MARK DEWOLF: seafood dishes inspired by Nova Scotia wines

A decade or more ago, I suggested that Nova Scotian wines were like squeezing a lemon on food. At the time, I wanted it to be a positive comment, suggesting that the liveliness of our wines’ natural acidity amplifies the flavor of food, like a lemon. The industry was appalled that I could suggest such a thing.

More than a decade later, our local winegrowers are adopting, without hiding, the acidity of their wines. The reality is that the acidity of our white and sparkling wines defines the local wine industry. The coolness of our climate combined with our extended growing season – the result of the moderating effects of the Bay of Fundy and the late-season warmth offered by the warm waters of the Northumberland Strait – means that our wines possess a rare combination of ripe flavors, low sugar (hence low alcohol) and lively, dare I say lemony, acidity. It is a combination that is the envy of more than one Champagne producer.

As the industry strives to identify a distinctive style of red wine, the traditional method sparkling wine made by Benjamin Bridge, Lightfoot & Wolfville, Blomidon Estate and L’Acadie Vineyards is garnering national and global praise. While our sparkling wines define us on the world stage, it’s Tidal Bay – Nova Scotia’s unique wine style launched a decade ago – that defines the industry locally and (hopefully soon) abroad. national scale.

Tidal Bay are blends of white wines that are “dry” and crisp. To me they also have a certain high aromatic component, although modernists within the wine community are pushing for a drier, more austere, less aromatic style. Regardless of the individuality of some of our producers, the style pairs perfectly with local seafood.

On the eve of the launch of the 2020 Nova Scotia Tidal Bay vintage – a vintage that promises riper-than-normal fruit flavors – I thought I’d explore some of my favorite Tidal Bay and local seafood pairings.

Tidal Bay and Traditional Method sparkling wines are Nova Scotia’s signature wine styles. – Photo: Julia Webb

5 things to know about Tidal Bay

1. 100% Nova Scotian.

2. A blend of white wines made from local grapes.

3. They are fresh, crunchy and aromatic.

4. They go perfectly with local seafood.

5. They are made by talented local winemakers.

5 Tidal Bay wines to try

1. Domaine de Grand Pre Tidal Bay: Still crafted in classic Tidal Bay style, with lifted but not overpowering aromas. Always made with a hint of sweetness that helps enhance the fruit flavors. Pair it with my Open Tongue and Cheek Sandwich recipe.

2. Gaspereau Vineyards Tidal Bay: Still the most floral and tropical of Tidal Bay wines. Try this with my trusted cod recipe.

3. L’Acadie Vineyards Tidal Bay: This marks the inaugural vintage of Tidal Bay for L’Acadie Vineyards. Certainly, the L’Acadie Vineyards version pushes stylistic boundaries by being very clean, lean and mineral. If you want a local white for oysters, this is it.

4. Lightfoot & Wolfville Tidal Bay: The Lightfoot & Wolfville style derives from the L’Acadie Vineyards style, but not as dry and linear (that’s geek parlance for a wine that’s not trying to give you an abundance of aromas, but rather seeks to focus on a less is more approach.)

5. Jost Vineyards Tidal Bay: The Jost Tidal Bay style strikes a happy medium between the exotic nature of Gaspereau and the austerity of L’Acadie Vineyards. Perhaps unsurprisingly, I think I pair this wine with the simple flavors of haddock. Try my haddock tacos recipe with Jost Tidal Bay.

Halibut tongues and cheeks are transformed into a gourmet sandwich.  - Photo: Julia Webb
Halibut tongues and cheeks are transformed into a gourmet sandwich. – Photo: Julia Webb

Open Tongue and Cheek Sandwiches

4 servings

  • 12 cod or halibut cheeks and tongues
  • 1/2 cup seasoned flour
  • 1 egg + 1 tbsp water, beaten
  • 3/4 cup panko
  • 6 slices of Parisian baguette, toasted
  • Saffron and lemon aioli*
  • 6 lettuce leaves
  • lemon wedges

Directions: Place flour, egg wash and panko in individual bowls. One by one, dip a cheek or a tongue in the flour, then wash the eggs then cover with panko. Repeat until all tongues and cheeks are crusted. Place a deep saucepan over medium-high heat. Add enough oil to cover the bottom of the pan. When the oil begins to smoke, add the tongues and cheeks. Fry them until golden brown on each side. Remove from pan and place on paper towel to drain excess oil. Spread a tablespoon of aioli on a slice of baguette. Add a lettuce leaf. Garnish with a tongue and a cheek. Squeeze a lemon wedge on top and season with salt. Repeat.

*Put a pinch of saffron in a tablespoon of boiling water. Let it work (and cool) for 10 to 15 minutes. In a bowl, put 2 egg yolks, 1 finely chopped clove of garlic, the juice and zest of half a lemon, 1 tablespoon of mustard. Whisk well. Very slowly stir in two-thirds of a cup of olive oil, a few drops at a time. Whisk the water with saffron. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

According to Mark DeWolf, haddock tacos pair perfectly with local Tidal Bay wines.  - Photo: Julia Webb
According to Mark DeWolf, haddock tacos pair perfectly with local Tidal Bay wines. – Photo: Julia Webb

Haddock Tacos

4 servings

  • 8 corn tortillas
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 cups panko
  • 1 pound haddock, such as cod, cut into 1-inch-long pieces
  • Vegetable oil
  • Pickled vegetables, for serving

directions: Preheat the oven to 350 F. Wrap the corn tortillas in aluminum foil and put them in the oven for 20 minutes. While the tortillas are heating, place the flour, eggs and panko in individual bowls. Season the flour with salt. Dip the fish in the flour. Shake off the excess. Dip in egg. Shake off the excess. Finally, dip in the panko. Place vegetable oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, gently lower the pieces of fish into the oil. Fry for about 2 minutes, until golden brown. Remove the pieces with a slotted spoon and place them on absorbent paper. Season with salt. Continue until all the fish is cooked. Serve with pickled vegetables and other classic taco sides.

Indian spices, fried ginger and naan bread give local cod an exotic flavor in this recipe from Mark DeWolf.  - Photo: Julia Webb
Indian spices, fried ginger and naan bread give local cod an exotic flavor in this recipe from Mark DeWolf. – Photo: Julia Webb

In cod we trust

4 servings

  • 4 cod fillets
  • 2 teaspoons curry powder
  • ¼ teaspoon dried chili flakes
  • ½ teaspoon of salt
  • 2 tablespoons butter or ghee
  • 1 lime, juice
  • Naan, serve
  • Fried ginger*, for garnish

Directions: Preheat oven to 450 F. Combine curry powder, dried chiles and salt. Sprinkle over the cod fillets. Add butter or ghee to an ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Sear cod until golden brown on each side. Add on top for 4-5 minutes. Remove from oven. Squeeze fresh lime juice on top. Place cod on individual naan breads. Garnish with fried ginger.

* Sift 4 cups all-purpose flour, 2 ¼ teaspoons active dry yeast, 1/2 teaspoon baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon salt into a bowl. In another bowl, whisk together a beaten egg with 3/4 cup plain yogurt, 2 tablespoons vegetable oil and 1 1/4 cups milk. Make a well in the flour and add the liquid mixture. Mix with a spoon then leave to rest for 5 minutes on a work surface until the flour is elastic. Place in an oiled bowl and let rise for 3 to 4 hours. Preheat the oven to 500 F. Divide the flour into 10 balls. Shape into a teardrop shape, rolling at one end. Place 2 at a time on a lightly greased baking sheet. Bake for 5 minutes, flip and bake for another five minutes. Repeat until everything is cooked.

Note: some naan will remain.

* Using a mandolin, cut a 2-inch piece of ginger lengthwise into thin strips. Julienne the ginger into very thin strips. Place a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add a few tablespoons of vegetable oil. When the oil is hot, add the ginger in batches and sauté until crispy. Place on a paper towel to dry.

Mark DeWolf is a connoisseur of all things food and drink. He is creative director at SaltWire and local cuisine is his specialty. Watch Mark whip up seasonal plates in his video series, In a Jiffy, and dive deeper into food trends and cooking challenges each week.

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Dino S. Williams