Tuesday, January 18, 2011


If things go as we hope, The Townhouse will be situated on, or very near, Main Street and offer a cozy, classy, and genuinely friendly atmosphere to Antigonishers and visitors looking for a place to spend an afternoon or evening, meet friends, sample top quality ales and have a bite of something tasty, simple and locally grown to eat.

We will offer 2 of our own brews, a wide variety of NS micro-brewed and imported draft beers (including Guinness and several others that are not available anywhere in Antigonish), as well as a selection of NS and/or organic bottled beers and wines. But we’ll talk more about the beer another time. Terry is off this morning to do some brewing with Kevin Keefe of the Granite Brewery! Kevin trained in England and is the only guy east of Quebec that does cask conditioned ales (their Summer Ale, Stout and Best Bitter).

Today I want to talk a bit about food.
Our food will all be prepared from scratch using the Antigonish area’s bounty of locally produced vegetables, meats and cheeses. I was lucky to grow up with a mother who was an avid gardener (some might say obsessive, but I think that’s a common trait among gardeners) and a terrific cook. She was adventurous too. Well before ethnic/health foods had really hit much of little old Antigonish, she was feeding us kids marinated tofu, salads with everything fresh form the garden, and even home-made pierogis and falafels. She may have had a little too much faith in our gastronomic sophistication though. At 8yrs or so, I was so confused by the texture and taste of the felafels, I actually managed to make my usually resilient stomach revolt rather violently against them. We called them “feel-awfuls” for years… Anyway, I digress, and I love falafels now. The point is that she was, and still is, amazing in the kitchen, and we learned early to appreciate the superior flavours and textures of truly fresh vegetables and herbs.

My sisters and I have all inherited some of our mother’s pleasure in growing and cooking (and eating!) tasty and interesting foods. My sister Susie and I went off to work on organic farms in France and Spain shortly after highschool. We even got to harvest and press our own olive oil (and no olive oil has tasted quite as good since...). Susie continued to pursue the growing aspect much more seriously, taking courses at the NS Ag college, and eventually studying Permaculture at a really wild little college in Ireland. She and her partner Will spent last season starting a beautiful and productive CSA garden on some family land we call Seabright. They started small, because the land hadn’t been worked in some time. They hauled loads and loads of seaweed and compost and manure to build up the soil again and things went really well–they plan to double their subscriptions this coming year! Terry and I are pleased to say that Seabright Market Gardens will be one of the main veggie suppliers to The Townhouse!

As any of you who frequent the farmer’s market will know, there are a growing number of people producing food of all sorts in our area (veggies, fruit, honey, herbs, cheeses, lamb, chicken, pork, beef, maple syrup, hot sauces, empanadas, croissants, etc.). We hope to be buying from many of them! If you are growing food locally and would be interested in supplying us, please let us know! I know that buying smaller amounts from a large number of small producers is neither the simplest nor the cheapest way to supply a restaurant. In fact, it is basically the opposite of the mainstream restaurant model–order twice a week from one massive international supplier, and have it delivered right to your door... I’m anticipating a lot of back and forthing with producers, and a lot of time spent preserving the summer and fall bounty so we can offer local fruit and veggies well after the frost hits. But we all know how desperately we need to change our unsustainable food systems–and we're convinced that supporting local producers and our local economy, doing less to screw up the environment, and serving incredibly tasty fresh food will be well worth it.

By the way–if you’re interested in making sure you have access to food that is tasty, nutritious and sustainably produced there are a few events coming up in Antigonish that you could check out:

Antigonish Sustainable Development Meeting, January 27th , 6:30-9pm at Bethany. The topic will be Local Food Security and how the community can move forward in that direction. There will be people speaking on behalf of local producers, local food security organizations (we have 2!), and a really interesting province wide community/university research project that St.FX and VOICES Antigonish are involved in. Come out and get involved!

VOICES Antigonish, the organization that has created a local food box delivery program and school and community gardens, are having our annual forum on February 12th. This will be an opportunity for people to spend a few hours talking about local food, growing it, eating it, and listening to a great guest speaker. Previous speakers include Wolfville’s celebrated chef and SlowFood promoter Michael Howell, and NS gardening expert Marjorie Willison. Everyone is welcome, keep your eyes peeled for posters for the Antigonish Stirfry. Voices has accomplished a lot in the past few years, even winning the 2nd Annual Spirit Nova Scotia Local Food Award, but it would be great to get some more people out and involved in whatever ways you are able. Check us out on facebook.

And finally, ACORN, are having their Annual Conference and Tradeshow in Fredericton this coming March. In 2009-2010, I had the great pleasure of working as an eco-intern for the incredible “small but mighty” non-profit organization that promotes organic agriculture in Atlantic Canada.  Terry, Susie and Will, both of my parents and I all volunteered at least year’s 10th anniversary conference and had a blast. We all were really impressed and amazed at the excitement and momentum around local and organic food, coming from the speakers and participants both. Highlights included a great Seedy Saturday seed swap, organic pioneer Marty Mesh’s talk about social justice for farmers, Ken Taylor’s workshops on fruit and nut trees that thrive in colder climates like ours, and, of course, the excellent all local and all organic food! Will helped Doug of Oakhaven Bakery produce croissants, muffins, and breads for the conference using Speerville Mill’s organic flours in their portable woodfired oven! And there was even a keg of Picaroon’s organic beer at unofficial after-party! This year the conference will be in Fredericton, and I’ve heard that ACORN board member, Sean Dunbar (of Picaroon’s), has got some big plans to bring the whole city to the party… Anyway, to find out about the speaker line up and volunteering for this year’s conference, check out the ACORN website. I’m looking forward to it already…

OKAY, back to the Townhouse…

Basically, what I've been getting at here is our general food philosophy. We want to serve food that is delicious, interesting without being precious, satisfying without inducing a heart-attack, and as sustainable and locally produced as possible. Our menu will be small but changing regularly, with lots of snacking options (delicious and hearty dips, local cheeses and meats, home-made fruit and veggie preserves), hearty soups and salads, and old–fashioned comfort food like (my favourite) Jacket Potatoes with lavish toppings (caramelized onions, goat’s cheese, bacon, chives, etc.), Shepard’s Pie, Cornish Pasties or Empanadas, or, another one of my favourites, the Ploughman’s Lunch. 

(Photosource: http://www.collegearms.biz/contentok.php?id=1121)

There is a whole Flickr pool of photos of the iconic British pub fare–check out some great Ploughman’s Lunches. It's a good example of the sort of simple, fresh, high quality, "real food" we're planning to serve. Imagine a large plate of fresh baked Irish soda bread, a chunk of NS cheese–maybe Antigonish Co.'s own creamy Double Gloucester style, or Cumin-spiked Gouda from That Dutchman–and some house-made pickled dilly beans and cukes, a little dish of tasty chutney, some smoked ham or St. Mary's smoked salmon, and a few slices of Jack MacLeod's crisp Harbour Centre apples!

Okay, that’s plenty for today. Tell us what you want to eat at the Townhouse! What is your ideal 21st Century pub food???


  1. I absolutely can not wait to eat a ploughman's lunch in Antigonish with a pint of microbrew.

  2. Hey! We must be on the same wavelength today! This morning I was thinking about the local food the Townhouse will be serving, and wondering what'll be on the menu. And here's my answer already. Talk about instant gratification.

    The success of the local Farmers' Market and the annual local-food picnics at the Gazebo show what an amazing variety of local comestibles we do have.

    I'm glad to hear you're planning to do some preserving, so that local fruit and veggies can be available throughout the year. (I myself have 2 full-sized freezers full of organic garden produce and local meat, and sometimes I wonder how sustainable running 2 freezers is...but I digress.)

    The menu ideas sound mouthwatering....I'll be RIGHT OVER. Just so everyone knows, Rose is the Queen of hors d'oeuvres and snack foods! Rose, don't forget us vegetarians. Maybe The Ploughman's Friend's lunch could have a little wedge of quiche instead, or something?
    The Ploughman's Cousin? The Ploughwoman's? (kidding.)

    (I'm not anonymous, I'm Janette. I just don't know how to blog.)

  3. Thanks Janette, and we won't forget the veggies among us. We were thinking the ploughman's could offer a choice of sausage, hot smoked salmon, or a wedge of spanish tortilla (my fave hearty potato omelette).

    We will offer lots of veggie fare, including a fabulous lentil/green bean/feta and arugula salad my sister Noni discovered in Totnes, GB. And dairy/gluten free options too!