By Vernon Oickle, Summer 2014
You eat with your eyes first.
So says Dan Tanner, Food and Beverage Manager and Sommelier at White Point Beach Resort.
“If something appears appetizing then you’ll want to taste it and so it’s important that the first taste be the best possible, no matter if it’s an appetizer, entree or wine,” he says, glancing out the row of large windows in the Founder’s Lounge that overlook the Atlantic Ocean as it rushes to meet the sandy shore. “Our guests are our top priority.”
That’s the philosophy that permeates the resort’s entire food and beverage offerings, underscoring the resort’s commitment to being a Taste of Nova Scotia partner.
Chef Alan Crosby echoes that philosophy, stressing that providing the best dining experience is their ultimate goal. With the emphasis on quality, the menus burst with unique and savoury experiences that change with the seasons.
“Something has to look good first … the dish has to excite the senses before it even gets to the taste buds in your mouth,” he explains. “If it looks good then the diner anticipates the bite.”
Alan’s philosophy on food preparation reflects his years of experience in the industry, but he admits his journey to White Point required him to travel many roads before reaching his final destination. Originally from Liverpool, he graduated from Mount Allison in 1987 with a BA in English and Theatre.
However, upon graduation from university he immediately realized his heart belonged elsewhere and at that point decided to pursue his life-long obsession with food. His real interest had always been cooking so in 1989 he entered the Culinary Institute of Canada located in Charlottetown and graduated in 1991.
“Before then,” he laughs, “I had never worked in food service and had no idea what I was getting into, but I loved it once I got there and, in fact, I even worked at the Institute on the weekends while I was studying there.”
He started his actual culinary career as a prep chef at The Church in Stratford, Ontario, which was a converted church that offered a high-end menu. “It was an extremely busy old-school restaurant. I worked on the vegetable corner where I had to prepare all the ingredients for the vegetable side dishes and soups. It was hectic, but I learned a lot and it was a good jumping off point for my culinary career.”
Although he worked for several years at the Hotel Vancouver, one of the most prestigious hotels in Canada, he longed to return to Nova Scotia. So in 1997 he took the position of executive chef at the Delta Barrington in Halifax. In 2003, he returned to Liverpool where he joined White Point as the executive chef.
As an experienced chef, Alan believes that in order to offer a well-rounded menu, it is important to know every section of the kitchen. “I like it all, but I admit I don’t consider myself a pastry chef. Making good pastry is very precise work and not everyone can do it well. It has never been one of my favourite things to do, but I love making fresh bread.” He notes that all their bread and desserts are made in house.
Alan describes the menu at White Point as an eclectic mix of casual elegance in which the customers exhibit a varied range of tastes, but where a high level of quality is the ongoing benchmark.
Dining options are numerous, he says, noting that they offer a gluten free menu and vegetarian options. The popular dinner buffet that features a selection of meats and salmon, as well as a variety of salads and vegetables continues to be a favourite choice for diners.
Alan’s favourites on the menu include the brown sugar and smoked paprika salmon served with roasted pineapple salsa, and the crab cakes with lime tartar sauce. The biggest seller is steak frites, which is a 10 oz. strip loin cut with steak fries and crimini mushrooms.
“And of course,” he quickly points out, “we have lobster when it’s in season as well as haddock and scallops. Our menu is created in collaboration with the entire staff and our objective is to create food that appeals to every taste.”
When it comes to desserts, Alan’s favourite is bread pudding. “I loved bread pudding as a child, so that will always be on the menu as long as I’m here,” he smiles. “Our bread pudding, which is made in house, is served with amaretto ice cream and it’s amazing.”
“Our philosophy is simple — quality first and give the customers what they want,” he says. “We’re always trying to find something new that customers like while paying homage to the traditions that people expect here in Nova Scotia.”
In an effort to maintain the resort’s commitment to the Taste of Nova Scotia, products are sourced locally whenever possible including pork, ham, bacon and sausage, which are purchased from Meadowbrook Meats in Berwick, while the beef for their burgers comes from PEI. Items like Solomon Gundy come from Mersey Point Fish and mussels from Ship Harbour.
“As a Nova Scotia restaurant our priority is to put Nova Scotia products first, but when they aren’t available in the province, then we try to shop as close to home as possible,” Alan says.
Dan emphasizes they make the same commitment to their beverage menu and wine list.
“We make every effort to use local products. Wines produced in Nova Scotia work well with the foods on our menu, so it makes the perfect and natural pairing. We especially make every effort to highlight what works with local dishes.”
As the resident Sommelier, Dan is trained in all aspects of wine service and pays special attention to wine and food pairing. In fine dining today the role is strategically on a par with that of the executive chef.
From Lunenburg, Dan began his career at White Point Beach Resort in 2000 upon completing his studies in Hospitality Services and Culinary Arts Program at Nova Scotia Community College in Bridgewater.
One of the qualities Dan appreciates about White Point is the resort’s commitment to local products. “Wine making in Nova Scotia is a growing industry especially the white wines. That’s because of the various climates and the soil types in the region. The grapes are lower in sugar levels and the fresh wines are complex. They pair up very nicely with our food menu.”
But, he adds it’s not only the local wineries they support. White Point also serves locally produced beer such as Hell Bay in Liverpool and Boxing Rock in Shelburne as well as rum, vodka and liquor from Ironworks Distillery produced in Lunenburg. They also incorporate local products like VanDyke’s blueberry juice and Sledding Hill Lavendar in their cocktails.
“People are looking for something different and hyper local. Our partnerships with local suppliers enable us to show off our products. We’re proud of the selection we offer,” he says. “For us, it’s important that we make partnerships with the local producers as we want our guests — both from Nova Scotia and afar — to enjoy the best taste experience from the province.”
But Dan’s expertise isn’t limited to local sources and products. In fact, in recent years he has travelled to Spain, Chili, Argentina and South Africa to learn more about the wine and food cultures in those countries. Earlier this summer, he went to Italy on a learning excursion and will travel to Germany in November on a wine tour.
“As the wine Sommelier, I enjoy learning about wines from around the world and how they compare to our Nova Scotia wines. Sharing this with our guests and enhancing their dining experience here at White Point is great,” he says, adding that the idea of these excursions is “to learn about the wine and food in other cultures and to bring it back to White Point so that our guests can enjoy the best food and beverage experiences possible.”
Guests at White Point have unique experiences with Dan and Alan too. Both offer interactive and engaging programming meant to break down barriers, debunk myths and educate folks in a variety of ways.
Dan hosts “Off the Vine Wine Tastings,” a two hour sampling and learning session about wines. He also brings in craft beer producers to introduce their own products and enable guests to get to know them and their techniques giving access to these “rock stars” in their own right.
For his part, Alan hosts “Chef’s Culinary Classes,” a two-hour session in which participants learn to create amazing dishes with Nova Scotian items and ingredients you likely already have in your kitchen. Special guest presenters often accompany him during these presentations. And yes, there is sampling.
These events are often brought together in Culinary Weekends starting with an Off the Vine Tasting in the afternoon, featuring a Nova Scotian winemaker, and culminating with a chef created and presented four-course wine paired dinner featuring a Nova Scotia menu.
Of course, every dining experience at White Point is enhanced by the stunning ocean views from Elliot’s Dining Room and the Founder’s Lounge year round, and in summer on the decks.
Check out our menu’s and dining experiences on whitepoint.com!