try it while you’re visiting Atlantic Canada, hit up local pubs and mom n’ pop diners for the best examples of this hearty, very traditional dish.
It’s always lobster season somewhere in Atlantic Canada, which means that wherever and whenever you go, there will be a chance to feast on fresh lobster. But summer is the best time to catch a traditional lobster supper at a hall like New Glasgow Lobster Suppers on Prince Edward Island or the long-running Shore Club in Hubbards on Nova Scotia (here, after the shells have been cleared away, the restaurant transforms into a raucous dance hall). Other lobster options include the lobster roll: shredded lobster meat served on a warm buttered hot dog bun, served on boardwalks across the region.
As the frost fades and the temperature rises in March, something beautiful happens in the forests of the east coast of Canada: the sap starts running on the maple trees. For a few precious weeks, the sap is collected, boiled, and turned into maple sugar, maple syrup, maple taffy, and other maple treats by sugar shack owners throughout the region. If you are lucky enough to visit New Brunswick or Nova Scotia during maple season, head to a sugar shack. Many larger operations, such as Nova Scotia’s Sugar Moon Farm , have tours and delicious brunches featuring pancakes, sausages, homemade baked beans, and, of course, maple syrup.
Newfie fries are a relatively new tradition in Newfoundland, but they’re catching on fast. In their simplest form, Newfie fries are your standard French fries smothered in dressing (stuffing) and gravy. Some places will add peas, onions, and other elements borrowed straight from classic Thanksgiving dinners. Try Newfie Fries with Pineapple Crush, a soft drink available only in Newfoundland.
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A rum 10,000 times more exciting than when it was first created in Jamaica, the allure of Newfoundland Screech comes from the tradition of being “screeched in” at Christian’s Bar on George Street in Newfoundland’s capital city of St. John’s . In this ritual, visitors down a shot of screech rum, kiss a real codfish and thus become an honorary Newfoundlander (even Anthony Bourdain joined this club).
Nova Scotia Hodge Podge
Nova Scotia Hodge Podge is a summertime stew of fresh potatoes, green and yellow beans, carrots, fresh peas, butter, and cream. The recipe is simple: you boil the vegetables in the order of what needs the most cooking (potatoes first), then add the butter, salt, pepper, and cream. Hodge Podge can be found on menus at various small restaurants and diners along Nova Scotia’s south shore, like the Shelburne Café . In season, you might also see it as a special at local diners in Halifax.
Prince Edward Island Oysters
The oyster industry on Prince Edward Island has exploded in recent years as new forms of aquaculture enable the salty bays that surround Canada’s smallest province to overflow with cultured oyster beds. PEI oysters have catchy brand names like Green Gables and Lucky Limes , a clean flavor, and a sweet finish. The good news is you can get PEI oysters at most seafood restaurants and oyster bars all over Atlantic Canada. Eat them freshly shucked, with a dash of mignonette sauce.
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Pickled herring, or Solomon Gundy as it’s known here, is nothing new to the world, but the way they make it in Nova Scotia is pretty special. Soft, fat slices of herring, pickled in a jar with onions, give the more traditional “rollmops” (as they’re known in Europe) a run for their money. This is not a rare delicacy in this region, so the best place to buy a jar is from the local grocery store in the seafood section.
Fiddleheads, technically the top part of the Ostrich fern, are abundant in the wet woods of New Brunswick in April and May and will appear on menus at fine dining restaurants during this time. Or why not head out on an adventure to forage your own? Served well-cooked, there’s nothing more delicious than a bowlful of soft green ferns steamed with butter and a dash of salt and pepper.
Tidal Bay Wine From Annapolis Valley
The Tidal Bay white wine appellation, established in 2012, is unique to Nova Scotia and contains only Nova Scotian grapes. Acidic and fresh, the distinct flavor is an excellent companion to seafood. There are several wineries in Nova Scotia’s Annapolis Valley that produce Tidal Bay, and many ways to visit them, including wine bus tours . While you’re there, be sure to sample the equally acclaimed sparkling whites.