Dinner Out: The Maritime Express Cider Co.

Dinner Out: The Maritime Express Cider Co.
By Scott Campbell

Well, we waited a while, with lots of hints of what was to come and who the new chef was going to be. Then the chef arrived and we knew it was just a matter of time before the newly-renovated kitchen was ready to go into full operation. We waited impatiently, and then it happened. The new menu became a reality. We beelined it to the Maritime Express Cider Co. to try some of the new offerings from Chef Stephane Levac. Chef Levac was already well-known in the area after a stint at Just Us Coffee as their chef and as the genius behind Frais Catering and the delicious bagels that were a regular feature at the Farmers’ Market, but now, Chef Levac is working his magic at The Maritime Express Cider Co. and oh, what magic he’s working. Here are some of the highlights that I got to try when my group sampled the new menu for the first time.

First up we decided to try some of the appetizers. Everything looked really good but we finally decided on some warm olives with orange zest, garlic, fennel sweets, thyme, chili flakes, and olive oil. I’m not sure why everyone doesn’t serve olives warm. I’ll admit I was a little late to the party where olives are concerned and I would often say I didn’t really like them. Those days are now behind me. The rustic taste of the olives with the smoothness of the warmed olive oil just seemed to brighten the orange zest and fennel. You really need to give them a try. We also got some zucchini: long strips dipped in batter and fried to a golden brown, and then drizzled with a creamy sumac aioli with just a dash of basil and mint. This warm delicious fried treat was a table favourite. The third – and maybe the one that disappeared first – was the chips, but these aren’t just any chips. These were hand-sliced potatoes that were then marinated in (of course) apple cider vinegar and served with salted sour cream. Crunchy, tangy, salty deliciousness.

When the mains came out we were impressed with the presentation and the amazing aromas that came out with them. I had opted for the burger and a salad (although fries with spicy aioli or frites were also choices). This pure beef patty was served with a herb and garlic gouda cheese, smoked bacon, charred onions, and mustard gravy. The incredible charred flavour of the beef patty took centre stage and the rich cheese, bacon, onion, and gravy all worked together to create one of the most mouth-watering burgers I think I’ve ever eaten. The salad was also great, with fresh flavours of cheese, pears, and pumpkin seeds all under a mustard vinaigrette.

Another option that evening was the porchetta. This juicy portion of pork perfection came out piping hot alongside spicy white beans, wilted greens, and tomato vinaigrette. The tender pork quite literally melts in your mouth and the rich full flavours of the porchetta and the greens under the vinaigrette are a masterful dance of flavours. This is a must-try!

The vegetarians are also well represented on this new menu. Our third entrée of the evening was the Buddha bowl. Again, a combination of rich flavours all merged to create something that was infinitely more that the sum of its parts. Spiced chick peas were fried to perfection and then mixed in with sweet potatoes, broccoli, red onion, and kale, and covered with a rich tahini sauce. The earthy taste of the fried chick peas with the bright vegetables all worked perfectly with the tahini to create a spectacular vegetarian dish.

So, again, if you read my articles often, you’ll know I have a sweet tooth and that I’m hard pressed to say “no” to a dessert. Well, the dessert menu at The Maritime Express Cider Co. certainly did not make my decision any easier. There is a rich and wonderful assortment of desserts to choose from, but my eye was quickly drawn to the apple fritters with dulce de leche. I mean, a place that uses apples to make its incredible selection of ciders must know a thing or two about an apple fritter, right?! Oh, do they ever. This sweet and fluffy fried pastry is served up golden brown and smothered in one the most amazing dulce de leche sauces I’ve ever encountered. Take a moment to breathe in the sweet aroma before you start eating this incredible dessert because once you start, it’s impossible to stop until every dulce de leche-soaked crumb is gone.

So, if you haven’t tried this great new menu, then pick a night to celebrate and enjoy this wonderful eating establishment in Kentville’s Main Street Station (formerly the Cornwallis Inn). Check their website for exciting entertainment that also happens there frequently throughout the week. Cheers.

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