Saturday, February 23, 2013

Hopgoods Foodliner Maritimes Dinng

While it would be difficult to pinpoint what exactly is Canada's national dish, it is much easier to talk about regional specialties.  Hopgoods Foodliner's menu focuses on ingredients and recipes from the east coast.  The restaurant is named after Chef Geoff Hopgood's family's chain of grocery stores (which are known as foodliners in the Maritimes)

We started off with the signature Halifax Donairs, which is an east coast spin on the Greek gyro, but the sauce is sweet instead of savory.  Thin slices of seasoned beef are covered with tomato, onion and this delicious, creamy sauce and served on a pita.  The not so secret ingredient for the sauce is proudly touted in the large display shelves full of cans of Carnation evaporated milk.  The donairs arrive on a paper bag, as a tribute to the traditional "take-out" nature of this snack.

Another retro appetizer was the hot crab dip topped with panko bread crumbs that were served with Triscuit crackers. In fact, the boxes of Triscuits were also prominently displayed on another shelf.  This was apparently based on a recipe that Hopgood's mother used to serve at cocktail parties in the 80s.  The waiter told us that they used to try to make their own crackers, but the result tasted exactly the same as the Triscuits.  Most of the appetizers were in the $14-16 range.

We've been to Hopgoods Foodliner twice in the past 8 months.  On each visit, one of us decided to order the Digby scallops with ham hock and pease pudding.  It was interesting that the same dish with the same ingredients arrived in a totally different cooking style and presentation.  Each time, the scallops were nicely seared but what they sat on varied.  On our first visit in the summer, they came on an oblong dish with slices of ham and a pool of summer peas covered in melted pork fat.  The second time in the winter, the meal was served on a round plate with fried ham croquettes and pea shoots with a balsamic drizzle. 

We've also tried the tender veal cheeks with turnip puree, shoots and slices, served with a beer stout and beet reduction, and sprinkled with toasted hazelnuts for an added crunch.  The mains ranged from $22-27.

There are surprisingly only two dessert choices on the menu, but anyone who loves chocolate would only need one–the Crispy Toffee, which misleadingly does not even have chocolate in its name.  This home-made chocolate bar ($8) contains a mixture of Rice Krispies, cereal and melted white chocolate, topped with a soft toffee.  This combination is formed into a bar and frozen for several hours.  It is then covered with a layer of melted dark chocolate and cocoa butter and what seems like a dusting of cocoa powder.  The final touch is a sprinkling of sea salt.

The result is an explosion of flavours and textures that have to be experienced to be believed.  This bar is so good that I'm tempted to order it for appetizer and main course as well as dessert.  It comes conveniently wrapped up in paper and a string, which makes it perfect for taking home a few extra bars.  Perhaps I need to bring along a cooler next time.

Hopgoods Foodliner
325 Roncesvalles Ave

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