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Finding European Flavours in Maritime Canada

By alison - January 31, 2014 (Updated: January 27, 2016)

This entry is part 4 of 7 in the series CheeseWeb Tastes Cheese.
That Dutchman's Gouda cheese in Nova Scotia, Canada

That Dutchman’s Gouda cheese in Nova Scotia

Canada’s Maritime Provinces were founded by European immigrants. While most were French or English, you can find a taste of Dutch and German cuisine in restaurants and farms, near our hometowns.

The vast majority of Canadians are descended from immigrants. It may have been 3 or 4 generations ago, but one or more of our (great-great) grandparents stepped onto a ship, bound for a new start in the New World.

Our hometowns of Saint John and Halifax, in Canada’s Maritime Provinces, are mostly populated with descendants from European immigrants, the majority being Scottish, Irish, English, and French. However, particularly in the agricultural sector, you can also find Dutch and German families. On our last visit home, we had a taste of both.

 

That Dutchman’s Cheese Farm, Nova Scotia

One of our first experiences in the Netherlands was visiting a cheese farm. (It’s even how CheeseWeb got its name!) But even before our first expat experience, we were enjoying Dutch cheese.

Every weekend, we would visit the Halifax farmers’ market and head straight to That Dutchman’s cheese stall. There, behind rows of delicious flavoured Gouda cheeses, would be a large, bald, bearded fellow, with a smile and a plate of cheese samples – That Dutchman, himself, Willem van den Hoek.

Willem and his wife, Maja, left the Netherlands as newlyweds in 1970, and landed in British Columbia. Later, they travelled to the opposite end of Canada and settled in Upper Economy, Nova Scotia. There, they built a thriving cheese farm, known throughout the province.

The Den Hoek Farm in Upper Economy, NS

The Den Hoek Farm in Upper Economy, NS

Despite our weekly visits to the Dutchman’s market stall, we had never visited the Den Hoek’s farm. Last October, while visiting home, we piled into the car, with Andrew’s parents, and made a trip to find the home of That Dutchman’s cheese.

Perched on a hill overlooking the Cobequid Shores of the Bay of Fundy, it’s easy to see why the Den Hoek’s chose this spot to settle. They have a stunning view. But, for me, the view inside their farm shop is even better – cheese, cheese and more cheese.

Cheese Please! That Dutchman's Farm shop

Cheese Please! That Dutchman’s Farm shop

That Dutchman produces a variety of Gouda: young, aged, smoked, and with a variety of added spices. But my two favourite products are not round wheels of cheese.

Gouda in all varieties

Gouda in all varieties: aged, smoked, and with herbs and spices.

The first is Smeerkaas, spreadable Gouda in a jar. Smeerkaas also comes in a variety of flavours and is delicious spread on bread or crackers. I particularly like the smoked and hot pepper versions.

Spreadable Smeerkass cheese

Spreadable Smeerkass cheese… Yum!

But, above all, I adore That Dutchman’s Dragon’s Breath blue cheese. This slightly stinky, somewhat runny and ever so delicious cheese comes encased in a blob of blue wax. You slice off the top, scoop out a chunk and enjoy. Heaven!

If you visit the Den Hoek farm, in nicer weather than we did, you can enjoy the walking trails and visit the menagerie of animals: goats, rabbits, pot-bellied pigs, emus, and Highland cattle. Or you can stock up on picnic goodies for a lovely lunch on the beach.

If you can’t make it all the way to the Fundy coast to visit That Dutchman’s farm, you can still pick up his marvelous cheeses at the Halifax Seaport Farmers’ Market.

That Dutchman’s Farm
112 Brown Road,
Upper Economy, Nova Scotia
Canada

Gasthof Old Bavarian Restaurant, New Brunswick

My parents have been raving about ‘the German restaurant’ for years now, but Andrew and I have never made it there on our visits home. We were beginning to think Gasthof Old Bavarian Restaurant was only a legend. On our last trip to New Brunswick, we finally visited for ourselves.

Getting to Gasthof is quite a trek. The nearest town is Sussex, New Brunswick (about an hour from my parents’ home in Saint John.) Once you reach Sussex, you still have to drive for half an hour… deep into the New Brunswick woods. And believe me; New Brunswick has a lot of woods.

A clearing in the woods reveals the farm's rolling hills.

A clearing in the woods reveals the farm’s rolling hills.

Just when Andrew and I were starting to suspect my parents had completely fabricated ‘the German restaurant,’ it appeared through the trees – a slice of Bavaria in Atlantic Canada.

Bavaria in New Brunswick, Canada

Bavaria in New Brunswick, Canada
The Gasthof Old Bavarian Restaurant

The Gasthof Old Bavarian Restaurant

The restaurant is owned and run by the Giermindl family. Adolf and Olga Giermindl immigrated to Canada in 1976, with 9 of their 11 children. The New Brunswick landscape reminded them of Bavaria, so they bought and restored a farm property and settled in. The farm produces poultry, eggs, pork and beef and grew to include a butcher shop, and the restaurant. Adolf passed away several years ago, but his enterprise lives on and is run by his wife and three of his daughters.

As you might guess, the Gasthof Old Bavarian restaurant serves authentic Bavarian cuisine, featuring produce raised on the farm. Homemade sausages and schnitzel are specialities and Andrew was thrilled to find his favourite German dish, Schweinshaxe (or roasted pork knuckle).

Schweinshaxe

Andrew’s favourite German meal – Schweinshaxe.

Although it’s not strictly German, I couldn’t resist the Hungarian Gulasch with Spätzle.

My Hungarian Gulasch with Spätzle

My Hungarian Gulasch with Spätzle

If you can make it through your main course (we couldn’t), there are homemade desserts. My parents speak in hushed, reverential tones about the Black Forest Cake.

The portion sizes were enormous, including giant glasses of German beer, and we practically had to roll ourselves out the door. Everything was scrumptious.

The restaurant is only open on weekends (Friday-Sunday) and it is strongly recommended to make reservations. (You don’t want to drive all the way out there for nothing!) It is cash only, so come prepared.

Gasthof Old Bavarian Restaurant
1130 Knightville Road,
Knightville, New Brunswick
Canada

There are plenty of reasons to visit Eastern Canada and our multicultural heritage will make our European visitors feel right at home. For more great restaurants around the world, check out our Restaurant Review page.

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Alison

Alison

Big Cheese at CheeseWeb
Alison Cornford-Matheson is a Canadian freelance writer and travel photographer and the founder of Cheeseweb.eu. She is the author of The Foodie Guide to Brussels: Local Tips for Restaurants, Shops, Hotels, and Activities. Alison landed in Belgium in 2005 and, over the years, has become passionate about slow and sustainable travel, in Europe and beyond. She loves to discover hidden gems - be they museums, shops, restaurants, castles, gardens or landscapes, and share them through her words and photos. She is currently slow travelling through Europe in an RV, with her husband, Andrew, and two well-travelled cats. You can also follow her work on Google+
Alison
Today I'm sharing one of my favourite new discoveries in New Brunswick / Nouveau-Brunswick, the Jardin Botanique... https://t.co/fCt4TxYUa9 - 4 days ago

7 comments

  1. Comment by Helga Robillard

    Helga Robillard February 1, 2014 at 19:17

    Hi Alison,
    I think this Article is great, small world the Gasthof Od Bavarian that’s my family yes my sisters run the place with my mom.And you Parents are right it is worth a visit.my Husband John and myself we live in Brussels already since 2001.
    So as I was reading your Article with great interest as always I could not believe what I saw, especially when I saw the plate with the food!!,,,OMG I know it is so good.Just to let you know you are doing a awesome job and we are lucky to have somebody like you to give us all those good informations they come in quit handy.
    I hope I will meet you some day
    Thanks a lot Helga

    • Comment by Alison

      Alison

      Alison February 4, 2014 at 09:54

      Hello Helga,
      What a funny coincidence! My parents have been talking about your family’s restaurant for years. They make the trip there from Saint John often. I was so glad to finally be able to visit it (and they were right.. it’s delicious!). I’m so glad you’re enjoying CheeseWeb and hopefully we’ll cross paths in Brussels someday!

  2. Comment by Someone

    Someone February 8, 2014 at 05:00

    Speaking of cheese..
    Today I discovered something tragic.
    There is no “Platte kaas” in Canada and the US. I can understand the dairy isle being much less fruity than France’s but it missing half of what my local delhaize is filled with was surprising. If I only take home 2 or 3 pieces of dairy when shopping at least one of those is a small pot of “opgeklopte platte kaas” with strawberry muck at the bottom.
    I found this out while googling all the fuss about “greek yogurt” and the superbowl being filled with ads about the stuff.

    I was also surprised I didn’t find any blogs from Canadians and Americans who stumbled upon the stuff while travelling. It’s hard to miss no ?

    • Comment by Alison

      Alison

      Alison February 10, 2014 at 09:10

      Interesting observation. I always just kind of lumped it in with yogurt. Is there a big difference?

      • Comment by Someone

        Someone February 10, 2014 at 11:53

        Very much so. the stuff is closer to curds than it is to yogurt. It contains a lot more solids and fat (unless it’s further processed to be less fatty). Basically yogurt is milk with fermenting bacteria added.After fermenting it is a finished product. Where platte kaas gets rennet added during it’s process, making it actual cheese, albeit not a very hard one.
        A very accessible and available type of “platte kaas” ( also named “verse kaas” or “fromage frais” in Belgium/France) is probably a “Petit suisse” small pots , sold per 6 with a paper wrapper around the cheese when you un-mold it. http://www.davidlebovitz.com/archives/img/0605/peelinggervaisblog.jpg.
        Of the fruitier kinds I like “opgeklopte platte kaas” , where the stuff is whisked into a mousse . They add fruit at the bottom. The texture is a lot more like heavy whipped cream than it is like yogurt. (absolutely not as fat as pure 35% whipped cream though) http://ubuntuone.com/64LhxJsQZoeogUHLH0HrIR
        (Found a pic on a chinese site LOL)
        In Belgium platte kaas is also eaten savory with radishes and fresh herbs on a slice of brown bread.
        http://media.lekkervanbijons.be/uploads/1/default/1539/SNEETJE_KAAS_RADIJS02.jpg

        Next time you’re at your local delhaize or carrefour take your time to buy a little study material, study the labels closely !! Verse kaas / Platte kaas are the key words.

        I bet in all the time you’ve been here you have bought loads of the stuff though.

        • Comment by Someone

          Someone February 10, 2014 at 12:19

          I said whipped cream , but the texture of opgeklopte verse kaas is probably more like tangy chocolate mousse.

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