Anita Stewart’s Canada File: Devouring Wolfville
Story by Anita Stewart
A few decades ago Julia Child’s television career was nearly cut short because her presentation was ‘too 1950’s’. Fortunately a wise network picked up her show and the rest is culinary history. Her presence as one of the earliest of television chefs laid the foundation for not only recognition of French cuisine as worth exploring and the sales of tens of thousands of cookbooks. Visual communication is a real trigger to our curiosity, a challenge to dive deeper, to travel and to taste.
From short documentaries and animated stories to long poignant dramas and moving real life films, this art form has always been important. But now, in our Instagram / Netflix era, it resonates even more strongly, creating careers, building brands and providing hours of entertainment. Suffice it to say that a film or documentary that ‘makes it’ can transform lives and when celebrated together in the form of a world-class festival like Devour! The Food Film Fest, can transform regions, socially and economically.
They may be voyeuristic, salty with sensuality – think of Tampopo and Eat Drink Man Woman. They may be off-the-wall-weird – think Withnail and I. They may be artistically and culturally rich like Babette’s Feast or Chocolat.
Reflective eating, the modern definition of gastronomy, embraces all of the culinary senses and this is exactly what the organizers of Devour! understand.
Every year as the film-makers, producers and chefs assemble, the beautiful Maritime town of Wolfville, in the heart of Nova Scotia’s Annapolis Valley, opens its always-hospitable arms, fires up its sense of fun and serves forth carefully-curated meals, tastings and over 70 films from all over the world. It’s an extraordinary experience!
This year’s Devour! took place over five days in October (next year’s is slated for October 22-27, 2019 ) and the winners of the Golden Tine Award are worth searching out. But because all of the entries are so carefully chosen, there are dozens of others who, while they may not have hit the podium, should not be lost in the backlists of film distributors. Check them out here! https://devourfest.com/devour-the-food-film-fest-announces-the-2018-golden-tine-awards-winners/
The town of Wolfville itself is a fabulous culinary destination, warm in summer with long, languorous autumns. On the Bay of Fundy, the tides are the highest on earth. You can still see a system of dykes and sluiceways (aboiteaux) built centuries ago to reclaim farmland from the sea by Acadians, the ancestors of the Cajuns of Louisiana. ( https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1404 ) It was here that some of the earliest agriculture in Canada occurred, around the same time that Williamsburg, Virginia was being built.
Today the community and its surrounding area is a compendium of some of the finest examples of food and drink in Nova Scotia. Here are a few of the highlights:
The Wolfville Farmers Market 24 Elm Ave, Wolfville, NS B4P 1Z9 In an old apple warehouse the WFM is one of the best in eastern Canada. The over 70 vendors on Saturdays and 25 on Wednesdays as well as 25 Vendors participating in its WFM2Go operation an innovative project that brings the WFM to people’s homes through 8 Hubs in the Valley. https://www.wolfvillefarmersmarket.ca/
Blomidon Inn 195 Main St, Wolfville, NS B4P 1C3 The gracious inn was erected on land purchased in 1881 by a wealthy builder of tall ships who clearly loved natural wood. He used teak and mahogany for wainscots, mantels, and staircases, installed marble fireplaces and gold gilt mirrors. A local German artist was invited to paint a ceiling mural of a shipwreck that’s stood the test and still graces the reception area. The Laceby family who purchased Blomidon in 1998 were experienced hoteliers and helped found Taste of Nova Scotia. The menus are minimalist but very well executed. They really know how to handle seafood! The Wine Spectator has honoured the inn’s exceptional wine list with its terrific Nova Scotian selection. Phone: +1 800-565-2291 http://www.blomidon.ns.ca/
The Naked Crêpe, 402 Main St. Wolfville NS B4P 4C9 http://www.thenakedcrepebistro.ca/ Invented in Halifax, Donairs are normally fresh pitas wrapped around thinly shaved meat with a sweet mayo sauce. The team at Naked Crêpe have taken the inspiration to a whole new level.
The Odd Book, 112 Front #118, Wolfville, NS B4P 1A4 (902) 542-9491 http://www.theoddbook.ca/ Buying and selling rare books all over the world, this antiquarian bookstore is addictive! Block a bit of time to explore the shelves – especially the cookbook collection! Absolutely amazing!
Tangled Garden , 11827 Nova Scotia Trunk 1, Grand Pré, NS B0P 1M0 (902) 542-9811 https://tangledgarden.ca/ Visually beautiful, Tangled Garden produces a selection of old-fashioned shrubs like blackberry-bay leaf and strawberry basil, jewel-like jams, herb-infused vinegars and fragrant liqueurs….try the damson plum with its shock of basil.
Annapolis Cider, 388 Main St, Wolfville, NS B4P 1C9 (902) 697-2707 https://drinkannapolis.ca/ In eastern Canada Nova Scotia is renowned for its apple orchards. Devour! actually has a whole tour devoted to them. In the early days cider apples were planted here before anywhere else in Canada. Annapolis Cider, however, is relatively new with its storefront-cidery-tasting room on Main Street. Their products are absolutely delicious!
L’Arche, 341 Main St, Wolfville, NS B4P 2N5 https://www.larchehomefires.org/ Founded in France in 1964 by Jean Vanier, L’Arche (trans. The Ark) provided a home and inspiration for those with developmental disabilities. The gift shop is light and airy. Look for hand woven placemats, table runners and because it’s in a tea-loving region of Canada, cozies for your favorite pot.
Just Us! The original coffee roastery in the Annapolis Valley, my fave Just Us! location is in the lobby of the Al Whittle Theatre (450 Main Street) where all the DevourFest films are screened. Awesome sandwiches and fabulous sweets – check out the date squares. As the official coffee of Devour!, it kept the entire volunteer team going for the week. https://www.justuscoffee.com/
Wolfville is a hub for three winemakers of note.
Domaine de Grand Pré 11611 Highway 1 Grand Pré, NS B0P 1M0
Hanspeter Stutz was the true visionary who first took a leap of faith in 1994 and founded a winery that has become renowned for its beautiful expressions of the region’s terroir. Son Jürg, is the Swiss-trained winemaker and daughter Beatrice with her husband, Chef Jason Lynch, has built their restaurant, Le Caveau, into one of the finest dining experiences anywhere in the Province, if not eastern Canada. They both play a major role in the culinary programming for Devour! https://grandprewines.com/pages/le-caveau
Lightfoot & Wolfville
Within walking distance of downtown Wolfville, the newly built biodynamic winery sits high atop the rolling, vineyard laced hills overlooking the Bay of Fundy. It’s one of the main hosts for Devour! with events throughout the week. Nova Scotian chef Geoff Hopgood oversees the culinary activity.
Benjamin Bridge 1966 White Rock Road, Gaspereau, Nova Scotia
Benjamin Bridge, located in the Gaspereau Valley is one of the rare grape-growing regions with a growing season remarkably similar to Champagne, France. Its wines are among the finest sparklers gaining kudos wherever they’re poured. They host Devour attendees with special events and as part of the Bubbles Bus tour. One word… GO! https://www.benjaminbridge.com/
Taste of Nova Scotia is the oldest such culinary destination marketing programme in Canada and one of Devour’s signature partners. Check out not only the restaurants but also the wealth of local ingredients this small but mighty organization promotes. http://tasteofnovascotia.com/
Anita Stewart is the Food Laureate for the University of Guelph and founder of Food Day Canada. She holds a graduate degree in Gastronomy from Le Cordon Bleu/University of Adelaide and is a Member of the Order of Canada. She lives in Ontario. She has been on the national Jury for Devour! twice and comes away inspired and always, always hungry.