Over the last decade, the Wolfville area has evolved into one of, if not THE premier culinary destination in the province. It makes sense when you consider the region’s proximity to local farms and wineries. It was as though a perfect storm was just waiting to happen, and these days the local dining scene is breezing along like an active category two ready to pick up speed over warmer waters.
Right in the eye of it all is downtown Wolfville. Surrounded by abundance, in the past Wolfville’s core has felt barren, at least outside the magical Wolfville Farmers’ Market (arguably the best market in the province and the downtown’s saving grace). Recently, however, there are signs of new life with the arrival of Annapolis Cider Company (2018) and The Church Brewing Co (2019). Things are definitely looking up!
Fast forward to October 29, 2019, at Wolfville’s latest offering, Juniper Food + Wine. Captained by chef/owner Geoff Hopgood, the culinary lead behind Curated Food & Drink Magazine’s 4th Best Place to Eat in 2019 (Lightfoot & Wolfville), Juniper is small, only 24 seats or so, right across the street from Annapolis Cider Company. The outside of the restaurant is unassuming while inside it’s bright and welcoming. And, since we arrived early, the restaurant is all ours.
We start with drinks, which are all about wine (though cider is coming soon). There’s a nice variety too—wines from France, Italy, Niagara, and, of course, Nova Scotia. I order a glass of 2017 L’Acadie Vintage Cuvée for $13. This particular vintage is a little more fruit-forward than others, which is much to my liking. I like a little sweet in my fizz.
The appetizers follow shortly. We order two plates: Fermented Dill Pickles and the Bread + Butter featuring Birdie’s seed bread, sea salt, and an exceptional house-made butter. I would consider both essential starters, especially at $5 each.
Next up, three mains. Flavours on the beautifully plated Albacore Tuna Crudo were excellent, though the accompanying puttanesca-esque garnish dominated the tuna itself. Still, it was delicious. Next up, we had the Kohlrabi Barigoule, with braised fall vegetables, broth, and pepper. I quite enjoyed this dish, though my dining partner was less impressed. Our third choice was a more casual offering. Hopgood’s Hot Chicken is the chef’s take on wildly popular Nashville hot chicken. Each piece of chicken was tasty, crispy, and garnished with small pickles. Portions were generous, too, making it a great plate for sharing.
With dinner out of the way, we moved onto dessert, where Juniper shines brightest. One could argue the Corn Creme Caramel could use a garnish, purely for the visual treat, but the flavours and depth are already in sync. And wow, it is tasty! We were pleased to discover the Apple Sorbet a perfect companion too; the flavour contrast between the two plates brought a balance to the entire course.
Overall, the food and service were impressive. But, it’s a new place that still needs to find its narrative. But if this is what they can do at the jump (just 2 weeks in), surely their future is very bright.