2022. Scottish Food Guide & Scottish Cheese Trail celebrate 20 years. It seems only yesterday I started with a blank sheet of paper and the first website. With significant remodelling over the years it has never changed its mission: to celebrate and collaborate with the best places to eat and finest produce in Scotland; to remain independent and transparent, consistent and with integrity; to provide quality assurance, professionally inspected and personally recommended. Given our support of the Slow Food Movement it is probably appropriate that it has grown slowly however it has also grown steadily with many loyal original members and new businesses joining us as we sail the seas of gastronomy together, through calm and increasingly choppy waters.
As you would expect, English speaking countries dominate the stats but this month has seen a significant increase in viewing figures from Germany and the Netherlands – two nations whose residents love visiting Scotland and two countries we drove through this summer. Handing out free Scottish Food Guide (SFG) postcards to travellers who spotted the Mini’s blue thistle and cheese logos on the ferry, it became a talking point as we all waited at post-Brexit passport controls.
SFG home page and Scottish Cheese Trail naturally catch a significant amount of initial traffic as readers click through and onwards whilst others google a specific place, product or recipe to land on SFG. My constant tweaking and news pages generate increasing engagement and I am always delighted to hear from members.
Our book, “Meadows: The Swedish Farmer & The Scottish Cook” is now available in several members’ establishments and we thank you most sincerely for your belief in us. We shall be taking Mini adventures to stockists over the autumn for book signings and tastings, the inaugural one being at Ardross Farm Shop on September 1st where you can also taste the grains we grew there, so we look forward to seeing some of you. Please get in touch on this Ardross link if you are coming along so they know numbers.
Our book explores regenerative farming practises, growing from kitchen gardens to allotments, food culture and heritage, traditions and research alongside some of my recipes. It takes a long look at food production, not only in Scotland but also in other Nordic countries, evaluating what we have lost and indeed what we in Scotland could achieve again. The feedback has been heart-warming and we really appreciate it, most recently we would like to thank Frieda Morrison who interviewed us in one of her programmes for Scots Radio the other day https://www.scotsradio.com/ Episode 90. Our book naturally includes Scottish Food Guide – its standards and Charter, its philosophy and collaborations, in doing so, supporting and signposting readers to the website where they can find each and every SFG member.
With so much happening in Scotland we felt almost sheepish driving east to Scandinavia to reunite with family, be a digital nomad (keeping my eye on the ball) and accepting an invitation to a particularly wonderful Nordic experience. As an IGCAT Advisory Forum member for 2022 and Member of IGCAT Global Experts Network, I was invited to take part in The Trondheim/Trøndelag European Region of Gastronomy 2022 Platform, a food tourism adventure and sharing of knowledge. IGCAT is the International Institute of Gastronomy, Culture, Arts & Tourism. Each year, two regions are awarded European Region of Gastronomy and this year it is Trondheim/Trøndelag in Norway and the island of Menorca. “IGCAT aims to empower local communities by raising awareness of the importance to safeguard and promote distinct food, culture, arts and sustainable tourism assets. This is essential to balance against globalised food trends that are impacting on our planet, health and local economies. It is a non-profit institute … working with regional stakeholder consortiums in the fields of gastronomy, culture, arts and tourism. … IGCAT aims to inspire local communities to be proud of their cultural, creative and culinary assets and thus, support sustainable development for a more equitable world. We strongly believe that the protection and the promotion of regional cultural and food diversity is key for the future of local economies.”
After disembarking the Newcastle ferry and a scenic drive eastwards through Holland, passing dairy cattle out grazing and small fishing boats on the waterways, we continued through Germany and Denmark. The vistas from Breezanddijk, Storebæltsbroen and Øresundsbron (The Bridge) are nothing short of spectacular. Arriving in Småland, we caught up with family, friends and essential tasks before heading north to our Norwegian destination. Our first drive northwards since covid, it was a joy to revisit family and places, collecting local cheeses en route. In Jämtland we found the delightful Kallgården at Järpen, a family run hotel with delicious home cooking, and the following morning we headed for Trøndelag, opting for the gravel road through wilderness, lakes and mountains – over three hours of stunning nature and biodiversity without a café in sight until we mercifully found Sticklestad and a coffee! After that it was a short hop to our hotel, our home for the next three days.
Nothing can prepare you for Øyna Cultural Landscape Hotel Following the signs up a perpendicular somewhat rustic road, the hotel is barely visible, embedded in the landscape. From reception, lifts take you to the subterranean floorplan where you open the door to your room to reveal the world through a glass wall opening onto a balcony with breath-taking vistas of Trondheimsfjord, the Fosen Alps and the Golden Road. Trøndelag is a region famous for its food culture, from the historic food town of Røros on the east (where we have been on previous visits) to this western coast, where the food tourism elements (producers, cooks, farmers, hoteliers and also artists) have collaborated to create Golden Road – a promoted pathway by which to experience gastronomy and art, ideal for local economy and tourists alike.
After epicurean individual breakfast platters, we headed for Mære Agricultural School where Tove Jystad and her colleagues showed us how their research and activities enhance the region. Our post-tour discussion covered dairy and vegetables, environmental challenges and zero emission projects. Next was a journey back in time at Stiklestad, known as the Cradle of Norway, where our guide gave us fascinating insights into the history, food, traditions and hierarchy of Viking life. Over a lunch of local produce washed down with a range of cordials flavoured from the wild, we discussed our morning, our countries’ take on food tourism, the threats and opportunities.
In no time we were off to our next port of call on the Golden Road – Gangstad, an award-winning dairy making a range of irresistible cheeses. I did not resist. After Astrid’s presentation and tastings I went off to purchase a selection and clambered back on our coach triumphantly carrying my bagful of goodies. Next was a producer of kjøtt suppe, a tasty Norwegian speciality from way back comprising of boiled meatballs with vegetables in stock. It was a delightfully humorous and edifying presentation.
Our pause in proceedings before dinner (yes more food) allowed me time to pop my cheeses into Chef’s fridge (with grateful thanks) then it was off to Berg Farm and Inderøy Distillery for dinner and aquavit tasting. Our cheery indefatigable host and his wife were absolutely delightful and served us their home-reared lamb with vegetables and a traditional creamy dessert. After such a wonderful meal I expected the “tasting” to be a schnapps to round it off but no, we were whisked off to another part of the building where, as you can see, we were seated in an atmospheric cellar surrounded by casks and treated to a comprehensive tour of every aquavit! Another night to remember.
My fellow travellers were as eclectic as they were fascinating, from all over the world including Slovenia, Menorca, Spain, Saudi Arabia, France, Croatia, Finland and Sicily, all with valuable experiences and knowledge we could share as we shared our journey in Trondheim/Trøndelag. Friends and colleagues that I am sure will always keep in touch. Building connections with counterparts from other regions is enriching and invaluable and I thank Diane Dodd PhD, President of IGCAT for allowing me the opportunity and May Britt Hansen, Project Leader for Trondheim/Trøndelag, and her colleagues, for their incredibly warm welcome, generosity and enthusiasm.
If any of you are interested in hearing more please do get in touch with me.
Last but not least, last month we had a glitch on Mailchimp so in case you missed anything and have time to catch up, here’s some more stories including the feedback I submitted regarding the Scottish Government’s Out of home sector – mandatory calorie labelling: consultation …
A Cautionary Take on Calorie Counting on Menus
Royal Highland & Royal Banquets
The East Ayrshire Schools Story