The most underrated restaurant in Halifax is waiting to be found, hidden in the halls of the Akerley campus of Nova Scotia Community College. Fresh Twenty One, formerly known as the Akerley Dining Room, is a fine-dining restaurant that is run completely by the students of the …
If there is one reality that is indisputable about living in Atlantic Canada (or anywhere in Canada for that matter) it is the fact that the winter months are filled with horrible yo-yo weather; snow storms, hail storms, slushy rain, freezing temperatures, and of course, the inevitable cancellations and delays in school, work, or travel. Surviving a winter in Canada takes a lot of patience, a large wardrobe of multi-faceted all weather clothing, and of course, diversions to get you through the depressing series of snow storms and general crappy weather. Last weekend my sister Maggie was heading to visit Adam and me in Halifax and I was so excited to have belated birthday celebrations with her.
Friday evening I headed to the grocery store in hopes of gathering the necessary groceries and classic storm foods to weather out the impending storm over the weekend in our little apartment: Booze, junk food, and milk. I was mortified to discover that for some reason every Haligonian in the South End had decided to do the very same thing. There was no cheese left at the store, no milk, no bread….but fortunately (and smart thinking on the part of the grocers) chips, pop, and candy were all on sale! So I stocked up on all the ingredients for the weekend and went home to await my sister’s arrival, braving the crazy long lines and pre-apocalyptic atmosphere of the grocery store. Note to self for future snow storm preparation: always keep a store of storm supplies to avoid grocery stores.
Saturday morning, I was so disappointed to discover that Maggie’s flight was cancelled and with no chance of her making it in over the weekend, Adam and I settled in for a day of movies and junk food eating, the perfect way to survive a snow storm. However, we did have reservations for that very evening at Stories and we debated all day whether or not to brave the stormy weather and attend a consolatory dinner that was supposed to be Maggie’s Birthday dinner. In the end, we decided a snowy walk and a great dinner was just what we needed to perk us up after a day holed up in the house and sooking over Maggie’s cancelled flight.
So we dressed up and bundled up in our storm gear and headed down to Stories, which is located in the quaint boutique hotel The Halliburton Inn on Morris Street in the South End. We were greeted by warm staff and even warmer ambience as we settled in to the beautiful restaurant. Stories is small, there are only about 5 tables, but the atmosphere is comforting, elegant, and romantic. The hotel is one of the many historic buildings in the South End and the decor of the Halliburton and its restaurant is beautiful with white table cloths and candles, impressive photography, and period accents and architecture.
Our server, Neil, made us feel immediately at home in the intimate restaurant, and we started off with drinks while we perused the menu. Adam started with a scotch, a 16 year old Lagavulin on the recommendation of our server, and I had a glass of the Louis Perdrier Brut.
We had initially chosen Stories because it was participating in the Dine Around event along with other restaurants in Nova Scotia and we were attracted to the advertised menu on the eDining.ca website. Dine Around is an ingenious event in which restaurants around the province create a Prix Fixe menu at a reasonable price to encourage people to get out and about during the winter months. In my opinion, Dine Around is great way to survive a winter on the East Coast.
Neil was a very informative server who knew a lot about food, and was indispensable when it came to choosing our meal that evening. I love it when servers are excited about the food, and he was knowledgeable about the preparation and presentation of all the dishes. He informed us that the menu at Stories changes daily, depending on the fresh ingredients, and the chef really takes time to create innovative and delicious entrees. Another bonus: Neil told us that all the menu options were available to us for the three course Prix Fixe price, something that I consider truly special, and that was really appreciated!
Adam started with the Sauteed Queen Crab Cake and Shrimp Cake, upon Neil’s declaration that there were no better Crab Cakes in the city, and both Adam and I are inclined to agree. The cakes were fresh and light, and the smoked jalapeno lime aioli was the perfect spicy compliment on a cold evening.
To start, I chose the Gnocchi with Beef Tenderloin and Cambazola. The dish was presented so cutely in a miniature cast iron terrine, and looked and tasted delicious. The Gnocchi was perfect; beyond perfect. I have eaten a lot of Gnocchi in my time: doughy Gnocchi, heavy Gnocchi, gooey Gnocchi, you name it. But this was light and flavourful, not at all too dense, like so many Gnocchi can be.
It was the perfect texture, and combined with the seasoned medium rare tenderloin and the creamy Cambazola cheese sauce, was amazing! I did not want to the dish to end, and could probably have had it as my main as well. Seriously, Adam had to take pictures of me having foodgasms over the deliciousness of this first course!
For our mains, Adam decided to switch to wine, and chose a Californian Cabernet Sauvignon, while I continued with my Brut. I chose the Duck Magret as my main, upon Neil’s recommendation, claiming it was the staff favourite, which I think is one of the biggest compliments a dish can get. If the staff continues to eat it, you know it is good! The staff was oh so right. The Duck was cooked perfectly and was accompanied by some of the most creamy delectably sweet Sweet Potato that I have ever had. I love a rich sauce with Duck and love it even more when it is combined with Sweet Potato, which I think is the perfect combination. The potato was also prepared in an eye and palette pleasing way. De-li-cious.
Adam’s main was as much exciting and interesting as it was delicious. He chose the Grilled Bison Tenderloin with Braised Bison Shepherd‘s Pie, and believe me, it tasted as good as it sounds. The innovative dish was a duo of deliciousness; the Bison was excellent, and the Shepherd’s Pie was even more amazing, with its cave-aged gruyere and delicious mashed potatoes. I thought it was a very unique way to present two cuts of the same meat, while at the same time having them compliment each other.
For the finale, Adam and I both chose chocolatey desserts. I had the Semi Frozen Chocolate Terrine with Mango Coulis, which was a chocolate mousse presented in the most awesome way that can really only be described in photography! The mango coulis and blackberries were the perfect tart compliment to the sweetness of the mousse.
Adam’s dessert was of equal decadence. He chose the Flourless Chocolate Cake with Hazelnut Praline Icecream and Chocolate Almond Croquant, and thoroughly enjoyed the rich treat.
The food was local, eclectic and comforting, and I can not think of a better place to have cozied up with Adam and a good meal on that stormy Saturday night. Stories is the ideal place for a celebration or for a romantic evening out, and my biggest recommendation for how to survive a blizzard. The next time you are storm bound and itching to Explore. Eat. Repeat, I suggest a snowy pilgrimage to Stories on Morris. Bon Voyage!
***CHECK OUT DINE AROUND 2013 UNTIL THE END OF FEBRUARY!! DON’T MISS OUT ON THE OPPORTUNITY TO EAT AT FABULOUS RESTAURANTS FOR AWESOME PRIX FIXE.***
Things Worth Mentioning:
Cost: Just over 200$ for a three course Prix-Fixe for two, several beverages, tax, and tip. This place isn’t cheap, but worth every penny. Save it for a special occasion!
Things I liked: The intimate ambience, the specialized service, the rapturous Gnocchi. It is also a great storm destination because it is located in a hotel so it rarely closes.
Things I didn’t: The Sirius satellite music, didn’t appreciate the adds in between songs!
The Best Place to Sit: Near the window for a view, or outside in the summer time.
What to Order Next Time: Whatever Neil tells me to!