Imagine eating dinner where the hermit crabs hustle and the periwinkles play. Imagine sipping wine and drinking beer where the striped bass normally swim. Imagine dining on the ocean floor.
Nova Scotia’s Bay of Fundy is home to the highest tides in the world. Tides that in some places rise at a rate of one inch per minute. When the tide is out, you can explore the ocean floor; and thanks to a visionary group of people from Burntcoat Head Park and The Flying Apron Inn & Cookery, you can now dine on the ocean floor.
My husband (a.k.a. The Doc) and I were lucky enough to score a spot for Wednesday’s scheduled event. It isn’t easy to score a spot. First you get on the email list in order to receive the date and time, sometime in February, to call and leave a message. Then you cross your fingers and hope. There are six dates, twenty chairs per date, each summer. They sell out within minutes. We received our call back later that day. Yes we were happy!
The Doc and I are fortunate to call Nova Scotia home so all we had to do was arrive at Burntcoat Head Park, by 11:30 AM prepared for mud or wet sand, possible showers, possible sunburn, possible cool temperatures or possible warm temperatures. Pretty much your average Nova Scotia beach day in June.
People travel from all over to attend this dinner. There was one other local couple and several American couples, many who planned their entire holiday around this single event. An event that we discovered is advertised heavily in exclusive travel and destination magazines. We proudly listened as they praised our province, mentioning things like all the delicious food, all the lush beautiful gardens and the pleasant driving conditions due to the lack of traffic.
After checking in and meeting our hostess for the day, also named Jenn, we strolled over to the biggest, most beautiful apple tree I had ever seen in my life. The lower branches were thick, some of them larger than a foot in diameter. The tree itself had to be over thirty feet high and at least 125 years old. It was fairly healthy and had just finished the blossom stage. This tree was not part of the tour, but I found it awe-inspiring.
Then we were introduced to Jonathan Newell of Newell’s Jewels Edibles. Jonathan had filled a picnic table with items that he had foraged on his journey to Burntcoat that morning. He introduced us to a variety of interesting things that could be found to eat. There were the well-known edibles like dandelions, used for greens, wine and, for one customer, organic straws. And spruce, used for beer and tea. But there were also some wonderful surprises, like wild carrots, which are the root of the weed Queen Anne’s Lace. More surprising were the cattails, sometimes called bull rushes. The tops of these can be steamed early in the season, buttered and salted and eaten like corn on the cob; while the roots, which look a bit like leeks and have a delicious aroma of fresh cucumber, can be cooked in a variety of ways. I recently made a joke to The Doc about not being able to survive if I ever got lost in the middle of nowhere because I didn’t think I could eat bugs. Thanks to Jonathan Newell, I won’t have to.
From here we were lead to a circle of chairs arranged around three metal buckets. There we were served a shore boil lunch of clams, mussels and lobster accompanied by a cheddar biscuit and paired with Tidal Bay wine. The portions were large and delicious. The buckets were targets for our used shells. Our aims were not always accurate; but when they were, the clangs of shells hitting metal were incredibly rewarding.
After lunch we were escorted to the ocean floor where we walked over rocks, sunk in the mud and searched for creatures in tidal pools. We stood at the base of the large flower pot island that many years ago housed a lighthouse and was part of the shoreline. We took in the effects of erosion, something that is becoming more prevalent with global warming; and something that Nova Scotia, a peninsula almost totally surrounded by water, needs to be vigilantly aware of. Often we would stop in place and do a 360 just to take in the beauty all around us.
By late afternoon we made our way to the banquet table, set up so that all twenty of us could look towards the tide. The logistics of serving a three-course meal on the ocean floor would be overwhelming for many, but The Flying Apron have refined it into an art. Not only do they serve on the ocean floor, but they offer a delicious and unique culinary experience. Their shirts have the words, We do local, written across the back and they take great pride in this. All the ingredients for this wonderful dinner were sourced in Nova Scotia.
Our first course was a charcuterie plate with an assortment of sausage and cheese, plus thin slices of pickled radish and homemade mustard. This was followed by a surf and turf course of grass-fed beef and butter-poached lobster served with succotash made from organic vegetables. The beef and lobster were presented with their own delicious sauces. I only wish I could remember these sauce names because I am a sucker for a good sauce. The dessert of lavender phyllo layered with local berries and Grand Marnier Mascarpone cream left me wanting more.
During the entire meal, representatives from Avondale Sky Winery and Meander River Farm & Brewery poured wine and beer specifically paired for each serving. And they generously filled empty glasses.
The event concluded with coffee and tea served around an ocean-floor bonfire. By that time, it had already surpassed everyone’s expectations. The sun was still shining and the tide was well on its way in when we walked off the ocean floor to return to our cars. The Doc and I both feeling fortunate because we lived close enough to pack a picnic lunch someday soon and return.
Burntcoat Head Park https://www.burntcoatheadpark.ca/ Click the tides link for a time-lapsed video
The Flying Apron http://flyingaproncookery.com/
Dining on the Ocean Floor https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=38bJ9M0TqHA
Newell’s Jewels Edibles https://www.facebook.com/newellsjewellsedibles/
Avondale Sky Winery https://avondalesky.com/
Meander River Farm & Brewery https://www.meanderriverfarm.ca/