Boy oh boy did the good folks of Yarmouth, Nova Scotia ever roll out the red carpet for me. My recent weekend visit to the small town (population of about 7,000) that was far too short and far too fun, began with a Saturday morning visit to the bustling Yarmouth Farmers Market on Hawthorn Street, which moved into rustic-chic new digs in June. All of the vendors put together a massive welcome basket for me — everything from homemade ketchup to a giant challah to organic lettuce, and even a coupon for a free crêpe. Talk about small town hospitality!
I didn't want to fill up too much though, as I was scheduled to be one of the judges at the Annual Cook's Chowder Cook-Off that afternoon, a blind taste test of creamy seafood chowders from a bunch of restaurants in the area. (Cook's, the sponsor, is a local dairy producer). My fellow judge was Emily, from Taste of Nova Scotia, an association that promotes all the great local producers and products of the area. After much slurping, we had a tie for first and second and even third place, so after triple tasting all the chowders, Emily finally saw things my way (heh heh) and we had our winners. The crowd on that sunny July day was almost as thick as some of those delicious chowders, and they enjoyed bowlfuls of it too, along with the fresh lobsters, scallops and other great shellfish being shucked and slurped on the wharf, all part of the annual Seafest celebrations.
Admittedly, after all of that chowder I was beyond stuffed, especially since I unwisely indulged in a heaping plate of deeeelicious fried clams at Rudder's (they placed 2nd at the chowder cook-off) minutes before the competition.
So, off I went, walking the tidal flats, driving through picturesque landscapes, and visiting the Yarmouth Lightstation — home to Denise Nickerson's amazing bread pudding with caramel sauce.
I eventually ended the day aboard a slow-moving lobster boat that had been transformed into a shining beacon of lights and fireworks for the "Parade of Lights" on the town's waterfront, which began at dusk and lasted until late, part of the year-long celebrations for Yarmouth's 250th birthday.
Like I said, boy oh boy, did I ever have a great weekend. And did I ever eat well. From Saturday night's traditional slow-cooked beans and bread, to the local specialty, creamed lobster, to the indigenous potato and chicken rappie pie at Helen LeBlank's Red Cap restaurant (in her family she's known as the queen of rappie pie). Though I ate just about as well as a person can, it's honestly the kind people of Yarmouth who will bring me back again: They were the true local delicacy.
For a taste of Yarmouth you can make at home, here's an easy oatmeal bread recipe by Yarmouth caterers chef Gary Kent and Madeleine Daues.
(makes 2 loaves)
1 tsp dry active yeast (1 package)
1/4 cup warm water
1 cup rolled oats
2 cups boiling water
1/2 cup molasses
2 tsp olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
6 cups all-purpose flour
Step 1: Preheat oven to 350°F.
Step 2: In a small bowl, sprinkle the yeast over the 1/4 cup warm water and let sit undisturbed for 5 minutes.
Step 3: Into a large bowl add the oats, molasses, oil, salt and boiling water, mix together, then add half the flour, followed by the yeast mixture, and then the remaining flour. Blend together.
Step 4: On a floured surface, kneed the dough for 5 minutes and then form into a ball. Let sit to rise, covered on the counter with a tea towel, for 1 hour, then punch the dough to let the air out.
Step 5: Grease two loaf pans and shape dough into two loaves in prepared pans. Let sit in pans to rise for another hour, then bake for 50 minutes.
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1-9. Amy Rosen