Exploring Canada – Munching my Way Around Moncton, New Brunswick
One of my convoluted issues with travel is that when I find somewhere I really love, I have to leave it – simply by virtue of the fact that I’m travelling. Frequently I then find that I love the next pace I visit just as much, thus adding places I want to revisit to my traveling bucket list rather than ticking them off. Such is the case with Canada. I have no doubt I am a long way from finished with that wonderful country.
After seeing way too little of Nova Scotia (I know, that sounds greedy doesn’t it?) my next stop was in Moncton, New Brunswick. The city of Moncton is the geographic centre of Atlantic Canada and central to two contrasting coasts; the Fundy Coast (with the highest tides in the world) and the Acadian Coast (with the warmest saltwater beaches north of Virginia and the warmest saltwater beaches in Canada). With it’s dual French and English heritage it is considered a microcosm of Canadian culture and, indicative of this, hosts the Frye Literary Festival, not only the largest bilingual literary festival in Canada, but also the largest literary event in the country.
Naturally enough, it is also home to some great culinary traditions of both cultures including the largest wine festival east of Quebec and a commitment both urban beekeeping and the 100 mile diet in the local restaurants. The dining options range from fine dining in the award-winning Windjammer Restaurant of the Delta Beausejour Hotel to beer and pizza in a brewhouse – and all points in between. Here are a few of my food favourites from my time in Moncton.
The Tide and Boar Gastropub was recently featured on The Food Network’s “You Gotta Eat Here” and has been named one of Canada’s Top 50 Restaurants – with good reason. They specialise in creative food and craft beer and take their Boar (and the rest of the menu) very seriously with the menu showcasing in-house cured meats and charcuterie featuring boar meat. Our visit was at lunchtime, so it was a little too early in the day for me to contemplate tackling their very substantial Boar Poutine, but the Polenta Fries were crisp and tasty. I’m not surprised this restaurant was voted Best Casual Dining in Atlantic Canada – check it out when you’re in town!
The Pump House Brewery and Restaurantwas established by Moncton Firefighter and brewer Shaun Fraser in 1999 after he had spent some years travelling the world setting up breweries for others. He must have a trick or two up his sleeves as the Pump House has won Canadian Brewery of the year, while its beer has been awarded Gold, Silver and Bronze Medals in various competitions. The Brew House restaurant menu is sizeable, with all sorts of tempting bar-style food and snacks including buffalo burgers, beer steamed mussels, steaks and wood-oven pizza. The beers are available on-tap or to go and I was startled to find he brews a blueberry ale which I just had to try. The fresh, peppery, sweetness of the blueberries added a surprising and very pleasing element to the ale – it would make it interesting to cook with, I suspect.
The Moncton Market is located in the heart of town and features over 130 vendors selling almost exclusively locally produced goods. I had a glorious morning wandering around the crowded market (it’s obviously very popular) checking out the fresh local produce, craft items, baked goods and a heartbreakingly tempting array of maple syrups. The range of maple products available in Canada was a constant torment to me, so I ate it in every possible way I could. It is a weakness of mine and was the source of much weight in my luggage on returning home.
To my utter delight I found a tea shop on the main street of Moncton. It can be quite difficult to get a decent cup of tea when travelling and staying in hotels so this was a bit of a high point in my day – I know, I’m a bit sad when it comes to tea. Atthéa is owned by the delightful, if completely computer-illiterate, Rhea who is a tea sommelier and one of the first 12 graduates in the course from the George Brown College in Toronto. She is as passionate as she is knowledgeable about tea and enormously generous with her time. She serves, and sells, a range of artisan teas, some of which she blends herself, and especially seeks out the traditional teas. The store is open later on Friday evenings and is becoming something of a meeting place for women who gather there after work for a restorative cup or two. Sounds like the perfect way to end the working week!