ANTIGONISH: A new art and culinary adventure will be taking place in September on Keppoch Mountain.

The first annual Tapas and Trails Art and Culinary Adventure, which organizers describe as a wonderful opportunity to engage with nature and celebrate Nova Scotian arts and culture, is expected to be an exceptional afternoon featuring a beautiful scenic walk along one of Keppoch’s premier hiking trails.

“Basically what it is, is a new version of food tours,” Joe MacEachern told The Reporter. “Instead of going from restaurant to restaurant, we gathered local restaurants and a few other culinary specialists, and we’re going to set them up along a hiking trail.”

The Antigonish Visitor Information Center (VIC), in partnership with Keppoch Mountain Recreation Area, the Antigonish Arts House and FarmWorks Investment Company will present Tapas and Trails on Sept. 18 along “The Game Changer” trail, which is wheelchair and mobility device accessible.

MacEachern, who has always been heavily involved in the local food movement, and retired from the cooking industry years ago, has always had a passion for it and still loves a good food and drink pairing, so it seemed like a really good idea to try to put both together.

“This type of tour is taking off all over the world, it just hasn’t really hit here yet,” he said. “And like most good ideas, they catch on pretty quick. And I got a bunch of people really interested in it, and I put the word out to some chefs to see if they would be interested.”

Everybody he talked to thought it was a really great initiative for the local area, and MacEachern said the event developed organically.

There are 15 booths in total, 10 of them will feature a chef who will create one small appetizer-sized dish that will be paired perfectly with a wine, beer, or spirit from around Nova Scotia.

“We will also have a non-alcoholic beverage for anyone who’s not drinking,” MacEachern said. “Because we do know we’re out at Keppoch and there will be some people who will be designated drivers.”

In addition to the culinary experience, the event will also showcase featured artists, an outdoor art exhibition, live art installations long with music and entertainment.

“Everybody wants to get out and have some fun,” MacEachen said. “With COVID, a lot of indoor events, you don’t know if they’re going to succeed, because you can plan it all and you take one step back on the COVID scale, and all of a sudden the event is cancelled.”

The way this event is structured, he said, with socially distanced groups of 10 going out, it’s safe enough that even if there was a step back in public health restrictions, they’d still be safe to go ahead.

Tours are scheduled to leave the main lodge at Keppoch Mountain every 10 minutes starting at 11 a.m., the last tour group will be leaving at the lodge at 3:30 p.m.

On top of bringing together numerous local chefs and food producers, and exploring what can be done with local products, there’s a social element as well, trying to make Antigonish a destination.

“With COVID, we’ve realized there are a lot of staycations, and not everybody knows where to go,” MacEachern said. “When people are looking internally for places to go, we really have to show them how wonderful Antigonish has become as a tourist destination.”

Headlining the event is Chef Domenic Padula with Dining on the Ocean Floor.

“When the Bay of Fundy completely empties out, he goes in and sets up all his tables and invites locals and tourists to dine right on the ocean floor, it’s super famous,” MacEachern said. “It’s $1,350 for two people and sells out within the hour, and people come in from Paris and New York to do this with him, so I thought it would be great if everybody got to try his food at a little less of a price point.”

For a more local feel, Havre Boucher’s Jen Miller, who appeared on Season 6 of Master Chef Canada, will also be a local headliner, with her catering company The Humble Table.

The Crafty Cooks and Half Cocked Brewing will partner up, Grub Love will be paired with Coldstream Clear Distillery, Sober Island Brewing Co. will join Back East Seafood, Justamere Café and Off Track Brewing will share a booth, Justamere Bakery will be paired with Island Folk Cider House, Fresh Food Matters teams up with Candid Brewing Co., the Brownstone and Spindirft Brewing Co. join forces, The Humble Table will be paired with Steinhart Distillery, and Chef Padula will be paired with Avondale Sky Winery.

The event will also feature Chef Ray Bear.

For more information on the event, the attending chefs or to purchase a ticket visit: www.tapasandtrails.ca.