A look at The Bite House: Refined dining in a rural Cape Breton country house
This East Coast spot is getting noticed near and far.
A twisting dirt road in rural Big Baddeck, Cape Breton might not be the most expected route to an enchanting dining experience, but that's the path to take to visit The Bite House. From the road, unassuming signage points the way to the property which is helpful because otherwise The Bite House could easily be mistaken for another beautiful rambling country home. In fact, it is home — to chef Bryan Picard and his girlfriend Marie Isabelle year-round, but from the months of May to December, most of the downstairs property and sweeping outdoor lands are transformed into the gardens, kitchen and dining area for this intimate 14 person dining experience. And one that is garnering international buzz including attention from The Guardian and The New York Times.
The century-old farmhouse has been lovingly restored and is visible from all corners of the property. Two friendly dogs, Chester and Sage, greet guests and act as tour guides. They weave around the lawn, following Picard as he inspects and picks herbs and flowers from his own garden to flavour and garnish the coming night's dishes with. As he walks through the garden, Picard talks about where he sources the rest of his ingredients. Committed to local sourcing, the produce and meat for the restaurant are sourced from the nearby LeBlanc brothers and their father, who have been farming in the area for some time. Seafood from the abundant Atlantic Ocean features heavily on the menu most nights.
The interior of the farmhouse is bright and spacious. The dining room is decorated with local touches in the form of Cape Breton maps, found artifacts from the area and ceramic serveware crafted by several Nova Scotian makers. Tables seating two to four people are spread throughout the main dining room with space for more in a room that feels like a patio with a mixture of walls and screening. On some nights, smaller groups will occupy each table individually but other nights, larger groups will book the entire space giving the space a communal atmosphere.
The kitchen is visible through a small doorway from the dining room. It looks much like any kitchen in an old house, with a few industrial elements tucked in: the workhorse oven, enviably large farmhouse sink, draught station for beer and more beautiful herbs on hand in one windowsill than most people could hope to grow in a garden.
Most of the activity in the kitchen is centred around a large kitchen island, from the making of buckwheat dough to seasoning a tray of Arctic char.
As Picard works, his partner Marie Isabelle and his parents Monique and Mo filter in and out, giving the space an even homier feel. This sense of family and community isn't lost during service hours either — Marie Joselle and Monique help with dinner service and Mo is often helping with the property and baking beautiful breads.
As the time nears for guests to start arriving, Picard begins to play with plating his dishes. The menu at The Bite House changes monthly to accommodate the local ingredients. This month's menu is heavy on local seafood including two colourful mains: a seared tuna garnished with housemade sour cream and a bowl of cornmeal shrimps in a savoury green buttermilk sauce.
In its fifth year of business in the Big Baddeck region, many locals are returning guests at The Bite House and lucky tourists who have planned far enough in advance quickly take up the rest of the available seats. It's already fully booked for this season and not yet taking reservations for next (2019), but it's never too soon to put this spot on your radar in hopes of snagging a coveted and cozy spot.
Alexa Cude is a professionally trained photographer based in Halifax, Nova Scotia. A recent university graduate, Alexa has wasted no time building a portfolio of clean, modern images for a variety of clients with a focus on lifestyle and adventure content. To see more of Alexa's professional work head to www.alexacude.com and keep up with her personal projects on Instagram.