2015 is the Scottish Year of Food and Drink. The aim of the Year is to mark, highlight and promote Scotland’s abundant, quality produce to both locals and visitors. To kick off the celebrations Visit Scotland asked both the public and selected top chefs to come up with their must do/most memorable food experiences in Scotland. The final list covers the top picks of food & drink experiences in Scotland across the 15 regions. Could this be the ultimate Scottish Foodie Bucket List? That was exactly the question up for discusssion last week on BBC Radio Scotland Kitchen Cafe where I was a guest alongside chef Mark Greenaway. I've only managed to tick off 6 out of 15 on that particular list but I reckon others that I have experienced would be equally justified to make the cut.
|Full Scottish Breakfast at High Seas Hobbit|
BBQ'd Tunnock's Teacakes at Dunnottar Woods
Pancakes at Counteswells Woods
|New Year's Day Breakfast on Newtonhill Beach, Aberdeenshire|
My own take on the subject is that the special foodie experiences that only Scotland can provide break down into two distinct categories. Back to basics/nature and luxury fine dining. At the basic end of the scale nothing can beat eating outdoors be it on a beach, the side of a loch or halfway up a mountain. At the top of the the scale I've enjoyed Afternoon Tea at Gleneagles Hotel and dined at Michelin starred Castle Terrace Resturant, Andrew Fairlie and The Three Chimneys. Still on my to do list are The Peat Inn, Kinloch Lodge and The Kitchin.
|Seven Courses of Skye at The Three Chimneys|
Fish and Chips featured strongly among responses from the public. I've enjoyed them at the Anstruther Fish Bar, in a Lighthouse at Boddam, topped with Scallops in Gairloch, from the Van on Tobermory Harbour, on the wall at Ullapool Harbour, as a birthday lunch at The Bay in Stonehaven and on a Fish and Ships cruise round Aberdeen Harbour. Frankies Fish & Chips in Shetland remains on the to do list. There is something very special about eating them outdoors - and I don't mean being attacked by seagulls.
I've enjoyed the original and best Arbroath Smokies from Iain Spink. There is absolutely nothing like eating them straight from the barrel as the hessian is lifted and you are engulfed in pungent and eye watering smoke. Smoke of another form was present on another memorable foodie experience. Cooking breakfast on the shovel of Salmon the Steam Engine at the Deeside Railway. A Footplate Fryup not to be forgotten, following in the footsteps of my my Great Grandfather who was Stationmaster at Redcastle Station on the Black Isle Line between 1913 and 1943.
On the Scottish drink side of things I am somewhat embarrassed to say that I am not a whisky lover. As such, finding a whisky that I like is on the to do list. Apparently there is one for everybody out there. I have however found a Scottish Gin that I like. If truth be told I've found rather a lot. Over 70% of UK Gin production takes place in Scotland so its no real surprise. My visit to Caorunn definitely goes on my most memorable list. I've made some Gin infusions myself with rhubarb and brambles but making my own blend of Scottish Gin has still to be ticked off the list.
I guess I foraged in my childhood but it didn't have a name then as such. I often went bramble and blaeberry picking with my granny and had the purple stained fingers and scratched arms to show for it. Over the last few years it's become more and more popular in foodie circles and I've loved learning from the experts and becoming more proficient myself in identifying and utilising what's out there free for the taking in Scotland's environment. Mark WIlliams of Galloway Wild Foods has been a huge inspiration to me along with Fi Bird and Rosie of Wild Rose Escapes. I've foraged for and eaten everything from fungi to seaweed and tried to pass the passion on via my family foraging and outdoor events with Mud Pie Adventures. One challenge remains. Spoot Clams. Would love to lure some of them out of the sand with salt.
So what's left on my to do list? Apart from those I've already mentioned it pretty much comes down to Hunting, Shooting & Fishing and visiting more producers and places. Firstly, catching cooking and eating a fish on a riverbank. I've made an attempt at salmon fishing on the River Dee but alas no bite. Even if I had actually caught something it would've had to be thrown back. However when I posted on my Foodie Quine Facebook Page a friend came up with an offer. A spot of sea fishing for Mackerel or Coley followed by a BBQ on the beach with aioli, crusty bread and a squeeze of fresh lemon. Roll on summer! My knowledge of hunting and shooting goes only as far as attending the Highland Field Sports Fair throughout my childhood. I've never even shot a clay pigeon! Really don't have a clue where to start with this one but I do love to eat game so it would be fantastic to follow the journey to the plate.
There are so many wonderful foodie places that I've yet to discover in Scotland. Shetland is right up there on my list thanks to the UK's most northerly food blogger Elizabeths Kitchen Diary. I'd also love to make it to the Western Isles. I didn't even know that Scotland had a designated food town until I got to number 9 on the list. Castle Douglas is now on my list. I'd also love to visit some iconic Scottish producers. In true Play School style how fab would it be to go through the round window to see Haggis, Shortbread, Butteries, Irn Bru or Tunnocks Teacakes being made!