What's On the Menu?

What's On the Menu?

Article: Alexander Henden
Illustration: Scott K MacDonald

According to many, 2016 is poised to be a banner year for tourism, and a lot of that optimism has to do with the valuation of our currency. It’s a two-pronged effect where our low dollar makes visiting here more attractive to our neighbours south of the border, while at the same time it makes travelling to the U.S. less attractive to Nova Scotians. It’s a cycle that comes and goes, but right now the board is tilted in our favour.

So, what are we doing with this huge opportunity anyways? Are we truly ready for 2016? It depends on who you ask or what questions you specifically ask, but in my view we aren’t, at least not as ready as we could and should be. Our shores are about to be flooded with guests from all over the world, most of whom having travelled long distances for a “taste of Nova Scotia.” Yet how many of our locally owned restaurants, bars, etc. even know or care what that should look like? The answer is that there are considerably more people doing it right than, say, ten years ago, but we can do better. Much better.

Right now there are so many great locally produced meats and vegetables, baked goods, wines, coffees, craft beers, and spirits available. Yet how many places, especially ones that are in key tourist locations, aren’t using them? How is it even possible that our guests’ morning coffee won’t have come from a local roaster? How is it possible that restaurants carrying five or more local wines are an anomaly? Never mind the restaurants that will be serving pre-grilled chicken breasts or boil-in-a-bag veggies to our unsuspecting guests. These are missed opportunities. In each case, there is a risk that folks will go home and not tell their friends all about their taste of Nova Scotia because the experiences we’ll have given them could have been had just about anywhere else. How’s that for a bottom line?

There is an irony to this, too. So many of our restaurants are locally owned. Each depends as much on support from locals as they do from tourists, yet when it comes to supporting local producers, they are nowhere to be seen, or at best their effort is half-assed. That’s not everyone, but that’s also not the point. The point is that we have something special here. Something worth showcasing, something worth celebrating, and we are now just weeks away from peak tourist season. 

Are we ready? Are we?

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