Scottish Food Guide has just returned from an amazing week in the pretty town of Challans near Nantes where we were invited by the town to take part in their festival and what an amazing time we had!

Every great party needs great food and with us we had…Belhaven
Smokehouse Uradale Farm (SF Ark of Taste) Organic Native Shetland Lamb and Beef, + Organic Shetland Wool knitting yarns  & Dunlop Dairy’s Traditional Ayrshire Dunlop Mature Ayrshire Dunlop (SF Ark of Taste) PGI & Bonnet cheese St Andrews Farmhouse Cheese Company: Anster & St Andrews Farmhouse (SF Ark of Taste) Barwheys Mature Ayrshire (SF Ark of Taste)

…with thanks to Howard & Eileen Wilkinson, Slow Food West Scotland, for managing our cheese tent. The Scottish Experience brought along tartan scarves, gifts and Walkers Shortbread and I sang some impromptu Scottish folks songs with my guitar, whilst we handed out almost four thousand leaflets plus SFG Members’ brochures at our Information Tent, completing our Scottish boulevard! Bosse was a huge help as I darted about, checking music schedules; assisting with translation; discussing sound systems, liaising with the Challans Committee and supporting our food producers.

The Lomond Ceilidh Band music and dancing was truly amazing thanks to and the fabulous Fraser Wilkinson, Graham Wells and David Watt of the Haddington Pipe Band, and the wonderful Joyce Anderson School Of Dancing with her fabulous team of Scottish Lassies.

…. I couldn’t be more proud to be Scots and 30,000 visitors loved it too.

On the opening night our music and dancing was applauded in the theatre then afterwards the girls danced with the audience and joined up with local folk dancers creating quite a ceilidh! Saturday night was the Banquet for 800: the seafood starter was from Belhaven Smokehouse and the cheese course was entirely Scottish!! We were there and every producer was invited on stage to tell his story. It was awesome. This is a true example of food tourism for Scotland and everyone stood up for Flower Of Scotland!

The 5 day festival continued apace and the dancers were amazing with their stamina – constantly producing fine performances with the pipers and band and always smiling. My sincere thanks to you all. Our ‘homes’ during our stay were lovely cabins at on the edge of town where the farmer served us breakfasts of French bread, hams and cheese with steaming bowls of coffee to start each day.

The producers too were a stalwart bunch, juggling Euros and French with great aplomb! Dave and Ian proved extremely popular with their sides of smoked salmon and trout; Howard, Eileen and Joceylene (their secret French weapon) sold out of Ann, Jane and Tricia’s cheeses, and Jakob Eunson was a brilliant at showing the French where Shetland was on the map and together we explained the heritage breed, feed and unique flavour of his meats. It was very interesting to see the French reaction as this is a meat-eating region and they were initially wary of what they thought was ‘just British beef’ until we enlightened them, then both chefs and public were queuing up!

On our last night the incredible firework display had a Scottish theme and there were many hugs before setting off on our coach homewards.

The French welcomed us Scots (plus our adopted Swede!) with open arms and could not have been more generous with excellent meals and a real passion, and I sincerely thank them for the opportunity and the experience. Fish smokers, farmers, lassies et al could not have been a happier ‘family’ and we did Scotland proud. I shall never forget…just thinking about it my eyes are watering……you all have a place in my heart for making it such a success.