#HiddenGems Ballathie House & Tasting Menu

Wednesday 27 August 2014
The timing could not have been better. An invitation to head off on a #HiddenGems Press Trip in beautiful Perthshire and get away from the stress, dust and chaos of #ProjectNewKitchen for a couple of days. I wasted no time in replying in the affirmative. 2014 Food & Drink had lined up a excellent showcase for us of food products not traditionally associated with Scotland, namely sushi, wine and chilli.

Our accommodation was the the CIS Award Winning Independent Hotel of the Year Ballathie Country House Hotel and Estate. Located on the banks of the River Tay it provides an idyllic and picturesque country retreat. Charm oozes from the magnificent building and spectacular grounds. My bedroom with adjoining turret bathroom had a touch of Downtown Abbey about it. Despite its looks there was absolutely no stuffiness about Ballathie and there was a warm welcome and unobtrusive service from all the staff.

And so to the #HiddenGems. We visited Lov Sushi and Chillilicious to learn about, taste, make (sushi) and grow (chillis) their wonderful products. Separate blog posts on both to follow. Our Scottish wine came to visit us with Linzey Cairns from Cairn O' Mohr Fruit Winery and Ciderhouse. I'd previously briefly met Linzey on a visit to Craigies Farm so I already knew a wee bit of the story behind the business.
Our taste buds were tantalised with Gooseberry (medium), Strawberry (medium sweet) and Bramble (dry & spicy) wines all of which were eminently quaffable. The fruit used in the wines comes from as locally as possible and the quality and provenance of ingredients is very important. Good quality berries make good quality wine. The fruit used in every single bottle can be traced back to source if required. Foraging has a big role to play in both the early and late season with foraged elderflowers, oak leaves and elderberries. It was very interesting to hear the role that community goodwill plays in their business success an example of which being foraged goods repaid in kind (i.e. wine!) This kind of support and community spirit is something that tends to feature a lot in the Scottish food and drink community.
Following on from our wine tasting we headed downstairs for pre-dinner cocktails. Gin isn't so much of a hidden gem in Scotland these days but you may still be surprised to discover that 70% of all UK Gin is produced in here. Our cocktail was a delicious mix of Strathearn Distillery Heather Rose Gin and Ginger Ale. Gin and Ginger Ale was a new one on me but it worked really well.
Our host for the evening was General Manager of Ballathie Jody Marshall. With his relaxed and endearing style he guided us through the evening and shared his passion for Ballathie, working in the hospitality industry, Scottish produce and wines from around the world.
A further #HiddenGem had appeared at our place setting. A Scottish Fortune Cookie from Cracking Cookies. Mine was Mint Chocolate but they do a huge range of flavour from Pecan Pie to Chocolate and Chilli. My fortune was a conversation starter. What piece of advice would you give your younger self? An excellent question that certainly broke the ice around the table.
Our five course dinner was created, prepared and introduced by 2014 Food and Drink ambassador chef Tom Lewis of Mhor. A vivacious character with a real passion for food Tom kept us entertained and wonderfully fed throughout the evening ably assisted by his Head Chef Marysia. My photos undoubtedly don't do this wonderful meal justice but we were treated in both looks and taste to a fantastic showcase of the very best of Scottish produce.
Hunthill Estate Grouse, Garden Runner Beans, Arran Mustard and Anchovy Dressing
Pinot Noir Eradus 2013

Balquidder Chantarelles, Crisp Monachyle Hens Egg, Rapeseed Oil, Hazlenut
Lofthouse Riesling 2010

Smoked Inverawe Eel, Tamworth Pork, Apple, Nettle Puree and Watercress
Pinot Blanc Auxerrois
Cave De Cleebourg 2012

Puddledub Buffalo, Spicked Aubergine, Clyde Valley Tomato, Arran Blue Cheese
Chateau Bel-Air Graves de Vayres 2009 Fut De Chene

Warm Invergary Brambles, Heather Hill Honey, Sourdough Crisp, Katy Rodgers Creme Fraiche and Brown Bread Ice Cream.
Chateau Septy 2010

After so much delicious food and drink the sensible thing would have been to retire to bed. But the hotel bar beckoned for a nightcap and it was the early hours before we all finished up. After a fantastic nights sleep the smells of cooked breakfast beckoned. Despite the previous nights indulgences it would have been rude not to have gone for the full Ballathie Scottish Breakfast with lashings of tea and toast. What better to stave off any hint of the morning after the night before and prepare for the day ahead at a Scottish Chilli Farm.

To be continued...

Disclaimer - Press Trip courtesy of Scotland Food & Drink 2014. Any views and opinions expressed are my own. 

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