It's always lovely to get an invitation in your inbox. Especially when it involves meeting up with fellow bloggers, journalists and food enthusiasts over tastings, demos and lunch. The invite came from John and Kirsteen Sinclair, owners of Craigie's Farm Deli and Cafe in South Queensferry. I'd already briefly visited Craigie's on a recent trip to Edinburgh and been impressed with what I saw so decided to RSVP in the affirmative and take a road trip to the central belt to find out a bit more about everything that's 'growing' on at Craigie's.
The weather was grim but the welcome was warm. A great group of bloggers, foodies and journalists were in attendance but it was particularly good to finally meet up with three who I've been chatting to for ages online but had never met in real life. Hilary from My Monkfish, Rachel from A Wee Pinch of Sugar and Wendy Inside Out Chef. Introductions made John told us a bit about the history of the farm before we were split into two groups for our tour. The Sinclair's have had tenancy of West Craige since the 60's when it operated as a dairy farm until pasteurisation regulations forced change to continue profitability.
Fruit production began in the 80's along with a small informal farm shop. A barn was converted in the 90's to a larger shop open 6 months of the year. 2007 saw the opening of the new shop and cafe with capacity doubling in 2009 to include a Butchery. John's mother Anne heads up the Jam Kitchen where they produce a range of over 40 different jams, jellies, marmalades, chutneys and vinegars predominantly made from farm produce. The preserves are made in exactly the same method as you would use at home but on a bigger scale. Beetroot chutney and summer fruit jam was bubbling away during our visit ready to be poured into traditional 1lb jars.
Next stop on our tour was the bakery where a fantastic looking and delicious tasting selection of homebakes for the cafe are made from scratch. Empire Biscuits, Carrot Cake and Rhubarb & Orange Cake were in progress. Scones of all varieties and traybakes are also big sellers and a new 'Cake of the Week' puts in an appearance every Thursday.
Tasting time and the opportunity to meet three of Craigie's suppliers. Our first port of call was Cairn O'Mohr wines hosted by Linzey. The Perthshire winery have been producing for almost 27 years. We tasted a selection of their fruity offerings encompassing Cider, Still and Sparkling Wine and non alcoholic Sparkling Elderflower. I'm definitely going to have to pay a visit to their visitor centre sometime soon. Meantime I impressed by sharing that I had a bottle of their Rhubarb Rhubarb in my wine rack and they we'd enjoyed their Bramble Wine and Autumn Oak Leaf wine at our Burns Celebrations.
Lynn of Supernature Cold Pressed Rapeseed Oil was next at the tasting table. I'm a big fan of Scottish rapeseed oil for its health benefits, provenance and versatility. Supernature is light in colour and taste and works very well with infusions. An impressive range of 11 flavours with two more on the way. Whilst I loved both the Coriander and Lime I was very interested in the two newcomers. White Truffle and Black Truffle. I was lucky enough to get a sneaky sample of the White Truffle Infused oil home with me. Its flavour is intense and instantly transported me back to our Tuscan holiday. I shall definitely be seeking out more once my 100ml is gone.
Last but by no means least was Tanny Gill, a man with an absolute passion for cheese. With an amazing back story culminating in 4 years on Mull making cheese. He gave us a whistle stop tour of Artisan Scottish cheeses including Paddy's Milestone, Jezebel, Arran Blue and Fearn Abbey Brie. These were accompanied with charcuterie from Great Glen Game and Rannoch Smokery. I could have quite happily foregone lunch and just devoured the remainder of the cheese.
An amazing spread of meats, cheeses, quiche, frittata, salads, breads and chutneys filled the heaving table for our Foodies Lunch. A real showcase of the food produced in the cafe and sold in the deli. Seasonal, local and absolutely delicious. We were absolutely stuffed and had completely forgotten about the promised Rhubarb and Orange Cake. There must definitely be a second stomach for pudding as we all managed it. Time for a wee browse round the deli to make some purchases before heading home beef olives, scotch eggs, rhubarb, seaweed oatcakes and piglet biscuits. I'd told my daughter that there were newborn piglets at Craigie's and she asked me to take one home. Biscuit form was the best I could do. They were soooo cute. Possibly the favourite part of my visit.