edible adventures from the centre of the universe

27 November 2007

Going Back to Hali

Howdy! November has been a crazy month for this cowgirl, and I apologize for my lack of updates. Part of the reason I went all Madeleine McCann on you (too soon?) was because I was on the road for work much more than usual. It's not all bad -- this time I had the opportunity to visit a city I had not been to before, but always wanted to check out: Halifax!

Even in chilly November, Halifax is a beautiful city to stroll around -- it's got some really interesting architecture and charming old buildings in the downtown area. I was surprised to find that the shopping is so good in Halifax, and I found several cute indie shops that I wished I could pack up and take back to Toronto with me (especially Sweet Pea Boutique, which has an excellent collection of frocks).

In addition to the shopping, I was quite taken with the food I sampled while in town. During my short stay I managed to fit in three restaurants, all of which made for tasty fun:

Gio (1725 Market Street)
On my first day in town, I headed over to the reastaurant in the Prince George Hotel, Gio, for lunch. I had read great things about this new-ish spot on Chowhound, and I was looking forward to trying it out myself. The decor in Gio is mod, but not ridiculous (in comparison to, say, Otto in Montreal). Once seated by my friendly waiter I found myself surrounded by rich reds, deep browns, and subtle lighting -- cosy, and very nice.

From the short lunch menu, I selected "gio soup" to start (butternut, with toasted pumpkin seeds), and a salmon wrap with string frites for my main. While I waited for my soup, I was given a basket with a variety of tasty fresh breads and some soft butter -- the bread service at Gio is well above average. My soup arrived shortly thereafter: deep orange in colour and garnished with toasted pumpkin seeds, with an intoxicating fragrance welcoming me to dig in. As I did, I was rewarded with a flavourful, smooth and rich mixture of butternut and spice that was contrasted with the crunchy, nutty flavour of the pumpkin seeds. Heaven!

When my salmon wrap arrived (pictured above), I was somewhat disappointed to find that the flour tortilla was a little dry, and of no higher quality than the mass-produced variety that you can pick up at the local grocery. However, the filling (smoked salmon, cucumber, greens, havarti, and a light dressing) was top-notch. The meaty salmon had an interesting smoky maple flavour and the bright greens were fresh as can be. The combination of flavours in the wrap was very satisfying, and it made for a nice light meal. The string frites on the side were also delicious, especially paired with a light aioli.

Considering the quality of my meal at Gio and the impeccable service I received, I found it to be an excellent value. I will be back to try some of the other items on the menu next time I visit Halifax.

Salvatore's Pizzaiolo Trattoria (5541 Young Street)
Touted as "the best pizza in Halifax," I had to give Salvatore's a try while I was in Oceantown. Based on an online recommendation (since there is no online menu), I called up Salvatore's and ordered a Quattro Formaggi pie for delivery. Less than an hour later, I was opening up a pizza box to find the strangest-looking pizza I had ever seen. It looked like a pizza with the edges folded over several inches. The non-folded-over area of the pie was covered with a golden-brown egg-cheese mixture and fresh herbs. With no tomato sauce, this pie was nothing like what I was expecting -- I dug in anyways. What a pleasant surprise! The Quattro Formaggi is more like a quiche than a pizza, with a rich, cheesy custard-like texture and flavour. I was glad that I tried it, but I think I would have preferred one of Salvatore's more "standard" pies for my first taste of "the best pizza in Halifax." Oh well!

Hungry Chilli (5234 Blowers Street)
On my last day in town, I met a friend for lunch at a hole-in-the-wall Szechuan place that I had heard about: The Hungry Chilli. Tiny and unpretentious, this restaurant serves up some of the most flavourful Chinese food that I have ever tasted. I ordered the "Hot Numbing Shrimp" lunch special, which came with rice and a spring roll for a ridiculously low price. My food arrived fast and the portion size was extremely generous. My spring roll was fat, crispy, and pretty much perfect. The shrimp was stir-fried with a mound of fresh, flavourful veggies and smothered in an amazing sauce flecked with large chunks of hot chilis. Despite its spicy heat, the sauce still had deep and wonderful, multi-layered flavours that shone through -- much to my delight. Highly, highly recommended.

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