A Perfect Evening at the Trellis Cafe
Marjorie had just completed her MA thesis, and her brother Geoffrey had sent her some money for a celebration dinner. Would we go to a downtown hotel, a multi-star city restaurant, a delightful emporium of ethnic cuisine?
Maybe. But what about the Trellis? One of our newly-discovered favourites, the Trellis Cafe is in Hubbards, half-an-hour from Halifax down the South Shore. Hubbards is a charming village built around a tiny cove. It has a little yacht club and a modest retail core with services like a gas station and a charming antique store called Mother Hubbard’s Cupboard. And it has the Trellis, an unpretentious cafe located in what was once a little rustic bank; the vault door is still there, sunk in a back wall.
The Trellis is warm, charming and deeply rooted in its milieu. The walls are decorated with signs from historic local enterprises and art by vigorously living artists. The art is for sale, and the display changes regularly. The food is excellent, original, fiercely local and modestly priced. And three times a week there is music – an acoustic jam session every Thursday, professionals every Friday and Saturday.
“This Saturday,” said Marjorie, “it’s a guitarist named Georges Hebert. Do you know him?”
“Let’s go,” I said. “I know Georges a little bit. I haven’t heard him for years and years, but he’s superb.”
The Trellis was far from full, just four or five couples. The menu is not extensive, but it’s all good. I chose lamb ravioli, Marjorie selected lobster ravioli, and our wine was Grand Pre L’Acadie Blanc, from a winery about fifty miles away. Both dishes came with home-made bread and an interesting salad involving romaine, raisins, sliced almond and Mandarin orange sections. As we ate, Georges Hebert arrived with his colleague Garthe Proude, and set up on the tiny stage. They tuned up, and then slid into action.
“Wow!” said Marjorie. “Isn’t that lovely? It’s like listening to velvet.” The tunes were jazz classics and standards: Moonglow, God Bless the Child, Have You Met Miss Jones? The music was easy jazz, relaxed and nuanced, rich and witty, absolutely delightful. No wonder: when I last heard him, Georges was playing in John Allan Cameron’s band. Since then, he and Garthe had put in 30 years playing with Anne Murray. That rippling, lucid guitar has been heard in Carnegie Hall, the London Palladium, the Royal Albert Hall and and the Radio City Music Hall, among other places.
Between sets we talked about music and musicians, friends past and present. Marjorie’s thesis is on memoir, and one of the memoirs she had read was Anne Murray’s, and we spent some time marvelling at the career of the little phys ed teacher from Springhill. And where else were Garthe and Georges playing these days? On December 28, they’ll be at the Onyx in Halifax. We’d love to be there.
We left after the next set. We couldn’t eat our dessert, so the Trellis packed it up for us – and in a compostable paperboard container, not a styrofoam one.
If we’re smart, diligent and careful, this is what sustainability may look like. A recycled building full of local food, wine, art and music – all of it plenty good enough for prime time, but being provided, with excellent service, to the folks in the locality. For me, the crowning jewel of the evening was the compostable food container, silent testimony to the mindfulness that characterizes every aspect of a little business that is entirely present in its place.
The Trellis isn’t a flash in the pan; it’s been in business since 1985. If we trade in Wal-Mart and McDonald’s, this is what what we can have. If we trade in corporate growth for an economy of steadiness and sustainability, this is what it can look like. Living within our ecological means won’t make us poorer. In every way that matters, it makes us richer. Go down to Hubbards and see it for yourself.
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