Tourists from across North America, city dwellers from Halifax, and neighbours from nearby communities flock to the Pictou Lodge Beach Resort to breathe in the fresh air of the Northumberland Shore, look for seashells on the beach – and indulge in great food with a local flavour.
By donalee Moulton
Photo courtesy of Pictou Lodge
“My style is rustic with an emphasis on traditional Nova Scotia ingredients,” says Chef Thomas Carey.
The focus on natural ingredients is in keeping with the laid-back atmosphere evoked by the 88-year-old resort, located only a stone’s throw from the town of Pictou, home of the famous Ship Hector, and from the Prince Edward Island Ferry, and about a 90-minute drive from the province’s capital city.
Indeed, the historic oceanside dining room offers a Taste of Nova Scotia menu, a program that requires restaurants to use at least 60 per cent local ingredients. Seafood fresh off the boat from nearby waters, seasonal organic vegetables from a neighbouring farm, and local strawberries, blueberries, maple syrup and honey all go into Carey’s creations. The extensive wine list also features Nova Scotia wines.
The lodge goes big for holidays like Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve – Carey and his team pull out all the stops to ensure the menu, the décor and atmosphere are fun and festive festive. “You want your guests to feel as well as taste how special the occasion is,” says Carey.
Last New Year’s, for example, Carey served up a buffet to tempt all tastes. The main attraction for the 200 guests in attendance: an ice sculpture on which fresh oysters were shucked. “It was a showpiece,” says Carey. “There was something to stimulate the eyes as well as the appetite.”
This year as 2014 winds to a close and we welcome the new year, Carey wants his guests to see and taste a variety of what he calls “funky” food including chicken lollipops on a skewer. Diners will do more than dig in. Carey expects to set up only two food stations; all other dishes will be served as passed hors d’ouevres, which guests will transfer from one to another.
“I like to have a cornucopia and engage all the senses,” says Carey, who begins preparing his menu six weeks in advance of a holiday and works with the front of house manager to create a decorative theme. Last Thanksgiving, for instance, the traditional family feast with fresh corn, squash, and cranberries was recreated amid bales of hay and sunflowers.
Carey’s recreations, however, always include a gastronomic twist. Apple pie, for example, becomes deep fried apple pie. “It draws people in,” says Carey, “but it keeps the roots of the tradition.”
Pictou Lodge Beach Resort’s top holiday tips:
Keep it simple. Do three items instead of six. The more dishes, the more likely something will go wrong.
Don’t go crazy with flavours. Too much variety and diversity can overwhelm people. You can have too many tastes. What’s needed is a theme that unites the menu.
Take extra time to plan. A special menu needs more time to execute properly.