Monday, October 31, 2011

Hart & Thistle Gastropub, Halifax

We ate lunch at Hart & Thistle Gastropub in Halifax last week. Hart & Thistle is located on the Halifax waterfront, and has outdoor seating with a lovely view of the Halifax harbour. He had the Rueben sandwich and I had the club, plus a St. Ambroise Apricot Wheat beer- something like peach iced tea mixed with beer. Strange, but good.

The sandwiches weren't anything to write home about, but the home fries were fantastic. What is it about fries with the skins still on that makes them so darn delicious?

Hart & Thistle now occupies what used to be the Harbourside market food court - the site of our very first date, a lifetime ago. He might have had a Rueben then, too.
- Jess

Friday, October 28, 2011

Updated Blog Posts: Renting Property, Importing & Traveling to Malta with Dogs

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Try Something New Where You Live

During my Big Day Downtown over the weekend (read about Part I at Spirit Urban Spa here, and Part II at Chives Bistro here) Mike and I also took a couple of hours to wander around the city and pop into some new shops we had never been to before. We stumbled into Inkwell Boutique - which has the most gorgeous and unique stationary and prints for less than your average Hallmark card. And we also went to Oddjects, where some Illy Italian coffee was brewing that reminded us of 'home' (Malta). 

We think that it's great to 'be a tourist' wherever you live and to try new things. Many people never discover a fraction of the richness of the places they live in, and get stuck in a rut going to their favourite shops, parks, and restaurants over and over. But cities and countries are living things, and you can miss a lot of unique experiences if you don't seek out what's new and changing in your neighbourhood. You don't always have to go far, or spend much, to get the same kind of experiences that travelling provides: learning, inspiration, enjoyment. At least that's what we keep telling ourselves as the travel bug nips at our toes. 

If you're one of our new Halifax readers, have you tried anything new downtown lately? Did you recently discover a great new shop or restaurant? A new favourite park? Do share.
- Jess
while we wandered we found something 'new' at privateer's wharf in halifax that we'd never seen before...
this looks good on him, yes? 

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Guest Post on Who's Your Dachshund

We were guest posting over at Who's Your Dachshund yesterday, you can check it out here. WYD is a blog by ten dachshund owners across the world sharing their insightful (and hilarious) stories about living with (a.k.a being a slave to) the dachshund. When we first got our pups WYD was a great source for us of what to expect - the burrowing, the attachment issues, the quirkiness.

Thanks for having us, WYD!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Chives Bistro, Halifax: My Big Day Downtown Part II

This is Part II of my Big Day Downtown. The Big Day Downtown promotion is sponsored by the Downtown Halifax Business Commission as a way to draw visitors to the downtown area of Halifax. This year's theme is Try Something New, so last week when I was chosen by the DHBC for my very own Big Day Downtown I jumped at the chance to visit Spirit Urban Spa and dine at Chives Canadian Bistro. To read Part I of my Big Day Downtown at Spirit Spa, go here

big day downtown halifax ns

Every city has one of those well known, upscale restaurants that everyone knows is just good. Chives is one of those restaurants. You might even call it a foodie's food place. It's located on Barrington Street, one of the main streets in Halifax.

The head chef at Chives is well-known local chef Craig Flinn. Flinn apprenticed with Chef Michael Smith in PEI (yes, Michael Smith the dreamboat from the Food Network). He has also apprenticed in Europe, Canada & the U.S., and published three cook books based on local, fresh and seasonal cooking.

If Michael Smith is a dreamboat (and he most certainly is) Flinn looks like the kind of guy you'd want to share a drink and a story with, and then make him like you and be your friend so he would let you taste test all his new creations. Add a trip to Morocco with Michael Smith, and a tour of Florence with David Rocco, and these are my foodie dreams, guys. I dream big.

Flinn opened Chives in 2001.The restaurant's menus are based on seasonal produce from local farmers, artisan cheese and meat producers, and sustainable seafood. The core menu changes every 6 to 8 weeks, so you can expect fresh and innovative dishes all year long.

I booked my table for two online through the Open Table booking service. A twitter-er recommended that I book 'The Vault' for my meal. Unfortunately, it was already booked for Saturday evening, but we were promised the second-best seats in the house: a lovely table for two near the window that looks onto Barrington Street. But I would still love to try The Vault someday. It's a leftover from the 1950's when this space was occupied by the Bank of Nova Scotia. This former money vault now stores Chives' wines, and is also a totally unique dining space for 2-4 people. If dining in a bank vault turned wine cellar isn't fabulously romantic, please tell me what is.

chives canadian bistro halifax big day downtown

Chives doesn't do boring old bread rolls, so to start you are presented with the most melt-in-your-mouth buttermilk biscuits with whipped butter and (the best part) molasses, in a quirky paper bag. Read the sweet story about these buttermilk biscuits (and other Chives recipes) here.

For our mains Mike ordered the pork and polenta (Westphalen ham wrapped pork tenderloin, fennel barbeque pulled pork, creamy parmesan polenta, sweet corn and edamame succotash) and I had the daily special - PEI scallops, roasted root vegetables wrapped in cabbage, purréed potatoe and some kind of amazing cream sauce. We also ordered the New Zealand Villa Maria Private Bin Sauvignon Blanc, which was an excellent accompaniment. For dessert we split the Swiss style apple tart, which I forgot to take a photo of before we devoured. But really, it's a compliment to the chef when the food looks too good to photograph.

This was perhaps one of the best meals we've ever had in Halifax. I have never had vegetables like those root vegetables, wrapped in a cabbage leaf like a gift from the vegetable gods. Mike loved his polenta and pork - polenta is often mediocre at restaurants but this one was perfect. And my scallops were beautiful - excellent texture, perfectly seared.

Chives is pricey, but worth every penny. Our meal came to around $100. Our service was superb, and we were well looked after all evening. But be warned, the photos on Chives' website are deceiving - they recently renovated and the restaurant is even prettier than it used to be, with a much more updated look. Plus they appear to have partnered with Argyle Fine Art and all of the art on their walls is by local artists and is available to purchase. Local food, local art, local talent. A great way to end my Big Day Downtown.

Thank you again to the Downtown Halifax Business Commission, Spirit Urban Spa & Chives Canadian Bistro.

- Jess

In the interest of full disclosure: The opinions expressed in this blog post are my own. I was not directly compensated for this blog post. Meal was paid for in part by DHBC as part of the Big Day Downtown contest promotion. Consider yourself fully disclosed.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Spirit Urban Spa, Halifax: My Big Day Downtown Part I

The Big Day Downtown promotion is sponsored by the Downtown Halifax Business Commission as a creative way to draw visitors to the downtown area of Halifax and encourage them to try something new. People are selected to spend $100 from the DHBC to try something new downtown. Those who are chosen for a Big Day Downtown then document their experiences - you can read about them here. Last week I was thrilled to be chosen by the DHBC for my very own Big Day Downtown. It has been a wonderful experience participating in the promotion of Halifax's unique downtown area.

For my Big Day Downtown I went for two splurges: a massage at Spirit Urban Spa and dinner at Chives Canadian Bistro. Both establishments are reputed to be among the best of the best in this little city, and they did not disappoint.

Spirit Urban Spa is located on Salter and Hollis Street in Halifax, and was opened in 2002. It consistently wins all of the Best Spa awards in the local press, and offers a smorgasbord of spa services: manis, pedis, facials, body wraps, polishes and scrubs, massages, as well a full hair salon. Yes, they even have services for men. (Santa might be bringing Mike a pedicure. He needs it.)

This was my first 'real' massage. Mike and I had went to a hammam in Marrakech, Morocco, but I don't think our masseuse was an RMT (Registered Massage Therapist) and there wasn't a lot of deep tissue anything going on.

Spirit Spa is impeccably designed: the perfect balance between cool and comfortable. I visited on a Saturday morning and the spa was quite busy. Always a good sign! When I arrived I was attended by a cheerful receptionist who offered me a hot beverage (herbal tea, coffee, lattes, etc.) I enjoyed a camomile orange tea in the lounge, which was fully stocked with beauty magazines and calming music, until my massage therapist Anne came to greet me.

My massage was fantastic. I opted for the shortest and cheapest massage, so I could spend the rest of my Big Day Downtown dollars over at Chives, and my only complaint is that those thirty minutes flew by. Anne was very easy to get along with, and like all good RMTs she knew her stuff. She was an excellent communicator, and always considerate of my comfort and needs. I have a theory that every paper I write at school creates a new knot in my back, but I think with a few more visits Anne will definitely be able to undo all that damage.

After my massage I took advantage of the steam showers at Spirit Spa. The steam showers had glass doors, so that the rest of the locker room could see your naked tush when you were showering. This was a little strange, but any shred of modesty I used to have about these things was scrubbed off by a nice lady in that Moroccan hammam last winter, so it wasn't a big deal.

Spirit Spa also has access to a swimming pool and hot tub, and has lovely nail and hair salons. Their services are priced fairly for this calibre of spa, but their hair salon prices are especially reasonable, starting at $40 for women and $30 for men. They also sell a wide range of beauty and hair products from many well known brands, such as Moroccan Oil and B. Kamins. You can browse their online shop here, where you can also purchase gift certificates. They make great stocking stuffers, I hear. (Yes Mike, that's a hint.)

I definitely look forward to returning to Spirit Spa in the future. The wonderful staff made my stay a pleasurable one from start to finish, and the atmosphere was just what it should be: relaxing, luxurious and welcoming. Thank you, Spirit Spa & Downtown Halifax!

My Big Day Downtown got off to a perfect start at Spirit Urban Spa. For part two of my Big Day Downtown at Chives Canadian Bistro, stay tuned.

spirit urban spa big day downtown halifax nova scotia

spirit urban spa big day downtown halifax nova scotia

spirit urban spa big day downtown halifax nova scotia

spirit urban spa big day downtown halifax nova scotia

In the interest of full disclosure: The opinions expressed in this blog post are my own. I was not compensated for this blog post. Spa services were paid for by DHBC as part of the Big Day Downtown contest promotion. Consider yourself fully disclosed.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Mike's Thanksgiving Weekend

Two posts in one week, this has to be a record for me.

My whole family, parents, siblings and our neighbours (who are our adopted extended family) came home to Nova Scotia for Canadian Thanksgiving this month. It was our first gathering of everyone in one place in over a year.

We had a great time apple picking, getting our rental van stuck in mud after apple picking, and listening to old drunk men (I'm looking at you, David) make inappropriate references to the shape of the Thanksgiving gourd centrepiece on our table.

My immediate family, dogs included, also hiked 16 kilometres to Cape Split, Nova Scotia in anticipation of the extra turkey calories on Thanksgiving weekend.

Family Apple Picking
Ellie Apple Picking

Minas Basin, Nova Scotia, Canada
Jack and I at Cape Split, Nova Scotia

Cape Split, Nova Scotia, Canada
Winnie got too tired to walk 12 kilometers into our hike
Enjoying the hot Thanksgiving weather - at 26 degrees Celsius it was hotter than Malta

Dear Family, it was great to see you all and I look forward to our next crazy reunion. But maybe we'll do a shorter hike next time.


Friday, October 21, 2011

I won my Big Day Downtown!

I was thrilled to be contacted by the Downtown Halifax Business Commission this week as a winner of my Big Day Downtown. Tomorrow I'm headed over to Spirit Urban Spa for a massage (my first ever!) and then I'm treating Mike to dinner at Chives Bistro. I'm beyond excited to finally eat some of the legendary Craig Flinn's creations.

image c/o spirit spa
image c/o chives

Also, if you're looking for a great deal in Halifax, check out Dealfind's deal for this week: $60 for a cut, wash, style and deep conditioning scalp massage, 10 highlights or root touch up, and $100 worth of waxing services at Solo Hair Salon (regular price of $325). I've already purchased and booked. The deal never expires and you can book the hair and waxing services as separate appointments if you want. Not only is it a steal, but I can see Solo Hair Salon from my flat and let's face it, with my crazy work load stumbling out of the house to a hair salon nearby for some pampering is insanely convenient. But be quick, because spots are filling up fast!

image c/o solo hair salon

Hope you all have a great weekend!

- Jess

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Rock Climbing in Malta

So the first month and a half back in Canada has been a bit crazy and I didn’t actually have that much time to miss Malta…. Or pay attention to keeping up with my portion of the blog duties.

I joined the Malta Climbing Club rock-climbing group for the last half of the summer that we were in Malta. It's a great outdoor sport activity in a country that is essentially one big rock.

rock climbing malta

rock climbing malta

rock climbing malta

Fastforward to autumn in Canada. Canada is cold. I frequently wear 3-4 layers of clothing and we haven’t had a day under 0 degrees Celsius yet. But I have managed to do some outdoor things in Halifax like go to Peggy’s Cove with Jess and hike the 16km round trip trail to Cape Split, Nova Scotia with my family at Thanksgiving. Both were nice, but I'm really looking forward to re-joining the (much nicer warm weather) climbing club in Malta in January. We are nearing the half way mark so it won't be long now.


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Peggy's Cove, Nova Scotia

What do you do in Halifax on a windy day? Head to Peggy's Cove for some wave watching, of course. Sou'wester optional.

peggy's cove nova scotia halifax lighthouse rocks and surf

peggy's cove nova scotia halifax lighthouse rocks and surf

peggy's cove nova scotia halifax lighthouse rocks and surf

peggy's cove nova scotia halifax lighthouse rocks and surf

peggy's cove nova scotia halifax lighthouse rocks and surf

peggy's cove nova scotia halifax lighthouse rocks and surf

peggy's cove nova scotia halifax lighthouse rocks and surf

peggy's cove nova scotia halifax lighthouse rocks and surf

peggy's cove nova scotia halifax lighthouse rocks and surf

Monday, October 17, 2011

Nocturne: Art at Night in Halifax

Last weekend we checked out Nocturne: Art at Night in Halifax. It's Halifax's version of Notte Bianca (Malta) or Nuit Blanche (Toronto), etc.; an all-night art festival that brings art, and crowds, into the streets of the city. It was so good to see the Halifax bustling with people - families, students, couples, seniors - all night long. The last several years I was working at a gallery during the night of Nocturne, so this year it was a treat to get to roam the streets and experience it from a different angle.

Halifax punches way about its weight in the arts. We're spoiled like that around here.

And a big thank-you to Mike for being my date for the night. It would be like if I went to an accounting festival with him, so I'll give the guy some big boyfriend points for this one.

An accounting festival... I shudder at the thought.


Paint with light at TUNS, Halifax
Phantom Limb, Old Burying Grounds, Halifax
#wereweherewewere interactive Twitter performance at Obladee Wine Bar, Halifax
Happy Wash installation/performance at Page & Strange Gallery, Granville Square, Halifax
Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, Sobey Art Award Exhibition