Dinner Out: Bessie North House

Dinner Out: Bessie North House
By Scott Campbell

In an issue of The Grapevine dedicated to Home, I can’t think of a better Dining Out feature than one about The Bessie North House. From the moment you pull into the driveway of this rural gem, you feel like you’ve arrived…home. There is something undeniably warm and welcoming about this wonderful dining destination and you feel it before you even enter the front door. Once inside, the warm dark trim of the door casings and staircase enrich the welcome. The dining room itself entices you even further into the century-old farmhouse and hints at the notion that there may be something more on the menu than we might expect in a typical Valley farmhouse kitchen. Something more indeed:

Susan, our hostess for the evening and wife of Chef Dave Smart – the co-owners of Bessie North House Farm and Restaurant – greeted us at the door and poured a glass of bubbly for everyone. Bessie North House is a “bring your own wine” establishment, so we all brought a bottle of our favourite wines which Susan expertly kept flowing throughout dinner. After giving us a quick tour of the dining area and then inviting us to visit Chef Smart in the kitchen later (just not all at once), Susan invited to have a seat and began service, and what a service it was.

First course was a light and tasty beet salad with goat cheese and apple. The tangy cheese and sweet apple were the perfect accompaniments for the beets. The pickled beet vinaigrette finished everything perfectly.

Next up was the salmon. This fennel and citrus cured salmon was spectacular. It was served with crème fraîche, pickled apples, pickled mustard seeds, and fresh green onion. These amazing flavours danced together to create a fantastic culinary creation – one of my favourite of the evening.

Third course was the celeriac soup. Of all the dishes this was the only one I was a little worried about. Of all the root veggies out there, celeriac is usually not one of my go-tos. However, I’m delighted to say that Chef Smart made a believer of me. The rich, creamy celeriac soup with a drizzle of celeriac oil, compressed apple, sautéed cremini mushrooms, and black truffle was spectacular. Again the brightness of the apple worked so well with the earthiness of the celeriac, the mushrooms, and the truffles.

The fourth course was cured scallop that had been seared on one side and then presented with cauliflower purée, curried raisins, and romanesco. This dish had everything going for it. I love it when there is clearly a lot of thought put into every aspect of a dish. This one had delicious tastes going on with the fresh scallop seared perfectly. The rich aroma of the scallop was the first thing you experienced before you even saw the plate. Then, when presented, the unique-looking romanesco created a lot of visual interest as well. So nice.
The next course featured local pork in a fantastic Asian dish. The fresh, handmade ramen noodles nestled in with the pork tenderloin looked so enticing. The fermented cabbage and maitake mushrooms added the familiar and tasty earthy notes and the pork broth that everything sat in was the perfect way to mix and mingle all of these rich flavours.

The sixth course – yes, sixth – saw an amazing caramelized onion and cheddar tart with apple and delicata squash. This delicious savoury pastry was baked to perfection and served with a raw Brussels sprout and kale salad, with dried cranberries, pumpkin seeds, and cider vinaigrette. This feature was another spectacular blending of deep rich fall flavours and the bright cider vinaigrette.
We were both sad and excited to see the dessert make its way to our table. Excited because it looked delicious and sad because we knew it was the final act of this incredible culinary show we’d been enjoying for the past few hours. Dessert featured an incredibly imaginative celeriac mousse with a celeriac purée served alongside an apple sorbet, almond crumble, and lemon sponge cake. Again I was a little suspect of the celeriac but, true to form, Chef Smart turned my doubt into delight with this spectacular and sweet dessert sensation.

Bessie North House is located on Bessie North Road just north of the village of Canning. It might be a little off the beaten track but I assure you that is an key part of the charm of this culinary treasure of the Annapolis Valley. The fantastic menu changes regularly so I encourage you to go soon and to go often. Cheers.

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