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New World inn offers a Scottish sip

Email|Print| Text size + By Marty Basch
Globe Correspondent / September 24, 2003

GLENVILLE, Nova Scotia -- Thankfully, there wasn't haggis.

There was, however, a concannon timbale, a Scottish peasant dish of mashed potatoes wrapped in cabbage.

But if there is anything decidedly Scottish at the Glenora Inn and Distillery, it's the Scotch. Just don't call it that. It's the Scotch you can't call Scotch because it isn't made in Scotland.

Yet here, it's as if you're almost in the land of tartans and kilts.

Set in the Cape Mabou Highlands at the base of a forested hill with colorfully flowered grounds, Canada's only single-malt whiskey distillery is also home to a restaurant mere feet from the whiskey's source, MacLellan Brook.

The hearty country fare is a welcome respite from the area's pub grub and fried and boiled seafood. The post-and-beam dining room, adjacent to the crescent-shaped wooden bar of the Washback Pub with its wood stove and piano for mellow evening ceilidhs, overlooks the thistle and heather by the patio. The chives, basil, and oregano in the herb garden are used in the dishes, as are the edible pansies.

Executive chef Stephen Moir, 37, returned to his Nova Scotian roots in May, joining the inn after owning the celebrated Echo Cafe in Ottawa, with its fusion cuisine influenced by East Asia and India.

But at Glenora, simple is more like it. Local choices such as a fruity Nova Scotian muscat, plump Digby scallops, and even Cape Breton domestic buffalo can find their way onto the table during the three-course dinner ($28.50 plus tax).

The vegetable Dijon bread had hints of garlic and chunks of red pepper in the slices. A pickled red onion added a touch of sweetness to the warm and smooth almond-crusted baked brie appetizer, while the cold haddock escabeche had a delightful spark of lemon.

Though the baked salmon probably would have been the appropriate selection, as the sea is never far away, the peppercorn-seared beef strip loin had a kick that was assuaged by a blue cheese sauce. Of course, the Glen Breton Rare whiskey does make it into Moir's demi-glace on dishes such as the roasted rack of lamb.

Dessert features various drizzlings of alcoholic beverages -- Glen Breton, Bailey's, Amaretto -- over pastries, tarts, cheesecakes, and ice creams rich and sweet. To top off the meal, one must try the Glen Breton Rare ($5.15). Production of the whiskey began in 1990, and it hit the marketplace as a blue-label 8-year-old in 2000. The black-label 9-year-old was lightly smoky with a hint of butterscotch.

There are tours through the distillery and its oak barrels; a sampling is offered as a finale. Lunch ($4.60 to $9.25), with a menu of burgers, sandwiches, and fish, is served at the pub. Breakfast ($7.10) at the inn was a disappointingly limited buffet of limp French toast, breakfast meats, scrambled eggs, and fruit salad.

But it's a good place to learn a word of Gaelic: Slainte, or "To your health."

Marty Basch is a writer based in New Hampshire who is the author of several books.

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