MORNING COFFEE AT THE OLD APOTHECARY

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MORNING COFFEE AT THE OLD APOTHECARY

I feel a connection to Women Like Laura MacLeod;  Owner, baker and conceptual force behind The Old Apothecary Bakery. Women like Laura have reinvented themselves many times  career wise following various creative  veins and never wavering in strong entrepreneurial spirit. In Laura’s case her interior design background belts out the harmony in the culinary symphony that is The Old Apothecary.

I was at first drawn in by the siren Song of the salted Caramel Brownies, and the prospect of life changing croissants and chocolate Eclairs. Going to a real bakery is one of the most indulgent things I can think of to do in an afternoon without busting my budget for luxury. For a very modest price you buy a little piece of happiness. You pick from a glass case of handmade art and watch with baited breath as your selection is packaged. The packaging is as much a part of the experience as the selection and consumption.  My eclair was packaged in a sliding brown paper matchbox and stamped with the Apothecary Logo in black ink. I suspect Laura’s daughter Katie a graphic design graduate of NASCAD is behind the logo and branding. Today I use that box to hold pens for guests on my tours to fill out surveys. I’ve learned over time that food, in particular pastry, is best enjoyed fresh. I can’t, no matter how I may want to, draw out the experience by saving my eclaire for the “right moment”. This is art you can’t hold on to, it must be enjoyed in the now. This is a good lesson for me, one  I’ve tried to apply  to the rest of my life. IMG_1992.JPG

The day I discovered the Old Apothecary as my weekly book club hangout and morning coffee refuge, Laura was baking Bread.  Katie, had just served me a pour over coffee, rich, fortifying, and never acidic or bitter. I sat on an industrial looking stool that on closer inspection proved to be constructed out of black iron pipe fittings. Nice. I struck up a conversation with Laura opening with how happy I was to be in out the rain, warm, and wrapped in the smell of baking. True to it’s namesake, the Building used to be an Apothecary, and is of the same lineage of most of the heritage district adjacent part of Barrington Street. It’s one of those places that sets the imagination alight. The kind of space in which  you daydream about a life of creative leisure.

“Have you been upstairs?’ Laura breaks through my reverie. I shake my head revealing that I haven’t. Dusting her hands and setting the timer, she steps from behind the partition. “come on!” Sliding off my stool as if hypnotized, I follow her gesturing hand as she leads me toward a flight of stairs as creaky as they are steep.

I have dreams occasionally while I’m sleeping where I suddenly ascend a set of stairs and discover a whole new living space. These dreams stay with me as something I treasure for days. There is always an accompanying feeling of  expansion and euphoric creative possibility that follows me into my waking life.  I can only describe the experience of going up the Apothecary stairs for the first time as a real life version of one of these dreams. It isn’t often as adults  we get to step through the looking glass, but  that day I did. The room happened to be empty and soft diffused light filtered through the large windows and set the scene in dramatic relief. Sanded wooden floors, and exposed brick walls. The space sizzled with potential making the creative side of me giddy. Slowly I began taking in the furnishings. A collection of victorian rescues given new life with glossy white paint on the wood facing. Brocade upholstery accelerated in hues of lime green and unapologetic teal.  One half of a claw foot tub invited me to sit on a cushion of  vintage  avocado vinyl.  Small end tables mingled casually in hot pink.  I squeaked with delight and jumped into the room with a gleeful abandon I haven’t experienced since I was a child, discovering the ball pit at IKEA.IMG_2044.JPG

 I flitted from chair to chair swinging my feet and affecting various conversational poses. IMG_2043.JPG

A group of my girlfriends and I now meet here weekly for an hour or so to soak in the atmosphere, eat pastry  and  enjoy eachothers company. Officially,  we call ourselves a book club. I listen as people come up the stairs hoping to overhear a snippet of joyful discovery in the conversation. The comments are all the same. “look!- No really! LOOK!” and “This is what my house would look like if I lived by myself!”  or “ It’s like my grandmother's living room…..if my grandmother had been cool!”  Laura and Katie have created and gifted Halifax with a space that unlocks something very magical and childlike in us all.

As the space expands it is my understanding that the menu will also. More and more lunchables are appearing in the glass case and I understand there will soon be fresh pasta on offer. Behind the cash a bread schedule advises what’s fresh that day. The quiche tastes as good as it smells while it’s baking, and I’ve been told by aficionados that the croissants are world class. Come early, they often sell out.  The upstairs is available for private functions and for my next gift occasion I’ve asked for tickets to a High Tea. Held on Sunday’s, tickets available on the website.

As I said I’m out and about a lot right now, discovering as much as I can about the City so I can show it off this tour season. I’ll keep you posted on what I’m finding!! logo fr facebook - Copy.jpg

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Rachael Sheppard

localtastingtours.com

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An afternoon at Morris East

Morris East

I’m out and about a lot over lunch time these days, talking to restaurants and getting ready for the 2016 season. There are so many great options for quick affordable mid-day meals, I decided to start writing about them. I love the lunch trade. It bustles, it moves quickly and with purpose. I get happily swept away in a sea of creativity. Meetings happen, strategies are discussed, and an innovative menu comes to life. All of this dances inside of a design concept. To me, this is art in real time.  I sit taking it all in, enjoying the warmth and indulging in the buzz. My own ideas often spring to life in this setting and I try to keep up. Pouring words across a page with one hand, a fork, spoon or sandwich held firmly in the other. This is living!

It was a Cold Crisp early March day as I Made my way to 5212 Morris Street  home of the Halifax Location of Morris East. Although I’ve been many times before, this place always holds an air of magic and the expectation that something new and exciting is going to happen. I was swept in by blustery winds, relieved to be out of the cold and taken immediately to a cozy two top. My server offered to take my heavy winter coat, a nice touch since I’d been dragging it around all day. A sign out front advised me that for lunch I could have soup or salad and  any nine inch pizza from the menu for $13. This was a no brainer. Great price and in the cold, my stomach had been growling all along Barrington Street for something hot, cheesy and Melty. IMG_2030.JPG

I sighed with pleasure and took in my surroundings. At first glance the dining room appears small, I would estimate seating for roughly 40 at full capacity. As you sit however, the space  expands around you. The ceilings are high, and because of the full length unadorned windows every table is bathed in sunlight. Sitting in a sunny window in Halifax in March should be prescribed medicine in my opinion. There is something deeply healing too about the exposed brick walls warmed by the real-deal woodfired pizza oven kicking out heat and making the air smell heavenly. Jennie Dobbs is the creator and owner of Morris East and her concept has an impressive vibe. It’s at once edgy and new with roots that speak of time honored tradition and craftship. Roots that reach deep into the community. Jennie’s list of local suppliers is inspiring! As I enjoy a cup of hot rich coffee with cream, I further peruse my settings. Lipstick red chairs accent perfectly with lime green tile. Local Art is featured on the exposed brick walls in rotation. Jan Davidson’s skillful renderings of local icons and hotspots remind me how much I love this city and makes the anticipation of warmer weather all the sweeter. There is background music kept at high end furniture boutique volume levels. Clean sounding and slightly Jazzy. The bar features Garrison brewed “Fire Tap,” Bulwark Cider and of course the legendary cocktails M.E is so well known for. Although I’m sticking with Coffee this early in the day, I note the Atticus Finch is the featured cocktail. Bowmore single malt, Dolin Chambre Dry Vermouth in a rose scented strawberry syrup. I know from experience the syrup is made in house and definitely worth tastingThen, my pizza arrives. I’ve ordered the Mushroom Pizza. I am an avid mushroom enthusiast and these do not disappoint. Marinated to perfection, meaty and rich over a blanket of stringy stretchy mozzarella and topped with local micro greens. The greens cut the richness perfectly. I pour house made chilli oil on the edge of my plate and use the expertly charred crust to sop it up. I am left alone to eat my pizza and I forgo the utensils diving in with my hands, delighting in pulling the cheese away from the crust with each bite. There are other pizzas on the menu worth a mention; There is a prosciutto, pear and blue cheese classic that I dream about from time to time. Ask for a wine recommendation with this offering, and make it a romantic evening. The featured pizza of the day was a spicy Jerk Chicken creation with fried plantains, it sounded delightful, and I was assured it was hit with those who enjoy a spicy kick to their lunch. IMG_2032.JPG

 I was enjoying myself so much that I ordered dessert. Normally I don’t order dessert when I dine alone. I prefer to save it as a shared experience. There was a salted Caramel Tart however that just wouldn't leave me alone. It called to me relentlessly. It arrived seductively covered in a blanket of delicately spiced whipped cream. The caramel was buttery, smooth and sweet. The salt was diamond sharp. It burst through the sweet and bloomed dramatically. Each bite was a new experience to be savored. I had a vague plan that I might take some of the unfinished tart home. It was not to be, I ate the whole thing.

For lunch, Morris East is worth the trip. The service was fast and efficient. The price was extremely reasonable and the experience transformative. I suggest scheduling meetings here. Clients will be impressed. Morris east is also one of my go-to recommendations for date night. It dramatically raises the tone of a dinner-and-a-movie night, and provides a perfect starting point to an evening filled with romantic possibility.IMG_2034.JPG

I’m out on the road this week, walking routes, and enjoying lunch at all my old favorite and new favorite spots. I’ll keep sharing the experiences! Happy Tasting!

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The "have fork will travel"logo. If you see this around town, you can bet the associated establishment is pretty great!
localtastingtours.com The “have fork will travel”logo. If you see this around town, you can bet the associated establishment is pretty great!

It was recently my great privilege to be an invited guest on localtastingtours.com as Emily Forrest and her first in command Clair Gallant prepared to roll out this season’s  tour roster. What a magical week! I don’t believe my feet touched the ground the entire time. I learned so much about my city, the local business community, and what this town really has to offer in terms of food and beverage. I can assure you, I will never again be stuck to answer the question ……..’where would you like to go for Dinner? ‘ Isn’t that just the worst ? I have a suspicion it’s why we settle for mediocre chains, and date ruts. Well, I’m happy to say I’m bursting over with possibilities, a renewed sense of culinary adventure and an even deeper sense of community pride and spirit. These tours really knock it out of the park.

Owner operator Emily Forrest, conceived the business idea during a walk around the Nova Scotia coastline. Yup she walked our coastline. Emily’s background in theatre, her enthusiasm for good food and local business, combined with her warm and generous spirit, made the tours a success from the start. Localtastingtours.com is now in its fourth year and interest has been growing steadily.

owner operator Emily Forrest.
owner operator Emily Forrest.
Tour leader Clair Gallant
Tour leader Clair Gallant

For a very reasonable price, this is the date that covers all the bases. You go to not one, but several restaurants , you discover new things, you get a full meal, and someone else does all the planning. Perfect! This is the sort of thing I’d love to take my parents on when they come to town for an afternoon. It would be time well spent with my girlfriends, daughters and friends from out-of-town. It would also be a magically romantic first date. Or fiftieth date- this would be so perfect for couples to do!

A fine dining experience at fivefisherman.com
A fine dining experience at fivefisherman.com
Me feeling totally pampered at storiesdining.com
Me, feeling totally pampered at storiesdining.com

There are five routes in total, each of which encompasses a different neighbourhood and each has it’s own  unique feel. We started off the week with the downtown route. It was a wet rainy day, but the weather actually added to the experience. We were given cheerful umbrellas and the restaurants seemed particularly warm and cozy to come into out of the gloom.  One thing I’ve found over my years of working outside in our weather, is that rain  brings out the best in us, as people and toward each other.

Over the rest of my culinary walkabout week I did the “SOMO” tour. (South of Morris Street) This tour has a touch more south end glamour in the mix. I went wide eyed into places I’ve never been before thinking them far out of my price range. It was on this tour I discovered that Halifax has a Live Jazz Community year round, something I will definitely check out over the summer. I also did a little shopping at the Seaport Market before heading home, inspired to do a little cooking of my own, using fresh local ingredients.

I spent a night out on Quinpool Rd, my own neighbourhood and was delighted to find so many little family owned eateries nestled in amongst the other shops and services. These are places I’d been walking by everyday, never quite knowing if the occasion was right to go in. Quinpool rd has always had a Mom and Pop sort of feel. I have always loved wandering

To die for cheesecake at the Sweethereafter.ca the decore alone makes this a destination!
To die for cheesecake at the Sweethereafter.ca the decore alone makes this a destination!

up and down the main drag looking into its many and varied store windows. There just aren’t that many places you can still do that these days. I also discovered that Quinpool Rd has its own brand of Glamour. It’s own spin on glitz, perfect for a night out. I was full to bursting by  time we finished, and excited by the prospect of nights where parking wouldn’t be a problem and walking distances in heels would be short and not uphill.

I ended my week with the daytime North End tour. It was this tour that probably inspired me the most. The north end has long been described as ‘colorful” and ‘up and coming’ .Well, It has arrived.  There is an energy there that goes beyond ‘colorful’. It’s a powerful rapidly moving force driven by creativity, new ideas and tremendous talent. It’s unhindered and independent. I was giddy to be in the midst of so many hardworking artists, making ideas reality, moving forward at the speed of light. It was here that I found goose prosciutto, basil raspberry lemonade, and grilled cheese sandwiches with sun-dried tomatoes in them. I don’t drink, but found the craft breweries  fascinating nonetheless and enjoyed the ginger beer they cheerfully poured for me.  I made a firm decision to start shopping at ‘The Carrot.’ It’s a new not for profit co-op on Gottigen street. Everyday food, locally sourced, with prices from another decade. Yes please. It also helps those in the community on limited budgets to buy food. Membership is not required!  It’s the village effect in motion and I’m so excited to jump on board. After the tour was over I stayed around poking into the numerous galleries and boutiques . Happily meeting people and talking to them about what they do.

I was totally charmed at  ratinaud.ca , goose prosciutto served with a french accent? Totally Awesome.
I was totally charmed at ratinaud.ca , goose prosciutto served with a french accent? Totally Awesome.

 

Best ice cream  in the city and killer burritos at deedees.ca
Best ice cream in the city and killer burritos at deedees.ca
Quinoa stuffed dark chocolate mini cupcakes at Fredstyle.ca  you'll want to set up camp and stay a while at Fred's
Quinoa stuffed dark chocolate mini cupcakes at Fredstyle.ca you’ll want to set up camp and stay a while at Fred’s
There is some serious plumbing going on  in the beer taps at northbrewing.ca
There is some serious plumbing going on in the beer taps at northbrewing.ca
killer grilled cheese. Who adds sundried tomatoes to a GC sammie?? lionand bright.com and it's brilliant!
kick-ass grilled cheese. Who adds sundried tomatoes to a GC sammie?? lionand bright.com  does and it’s brilliant!
Low prices and an investment in my community?? Yes please!! check out thecarrot.coop on Gottingen
Low prices and an investment in my community?? Yes please!! check out thecarrot.coop on Gottingen
potato Latkes at halideli.com
potato Latkes at halideli.com
Craft beer tasting at drinkpropeller.ca
Craft beer tasting at drinkpropeller.ca
I could have browsed for hours at localsourcemarket.ca
I could have browsed for hours at localsourcemarket.ca

I was so lucky to have been able to take part in this week. I learned so much and was inspired in so many ways. I hope you’ll check this out for yourselves this summer -I promise you won’t regret it! localtastingtours.com

Best Paint Picks For Nova Scotia 2015 From Benjamine Moore

I’m optimistic that spring is finally here in Nova Scotia. Up until this point, a small part of me is always afraid that this year- it won’t come. When it does though, I start thinking PAINT! This year for my top picks I went to our local Ben Moore outlet here on Quinpool rd they have two other outlets one in Burnside and one on Strawberry Hill. Benjamin Moore’s quality http://benjaminmoore.com is well established and the knowledgeable friendly service at these outlets  can’t be beat. http://paulsusnis.com

If I had one piece of advice after all my years decorating and painting and living in Nova Scotia it would be this. No greens on walls. Those GORGEOUS earthy pallets that look so enlightened and zen in places like Vancouver, can end up looking ” government institution in the fifties” over here. Our light is different then where most of those pallets are conceived. It’s less diffused, its crisper, its more watery. If you love green as much as I do- pull it in with plants, pillows and cut flowers. You’ll be so much happier. Also- I’m done with Grey, and all its little “greige ” children. I think we can agree that grey is about the only color you can see when you look out your window six out of twelve months. It’s time to move on to some color!

Our summers may be fleeting; but they are heartbreakingly beautiful. I found soft powdery whites and peachy corals glowing in hydrangeas. Lavenders dancing in spellbinding sunsets and swaying in lavender and heather growing by the ocean. Perfect for a magical sun porch or laundry room. Colors that resonated with me deeply. The faded yellows of those perfect childhood bedrooms. Remember those bedrooms? the windows were always open, white curtains always gently moving in a soft breeze. Always smelling of line dried sheets, freshly cut hay and the promise of endless expectation and possibility.

There are bolder choices too. A classic navy, all dressed up with crisp whites and hits of red, ready to make a formal statement in your dining room. Deep plums. Not smokey and paired with taupe as I’ve seen in some elegant lobbies; but kicked up a gear with clean whites and shiny sparkly things. The immaculate chrome and porcelain of a small powder room or the chandelier in your entryway for instance. I found reds and oranges singing out a bold compliment to the sharp blue of our ocean on a clear day. These are the colors that go the distance as front doors, porch chairs or accent walls.

Best of all there’s mint. It works here like a charm. Paint a room in a delicate mint and watch what happens, it opens up your whole imagination. You’ll be looking at things a whole new way, wondering how they might look in this shade. This retro color has a way of giving things a very ‘now’ edge. keep it in the light part of the paint chip to avoid the chunkiness that can come when this color gets too saturated.

I’ve kept many of these colors light enough to continue on to your ceiling, this saves the tedium of cutting in above your head and will expand your room. I highly recommend it wherever your color is light enough try an “ultimatte” finish for extra magic. Trust me, you’ll love it.

Below are my Top Ten picks for this year. I can’t wait to get out and about and see what we all get up to this year! Happy Painting!!

1. OC-93 Sugar Cookie

2. 2170-70 soft white

3. 2170-40 coral spice

4.2070-70 whisper violet

5. 2123-60 sea foam (Ben M has two sea foam colors one is an awesome mint. This one is a delicate robin’s egg blue.)

6. 2063-10 Old Navy

7.2070-20 plum royale

8. 2013-30 jewelled orange

9. 2037-70 fresh mint

10. CC -218 corn silk