Cape Breton 3/3: Things to Be Thankful For

Our timing on Cape Breton was pretty perfect: not only did we arrive the weekend of Janice and Bob’s wedding, we were ALSO there to catch some of the Celtic Colours International Festival, and enjoyed a special Thanksgiving meal at the Chanterelle Inn.  Oh yes, aaaaand there was whisky, but we’ll get to that later.  

Celtic Colours takes place on Cape Breton each October, and brings musicians from around the world for an eight day festival of music and culture.  In addition to the multiple concerts across the island each day, there are also dozens of workshops, events, and community meals. 

We attended the ‘Highlands and Islands’ show at the handsome St. Matthew’s United Church in Inverness (see all the artists here), and ‘North and South’ at North River Community Hall (artists here).  Both shows were sold out, epically fun, and full of singing, dancing, and fiddling so fast my brain nearly melted. 

We highly recommend planning your Cape Breton trip to include this festival, even if, like us, you have a lot to learn about Celtic music.  Be sure to buy tickets ahead of time – the shows are pop-u-lar!


There were all kinds of Thanksgiving-type meals happening on Cape Breton while we were there, and we had the great luck of joining the Chanterelle Inn for theirs.  The inn sits atop a steep hill, and is run by Earlene Busch; she moved to Cape Breton from Colorado years ago, and named her inn for the endless chanterelles that can be found on the 100 acre property each year.  

Chef Bryan Picard first showed us the impressive view, then he fed us an incredible five course meal, the ingredients for which were almost all sourced from within 100 km! 

We started with these rosemary buns with pumpkin butter, which Dana loved so intensely, I think she could have eaten only those, and been perfectly satisfied.  Next we had these whimsical little amuse bouche, which were tiny potatoes filled with aioli and topped with nasturtium leaves.

Since the ocean was certainly less than 100 km from the hilltop inn, we had pan-fried scallops next, with a roasted beet and blueberry sauce.  

The main was – of course – turkey, served over a grainy stuffing with wild cranberries and roasted carrots.  

Finally, dessert was pumpkin pie, with brandied maple syrup and ice cream.  

What!  A!  Meal!  Only a few days before we’d thought we’d spend Thanksgiving turkey-less, so this was such a nice way to spend the holiday, and gave us a chance to reflect on the many things we’re thankful for.  These include our trip, our family, and our friends.

And whisky.

Yes, Cape Breton has its very own distillery, Glenora, which was founded in 1989.  Appropriately, it looks straight out of Scotland. 

In 1993 they produced North America’s first single malt whisky, and now have a variety of aged whiskys on offer, as well as an inn and restaurant.  The whole complex is built over a creek from which they pull water for production, and we took a tour of their whole setup. 

We learned the basics of whisky production, which are:

1.     Barley is malted
2.    The malted barley is mashed, and the resulting liquid – wort – is drained off
3.    Yeast is added to the wort, and fermentation begins
4.    After a short period of fermentation, the whisky is distilled (the process by which the alcohol is separated from the water through boiling and cooling)
5.    The distilled liquid is matured in barrels
6.    We drink the finished product – whisky!  

Easy peasy, right?  

We had a tasting of Glenora’s whiskys, then wandered their green, old-world grounds.  

We are thankful for our time on Cape Breton, and in Nova Scotia as a whole.  We could have easily spent our whole five months there and not even seen half the sights there are to see.  Though I worry that in a few weeks we managed to eat half their food.....

Next up, we board the ferry and cross over to Newfoundland!


A note:  

Bryan Picard has since left the inn to open his own place, and we are certainly looking forward to hearing more details about that.  You can follow him on his beautiful blog, The Bitehouse.

And now what, WHAT could be more perfect to bridge the gap between Cape Breton and Newfoundland than Rick Mercer at the Celtic Colours Festival?

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