Sustainable seafood hits Atlantic Canada
Story by Tracy Hanes
WALLACE, NOVA SCOTIA — Shane Robilliard often begins his day with fishing rod in hand, casting for rainbow trout in the early morning mist at Fox Harb’r Resort, a splendid facility on the North Shore of Nova Scotia.
That evening, his catches may be on the menu at the Cape Cliff dining room at Fox Harb’r Resort, where Robilliard is executive chef and director of food and beverage. Robilliard is a passionate advocate for sustainable dining and his menu reflects that philosophy.
“For the most part, it’s as local as you can get,” he says. The pan-seared trout on the menu may be fish he’s hooked himself in Fox Harb’r’s two stocked fly fishing ponds, while lobster, halibut, salmon, mussels and farmed scallops come from local suppliers. This “buy local” commitment has earned the Cape Cliff the distinction of being Atlantic Canada’s first sustainable seafood restaurant, certified by Ocean Wise, a Vancouver Aquarium conservation program to educate and empower consumers about their seafood dining choices.
While seafood is an integral part of Cape Cliff’s fare, chicken, pork, beef and lamb (all sourced locally except for beef) are on the menu, and, occasionally, pheasant raised at Fox Harb’r. The luxury resort on 1,150 acres on a rugged peninsula opened in 2001 and is owned by Ron Joyce, co-founder of Tim Hortons. It has guesthouses, wedding and event facilities, a top-rated golf course, and custom homes and townhomes for sale.
Robilliard hails from the west coast and worked as chef and general manager at various Fairmont Hotel restaurants before moving to Nova Scotia in 2010. He joined Fox Harb’r a year ago. Part of his mandate is to dispel the perception that the dining room is a private club and expand its customer base. It has been recently redecorated in shades of ocean blue and its floor-to-ceiling windows provide panoramic views of Fox Harb’r’s championship golf course and the Northumberland Strait.
This year, all green vegetables used in the restaurant have been grown on site in Fox Harb’r’s own greenhouses, assuring that diners will get the freshest ingredients possible.
“Last season, a five-pound case of greens cost from $35 to $74 . Now it costs us $11 to produce a case and we have 14 types of greens,” says Robilliard.
Nova Scotia Hooks a Sustainability Advocate
He describes his cooking style as Italian-influenced, focus on fresh flavours. “You can call it nouveau cuisine or recycled Italian,” he says. And while Nova Scotia shares a rich traditio of seafood dishes like his native British Columbia, he’s found some distinct differences on the east coast.
“There are a lot of similarities, at least what I’ve seen so far,” he says of life on Canada’s Atlantic and Pacific coasts. “They are a lot more innovative on the west coast and we are trying to step it up here. East Coasters are very traditional people. They like their lobster boils and you try to do something different with lobster and they are not sure.”
Robilliard says he doesn’t like to have people work hard for their food and that’s why he finds innovative ways to use lobster, such as in ravioli. Lobster bisque, of course, is a popular starter.
He’s also introduced cooking methods such as sous-vide (where food is placed in air-tight plastic bags and cooked in a water bath), a technique that has been popular on the west coast for more than decade but little known in the Maritimes. He is also planning a “fish battle” of east-versus-west culinary talents in October, when he’ll invite some chef friends from BC to pit their culinary talents with seafood against east coast chefs at Fox Harb’r.
The Cape Cliff boasts one of the best wine lists in Maritime Canada. Robilliard, who is also a sommelier, supports Nova Scotia wines, although the Cape Cliff also includes varietals from around the globe.
With a conference centre, new inn and more residential offerings coming to Fox Harb’r, Robilliard is enthusiastic about the positive impact this will have on the resort’s food and beverage aspects.
“I love this place,” he says. “If we can expand to have more residents living here, I’d love to get the restaurant to be open nine months a year, as opposed to six. That’s success for us.”
MORE ABOUT FOX HARB’R RESORT
Location: 1337 Fox Harbour Road, Wallace, Nova Scotia
Room Rates: Nightly rates start at about $350 for a studio suite.
Reservations: 1-866-257-1801 (toll free)