Tuesday, October 11, 2005
Been there, done that?
There have been various lists of what a true foodie should do around recently in the foodblogosphere. I seem to remember it was kick-started (at least in the UK) by the Observer Food Magazine on May 15, 2005, when it published its list of The top 50 things every foodie should do. The things I can tick off that list are unfortunately very few, though I am happy to note that I have window-shopped (or is that stall-shopped?) at La Boqueria in Barcelona at least. Last weekend Scotland on Sunday (alias the Sunday version of The Scotsman newspaper) published a Scottish equivalent of this list. I've copy-pasted it here with few comments.
It would also be interesting to hear from other foodbloggers who either live in Scotland (Melissa of The Traveler's Lunchbox) or who have visited Scotland recently (Michele of Oswego Tea and Gemma of Pro Bono Baker pop to my mind) if they've done anything that's mentioned on the list..
I will try during the next months (and years) to work and eat my way through the list. Time and financies permitting obviously...
50 things every foodie should do in Scotland
Scotland on Sunday, October 9, 2005
Spectrum: Scotland's larder. Autumn food and drink special
1) Hire Martin Wishart for the night
The Michelin-starred chef, who runs his eponymous restaurant in Leith, now offers a bespoke dining service too. He will concoct a mouthwatering menu for you and your guests and send a team of chefs into your kitchen (who'll offer tips if you're interested) - and they even do the washing-up.
(0131 553 8998, www.martin-wishart.co.uk)
2) Book a table at the Witchery
Dine by candlelight in a 16th-century building at the gates of Edinburgh Castle. Nothing beats it for atmosphere, and the food is fabulous. Signature dishes include hot smoked salmon with leeks and hollandaise, and Angus beef fillet with smoked garlic broth. Jack Nicholson, Joanna Lumley, Michael Douglas and many other celebrities have dined here. Afterwards, slope off upstairs for the night in one of its truly decadent suites. Castlehill, Royal Mile, Edinburgh (0131 225 5613, www.thewitchery.com)
I ate at The Witchery some two years ago. It was gorgeously atmospheric - and their £10 two-course pre- or post-theatre menu isn't so bad at all.
3) Go to a fishmarket
Set your alarm clock and catch a live auction at Peterhead fishmarket. You will need to wear a protective white boilersuit and brave the fishy pong, but it's worth it - put in a bid and you'll have the freshest tuna in town.
Monday to Friday at 7.30am, by appointment only (01779 483600 - ask for Andrew Cowe)
4) Make a mean curry
Indian food doesn't get much tastier than at the Suruchi restaurants in Edinburgh. If you're inspired by their use of herbs and spices, sign up to one of the cookery demonstrations which owners Herman and Abha Rodrigues offer throughout the year.
14a Nicholson Street (0131 556 6583) and 121 Constitution Street (0131 554 3268)
Again, I've eaten there with my Danish "host-parents" a few years ago - I cannot really recall what I ate precisely, but it was definitely a pleasant dining experience.
5) Spend a weekend at the Three Chimneys
Eddie and Shirley Spear's restaurant in the north-west corner of Skye is hardly short of accolades. Serving the freshest local produce in a cosy lochside setting, this is one of the most scenic places in Scotland to dine. Stay in a bedroom suite here and you'll awake to a view stretching to the Outer Hebrides. It's the ultimate foodie pilgrimage.
Colbost, Dunvegan, Isle of Skye (01470 511358, www.threechimneys.co.uk)
Nope, I have not had the pleasure yet. But I have been drooling over Shirley Spear's new cookbook that looks really good.
6) Join the Scotch Malt Whisky Society
Fans of cask-strength malt can pick from a vast selection of whisky at the Vaults in Leith and at the society's latest venue, 28 Queen Street, Edinburgh. Both hold regular events, tastings and suppers.
(0131 555 2929, www.smws.co.uk)
7) Order a takeaway with a difference
Fresh prawns and king scallops can be seared to order from the Fish and Chip Van, on the island of Mull, and it couldn't be closer to the source. Eat the day's catch by the Clock Tower or sitting on the seafront with views of the bay. It beats a kebab any day. April to December, noon to 9pm.
Fisherman's Pier, Tobermory, Mull (01688 302390, www.silverswift.co.uk)
8) Dine aboard the Royal Scotsman
You'll be spoilt rotten on board this luxury train - the rich, seasonal food (which miraculously appears from a tiny galley kitchen), spectacular ever-changing scenery and impeccable service make it a journey to remember.
46a Constitution Street, Leith, Edinburgh (0131 555 1344, www.royalscotsman.com)
9) Eat a real Arbroath smokie
Buy a couple of these wood-smoked haddock wrapped in newspaper and tied up with string, and eat them with bread, rocket and tomatoes on the beach in Arbroath - or, better still, at half-time watching the Red Lichties play football at Gayfield Park. Get them at a farmers' market from Iain Spink, of RR Spink & Sons.
Sir William Smith Road, Kirkton Industrial Estate, Arbroath (01241 872023, www.rrspink.com, www.arbroathsmokies.net)
10) Lick a Luca's ice-cream
With ice-cream made daily to a 100-year-old recipe, a visit to Luca's is the perfect excuse for a Sunday-afternoon outing. There is a savoury menu too, but you might prefer to tuck straight into a magnificent knickerbocker glory. Bibs are optional.
32 High Street, Musselburgh (0131 665 2237); 16 Morningside Road, Edinburgh (0131 446 0233, www.s-luca.co.uk)
Hurray, another one that can be ticked off! Had a small scoop of vanilla ice cream at their Morningside branch just last Friday!
11) Quaff champagne and oysters
Oysters don't come fresher than at the bar at the head of Loch Fyne. And knowing that the contents of your seafood platter were caught just metres from your seat makes it taste better still. A dozen of these sexy little things costs £11.50.
Loch Fyne Oyster Bar, Clachan, Cairndow, Argyll (01499 600236, www.lochfyne.com)
12) Queue for a fish supper
Some might argue that a sizzling hot, battered haddock tastes all the better for the wait. In summer, the Anstruther Fish Bar has a long line all the way down the street. The owners of this award-winning chippie take great pride in what they do; as they say, you're only as good as your last fish supper.
42-44 Shore Street, Anstruther, Fife (01333 310518, www.insiteswd.co.uk/theanstrutherfishbar)
13) Satisfy your chocolate craving
Indulge in a chocolate espresso at Plaisir du Chocolat, a French tea shop in Edinburgh. For an even bigger hit, hire its chocolate fountain.
251 Canongate, Royal Mile, Edinburgh (0131 556 9524)
Have eaten at this place quite a few times and can highly recommend it.
14) Spend a weekend wine-tasting
Edinburgh's Malmaison hotel has opened a fully equipped wine-tasting room that caters for up to 15 people. Hire it along with head sommelier Johnny Walker, who will guide you through the hotel's lengthy wine list. Follow this with dinner and a night in one of the refurbished rooms. A two-night stay, with wine-tasting and dinner on Saturday night, starts from £199 per person
(Malmaison, 1 Tower Place, Edinburgh, 0131 468 5001, www.malmaison.com)
15) Cocktails at Harvey Nichols
You'll want a clear, calm and sunny afternoon for a cocktail on the terrace at Harvey Nichols' Forth Floor restaurant, where the views extend to Fife. It's the ideal spot to show Edinburgh off to visitors - or to remind yourself just how much you love the city.
30 St Andrew Square (0131 524 8350, www.harveynichols.com)
I have been to Harvey Nick's food section often, but have not had any drinks at the bar yet. But a friend of mine was only recently headhunted to work there as a barman, so their cocktails must be very very good indeed.
16) Cook some comfort food
Longer nights mean the chance to cosy up to some hearty home-cooking, so give the frozen pizza a miss and sit down to Scotch broth and stovies or MacSween's haggis and clapshot. Guaranteed to bring a glow to a cold weekday evening.
MacSween's haggis is my favourite haggis as well, with neeps and tatties and a wee dram.
17) Enrol at Nick Nairn's cook school
Roll up your sleeves and don your pinny: the celebrity chef's state-of-the-art cooking school, tucked away in the Trossachs, is the place to hone your culinary skills. With a charismatic team of helpers and the chance to sample your efforts at the end of the day, Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares this is not.
Port of Menteith, Stirling (01877 389900, www.nicknairncookschool.com)
18) Support your local butcher
Whether it's for Aberdeen Angus steaks, sliced square sausage or black pudding, Scottish meats are legendary. And they don't come better than from someone who knows just how long your fillet has been hung and where it comes from.
I have a favourite butcher at the Edinburgh Farmer's Market. All my sausages, bacon and pork come from Puddledub Pork and Fifeshire Bacon Co.
19) Sugar highs
Casey's sells humbugs, gobstoppers and pear drops by the weight from old-fashioned jars, while Moffat Toffee's speciality is made from a recipe dating from the 1880s. Or, make your own tablet - there's a recipe at www.undiscoveredscotland.co.uk/usrecipes/scottishtablet.
Casey's, 52 St Mary's Street, Edinburgh (0131 556 6082); Moffat Toffee, High Street, Moffat (01683 220032)
20) Dine on fresh lobster in Crail
Drive up the Fife coast to the picturesque fishing village of Crail. The Lobster Store is a tiny hut on the harbour, where fresh lobster or crab is cooked while you wait. Bring a half-bottle of supermarket bubbly to go with it.
21) Get an altitude
You could wolf down a baguette and pork pie on an icy chair lift, but refuelling at the Ptarmigan restaurant, the UK's highest (3,600ft), is more civilised. Providing it's not swathed in cloud, you'll enjoy fantastic views as you feast on local produce.
(01479 861336, www.cairngormmountain.com)
22) Stock up at a Chinese supermarket
Scotland is riddled with takeaways, but could a Chinese supermarket stocking all those elusive ingredients inspire you to make your own chow mein? Try Lims Chinese supermarket in Glasgow.
63 Cambridge Street, Glasgow (0141 332 9399)
There are few nice Chinese supermarkets in Edinburgh, too, so this one I can tick off as well.
23) Eat cheese
Visit Iain Mellis's emporium for a mouthwatering selection of British and Irish farmhouse cheeses. The best part is, you can try before you buy. There are four shops in Edinburgh and one in Glasgow (www.ijmellischeesemonger.com). Alternatively, visit his suppliers direct - such as Reades' farm in Tobermory, Mull, for a freshly cut wedge from one of its 50lb truckles (www.isleofmullcheese.co.uk), or Humphrey Errington, at Walston Braehead Farm, in Carnwath (01899 810257).
Indeed. Their shops in Bruntsfield and on Victoria Streets are wonderful!
24) Take afternoon tea at the Balmoral
With a resident harpist, marble pillars and chandeliers, the Palm Court at Edinburgh's Balmoral hotel is the perfect spot for afternoon tea. If you're celebrating, have something stronger - it's also home to Scotland's only Bollinger bar.
1 Princes Street, Edinburgh (0131 556 2414, www.thebalmoralhotel.com)
25) Try something different
Danielle Ellis is passionate about food. Her company offers demonstrations, tasting sessions, meet-the-chef events and walking tours for food lovers around Edinburgh and Glasgow.
Discover the Taste, 86 Belmont Road, Edinburgh (www.discoverthetaste.com)
26) Take a tip from Claire Macdonald
Wondering where to find the best kitchen knife or the best chocolate sauce? The renowned food writer has launched a range of cooking accessories and cupboard staples, available via her online shop. You can also sign up for one of her three-day demonstrations at her home on Skye.
Kinloch Lodge, Sleat, Isle of Skye (01471 833333, www.claire-macdonald.com)
27) Go wild at a farmers' market
Not just for the fruit and veg, but more unusual treats too, such as wild boar, ostrich and venison. Street markets are popping up as well - in Leith (which reopens in March) you'll find such gems as the Stoats Porridge Bar (stocking brown sugar, cream, whisky and honey) and Well Hung and Tender's gourmet burgers.
My regular Saturday morning involves a trip to Edinburgh Farmers Market, so another tick-off.
28) Join the slow food movement
Prince Charles had a point recently, when he urged society to slow down. This movement, which encourages its 83,000 members to savour their food and wine, now has a British branch. It needn't mean slaving over a casserole - taking time to savour a sandwich made with organic bread and a slice of Lanark Blue is an excellent start. (www.slowfood.com)
29) Catch your own
Dig out your rod and reel. For salmon, brown trout and sea trout, Scotland is an angler's dream.
30) Toast your last munro with champagne
What could be better than popping the cork at the summit of your 284th and final climb? If you've yet to conquer even one, start planning now. (www.munromagic.com)
31) Forage for wild mushrooms
Best done with a fungi-hunting gourmet chef, but if you've picked some dodgy-looking specimens on your own, take them to Valvona & Crolla's fungi surgery, where an expert will put your mind at ease.
19 Elm Row, Edinburgh (0131 556 6066)
I haven't foraged for wild mushrooms in Scotland, but I have spent endless hours foraging for various wild mushrooms in Estonia. And I have eaten wild mushrooms foraged by my Russian friend Galina in Scotland. So almost a tick-off.
32) Click on www.eatscotland.com
VisitScotland's latest initiative profiles the top places to eat out, the best food and drink producers and all sorts of regional specialities. You'll never be stuck for dinner again.
33) Visit the Teviot Smokery
Set in an 18th-century inn by the River Teviot, this Borders smokery produces smoked salmon, trout, duck, homemade smoked pâté and cheese. Just as impressive is its beautiful riverside garden.
Kirkbank House, Eckford, Kelso (01835 850253, www.teviotgamefaresmokery.co.uk)
34) Eat a Fisher & Donaldson custard slice
This bakery is the closest thing Scotland has to an original French-style patisserie. The shop in St Andrews also does Scotch pies and oatmeal skirlies, but this is gooey perfection.
13 Church Street, St Andrews (01334 472201, www.fisheranddonaldson.com)
35) Learn how to make sushi
Don't know your nigiri from your maki? Kumiko Hatori offers sushi-making lessons at her home in Glasgow. She charges £40 for two hours - all the equipment and ingredients are provided.
(0141 332 5707, www.learnsushi.co.uk)
36) Dine at Andrew Fairlie at Gleneagles
Andrew Fairlie, the Scottish chef of the year, enjoyed international coverage when he cooked for world leaders during the recent G8 summit. Those who have been say his Michelin-starred food is worth every penny. And, remember, if it's good enough for Jacques Chirac...
Gleneagles Hotel, Auchterarder, Perthshire (0800 389 3737, www.gleneagles.com)
37) Have butteries for breakfast
Best eaten warm with butter and marmalade, these salty Aberdeenshire specialities make a tasty change from croissants. Available especially at bakeries in the north-east.
38) Go reindeer-spotting
Reindeer meat is a delicacy in Finland, but the herd in Aviemore - the only one in Britain - is free to roam the Cairngorm mountains. The farm puts on daily visits, but you'll be lucky if Rudolph gets anywhere near your plate. It might whet your appetite for some Highland game, though.
The Cairngorm Reindeer Centre, Glenmore, Aviemore (01479 861228, www.reindeer-company.demon.co.uk)
39) Make fajitas the authentic way
Spice up your kitchen cupboards with dried chillies, refried beans, spicy chorizo and tequila from the Mexican deli Lupe Pintos. Its website also features a recipe for a mean chilli con carne.
24 Leven Street, Edinburgh (0131 228 6241); 313 Great Western Road, Glasgow (0141 334 5444; www.lupepintos.com)
This is probably a tick-off, as I've bought stuff from Lupe Pintos often (remember the Fluff?), though never to make fajitas..
40) Sign up to a box scheme
You could trudge round the veg section of the supermarket every week, or you could experience the joy of having a whole box of fresh, locally grown goodies delivered direct to your door. Guaranteed to up your fruit and vegetable intake and introduce you to varieties you never knew existed.
See www.alotoforganics.co.uk for Scottish suppliers
41) Order fish from Ken Watmough
The Aberdeen fishmonger has had two royal appointments and been recommended by Rick Stein and Delia Smith. His vast knowledge of fish and seafood has been gathered over 40 years, so if you're wondering how to gut a sea bass, make him your first port of call.
Ken Watmough Fishmongers, 29 Thistle Street, Aberdeen (01224 640321)
Again, almost a tick-off, as I get my fish from Eddie's Fish Market in Marchmont which is used if not by the Royal Family, then by The Witchery restaurant. And that's good enough for me..
42) Learn to cook in a castle
Myres Castle, the luxury Fife retreat, offers one-day cookery classes in its Victorian kitchen, with renowned chef Christopher Trotter. After-dinner piano recitals in the drawing-room are optional.
Auchtermuchty, Fife (01337 828350, www.myres.co.uk)
43) Dine with the puffins
And guillemots, shags, kittiwakes, grey seals or even bottlenose dolphins, at the Scottish Seabird Centre. There's a cosy café (with an outside deck) offering homemade soups and sandwiches. The food is modest, but the location is stunning.
Scottish Seabird Centre, The Harbour, North Berwick (01620 890202, www.seabird.org)
44) Sample Mrs Unis's pakora
Mrs Unis has been distributing her pakora to corner shops in Edinburgh for more than 30 years. Unfortunately, a fire at her factory in May has halted production until next year. In the meantime, check out her restaurant for excellent curries, samosas, bhajis and, yes, pakora.
Mrs Unis, 99-101 Dalry Road, Edinburgh (0131 337 3852)
45) Enjoy lunchtime culture
The sculpture garden at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, in Edinburgh, is an inspired place for lunch or coffee - and the selection of cakes and Scottish cheeses is hard to resist. The café at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, on Queen Street, is a well-kept secret too.
(0131 624 6200, www.natgalscot.ac.uk)
Hmmm. I had a lovely lunch at The Gallery Restaurant just recently, in August, but I am yet to be inspired after a cuppa at these two cafes. I should be able to tick off the first one before, as I'm hoping to visit the Henri Cartier-Bresson exhibition before the end of the month.
46) Be a honey monster
Make sure your toast never goes without, with a visit to Chainbridge Honey Farm. There is a visitor centre, but you might prefer to get your paws straight on the stuff.
Horncliff, Berwick-upon-Tweed (01289 386362, www.chainbridgehoney.co.uk)
47) Pick your own
Summer entertainment for all the family. In season, raspberries, strawberries, blackcurrants, redcurrants and brambles run riot across Scotland.
For a comprehensive list of farms, see www.pickyourown.org/ukscotland.php.
48) Brighten up a grey day at Ndebele
This colourful Edinburgh deli is the place to come for South African delicacies such as biltong and boerewors sausages. Eat in, buy from the mini-market, ask for a delivery to your office (in central Edinburgh) or book it to cater for your own event (weddings included).
57 Home Street, Edinburgh (0131 221 1141, www.ndebele.co.uk)
Hurray, another tick-off! Am quite a frequent visitor to that place - that's where I had my lunch last Friday. Nbedele Salad plate with falafel and some interesting eggplant concoction whose name I can't remember. A very relaxed and nice place.
49) Sign up for a masterclass
Learn tips from the top at Kathellan Fine Food in Fife. The deli, which is set in 25 acres of farmland, also puts on a monthly class. The next is on Tuesday, November 8 with the food writer Maxine Clark, who will demonstrate venison recipes.
Kathellan, Home Farm, Fife (0871 226 2218, www.kathellan.co.uk)
50) Eat a deep-fried Mars Bar
Savour that well-known Scottish delicacy at its place of origin: the Bervie Chipper in Inverbervie, near Aberdeen. Best washed down with a bottle of Irn-Bru.
Oh no. I have survived 6 years in Edinburgh without eating this. Is there really no escape???