Our roundup of food, culture and travel news for January 2020

Our roundup of food, culture and travel news for January 2020

Ristorante A Mano
Comforting and comfortable. There’s a reason it’s a classic.

If I’m being totally honest, we picked Ristorante a Mano in Bishop’s Landing for our business lunch because, well, it had onsite parking. There were snow flurries that day with a bone-chilling nip to the air. We wanted warmth, we wanted comfort food, and we didn’t want to walk 15 minutes to get there. Mano, a long-lived fixture of the city’s popular Bertossi Group of restaurants, was made to order.

As you walk through the door, you are immediately immersed in Italian flavours: the infusing aromatics of simmering herbs and spices… the golden glow of warm wood furnishings… bold accents of Mediterranean blue made even more inviting by claret light fixtures.

I was a Mano neophyte but my dining companions had been there a number of times. “I always order something different,” she said, “and I’ve never been disappointed.” It’s the strongest recommendation a restaurant can receive; I couldn’t wait to try it myself.

Despite the temptation of the expansive wine display, we restrained ourselves with soft drinks, water and coffee. Our drink orders arrived promptly but, alas, the diet coke fell flat. The server quickly replaced the non-effervescent soda with a livelier glass and we refocused our attention where it truly belonged: on the tantalizing menu that somehow managed to fit 43 delectable offerings of appetizers, salads, soups, pizza, pasta, fish, chicken and meat dishes on a single page.

It took a while to digest the bounteous selection, but we finally made our decisions. He picked Spaghettini con Polpette—spaghettini noodles sautéed with house-made meatballs, tomato, fior de latte (semi-soft cheese made in the style of Italian mozzarella) and grated parmigiana ($17). She opted for Linguine ai Frutti di Mare (above): sautéed linguine that liberally danced with jumbo shrimp, scallops, mussels, clams, garlic, tomato, herbs, chilies, white wine and arugula ($18). I really, really wanted to have pizza (it’s my favorite go-to) but I decided to go for something different and picked the Pesce al Cartoccio: the fresh fish of the day—in this case, salmon—baked in parchment paper, with seasonal vegetables and roasted potatoes.

“No appetizers? Are you sure?” asked the server. “Not even a Trio de Crostini ($11) to share?” It was an offer we couldn’t refuse. Each of the three generous slices of toasted baguette had its own unique topping and flavour (goat cheese, fig and pistachio; honey-roasted pear with torta di marscapone; ricotta, basil pesto and pomodorini confit). Cut into thirds, each of us was able to sample all the flavours.

The mains were dependably tasty though there were a couple of areas which, if improved would have elevated the predictable fare. She was delighted with every forkful; he wished that the server had offered extra parmesan and fresh ground pepper when the meal was served (instead of it having to be requested and delivered when we were halfway through our plates). Personally, I’m a stickler for a hot meal; my roasted potatoes and broccolini had lots of flavour, but they had definitely begun to cool. Also, I would have liked a bit more zest to my salmon—perhaps a squeeze of fresh lemon just before serving?

None of that, however, deterred us from finding room for warm brioche bread pudding with butterscotch sauce, toasted pecans and vanilla gelato ($9). Don’t judge, ok—we shared!

We walked in expecting a very good meal and we were not disappointed. Or as they might say in the old country, it was molto bene.

Ristorante a Mano
1477 Lower Water Street, Bishop’s Landing, Halifax, N.S.
Monday-Saturday 11:30 AM to 10 PM
Closed Sunday

Across the pond
The good old hockey game is the best game you can name, and the game is on steroids in Plaster Rock, New Brunswick. Every winter the population of this village of just over 1,000 swells as more than 8,000 people from all over don their toques for the World Pond Hockey Championships. There’s nothing quite like hockey on a frozen pond and with more than 20 rinks carved out of Roulston Lake, surrounded by Plaster Rock Tourist Park, this is a dream come true for many hockey fanatics looking for a good game of shinny.

What started as a fundraiser for a local recreation centre in 2002 (the Tobique-plex facility was completed in 2007) has since garnered international attention—and attendance. Now, the World Pond Hockey Championships hosts more than 120 teams from more than 15 countries, including Great Britain and Czechoslovakia. Last year, more than 500 men and women participated. The games were even broadcasted on TSN with major sponsors, including Budweiser. Players can really show off their skill in this four-on-four round-robin format, with a smaller ice surface (NHL rinks measure 200 feet by 85 while the WPHC are 75 feet by 150 feet) and nets that are almost a quarter of the regular height. This year’s championship hits the ice on February 13 until February 16. —Gabby Peyton

Spirited away

What happens when two bestselling authors walk into a distillery? They write an amazing book, of course. Stephen Beaumont, the author of The World Beer Atlas, and Christine Sismondo, author of America Walks into a Bar, have teamed up to create the Canadian cocktail-making cannon. Entitled Canadian Spirits: The Essential Cross-Country Guide to Distilleries, Their Spirits, and Where to Imbibe Them, it documents dozens of distilleries across Canada, both big and small. Through their journey chronicling more than 160 whisky, gin, vodka and rum makers, the drink-writing duo showcase Canada’s distilling history from humble moonshine beginnings to the Instagrammable cocktail industry of today. This hardcover work, which launched at the end of October 2019, is as beautiful as it is informative and would be a great addition to any bookshelf, whether you’re only now starting to whet your whistle on whisky, or you’ve been a gin guzzler for years. —Gabby Peyton


The cold rush
Winter in Atlantic Canada is long but we make the best of it! Here are four winter festivals worth bundling up for.
By Gabby Peyton

  • Fredericton FROSTival (Pictured above)
    Spanning three weekends in the coldest months of the year the Fredericton FROSTival hosts more than 100 events including sleigh rides, snoga (snow yoga) and Shivering Songs with live music performances. Things get frosty from January 16 to February 2, 2020.
  • Winter Love PEI
    Based in Charlottetown, this new(ish) winter festival is all about embracing winter. With events roving through January and February it all gets underway with a Curling & Soup Kickoff Party followed by disco skates, snowshoeing socials and tubing parties.
  • Lobster Crawl
    While the winter months might not scream fresh seafood, the Nova Scotia Lobster Crawl runs through the month of February with events all along Nova Scotia’s South Shore from Barrington to Peggy’s Cove. The events kick off January 31, 2020 with a curling bonspiel, and you guessed it, a lobster supper.
  • Frosty Festival
    In Mount Pearl Newfoundland the Frosty Festival has been a much-loved winter tradition for almost 40 years. From Frosty’s Bingo Bonanza to the Sno-pitch softball tournament, there is something for everyone to beat the winter doldrums. The 2020 festival runs from February 5 to 16.

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