Cape Breton 1/3: The Cabot Trail

How's this for serendipitous timing: when we were in Calgary, we visited my former boss Janice at Janice Beaton Fine Cheese

While there, we met her lovely fiancé Bob, and they asked us when we’d be on Cape Breton.  We told them we planned on arriving around Thanksgiving.  “Great!” said Janice, “You can come to our wedding!”

Janice was born and raised on Cape Breton, an island off the northeast corner of Nova Scotia that’s connected to the rest of the province by bridge. 

It has a unique culture unto itself, but prior to our visit to the east coast, I really only knew two things about it for sure:

1) It’s famous for its music; it raised The Rankin Family, a band my sister and I WERE OBSESSED WITH growing up.

 2) Janice’s parents still live there, and her mom makes really good oatcakes.

With these facts under my belt, I was happy to learn more.

We first discovered that Thanksgiving is an ideal time to visit Cape Breton.  The tree-covered hills become golden, red, and orange, and the renowned Celtic Colours International Festival is on at venues across the island.

We started by driving the spectacular Cabot Trail; it’s a journey that winds predominantly along the coast, providing epic view after epic view. 

It tours up steep mountainsides, through small towns, and offers access to rocky Atlantic shores.  The whole drive could be done in a day, but it’s best to take a leisurely two or three.

There are simply too many viewpoints at which to stop, and too many places at which one can stop to snack on oatcakes (we got these ones at the highly popular "The Dancing Goat," which much to the community's dismay, recently had to close its doors.  You can read more about it here, on their Facebook page.) 

Restaurant Acadien is a great place for lunch in Cheticamp.  Their dining room is decked out in the Acadian colours of red, blue, white, and yellow, and servers all wear traditional costumes. 

We ordered a few things, the first being fishcakes.  We had several fishcakes during our time on the east coast, but the ones we had here outshone the rest.  Fishcakes are a staple item on Maritime menus – they’re usually coated in bread crumbs, pan-fried, and served with tomato chow (or chow chow).  It’s like a pickled green tomato relish that pairs well with many dishes, but are an ideal partner to the humble fishcake.  We’ve seen many vendors selling jars of their homemade chow at farmers markets all across the east coast.

We also ordered Laurette’s Meat Pie, which was similar to tourtiere, but with the addition of shredded chicken. 

Laurette’s version, whoever the lovely Laurette is, was exceptionally tasty.

Before we left, one of the ladies caught us eyeing the pies, which were placed neatly on shelves behind the counter.  She pulled them off so we could take pictures, and suggested we try the local favourite: butterscotch. 

It had a thick topping of toasted meringue over a sweet, butterscotch custard filling.  It was so good, and RICH.  Definitely go splitsville on this one.    

We discovered many tasty treats while meandering through the Cape Breton Highlands.  Next up: Janice and Bob’s Cape Breton wedding, and a run-in with the Rankin Family!  Stayed tuned!