Dining on the ocean floor? Yes, says Loren Christie, who broke bread with fellow foodies in the Bay of Fundy

“IT BLOWS MY MIND that we are on the ocean floor,” said Laura as we clinked our glasses of Avondale Sky Winery’s Lady Slipper Rosé in a toast to Nova Scotia. As a native of the province, I have grown-up used to the idea that tides can go as high as 15 metres, but surrounded by a group of 14 diners, who had come from around the world to see this phenomenon, I realised just how unique this truly Maritime experience was going to be.

Billed as Dining on the Ocean Floor, the six-hour two-meal experience is only held for the public eight times during the summer season. Located in Nova Scotia’s Burntcoat Head Park, along the shores of the world-renowned Bay of Fundy, our casual East Coast day is actually meticulously planned around the tide schedule. Where we sit for dinner is home to the world’s highest recorded tides. 

Laura Naide and her husband Eric had come up from the Washington, DC area to see it. So had a couple from Australia and a family from Bermuda. Over pre-dinner cocktails, standing on the red sand and vibrant green seaweed that covered the ocean floor, Laura explained that she had been weighing her vacation options between Croatia and Nova Scotia. When she discovered Dining on the Ocean Floor, it had sealed the deal in Nova Scotia’s favour. “We love adventure, we love to learn and we love to eat,” she said. “But mostly we love to do things that capture a sense of place. This has it all.”

dining on the ocean floor

Photography: @daveyandsky/Tourism Nova Scotia

Our day began just before lunch. After we gathered at a picnic table by the park entrance, Leann Grosvold, the Event Host, welcomed us with a glass of bubbles and introduced us to local farmer and forager, Jonathan Newell. Newell presented roughly two dozen plants, trees and seaweeds that he assured us were worthy enough for any kitchen pantry; balsam fir for tea, spruce tips for jams and jellies, purple clovers and local mushrooms for enhancing flavour profiles and a number of seaweeds including sea blite, sea asparagus and laver. All were surprisingly flavourful and had been gathered within an hour’s drive of where we stood.

dining on the ocean floor

Photography: @daveyandsky/Tourism Nova Scotia

The foraging session led into a Shore Boil on the grass overlooking the beach where we ate bowls of clams, mussels and lobster claws, all from the Bay of Fundy, and cooked together with some of the seaweeds we had just sampled. Accompanied by a glass of Avondale Sky’s uniquely Nova Scotian wine, Tidal Bay or your choice of a wheat beer from the local Schoolhouse Brewery, our intimate group quickly got in the casual spirit as we were encouraged to take our best shots at throwing our empty shells into metal buckets positioned in the middle of our dining circle. I missed almost every shot but I blame the wine, which was generously flowing.

With the tide at dead low, it was time to go on to the ocean floor to explore. Anita Benedict, our tour guide who also moonlights as the Town Crier for the regional Municipality of East Hants, was perfectly equipped to guide us around the windy beach. The crashing waves in the distance served as a soundtrack as she pointed out the life left exposed by the water that had retreated a couple of hours earlier, including periwinkles, hermit crabs, blue mussels and countless others. Flowerpot islands that had been carved out by the power of the ocean made a beautiful backdrop to our walk. “The tide has turned,” she warned. “Best to head back. Plus it’s happy hour!”

dining on the ocean floor

Photography: @daveyandsky/Tourism Nova Scotia

After Laura and I finished our rosé we were all invited to sit down to a three-course dinner, with a focus on locally sourced foods. A charcuterie sampling included duck prosciutto, venison sausage, cheeses and farm preserves. The main course featured a filet mignon and lobster tail, Digby scallops and a ratatouille of vegetables from the Annapoli Valley. Wine and beer pairings accompanied each course and ended with Avondale Sky’s Drops of Amber ice wine to match a dessert of phyllo pastry with lavender cream and freshly picked blueberries.

The experience ended with Elder Lorraine Whitman and her sister Darlene, members of the nearby Glooscap First Nations, inviting the sated diners to a campfire chat, where over coffee they shared some of their Mi’kmaq traditions. Lorraine closed the day by singing a hauntingly beautiful traditional song in her native tongue. As she sang the increasing wind did not manage to drown her or the fire out, but over her shoulder I could see the advancing tide and knew it was only a matter of time for our quintessential Nova Scotian experience to come to a close.

Editor’s Note: To buy tickets, contact Domenic Padula by phone at 902-223- 6962 or to purchase tickets online go to diningontheoceanfloor.ca.

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