Recently I vacationed to New York City, eating my way around Manhattan and Brooklyn. I lived beyond my means for a week, indulging my senses, and it was all fantastic, but I left with an excitement to go home, and the resonating thought that most of the incredible food I had was on par with what I consistently find just a few blocks from my home at Field Guide.
Maybe you’re aware of Field Guide’s top-notch cocktail program. Since its opening, people have raved about their cocktail list, which is broad in style and influence. The great success of their cocktail list could be attributed to the creative and enthusiasitic head bartenders they’ve employed, beginning with Shane Beehan (now at Lot Six,) and currently Adam MacLeod.
The summer cocktail list, which featured a drink named Jesus Bravo in which the bold flavours of blanco tequila, amaretto, cold brew coffee, Serrano peppers, orgeat, lime juice and mole bitters found harmony, was proof to me of MacLeod’s talent, and it summoned me down the street more than a few times over the last months.
The Fall cocktail list came out this last week, and is proving to be just as lovely and comforting. The Pumpkin Sour, sugar and spice and everything nice, and the Hawthorne, with its slightly sweet, but balanced crab apple and almond notes, were like an idealistic step into autumn day. But, the mezcal won my heart in the Tequila Penicillin, with the heavier notes of smoke and ginger playing with the freshness of the tequila and lime.
So, the cocktails were, and are still, on point, but go for the food, stay for the cocktails, or vice versa. What I’m trying to say is the food at Field Guide is hands down among my top few preferred places to eat in the city.
The food offerings have improved immensely in the short time the restaurant has been open. Chef Dan Vorstermans seems to have come into his own, and impresses with dishes that are simple, but not dumbed-down. His flavours are straight forward and honest, and let ingredients speak for themselves.
Take his beans with basil and garlic for example, it isn’t a mind bending dish, just cooked beans that are still a bit crunchy, with paper thin slices of sautéed garlic, tiny pieces of hot pepper, and basil, all tossed in a salty, garlic butter. It’s a dish that is absolutely perfect in its balance and execution. I keep thinking about those beans, and that’s something I’ve never said.
Of the new autumn dishes, I had the chance to taste the halibut ceviche, the roasted beets and blue cheese and gnocchi with porcini mushrooms. The halibut ceviche had a beautiful lightness, and clean taste and was accented by pickled turnip and a black sesame and cauliflower puree. The varied texture of the salad, along with its roasted, autumnal flavors, gave it balance; soft roasted carrots and beets, crunchy and sweet granola and chewy, funky blue cheese are fantastic together.
The main course, a perfectly executed gnocchi—soft and light, yet well seared on the outside—was accompanied by beautifully earthy and sweet Porcinis and house ricotta, all sitting in a small puddle of butter. Although this dish is quite rich, I didn’t come away from it feeling weighed down. The fresh cheese and soft textures helped keep it lively.
The Field Guide menu changes with the seasons, but there are some items you can always expect, like the cheese board, charcuterie, perfect beef brisket tacos (read: melt in your mouth brisket with a sweet and sour taste) and pillowy donair steam buns (think like a taco, but puffed up, and doughy.)
The most impressive feat of the Field Guide kitchen is making such resonant dishes using almost exclusively local ingredients. Server Marc Comeau explained that the only thing not local on the current menu is smoked paprika, and they even avoid using citrus for acid, using Boates apple cider vinegar instead. They’re committed to making Nova Scotia food producers shine.
All this being said, Field Guide has incredible items, which are being offered up at a good price, in a unique space, but it’s really the attentive, genuine service and small staff that keep me coming back. Whether it’s co-owner Ceilidh Sutherland taking a moment to check-in on how the evening is going, or server Joshua Nordin making educated recommendations, I feel taken care of.
Field Guide is the neighbourhood spot that you should be jealous isn’t in yours. Make the short trip, and be open to friendly faces and new tastes abound.