I get all sorts of enquiries for all sorts of different jobs, but one I had recently was just wonderful. As a member of the Guild of Food WritersGuild of Food writers the Covid pandemic has actually had its benefits. Being a London centric organisation most of the events are based in or near London so as a Scot it is not easy to attend, but the committee has organised lots of events on Zoom and whilst the talks and break out rooms are good to a point, you never actually have a proper contact. So when the guild offered a master class in cheese tasting with real cheese I jumped at the idea. Our experts had teamed up with the amazing Courtyard dairy who sent each attendee a little box of 6 cheeses all at perfect ripeness and with wine suggestions. Everyone on screen had the same cheese. The sounds of appreciation of really underlined the shared event, the actual act of sharing a physical entity and talking about it was brilliant. Some time later I had an e mail from Rotary International who were organising a meeting of their main representatives around the country and of course it had to be on Zoom. My contact had been told about me by a colleague on St Andrews business club Heather Stewart who heads up Fife Cultural TrustFife Cultural Trust, I had done a zoom food and wine tasting for the St Andrews Business ClubSTABC where I had sent out a recipe and people had either gone out and bought the materials and prepared the dish or bought something similar Heather had obviously enjoyed it and remembered the event. So the idea was out there. I suggested a cheese workshop in which I organised the Courtyard dairy to send a variety of cheese covering the UK and all in perfect condition . Again they came up trumps with Scottish, English, Welsh and Northern Irish cheese. We had a great evening I had suggested wines and we went through them all with a bit of history and detail of the cheeses themselves. We are so fortunate that we do have some superb cheese makers and Cheese suppliers. The only near fly in the ointment was when Courtyard couldn’t send cheese to a member in Eire due to Brexit and the incompetent beaurocrats involved, so they suggested an Irish company and apart form a slight glitch, Sherridans came up trumps with an all Irish selection for our member in Dublin, what a lot of fun it was and I hope started them off on an enjoyable and productive evening.
Cheese is a living product. It has seasons and they mature at different times. Your cheesemonger will know what is good at any given time. So next time you shop for cheese don’t ask for a specific ask instead, what is good just now. You will put a smile on the cheese mongers face and you will get a superb cheese.
What a great summer we have had, and even now in November it is still very mild,
FOOD TOURS AND COOKING WORKSHOPS
I have had a busy year developing my food tours and classes, with some wonderful trips across Scotland showing visitors this beautiful country that is Scotland. I have been lucky enough to have worked with some other businesses to provide these trips and cooking workshops and also with “Welcome to Fife” at Fife Council, a small but perfectly formed team that make up the tourism arm of the council, They work tirelessly to help those of us like me to promote this amazing region.
I have made a short video which is available on you tube to promote them please do share.
VEGETABLE COOK BOOKS
As most of my readers will know I have embarked on a project of writing small cook books to promote single vegetables, the idea for these came from the many people who, during my cooking demos and workshops asked for ideas on cooking vegetables as they only had three or four. I always publish them about now in time for the Christmas market, yes unashamed promotion. I suppose I should bring each one out in its season but as the books are available year round and in lots of book shops people can buy them when the vegetable is actually available, My latest one is called Tomato and like the the others has 30 recipes, I was about to add, “for the vegetable” but of course a tomato is a fruit! Suffice to say I have treated it as a vegetable in this book (as we do most of the time!) although there is one sweet dish with green tomatoes. There are now 6 books in the series Beetroot, Kale, Courgette, Carrot, and Cauliflower and I have decided to package them altogether to produce a boxed set which will make a very fine Christmas gift. The pack is sturdy and easy to wipe clean as it will live next to the cooker!
The books are on sale now on my website at Waterstones and at many good shops across Fife, Perthshire and Angus
I will also be selling them and The Hairy Bakers cook book at
Eden court fair Inverness November 16th 17th and 18th
Easterbrook Hall Dumfries November 19th 20th
Strathmiglo fair Saturday November 24th
Scone Palace Christmas fair
St Andrews Farmers market 1st December
Dumfermline Farmers market 8th December
And a book signing at Waterstones St. Andrews late opening November 29th
Well this was one of the most demanding jobs I have ever had to do:
Take a bunch of guys around Scotland on a ……….. Whisky tour!
It’s great how my website brings in all sort of enquiries from cooking with children, men, women and family groups to after dinner speaking at Tourism or business events, talking at Book festivals and organising food demonstrations all over Scotland – Ballantrae? Watch this space.
So it was, I got an email from Dubai – bunch of guys on a stag do with the “bachelor” passionate about Malt whisky. After much deliberation and to-ing and fro-ing I created a whisky tour for them which not only they will never forget but neither will I!
The stag stuff was sorted very quickly with a nightclub in Glasgow; I had nothing to do with that!! But earlier in the day my friend Brenda from Tasting Scotland https://www.tastingscotland.com/ took the guys on a wonderful walking tour around Glasgow showing all aspects of the Glasgow food culture from Indian through to Chinese and Italian. They loved it. It’s good to have friends in the right places!
We set of on the Sunday of that amazing week of sunshine driven by the characterfull Gordon from William Sleigh https://sleigh.co.uk/ transport to our first Distillery – Auchentoshan https://www.auchentoshan.com/ which happily was a perfect first stop. Their “Ultimate Experience” tour was just that, with an excellent in depth explanation and tasting from the cask we were on our way. Two more distilleries Deanston and Gleggoyne and then to an excellent lunch at the Old Mill at Killearn https://www.theoldmillkillearn.co.uk/ Then onto Balquidder where I put my trust in my old friend Tom Lewis at his superb Monachyle Mhor https://mhor.net/monachyle-mhor-hotel/ who produced the most amazing dinner with each course matched to a whisky. Tom of course came into our private room between courses to explain what it was next, and why he matched the whisky. The boys loved it.
After a great night at the hotel and superb breakfast we set off for Speyside by way of Edradour and Dalwhinnie, the day time high light was lunch at the Auld alliance in Kingussie where Lydie Bocquillon https://www.auld-alliance.com/ the chef owner cooked a great lunch and we were beautifully looked after by her lovely daughter Sky.
The evening highlight was a visit to Glenfarclass, https://www.glenfarclas.co.uk/ which is one of the favourite whiskies of our “bachelor” so we arrived and I introduced him to John Grant as the owner! He was overwhelmed, more was to come on this memorable visit, Calum the distillery manager took us on a tour where we were actually able to put our hands into the spirit stream in the “safe”. Now for those in the know the spirit safe is where the excise man usually steps in and has everything padlocked but here Calum opened it up and plunged his hands into the stream and encouraged us to do the same and rub our hands together to smell the barley!
And so to dinner with John Grant himself the highlight of highlights here as each person was invited to pick a bottle from the shelf from his birthday year and pour himself a dram! There was even one for my year!! Again I had a friend locally who put me in touch with John Grant who now has many more Glenfarclass Ambassadors!
Next day brought two more distilleries – Glenglassaugh and Strathisla and so onto my next surprise for the group. I had hired Glentruim https://www.glentruimestate.co.uk/ castle for the night where I cooked dinner of local venison and a simple cranachan, which they helped prepare in the kitchen. On the journey up we had a discussion about Cullen Skink as they has had some in Glasgow, so I was able to get the ingredients and make that with them as well, a real Scottish food experience. I had also managed to source a few whiskies they had not yet tasted, so the evening developed into a good session around a roaring log fire long into the night.
A slightly delayed departure next morning! took us onto the glorious road to Fort William, and after Gordon showed us Neptune’s staircase at the end of the Caledonian canal, we had a quick tasting at the Ben Nevis distillery before we headed for Oban and lunch at Coast https://www.coastoban.co.uk/ – local shellfish and Halibut from Gigha were excellent. On down to Carradale where we spent our last two nights with some excellent local food at Dunvalanree https://www.dunvalanree.com/ owned and run by Alan and Alison Milstead who cooks brilliantly, and we made a dent in Alan’s excellent whisky collection too.. Final full day was a tour by Frank McHardy of Springbank distillery which was thoroughly enjoyed.
What a great trip it was – Scotland looking fantastic and I provided an experience which could not be bought off the shelf aided by great friends and acquaintances – old and new, along the way!
Can’t wait for the next one now – who’s interested – get in touch!
fabby evening with Jason Bouren woops no Busby! and the superb Christopher Delalonde
Hotel Du Vin has changed over the years from the original concept from Gerard Basset whose idea of offering a variety of top class wines with simple food which began the operation with a couple of hotels in 1994. Since then it has blossomed in to a larger business with three outlets in Scotland and the most recent one to open in St Andrews. It has retained the good wine idea and uses top class wine merchant Bancroft wines as one of their suppliers. The food is bistro style and the atmosphere very relaxed. Those that remember the St Andrews Golf hotel are in for a lovely surprise, spick and span and friendly staff! They are fortunate to have Christopher Delalonde at the helm who is one of those people who has forgotten more about his special subject than I will ever know – wine! Former Piper – Heidseick Champagne sommelier of the year A Master Sommelier whose skills as a host are also impeccable. St. Andrews is indeed blessed to have such a man
On my visit for a wine tasting dinner which was held in their intimate Macallan Boardroom with whisky still life’s on the walls and spectacular views over the west sands, we had a tasting presented by Jason Busby from Bancroft wines whose quiet knowledge of his subject has come from years of experience and from also making wine, which for this writer was most interesting as you can imagine! “Chateau Largo” will declare its first vintage later this year. It was a Rioja evening and we began with a delicious light white to drink with a simple canapé of chicken liver parfait. Jason descriptions and explanations were most enlightening and bodes well for future events I had never had a single vineyard Rioja before and this was superb but you can always recognise a good wine as it continues to develop in the glass and under Christopher’s careful chilling warming and decanting as appropriate we had a real viniferous experience, matched with contrasting textures and flavours from the kitchen. My favourite was probably the 2007 reserva which not only developed with each mouthful but responded to each dish in a different way. If this kind of quality of wine and information sets a bench mark then there will be many more excellent evenings to enjoy at the Hotel Du Vin St Andrews.
They plan also to focus on wine events and hold a wine tasting every Friday with canapés for just £19 and with Christopher to guide you, you could ask for no better wine experience, unique indeed to St Andrews. – Seek it out