I am the chair of the Levenmouth Tourism Association, and we try to keep communication open with all “customer facing” enterprises in the region. As chair I also attend the regular meetings of the chairs of all of the regions within Fife, of which there are six. Cupar and North Fife, St Andrews, East Neuk, Kirkcaldy, my own region of Levenmouth and Dunfermline and west. I try to keep in touch with what other groups are doing so that I might learn from them and incorporate ideas here. Recently I got in touch with Jack Pryde who is in the Dunfermline region and in normal circumstances runs “Discover Dunfermline tours” and we agreed to meet up for a walk through his region. “This is the first tour I have done since January 2020!” he told me. But his enthusiasm for his home town was undiminished, and even though we did not go very far, there were stories on every corner. From Margaret’s cave to her grave by the Abbey and the pub where Dunfermline Athletic football club was founded. One of his stories concerned the building of the city chambers and the carved faces on the walls, one such can be interpreted in several ways. A local councillor nursing a hang over ( surely not) or the architect groaning as he sees said councillor approaching. Once we are allowed out again I plan to do another walk with Jack and would thoroughly recommend them to any visitor. I think that having such a tour through Levenmouth would also be hugely popular as there is history and stories galore. We need to create some such offering for when the train finally comes to town.
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
One aspect of my business is to provide consultancy for food related businesses and whilst this often is about looking at a small business from the staffing point of view or the positioning of the business in the market place and of course the financials, which are all core to a successful hospitality business, I also like to talk about two things, the story and the place. I recall at college being lectured to on the three most important elements of a hospitality business which were “Location Location and Location” but I think these themes today are no longer as important, as the world will beat a path to your door if you create a product that people want.
On the face of it the Newport is not a great location, it’s in a sleepy little Tayside town off the beaten track. But let us look at the positives, one such is of course the owner Jamie Scott, one time winner of Masterchef, which in itself is not necessarily a blank cheque, then there is the great setting, once you actually make the effort to get to The Newport in Newport ( one immediately thinks of the other great restaurant which has the same name as its location, also in Fife –The Peat Inn) the views over the “silvery Tay” really can be silvery and stunning, and Scott has created a focus on the outside in conjunction with his architect and designer. It’s a great place to be. Then look at his skills in the social media world, and his understanding of “putting himself about” He appears at food festivals and shows throughout the year talking about his passion and his food, spreading the word like an evangelist.
Ok, so as to the product, well here is the thing, which no amount of consulting can bring, only experience and skill. Jamie Scott has all the attributes of a great chef, he can cook, he can source good materials, he has a complete understanding of seasonality, how wonderful to see salsify on a menu, ( how many chefs know what it is let alone put this wonderful crunchy vegetable on a menu) there was pigeon and cauliflower and blood oranges! In season yes, maybe not grown here but this is when we get them. And then he has that rare skill of marrying flavours in a bold but successful way.
On paper “Peasemeal gnocchi, mussels, caramelised sprouts and chestnuts” is intriguing, but as a whole it works brilliantly. Bright green just cooked sprout leaves interspersed with comfortingly solid gnocchis and the odd splash of fresh mussel all bound up with that sweet tasting, reassuring chestnut. It is a brilliant dish and so cleverly conceived but simple in construction. Another successful dish was “Coley marinated in tequilla, avocado and blood orange” His use of Coley for a start is courageous, it is not a well known fish but available in Scottish waters year round and a perfect texture for eating raw. I am always fearful of raw fish in restaurants because I am afraid there will be that tell tale ammonia smell of the fish just past its best. This smelled simply of the sea and the marinade of tequila balanced nicely with the blood orange and the texture of avocado, another thoughtful but simple and delicious dish.
The Newports “small plates” way of serving is modern and works well you can have a simple “light lunch” or a full blown feast as and when you want! Go there! Jamie Scott has created a truly remarkable destination eaterie. Finally you cannot run a successful restaurant without good service and we were so well looked after by Leanne whose skill was her gently shared knowledge and obvious pride in what she represented,
Oh and the consultancy tip ? Tell a story and look after your people, and customers will beat a path to your door
The Newport by Jamie Scott
West Fife Eatery.
As Fife food ambassador I enjoy the fact that that Fife is a microcosm of Scotland as a whole, it’s an amazing region, just look at what we produce; There is the magnificent shore line with its 130 plus miles of world class coastal path taking in the pretty East Neuk fishing villages where lobster, crab, razor clams, langoustines and mackerel are all landed. There are all the accompanying fish processors from frozen fish to award winning fish smoke houses. There the hinterlands of the east of fife with the cereals such as oats and barley for the distilleries, further inland we have great vegetables even peppers! There are all categories of livestock from grass fed cattle and sheep to pigs and poultry with a few small producers of rare breed pigs such as Gloucester Old spot and Soay sheep. Then of course there are fruit farms and our famous and only artisan cheese maker, and not to forget our wild harvest, from roe deer, partridge, pheasant in the hills to mushrooms such as chanterelle and ceps in the woods and all manner of herbs and plants from wild garlic, made use of by Trotter’s Independent Condiments with his Wild garlic pesto, to rowan and elderberries. I plan to look more closely at these as the year progresses. But this has become a long introduction to my main subject! Which is west Fife, as Food ambassador I try to cover the whole region and talk about the whole area, but in general when I do my food tours people want to visit the East Neuk so I take them to Ardross farm shop and the East Pier smoke house and the wonderful chocolate maker the Cocoa tree in Pittenweem and then we often cook together using the produce we have seen and tasted.
But what of the west, I think because of the proximity to Edinburgh and the motorway, visitors tend to be less inclined to explore. St Andrews and its environs are a draw, but there is much to see and do, and perhaps also the locals are less aware of their natural heritage in the region. I was involved in he Bruce festival a few years back and it was noticeable that local visitors were not interested in produce from their region, the fact that Kirkcaldy and Dunfermline Farmers markets are never as well attended as St Andrews shows this, all credit then to number 29 in Dunfermline a quirky eatery in the attractive Bruce street in the old town, which interestingly is just up from the Glen gates where the farmers market used to be, but due to the poor attendance there the market has now moved out east to the Fife Leisure park where admittedly the parking is much better. Anyway back to Bruce street and dine at 29, Restaurant Manager Neil Gardner tells me that the new menu is aimed at a young Dunfermline market and judging by the night we were there its working, but he is also determined to introduce local produce. It’s a fun place to be, which feels like a cellar or basement, with large pillars down the middle and a brick wall at one end. There is an eclectic mix of pictures, framed tartan and mirrors on the walls, all adding to the eclectic feel. Loud music is mainly Scottish contemporary with the Proclaimers and Texas featuring heavily. The menu is aimed at a young market with families and covers most bases. But do try the “hot rocks” steaks, as although it’s a bit of theatre you can cook your steak yourself at the table exactly as you want it! Neil wants to use local producer Puddledub for his meat and that will develop in time. John Bonner the executive chef has worked hard to create dishes which appeal to his market and are well presented and colourful. One hopes that the good people of Dunfermline will support such an admirable enterprise.
Dine at 29
29 Bruce Street Dunfermline
Buying fresh Fish
It may come as a surprise to many in the south but sourcing really good fresh fish can be problematic here in Scotland, yes we have very good fish vans but so often these only provide a very basic variety of fish, the average “housewife” is pretty conservative and most of what we have is either salmon, haddock or cod . There are the fish sheds at St. Monans, but again they are not always very inspiring and you have to bring your own bag as the packaging can often leak and leave a smelly car interior. We have a new business started up based at the Bowhouse near St. Monans who will box up and send you spanking fresh langoustines and believe me Clement Boucherit really knows his shellfish, he gets really good quality and sends it out straight away https://langoustinethebox.co.uk/how-it-works.html
What I really like about it is that the Langoustines or prawns are from the east coast and I really felt the best ones came from the west, but he has proved me wrong – give him a try.
Another business which I have noticed is a franchise and again selling very fresh fish. Prime Seafoods is based in the heart of fish landing country – Peterhead and Fraserburgh. In this instance the fish is packed into sealed trays so there are no leaks and no smells and delivered direct. They pride themselves on having 70 different varieties and again it can all be done on line. John Stephen is the local agent to me email@example.com 07771 776090 I had a selection recently and it was so fresh even after a couple of days in the fridge which is more than can be said of the fish van.
Lastly another exciting business has begun. You have of course heard of Veg boxes where you get delivered a selection of seasonal vegetables on a regular basis – weekly – fortnightly, ( it was these that gave me my idea of writing my vegetable books! Wails of “ I have had kale for the last 4 weeks now What do I do with it”)
So this is fish in a box you simply let them know your likes and dislikes , set a time – weekly fortnightly or monthly even ( no fish going off in the sea its all live!) and budget and leave it to them . You get superb fresh fish which makes sure that you have fish in your diet
So there is no excuse for not having fish on a regular basis its fresh wild and good for you and sustainable. Go on give it a go