Category: Food

Which of Truro’s 79 restaurants shall we eat at?

Screen Shot 2014-01-02 at 9.20.08 PMA friend called tonight, en route from Halifax to Cape Breton, wondering if I could recommend a restaurant in Truro where he and his partner could eat supper.

A quick Google search turned up‘s listing of 79 Truro eateries. That’s right: 79 restaurants in Truro, one for every 159 residents. Moreover, 60 of the 79 had user reviews. Those that did not were mostly predictable chain outlets like McDonald’s, Tim Horton’s, and Subway.

In seconds, I was able to call up the dozen or so with the highest user rankings, eliminate those whose cuisine did not interest my friends, click through to the most promising restaurants’ own websites, and read some dinner menus to my friends over the phone. They settled on Bistro 22.* The whole process took less than five minutes.

OK, before this becomes so commonplace we don’t even notice it, can we just say the internet is an amazing tool?

* No offence to any of the others. It’s just what my friends felt like.




Trick or treat on Duncan Street — by the numbers

Dan Conlin has kept track of the trick-or-treaters who called at his Duncan St., Halifax, home for the last 17 years. Yesterday’s numbers showed a modest uptick, but the overall trend is dramatic and downward:


This year’s visitors began arriving at 5:35 pm, peaked at 7 p.m., and had vanished into the night by 8:15. Vampires, Princesses, and Ninjas led the parade, at six each.

Only one cat made an appearance, likely the one pictured, feline fancier Rosa Eileen Barss Donham, who lives one street over from Dan.

Conlin gives his Best Overall Costume Award to an eight-year-old walking box of Ritz Crackers, English in front, Français au verso, with nutritional information on the side. Nutritional information about lard pills—what a card!

Complete details on yesterday’s West End Halifax’s confectionary extortionists here; For comparison purposes, see designer Kinnon Elliot’s infographic about Hallowe’en costumes here .

Fuzzy Bacich and Facebook — compare and contrast

Peter Spurway thinks I’m romanticizing Don “Fuzzy” Bacich’s legendary crankiness about patrons who wanted to slather his delicious French fries with ketchup:

“… and another bastion of quality and tradition falters.”

Tradition, yes. Quality? No.

Not providing something that many of your customers would like to have has nothing to do with quality. It has everything to do with the perspective of the owner. While I certainly grant the owner the right to fashion their product to their own liking, they have to accept that a percentage of their current and potential customers are not going to like it and it will be seen by some as a detraction from the offering.

A lazy choice of words on my part. Still, the eccentricity of refusing to supply ketchup at your chip wagon reflects a certain charming integrity.

Some guy named Silas* in Orangedale writes:

There is a funny contrast between the top two stories on contrarian tonight.  One praises the unfortunately named Fuzzy’s Fries for refusing to bow to their customers’ wishes re condiments.  The other criticizes Facebook for doing refusing to bow to it’s customers’ wishes re locations.  Rooting for the little guy is a bias I share with Contrarian, but I’ll be darned if I can come up with a sensible justification.

How about persnicketiness? Will that do?

* [Disclosure: Orangedale resident Silas Barss Donham is my son.]

Under new management — corrected


This afternoon, in a move sure to flabbergast longtime French fry fans in Sydney, a worker at Fuzzy’s Fries offered a patron a plastic packet of ketchup.

FuzzKetch-closeCivilization, as we know it, may be in peril.

Former owner Don “Fuzzy” Bacich, who founded the landmark chip wagon at The Esplanade and Townsend St. 40 years ago,* offered a selection of salt, pepper, and vinegar, but had no truck with ketchup.

He knew his proud creations owed their universal acclaim to the golden simplicity of their potatoey goodness. A little salt? Certainly. Some vinegar? Sure. But to slather his chips with the garish, tomato-based condiment was to to debase them.

So vehemently did Bacich hove to this creed, legend had him berating customers who dared even inquire as to the availability of the red stuff. Fairly or unfairly, this habit won Bacich a sobriquet based on the fictional owner of a Manhattan soup shop regularly featured on a longrunning New York-based sitcom.

But time marches on, and another bastion of quality and tradition falters.

* [CORRECTION] Contrarian reader Weldon Boone writes to say Bacich acquired the chip stand from a Montrealer named John Landmeyer, who founded the operation in 1959. At the time, Boone worked with the late Jack Colombus at CHER, which aired Fuzzy’s Fries commercials. [Thanks to Contrarian reader John MacNeil for supplying Mr. Landmeyer’s last name.]

A great addition to Nova Scotia’s craft beer offerings


My granddaughter Kate’s first birthday provided an opportunity to sample the newest addition to Nova Scotia’s craft beer landscape. Big Spruce Beer, brewed on the Yankee Line in Nyanza, is perishable, and must be refrigerated. It is sold only at the brewery, and only in these 1.89 l. (2 US quart) jugs (which ensures its status as a sociable drink).

It has a mild, hoppy edge, and compares favourably with the best offerings from Propeller or the Granite Brewery. Well done!

UPDATE: Big Spruce will have launch parties at Governors Pub in Sydney on April 12th, and The Wooden Monkey in Dartmouth on April 20th. (What, no Bearly’s?)

Thank you


Summertime, and the blogging is slower

Yes, the blog posts have been slower this July. On those rare Nova Scotia weeks, when the sun blasts down and the temperature tops 25° for days on end, there are better things to do in than sit at a keyboard and grouse about the state of the world.

In the backlog of posts I mean to get to: big developments in the Dexter Government’s demolition of Talbot House (including five pending Contrarian FOIPOP requests looking for the motives behind this hatchet job); feedback from defenders of Neal Livingston and admirers of Cabot Links; and he next instalment of the Contrarian Election Donation Interactive Mapping Project.

While you wait, Maggie and I recommend raspberry or blueberry sorbet.

That Faroese whale hunt: Amplification and correction

Dávur í Dali, a social sciences student at the University of the Faroe Islands, offers this friendly correction to our post about how Paul Watson’s TV attack on the Faroese pilot whale hunt backfired:

I am writing to you to correct a small misunderstanding in one of your posts on the Faroe Islands pilot whale hunt. Your post implies that we actively hunt whales, as someone would hunt deer or similar game. This is not correct.

The whale hunts are not prepared or planned events. They happen when we sight a pod of whales swimming through our fjords or in general vicinity of land. Such sightings happen only a couple of times per year, and even then hunts are not successful every time. What really happened when [Watson’s vessel] Brigit Bardot was here is that, by mere chance, there simply weren’t any whale pods spotted. Had whale pods been spotted, there would have been hunts, regardless of Brigit Bardot’s presence. There was no conscious effort put into avoiding whale hunts or the Brigit Bardot.

I would appreciate it if you corrected the error, because I feel it is important to stress that we hunt passively, rather than actively.

In response to my further questions, Dávur explained:

Anyone and everyone can participate in the hunt. If they want to, they can go to where a whale hunt is happening and join in where there is a loose end. The practice is intrinsically communal in that way, and also in that the food resulting from the hunts is always equally divided among the people who participated in the hunt. If the hunt is big enough, it is even dealt out indiscriminately to anyone who wants it, and to nursing homes etc. As I said in my previous email, the whale hunts are far from everyday events.

I do not participate in the whale hunt myself, by choice, and I am not affiliated with any of the people appointed to oversee them. I contacted you because, sadly, there is a lot of misinformation about our whale hunt out on the internet, be it honest misunderstandings or intentional lies, that can hurt my nation’s image. I do what I can, and try to correct it when I come across it.

Sushi Baran Koan

The master and his pupil picked up some Sushi at Sobey’s, and sat in the park to eat it.

“Why does supermarket sushi always come with this green spiky sheet?” the pupil asked.

Baran is the leaf of the aspidistra plant,” replied the master. “It separates the eel from the avocado, and exudes phytoncides to preserve freshness.”

“But it’s plastic,” protested the student.

“Yes,” said the master. “Just as your iPod Nano is no longer vinyl.”

How to wipe out fish stocks

Oceans2012, a coalition lobbying to ensure that the 2012 reform of the European Union Common Fisheries Policy “stops overfishing, ends destructive fishing practices and delivers fair and equitable use of healthy fish stocks,” has produced a slick video to back up its campaign:

[video link]

Some factoids:

Typically, shrimp trawlers throw 80 to 90 percent of the marine creatures caught back overboard. This means that for one kilo of shrimp, up to nine kilos of other marine wildlife is caught and wasted….

Many of the farmed fish are carnivorous. That is, they eat other smaller fish. Five kilos of captured wild fish are needed to produce one kilo of farm-reared salmon. Aquaculture just converts low value small fish into higher value bigger ones. It does not create more fish

And this one, which I paraphrase:

  • In 2008, scientists recommended a catch limit for blue fin tuna: 10,000 tons.
  • Fishing nations set the limit three times higher: 29,500 tons.
  • Fishermen actually caught six times as much: 61,000 tons.

As is often the case with environmental pieces, the warnings are clear and persuasive, the practical solutions conspicuously absent.

H/T: Nathan Yau

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