Guide to Scotland's Festivals 2015: Scotland's Year of Food and Drink
From Arbroath smokies to artisan chocolatiers, there's much more to Scotland's food culture than deep fried Mars Bars
This article is from 2015.
Another big year is ahead for Scotland, this time with the focus on top ideas and opportunities for quality eating and drinking. Claire Sawers tucks in to see what the 2015 menu offers
Hopefully, these days it’s only bad Edinburgh Fringe comedians that are making those jokes about all the food in Scotland being deep-fried. Yes, Scotland still does an excellent fish and chips (particularly good when eaten next to the sea, while dodging diving seagulls), but in reality, Scotland’s cooks and food producers get up to a lot more besides deep-frying. Such as smoking haddock in Arbroath, roasting wild venison in Auchtermuchty, distilling whisky in Speyside, handcrafting chocolates in Oban, growing heritage tomatoes in the Clyde Valley, and slow roasting pork in the Borders.
A spotlight will be shone on Scotland’s edible side in 2015, with the Year of Food & Drink described as ‘a year-long celebration of Scotland’s natural larder’. The programme recognises not only the variety of delicious foods available in Scotland, but also the appetite for it: apparently one-fifth of tourist budgets is spent on food here, and VisitScotland reports that ‘eating traditional dishes and local produce’ is the second top activity for holidaymakers.
With that in mind, VisitScotland is bringing together a piled-high selection of cafés, restaurants, distilleries, hotels, producers and B&Bs who will all be showing off Scottish produce. Some are high-end, some are based outdoors, some feature Michelin-starred chefs, and others involve actors in costumes handing out samples of early-19th century food (head to the Georgian Kitchen at Falkirk’s Callendar House if you like the sound of the last one).
Those who are sweet of tooth may want to investigate the Hebridean Toffee company on the tiny island of Barra – they supply homemade tablet to the likes of Balmoral Castle – or perhaps spend a day picking your own summer berries at the family-run Rutherford Farm in Kelso. For those who’d like to learn how to make (then eat) their own desserts, Ruth Hinks, holder of the impressive title of ‘UK World Chocolate Master’, will be leading chocolate classes and pastry courses in Peebles; while the Cream o’ Galloway will be serving up luscious ice cream alongside a woodland adventure playground and Go Boing!, their new aerial netting adventure area.
Liquid options are plentiful too: the Scotch Malt Whisky Society will be hosting single malt tastings down by The Shore in Leith; the Orkney Brewery is hosting tours of their brewhouse and fermentation room, and Cairn O’Mohr winery in Perthshire will be showing off their range of fruit wines, ciders, sparkling wines, fruit punches and apple juices.
Events will be taking place across the country celebrating Scotland’s food and drink, including the Crail Food Festival, a weekend of markets, foraging and dinners around the fishing village in the East Neuk of Fife. The Islay Festival of Music and Malt is an annual chance to drink whisky whilst also exploring the island’s golf courses, ceilidhs and beaches.
As well as drawing attention to regional specialities (see the Arbroath Smokie Trail, Speyside Malt Whisky Trail or West Coast of Scotland’s Seafood Trail), there will be various ways to experiment with the traditional dining experience too. The One Square restaurant in Edinburgh’s Sheraton Grand Hotel will be inviting a group of six to dine at The Kitchen Table, a private room within the restaurant’s kitchen where chefs explain the meal they are eating and share cooking techniques. The Chef’s Table at Turnberry Hotel in Ayrshire offers a similar behind-the-scenes mix of learning and eating for groups of ten.
Although a lot of bakers, chocolatiers, fishmongers, Slow Food members, brewers, café owners and chefs are exceptionally hard at work every year, regardless of the 2015 campaign, the VisitScotland website features event listings from chocolate festivals to food markets, recommendations on good pubs and tips on food trails, local suppliers and seasonal ingredients, handy for anyone visiting Scotland and for those of us already here and looking for something new to eat.
Apart from anything else, there is plenty material to provide a quality heckle next time a comedian makes that joke about Scotland and deep-fried Mars Bars.
See visitscotland.com/tastescotland for full event info.