I must admit that before I moved to Nova Scotia I really didn’t know what to expect from “Canada’s Ocean Playground”. We first visited Nova Scotia as tourists during a six month van life trip eight years ago, but even then I sensed that there was something special about this magical maritime province. We’ve now lived here in Nova Scotia for three years and I’ve been constantly overwhelmed by all of the wonderful people, organizations, and businesses I’ve encountered and so I thought that creating my very own annual awards list would be fun. I’ve limited myself to 25 categories ranging from people, road trips, food, and the absolutely ludicrous & esoteric. I Hope you enjoy the list, and who knows, maybe someday you’ll be awarded a Bretty!
1. Best No Spray Blueberry U-Pick: Arirang Farm in Port Williams. These folks are our next door neighbors and they are just the kindest people. Their parking lot is always full and their no spray blueberries are nearly as big as grapes and packed with flavor!
2. Best Fried Cauliflower: Cumin in New Minas. This is another restaurant just down the road from us and we started going here as soon as we moved to Port Williams. Everything we’ve ordered here is spot on delicious, but there’s just something about these saucy little bites that beckons me as soon as I glance at the menu.
3. Best Barber Shop Catch Phrase: - Victor Cuts in Kentville. Every time Victor finishes cutting my hair he holds up a mirror for me to check his work as he shouts, “who is this guy?” and it always makes me smile. Not only does he have a great catchphrase, but he’s also amazing with his clippers! I snapped this photo in his barbershop where his catchphrase is proudly displayed.
4. Best Instagram Page: @Reggiefromtheroad Reggie and I first “met” on Insta, but we recently started hanging out IRL after I moved here to Nova Scotia. He’s just the funnest guy to be around and an independent filmmaker by trade, but he’s also a self taught DIY-er who’s been chronicling the transformation of his Nova Scotian home which he’s christened “Fort Nova”. He’s also a snappy dresser and enjoys a tattoo or 20 every now and again.
5. Best Fish and Chips: Nippers Fish & Chips. We found this food truck by accident when we first moved here and it basically ruined fish and chips for me as theirs are just too good, once you have their fish and chips nothing else compares.
6. Best Bao Tacos: Studio East in Halifax. We ate here a few weeks ago and man I was impressed, delicious! I had similar bao at Momofuku in NYC a few years ago and Studio East’s are just as good, no joke!
7. Best View from Highway 101: Exit 10 Heading West. My wife and I like to travel into “the city” a lot (Halifax) and we always have a great time, but after driving an hour west on the 101 it’s always such a pleasure seeing The Bay of Fundy, the Blomidon bluff, and farm fields all at once, what a magical view!
8. Best New Pottery Business: Amber West Pottery and Art in Vaughan at Falls Lake. Amber has worked in our Sugarhouse studio for two years now and she is an invaluble part of our team. Amber has been slowly building up her own pottery business and the work she is doing is so fun and creative. She's an amazing sculptor and if you’re lucky enough to stop by her shop you just might score one of her “moss man” mugs. She just opened up her own pottery shop on Falls Lake. She’s not too far from Windsor, so if you’re ever in that area consider looking her shop up, you can find it in Google Maps!
9. Best Town Slogan: “We Live it!” Out of East Hants. I’m not sure what “it” is, but I am intrigued by this declaration and look forward to finding out.
10. Best French Fries: Maritime Cider in Kentville This creative restaurant located in a gorgeous old railway station is just down the road from us and their Gochujang fries are AMAZING, you seriously gotta give them a try to understand what I mean.
11. Best Neighbour: Marvin. This was a tight race as all of our neighbours are absolutely amazing, but this year the prize goes to our neighbour and friend Marvin. In the warmer months you’ll usually find Marvin riding along on his tractor as he races to finish up as many projects as possible, but he’s rarely too busy to lend us a hand when we really need it. From chopping down a tree, digging holes with his tractor, and hauling away debris for us I can’t imagine what we’d do without him. He’s become a good friend and we truly appreciate him and his contagious sense of humour. Thanks for being you Marvin!
12. Best Nature Walk: The Field Behind My Farmhouse in Port Williams. Nova Scotia is rich in wildlife of all kinds! Wildflowers, Milkweed, Monarch butterflies, tall grasses, evergreens, eagles, pheasants, the list goes on and on! Walking paths are abundant here in the Annapolis Valley as well as in Halifax, but many of you might also have access to wild fields just outside your back door. Of course the gym can be a great place to meet people and build up your muscles, but a nice long nature walk is something that has the capacity to heal you from the inside out!
13. Best Fried Chicken Sandwich: Almonak in Halifax. This was a close call as I’ve had some amazing fried chicken sandwiches all around Nova Scotia, but a couple of weeks ago on a weekday I finally tried the one at Almonak and I instantly knew that I was tasting the winner. The perfect amount of crunch, spice, a little sweetness and acid from the bread and butter pickles all on a perfectly soft and moist challah bun, absolutely magnificent! If you’re a fried chicken sandwich aficionado and you find yourself in Nova Scotia then do yourself a favour and give this a try! This sandwich is only available on weekdays, but try the chicken and waffles on the weekend as well, yum!
14. Best Artisanal Pop Tart: Bliss Caffeine Bar in Halifax. We’ve been going to this amazingly creative restaurant since we first moved here to Nova Scotia three years ago and let me tell you something, these two creatives are doing everything right and I mean everything. As soon as you walk into the large and open space you’re hit with the reality that you have just entered something special, a place that the owners have poured their heart and soul into. I have thoroughly enjoyed everything I’ve ever ordered at Bliss, but the item that always starts my day off right is their flaky fruit filled house made pop tart topped off with the most unique and tasty icing I’ve ever encountered at any restaurant or patisserie. If you’re planning on visiting Halifax anytime soon, you can’t miss checking this place out, trust me!
15. Best Burger: The Canteen in Dartmouth. I know that Nova Scotia takes its annual “Burger Wars” quite seriously, so this might be a controversial decision, but for me this burger wins all the marbles. Two perfectly cooked juicy beef patties, havarti, special sauce, frizzled onions, pickles and lettuce all on a perfectly soft and moist sesame bun, plus it actually comes with the most amazingly tasty hand cut fries! If you haven’t tried this burger and you call yourself a burger lover, what are you waiting for?
16. Best Cinnamon Roll: Village Coffee House in Canning. This might also be a controversial choice as there are SO MANY amazing cinnamon rolls available throughout Nova Scotia, but there’s something so unique and tasty about this roll that keeps me and everyone else in the valley rushing to grab one before they’re all gone (which they usually are by late morning), so get there early! The dough is soft and just a tad salty which pairs so nicely with the ample amounts of cinnamon and slightly crunchy and perfectly sweet icing, so delicious! There's a beautiful park right next door where you can take your cinnamon roll and coffee and enjoy a gorgeous river view.
17. Best Place to Write: Charts Cafe in Wolfville. Of course you can write anywhere, but isn’t it so much more fun to be out amongst the hustle and bustle of others while you journal, write a Best of Nova Scotia list, or write your first novel? Charts is located right in the heart of Wolfville and it’s always such an inviting and kind place which I find essential as I get into the flow of writing. Their pastries are all quite tasty and they make a magnificent and excessively large decaf iced Americano which is my usual drink of choice.
18. Best Pain au Chocolat: Bedard Bakery in Windsor. This lively and productive bakery opened about a year ago and they were an instant hit. The bakery is owned and operated by a husband wife that first started baking out of their home and let me tell you, they know how to make bread! To see some of the magic behind their beautiful loaves check out the Instagram account @noahbakesbread and you’ll soon find that I’m not the only one admiring their craft.
19. Best Winter Road Trip: Quebec City. Of course a ten hour road trip might seem a bit too long for some individuals, and I totally get that, but for all of you road trip diehards, this drive is absolutely worth it, especially in the weeks just before Christmas, what a dream! Take a ride up the Funicular and pretend that you’re a guest at Wes Anderson’s Grand Budapest Hotel. Enjoy a massive charcuterie board and a glass of wine at one of the many charming restaurants. You’ll feel like you’re in Paris and Canada all at the same time! And be sure to grab brunch at Cochone Dingue to top it all off!
20. Best Wood Fired Pizza: Lighfoot and Wolfville in Wolfville. I’m not much of a wine drinker, as someone that spent most of his time barhopping with friends in my final years of living in Seattle, I’m still more of an IPA and bourbon connoisseur. That being said, if you love wine, and many people do, you’ll love this place! But for me, this place is all about the spectacular views and their miraculously crafted wood fired pizza. A trip into the valley during the warmer months just isn’t complete without a trip here!
21. Best Patio: Church Brewing Co. in Wolfville. I’m not usually one to seek out patio eating as I prefer eating in the comfort of air conditioning, but this patio has been so beautifully constructed and sits along a picturesque and lively street right in the heart of Wolfville, it’s definitely a place to “see and be seen”, you know if you’re into that sort of thing, which I might be guilty of. My favourite thing to order is their perfectly crispy chicken wings, fries, and an ice cold house made IPA. If you’re into chicken wings this place is the place for you as their wings are hands down the best I’ve ever had.
22. Best Sugar Free Vanilla Iced Americano: Gerish and Grey in Windsor. I’m a weirdo, I just don’t like hot coffee, it’s gotta be iced, even in subzero temperatures I’m all about a giant iced Americano. I’m also a bit of an aficionado when it comes to coffee syrups, just ask my friend Hannah over at Cumin Kitchen. I don’t know what it is about the combination of their espresso paired with the sugar free vanilla syrup they’re using, but it’s heavenly, so good! They also make an amazing cinnamon roll and an intensely decadent chocolate chip cookie, honestly every baked good I’ve ever had here has been out of this world good!
23. Best Middle Eastern Market: Syriana Market in Halifax. Recently I got a little obsessed with checking out expensive cookbooks from the library. I began noticing that middle eastern ingredients and recipes were trending amongst almost all of the top cookbooks. I began obsessing about things like preserved lemons, cracked freekah, and pomegranate molasses, but try as I might I couldn’t locate them anywhere near me, that is until I stepped into Syriana. The market is owned by the sweetest father and son team and the market is overflowing with quality spices, produce, and frozen foods. If you just purchased a new cookbook chances are Syriana has what you’ve been looking for.
24. Best Drinking Chocolate: Petite Patrie Chocolate in Kentville . My wife and I used to purchase the most wonderful drinking chocolate from a shop back in Seattle and I’m so thrilled to have found this artisan chocolate maker just down the street in Kentville. If you like decadent chocolate this is the place for you!
25. Best Interior Design in a Restaurant That Also Has Amazing Food: The Whiskey Teller in Annapolis Royal. If you're looking for the perfect daytrip from either Halifax or Wolfville you absolutely can't go wrong with a scenic drive to Annapolis Royal. The town is overflowing with historic buildings, working artists, and scenic views of the Annapolis River. And no trip to Annapolis Royal is complete without a visit to The Whiskey Teller with its gorgous decor and commitment to the history of the buliding it is housed in. Be sure to checkout all of the wonderful historic photos throughtout the restaurant and I highly recomend the wood fired half chicken as an entree, you won't be sorry!
I hope you enjoyed reading the first annual Nova Scotia Bretty Awards. Please comment to tell me your thoughts, contest my winners and offer future nominations or future categories. Thanks for reading!
Hello! Welcome to the Valley!
Great article – well written and enticing me to try out the cinnamon buns and a few other foods! Your neighbour sounds wonderful!
From one writer to another, I thought you might like to make a few changes:
Having grown up in Kentville, I do want to clarify that Maritime Cider is located in the former Cornwallis Inn, which was the railway-owned hotel. The railway station was further away.
It was still a hotel in 1968 when we moved there. Here’s a great article about the building’s history: https://www.saltwire.com/nova-scotia/lifestyles/it-was-the-centre-of-everything-the-past-and-present-of-kentvilles-iconic-cornwallis-inn-308248/.
When using “Valley” to refer to the Annapolis Valley, always capitalize to distinguish it from the valleys within the Valley. Kentville is a perfect example of this..
“…husband (and) wife” is missing the “and”.
I’m not gonna fully disagree with you on this at all, I love the G&G cinnamon roll, but I had to pick a winner and these days I’ve been craving the Village Coffee House roll, what can I say, I just love it so much! We’ll see what happens next year! -Brett
Thanks for reading the First Annual Bretty Awards and I’m so pleased that you enjoyed the list! Yes! Isn’t Marvin the Best! I didn’t know he was famous around here, but I’m not surprised! It’s funny you mention those smaller blueberries as I believe I had some yesterday at my friend Reggie’s house and they were delicious! Thanks again for reading and if you have any suggestions for future categories or possible winners, let me know! -Brett
Yeah, I’m going to have to go ahead and disagree with you there. Gerrish & Grey have the best cinnamon buns HANDS DOWN. How dare you suggest otherwise?! Ah hahahahahaha. With you on the neighbor and the bao though.
Check out the Essentially English Bakery (Hantsport) page on FB. Wild blueberries from Colchester Co being made into pies.
Enjoyed this immensely! I used to live down the road from you. I agree about the cauliflower bites, Bedard Bakery, Gerrish & Grey and, of course, Marvin (He’s famous in the valley!). I’m sure you’re right about the blueberry u-pick, too, but I just want to explain that there are two kinds of blueberries in NS. The ones of which you speak are relatively new to the province. High bush blueberries. When Nova Scotians eat blueberries (except in the valley and in Halifax) , most of us are referring to what is known as wild blueberries or low-bush varietals.. They really aren’t wild (although you can find them growing wild in Colchester, Cumberland, Hants and Yarmouth Counties especially). They are teased into existence with lots of farmer TLC and the harvest is quite amazing to watch. The season is short. It started today in Colchester Co. And will be over before the end of the month. Check out the NS Wild Blueberry Festival happening next week. The berries are smaller but much sweeter. You haven’t eaten blueberry pie until you’ve had wild blueberry pie.