When I was little I always wanted to go to the Dunblane Hydro. This was because Jim MacLeod was the resident band leader at the hotel. My parents have a lot to answer for. For the uninitiated Jim MacLeod was the leader of a popular Scottish Dance Band back in the day. His LP's got played a lot in our house when I was growing up. Rumour has it I wore a path in the carpet dancing up and down to "No, no, no, no Geordie Munro"
Alas times have moved on and Jim passed away in 2004 (thankfullly my childhood dreams were fulfilled when we saw him perform there in the 90's) The celebrity associated with Dunblane Hydro these days is Nick Nairn. In an innovative partnership he created their Kailyard Resturant four years ago. I was delighted to receive an invitation to attend a Bloggers menu tasting event at The Kailyard by Nick Nairn. However there was a fly in the ointment - the date in question was our 15th Wedding Anniversary.
|Love is... A jar of marmalade on your Crystal Wedding Anniversary|
Thankfully Foodie Loon knows what side his bread is buttered so I RSVP'd positively and promised to leave him a frozen ready meal for one. It's still in the freezer as at the eleventh hour the Dunblane Hydro offered us a plus one so he became my chauffeur. Whilst eating my breakfast toast and anniversary marmalade I checked Twitter and saw Nick was on the hunt for a collective noun for the day ahead. Any suggestions?
Now of to Dunblane hydro for meetings followed by a tasting with a group of food bloggers. What do you call a collective of food bloggers?
— Nick Nairn (@NickNairn) May 2, 2013
Not sure what we were all expecting from the event but Nick turned things on their head over the welcome drinks when he said he was very keen to find out more about blogging. Why we did it, what we got out of it and how we dealt with any conflicts of interest. Much discussion ensued on the various whys, wherefores and technicalities of blogging and general agreement that it wasn't something that is going to go away and should be embraced.
Nick filled us in on how he became involved at Dunblane and the philosophy behind the restaurant Local produce, seasonality and interesting dishes that work well for large numbers. The Kailyard will serve in excess of 1,000 cover over a weekend with additional challenges presented by many guests staying on a Dinner, Bed and Breakfast basis. As the food began to arrive I double checked the currently contentious issue of food photography in restaurants. For the record Nick takes the "don't bite the hand that feeds" approach and is all for it. But turn off the flash.
First up the selection platters of starters. I often want more than one starter from a restaurant menu so it was great to try four. The pork belly topped with crackling was undoubtedly my favourite closely followed by the Prawn Cocktail with Morecombe Bay brown shrimps. The marie rose sauce had a real kick. A prawn cocktail done well can't be beaten.
Confit Pheasant Terrine - Celeriac Remoulate - Apricot Puree - Pickled Walnut Dressing
Classic Cocktail of Brown Shrimps - Loch Duart Scottish Salmon - Hass Avocado - Cocktail Sauce
Glazed Prok Belly - Crackling - Apple Sauce - Crispy Fritters - Sage
Smoked Loch Duart Salmon "Nick Nairn" - Apple & Watercress Salad - Pickled Fennel
Nick explained that the Loch Duart Salmon was a real artisan product spending hours in a dry salter and kiln. It featured again as a main course with shellfish risotto. Fantastic dish which was Foodie Loon's favourite. Risotto can often disappoint but this one had a real depth of flavour. As we ate the swiss chard alongside the featherblade of beef I was intrigued to learn the meaning behind the name of Kailyard. Its the auld Scots name for a vegetable patch or kitchen garden traditionally growing brassica's.
Slow Braised Featherblade of Scottish Beef - Mustard Mash - Truffled Celeriac Puree - Swiss Chard and Red Wine Gravy
Seared fillet of Loch Duart Salmon - Shellfish Risotto - Crispy Seaweed
It was really interesting to find out a bit more about the Nick Nairn Cookschool. I've been a couple of times to the original one in Port of Monteith and three times now to his latest venture in Aberdeen. Most recently for Perfect Sole Supper and Breads. Many laughed at the original idea of a Cookschool but it has really taken off. The Quick Cook class concept in Aberdeen has been a phenomenal success with the lower price point capitalising on the current economic climate and the shorter timescale accommodating hectic lifestyles.
I'm not the biggest desert fan preferring the cheeseboard option but I was delighted to see the shot glasses of trifle complete with ironic sprinkles. I love anything with cold custard. Alas there was chantilly cream as opposed to Dream Topping. I'm not a big chocolate fan so skipped the bread and butter pudding and ice cream but Foodie Loon assured me they were amazing.
Nick's Berry Trifle - Handmade Apple & Blackberry Jelly, Vanilla Custard - Chantilly Cream - Toasted Almonds
Warm Brioche Bread & Butter Pudding - Milk Chocolate Ice Cream
If anyone had told me fifteen years ago that I would be spending my wedding anniversary with a group of bloggers and Nick Nairn I wouldn't have believed them. 15 years ago Nick was one of the regular celebrity chefs on Ready Steady Cook touting for Green Pepper and Red Tomato votes. I had great ambitions to appear on the show with my carrier bag full of ingredients. My wish may yet come true as there's to be a comeback with a Ready Steady Cook Live Roadshow.
Many thanks to Nick and the Kailyard for a memorable 15th Wedding Anniversary. I am slightly worried now that I may have become a celebrity chef stalker as long before I knew about this event I had booked to go to an "In Conversation" and a "Science on a Plate" demo with Nick at Aberdeen University May Festival this Friday. Think I will just sit quietly up the back listening to Jim MacLeod on my iPod and hope he doesn't spot me.