Dinner Out: Juniper

Dinner Out: Juniper
By Scott Campbell

There’s a new kid in town and their name is Juniper. Last weekend I had the opportunity to meet this new kid and I can tell you for sure, I’m going to be going back. Juniper Food and Wine is the newest restaurant to set up shop in Wolfville, and it is a spectacular addition to our local culinary scene. Chef and owner Geoff Hopgood has created what I predict is going to quickly become a highly sought after dining destination. The intimate atmosphere of the dining room, the delicious small plate offerings, and an impressive wine list will quickly make Juniper a highlight of the local fine dining landscape.

Perhaps one of the most intriguing features of Juniper is the menu, which changes weekly, sometimes sooner. For instance, when I was there the menu was introduced on October 29 and was changing on November 2. I’m sure this feature will ensure diners will never become bored with what Chef Hopgood’s kitchen conjures up. But let me share with you the highlights of my evening there.

My party of four started our evening with a plate of fresh Sober Island oysters served alongside a tangy house-made mignonette. These delicious seafood treats were packed with seaside freshness and came served atop a miniature stone beach and kelp, which only highlighted the cool maritime presentation. In keeping with the ocean theme, we also opted for another of the appetizer options – delicate bay scallops lightly cooked to perfection and served in the shell. We paired our appetizers with a sparkling white wine. There are several on the menu but we opted for the 2017 L’Acadie Vintage Cuvée which was available by the glass or bottle.

The menu at Juniper is a selection of small plates. This gives everyone a chance to try as many of the items as possible and we did our best to try as much as we could. We decided to first try the Abundant Acres green salad. This tangy and sweet salad featured local greens and hakurei turnips, all tossed in Boates apple vinaigrette. It was the perfect first plate.

Next we ordered the albacore tuna crudo. These delicate slices of tuna were fresh and buttery, and tasted amazing with the crispy shallots and tomato conserva that it was served with. This is something I’ll certainly be having again soon.

Although tempted to try everything on the menu, we had to pick just a couple more selections for this visit. We decided on a pork dish and a chicken dish. The grilled pork collar was one of the tastiest pork dishes I’ve ever encountered (and I’ve encountered a few). The dashi butter and charred leeks imparted a flavour that almost defies description. Almost. The charred flavour of the leeks and the pork mingled to set off a literally mouth-watering experience of char-broiled splendour. The tender and juicy meat almost melted in your mouth. Spectacular.

And, not to be outdone by the pork, the chicken dish was equally spectacular. I should have known that if Chef Hopgood decides to create a dish that becomes his namesake, it’s going to be special. “Hopgood’s Hot Chicken” was certainly one of the most memorable of the evening. The fried chicken was incredibly moist while the outside featured a crunchy coating packed with spicy (but not too spicy) flavour. It came garnished with pickles and arrived on a piece of toast liberally coated with ranch dressing. Unbelievable. This is another dish I’ll be having again very soon.

There were two imaginative desserts offered on the menu this night. Our curiosity was sparked and it was too hard to decide so we ordered both of them. The corn crème caramel was perfectly smooth and velvety and drenched in caramel deliciousness. The subtle sweet corn flavour was made all the more pleasurable with the addition of the Annapolis sea salt. I know we eat first with our eyes so when the apple sorbet arrived at the table I was impressed with the inviting presentation, but I soon realized that the taste of this fresh, sweet, crispy, velvety-smooth frozen dessert was the star. The apple sorbet nestled under oat crisps and sprinkled with thyme while sitting in a puddle of brown butter crème fraiche was as incredibly delicious as it sounds. You need to try this.

Juniper Food and Wine opens at 4:00pm, and I would urge you to make a reservation. This 16-seat dining room will quickly fill with eager diners and I strongly suggest you become one of them as soon as you can. You won’t be disappointed. Cheers.

Follow Scott on Instagram@ScottsGrapevine