Associate Editor Gabby Peyton dines solo at the newly-reopened Fredericton restaurant—and becomes acquainted with a delicious side of pillow talk
You know that refreshed feeling after a good night’s sleep? That’s how I felt walking out of 11th Mile in Fredericton the first week of May—all thanks to some pillowy gnocchi. Walking along Queen Street to my 6:30 p.m. reservation, I wondered if I would be the only one in the restaurant: how wrong I was! A table of 12 took up half the restaurant on the banquet, another party chattered at the circle table in the window, and even the bar was filled. I almost felt bad taking a two-top by myself. Almost.
Owners Jennie Wilson and Peter Tompkins are feeling refreshed too. After two decades of working in Toronto restaurants, the pair moved back to their home province in 2017, opening 11th Mile to great acclaim from critics across the country but a year in they were forced to relocate due to the demolition of their building. They reopened at 79 York Street in March of this year with a fresh coat of paint and a breath of fresh air.
11th Mile’s décor is modern and demure with hues of grey and muted accents. Chill music like Arcade Fire and Neil Young-remixes of Harvest Moon was barely heard over the crowds—the perfect level of music in my opinion. One whole wall is a mural dedicated to a giant black and white photograph, a statement-making ode to the previous tenant—Mazzuca’s was a variety store that used to sell penny candy and cigarettes (it closed in 2007 after 83 years). Design firm Lori Clarke Interior Design Inc. carved the convenience right out of the space to make it warm and cool at the same time: Mid-century modern furniture and mix-and-match china bring 11th Mile to life.
As I sipped on my pre-dinner whiskey sour ($13)—potent and punchy and maybe a little too easy to drink—tiny beef tostadas topped with bright pink pickled onion flew out of the kitchen on the arms of Wilson, who was taking care of the larger party. The menu is divided into two sections, snacks and plates, making 11th Mile as suitable for after-work drinks as it is for slow date-night dinners.
I started with the mussels escabeche ($6) from the snack side of the menu. I have never described a mussel as pillowy or read about a mussel being pillowy (I literally Googled to check as Chef Tomkins brought scallion pancakes to a couple at the bar) but these puffs of mollusc were smoky, plump and creamy. Next came a dish simply called Brassica ($13): this gorgeous pink and green plate was piled high with roasted broccoli, radish, walnut crema and honey-lemon vinaigrette. The sweetness of the radish balanced the tart vinaigrette, but the real flavour bomb was the pickled broccoli stem.
Now, here’s some more pillow talk for you: the gnocchi ($18) arrived at the table and I almost gasped at how good it looked. Those pasta pillows were in bed with a perfect beef and pork bolognese, blanketed with grana padano. The near-perfect dish.
I finished my meal at 11th Mile by spooning the chocolate and buttercream pannacotta ($6) topped with fresh whipped cream and cocoa nibs from an antique china teacup. I took a deep breath as I walked out of the restaurant to stroll back to my hotel: what a restful dinner, indeed.
79 York Street, Fredericton, N.B.
Tuesday-Friday 11:30am to 2pm and 5pm-10pm
Saturdays dinner only
Closed Sundays and Mondays
The call of the wildness
Part cookbook, part coffee table tome, part ode to Newfoundland and Labrador, Wildness is a journey through the bounty of the province’s wild game and culinary history. Released May 29, this is the debut cookbook for Jeremy Charles—chef and owner of Raymond’s in St. John’s which has become one of Canada’s most notable restaurants—and is a reflection of his life’s work putting Newfoundland cuisine on the world stage. The foreword by Zita Cobb sets up this tantalizing treatise, which is not divided into appetizers, mains or side dishes, but highlights Newfoundland with self-explanatory chapters entitled ‘cod,’ ‘small game,’ and ‘farm animals.’ Any reader would be satisfied to peruse the essays of Adam Leith Gollner and stunning photography by John Cullen without lifting a spoon, but with 160 recipes running the gamut from expertly-plated sea urchin bigoli with sea urchin butter and cod roe bottarga to traditional larder fare like bottled moose to be cooked over an open campfire, it would prove hard to not head for the kitchen. Charles emulates the same sense of place in his cookbook that he creates in his restaurants—Wildness is the cornucopia of Newfoundland food culture on paper.
Every summer, the Halifax waterfront is invaded by fire breathers, magicians and sword throwers. No, sorry Game of Thrones fans, it’s not a scene from Westeros, it’s the Halifax Busker Festival. In its 33rd year, the festival (which runs from July 31 to August 5) includes dozens of daily shows kicking off at midday until 10 p.m. More than 250,000 thrill-seekers stroll the waterfront to see contortionists and beatboxers show off their best. The 2019 festival will also include the Nova Scotia Marquee Music Stage, as well as the East Coast Amusements Midway and dozens of food vendors to keep you fueled for the fancy.
In case you haven’t heard, the staycation is the new vacation. More than six million visitors touch down in Atlantic Canada every year to go whale watching and snap pictures of lighthouses but many of us livyers don’t know how good we have it—most of the coolest things are a short drive away (and don’t include boat tours or lobsters).
Visit Mistaken Point Ecological Reserve: Newfoundland’s coastline comes alive with some of the world’s oldest fossils at this World Heritage Site; take a guided tour to see 500-million-year-old specimens.
See Canada’s smallest library: Drive to Cardigan, P.E.I. to visit the smallest library in the country, measuring 3.5 x 3.5 metres with 1,800 titles to peruse.
Savour The Chocolate Museum: Explore what once was the Ganong candy factory in St. Stephen, N.B. to learn the delicious history of this candy-making family.
Step back in time at the Fortress of Louisbourg: Scale the wall of this 300-year old fortress in Cape Breton, N.S., and live like an 18th-century French soldier (you can even have rum).
Scuba dive with shipwrecks: Ocean Quest guides divers off the coast of Bell Island, N.L. to explore shipwrecks sunk by German U-boats in 1942— one of the only places in North America directly attacked during WWII.
Overnight at the Village Historique Acadien: You can experience early 20th-century hotel life at the Château Albert Hotel, an exact copy of the 1907 hotel in Caraquet, N.B.