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Hoboken restaurant has Nova Scotian chef in the kitchen
When Kate Krivitzky-Smith and Alex Smith were looking for a place to host their wedding, one of the venues they considered was a hotel in Hoboken, New Jersey, that housed a restaurant called Halifax.
Located on the Hudson River, the restaurant offers beautiful views of New York, an experience which is kind of like being on the Dartmouth waterfront and looking toward Halifax, but on a much more epic scale.
After the couple met with the wedding consultant, they dined at Halifax and one of the dishes was particularly memorable: a popcorn sprinkled with smoked dulse and horseradish.
“We really enjoyed it and fell in love with the popcorn. It was such a memorable and unique flavor and it left an impression,” said Krivitzky-Smith in an email. She and her husband were on their honeymoon in Italy and weren’t available for a telephone interview.
The couple didn’t host their wedding at the hotel, but they decided to hold their rehearsal dinner at Halifax where they had wedding favours made of the smoked-dulse popcorn. The Mason jars were filled with the popcorn and had a tag on them that said “All because he popped the question! Thanks for celebrating with us!”
Besides the restaurant’s name, the smoked-dulse popcorn is an obvious clue there’s a Nova Scotia connection. Chef Seadon Shouse grew up in Eagle Head, a coastal community just outside of Liverpool. Many of his childhood experiences influenced his vision for the restaurant.
“We’re not necessarily Nova Scotian cuisine, but we’re definitely influenced by my upbringing in Nova Scotia and influenced by what Nova Scotia is,” said Shouse. “It’s a lot of fishing communities and a lot of people living off the land.”
Shouse’s family grew lots of vegetables, such as carrots, potatoes, onions, garlic and lettuce. They even had goats and Shouse said he didn’t have cow’s milk until he was six. The family also harvested wild mussels and periwinkles, and would fish for pollock and mackerel. They even ground their own wheat.
“If we were to make pancakes for breakfast, we’d have to ground the wheat first. All of that, I didn’t appreciate for many years, it was kind of a pain, but now when I look back on it, I started cooking from a young age and knowing the importance of fresh mussels, fresh seafood and grounding your own flour,” he said.
When he was 15, Shouse moved to Virginia with his father after his parents split up. His plan was to become a pilot and he got a job in high school washing dishes at a restaurant. He worked his way up in the restaurant, moving from being a dishwasher to making salads, then pizzas and soon enough he was working the grill.
Shouse worked at the restaurant for three years and realized he wanted to be a chef, so he went to Holland College in P.E.I. for his culinary studies.
From there, his stops included a French restaurant on Nantucket Island in Massachusetts, a northern-Italian restaurant in Florida, a modern, Southern cuisine restaurant in Kentucky and a Tuscan steakhouse in New York.
“All of those restaurants are definitely very different, but they have all definitely helped influence my style,” he said.
Whether it’s the house-made cured meats, smoked seafoods or fresh, handmade pastas, each stop on Shouse’s journey shows up in the dining experience. The restaurant bills itself as coastal and Northeastern farm cuisine, meaning the products are mostly sourced from states such as New Jersey, Pennsylvania and New York.
With its floor-to-ceiling windows, warm, light colours and beautiful view of the Hudson River, the restaurant offers a great setting.
“People go to New York City to experience the city, but really the best view is coming into Hoboken, N.J., because then you get to see the city,” said Shouse. “Once you’re in the city, you don’t really see it from where you are.”
Try the dulse in Halifax, New Jersey
The infamous popcorn has a spiciness thanks to the dulse and horseradish, but it’s not overpowering.
Shouse makes this dish by smoking dulse and running it through a coffee grinder so that it becomes like a spice and then sprinkles it on the popcorn. He recognizes people are likely to be wary of trying it.
“If you gave people a piece of dulse, I don’t think they would like it,” said Shouse. “It’s a strong flavour and because it’s on the popcorn, it’s a lot more mellow.”
The pear salad was also a highlight, which featured arugula, local pear, double-smoked ham, gorgonzola cheese, apple cider vinaigrette and candied pecans. The sweetness from the pear and candied pecans serve as a nice complement to the vinaigrette.
For dessert, there’s warm sweet potato fritters. Forget the name, to any Canadian these are basically Timbits. Dusted in cinnamon sugar, they are accompanied by a sauce that’s a blend of maple syrup from New Brunswick and crème anglaise. This is the best Timbit you’ll ever have.
Shouse wants to add more Nova Scotia touches to Halifax, such as selling some Nova Scotia wines. He’d also like to serve some Nova Scotia craft beer, but he hasn’t figured out a way to do that. Some recent emails he sent to some Nova Scotia microbreweries went unanswered.
“I can get Labatt’s, I can get the Molson products, but to me that’s not special,” said Shouse.