Eat­ing on the bot­tom of the tidal bay

Dining on the ocean floor an un­for­get­table ex­pe­ri­ence

Metro Canada (Calgary) - - SPECIAL REPORT: MORTGAGES - Jen­nifer all­ford torstAr neWs ser­vice

Our foot­prints add yet an­other layer of tex­ture to the bot­tom of the ocean floor. Count­less gen­tle curves flow in the red mud, blue swirls of iron ox­i­dize in flat sand­stone and wa­ter rip­ples in small pools left be­hind by the tide at Burnt­coat Head Park on the Nova Sco­tia side of the Bay of Fundy.

We’re walk­ing along the ocean floor — avoid­ing the slip­pery sea­weed, mar­vel­ling at mini rivers that look like bike tracks and ex­am­in­ing tiny white bar­na­cles on the rocks — all while try­ing to work up an ap­petite for one of Canada’s most unique out­door din­ners. We will be lit­er­ally dining at a ta­ble placed on the ocean floor once the tide goes out.

“There’s only about six days a year we can do this,” says Jen­nifer Nicholls of the Fly­ing Apron Inn and Cook­ery. “We have to get out the tide ta­bles and pore over them. Ev­ery two weeks, there’s only about two days that will work.”

Our ex­pe­ri­ence started with a “shore boil” lunch on the lawn in the park just above us. We sat in a cir­cle of colour­ful chairs with a few sil­ver buck­ets in the mid­dle and feasted on a gi­ant bowl of mus­sels, clams and lob­ster tails cooked in white wine from a nearby win­ery. We licked our fin­gers and threw our shells at the buck­ets.

Now, we’re ex­plor­ing down be­low find­ing end­less black shells the size of your lit­tle fin­ger­nail ly­ing on the mud. But look in a tide pool and the black peri­win­kles, a mol­lusk, are all in mo­tion, mov­ing along with her­mit crabs and sway­ing sea let­tuce. The more you watch, the more you see.

Oth­ers in our group are look­ing for big­ger game. A cou­ple of men from the other side of Nova Sco­tia are care­fully turn­ing over rocks, hop­ing to see a crab.

“There’s a trick to mov­ing the rock,” one man con­fides. I be­lieve him be­cause he’s al­ready found four crabs.

“I used to do it as a kid, for bait,” he ex­plains. A minute later, he picks up a crab that’s been hol­lowed out by some other crea­ture.

“Dead as a gnat,” his buddy de­clares.

About 160 bil­lion tons of wa­ter move in and out of the Bay of Fundy ev­ery day, caus­ing the high­est tides in the world. In 1975, the tide at Burnt­coat Head reached 53.6 feet, a record that still holds in the Guin­ness Book of Records.

Our guide points to thick lines of green al­gae about five storeys up the red cliffs.

“The wa­ter reaches just un­der­neath that line,” says Kelsey White. She also points out strange rocks on the ocean floor dropped by ships from all over the world and ex­plains how mus­sels carve out fin­ger­tipped sized holes in tiny cliffs of sand­stone and why the re­treat­ing ocean is brown. “It’s the sand and the mud. The wa­ter is al­ways mov­ing. It goes about an inch a minute.”

Af­ter ex­plor­ing for a cou­ple of hours, it’s time for din­ner. We hap­pily head over to a long ta­ble fac­ing the ocean, set with pretty lit­tle jars of wild flow­ers, our names writ­ten on a shell and small rocks hold­ing down the place­mats so they don’t blow away.

Servers from the Fly­ing Apron Inn and Cook­ery bring out din­ner — char­cu­terie and lo­cal cheese fol­lowed by steak and lob­ster — while our glasses are kept filled by servers with Avon­dale Sky Win­ery and Me­an­der River Farm and Brew­ery.

For dessert, Fly­ing Apron chef Chris Velden usu­ally stacks lay­ers of lo­cal berries, Grand Marnier mas­car­pone in laven­der phyllo pas­try hor­i­zon­tally, like a ham­burger. But with the ocean breeze, he lay­ers ev­ery­thing more like a cap­rese salad.

“It’s a lit­tle more wind re­sis­tant that way,” he jokes. Even still, a piece of pas­try flies off my plate, which I take as a sign to eat the rest quickly.

As we get up from our meal, we dis­cover the colour­ful chairs have been set up around PoP­U­LaR a camp­fire be­hind us. Over cof­fee and tea, we pinch our­selves a lit­tle to have se­cured a spot at such a rare din­ner.

De­pend­ing on the tides, the meal may be at mid­day or end af­ter dark. On this day in Au­gust, low tide was late af­ter­noon — 3:12 p.m. — and sev­eral hours later, as we climb the sand­stone cliffs and stairs that take us to the park, the sun is get­ting lower in the sky. When you look back over your shoul­der, you’ll see waves crash­ing over the mil­lions of crea­tures you spent the af­ter­noon get­ting to know and won­der how long un­til the ocean re­claims the spot of an un­for­get­table din­ner.

there are six din­ners be­tween July and Septem­ber. this year’s meals have al­ready sold out but you can join the wait list. it’s $350 for one or $675 for two. fly­in­gapron­cook­

jen­nifer All­ford was hosted by tourism nova sco­tia and its part­ners, which didn’t re­view or ap­prove this story.


the meal on the seafloor of the Bay of Fundy takes place dur­ing the day or night de­pend­ing on the tides.

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