It was a pleasure and delight to visit Shetland again for their Taste of Shetland celebrations. OK so you need sea legs or a flight to get there but what an adventure and a warm welcome awaits you. Our journey was compliments of Northlink http://www.northlinkferries.co.uk for which we thank them most sincerely. The service aboard was exceptional and they make a good effort on the food too with local suppliers where possible such as Rora Dairy yoghurts https://www.roradairy.co.uk and Orkney Ice Cream http://www.spanglefish.com/orkneycreamery/index.asp.
First up off the overnight ferry was an early visit to the Lerwick Fishmarket with Chef Patron Fred Berkmiller and Chef Bertrand, L’Escargot Bleu & Blanc https://www.lescargotblanc.co.uk and Richard Briggs of Native Shetland Lamb PDO fame. Shetland is responsible for landing more fish than the sum of every English harbour and second only to Peterhead in UK. We watched the online auctions with fascination and learnt a thing or two: boats out for three days sell their fish according to the number of days from harvest; Shetland boats are highly sought after as they are generally the shortest time out so landing even fresher fish, and the speed at which these buyers bid is awesome! Transport times to the continent are incredibly short and fish from both Shetland markets held in high esteem. Scalloway is a smaller market but uses the same online system ‘live’ from Kirkwall. On the ‘shop floor’ folk are busy dragging heavy fish boxes to collection points as bids come in – you have to keep you wits about you lest you end up in the catch! With cod, luing, monkfish, whiting, haddock and plaice to name a few it is a pity more Scots don’t value our world class seafood. Whilst there is nothing wrong with the odd fish’n’chips we could do with being more adventurous in regard to both species and flavours as there is a whole world of healthy eating out there to be had, sustainably.
Next stop Burland Croft, home to the Isbisters where they welcome thousands of visitors every summer to see Shetland crofting in action. We have visited Tommy and Mary before and always love catching up and seeing their ducks, geese, hens, Kye and sheep, all on Slow Food’s Ark of Taste, not forgetting their Shetland Cabbage and Bere Barley. They are a gifted pair and whilst the wind howled and rain lashed we sat around the log fire munching Mary’s fabulous bere biscuits and tasty neep cake whilst we talked about biodiversity and working with nature. When the sun reappeared we took a walk round the croft – if all farmers cared as much as the Isbisters the world would certainly be a better place. Thanks to the Isbisters and a few other dedicated folk there are more Ark of Taste products and species on Shetland than anywhere else in UK…and perhaps elsewhere?
Later that day we visited Richard’s own farm, http://www.briggs-shetlandlamb.co.uk stretching from the valley over the ridge with Ark of Taste Native Shetland Sheep doing what they do naturally, grazing the landscape and growing slowly, in good health, as native breeds do. Cross breeding is rife in UK and such a shame when there are such fine native breeds however we were told the hybrids don’t fare well on Shetland where the climate takes no prisoners – animals are either fit for purpose or not! These landrace breeds are a hardy bunch!
We were fortunate to stay at the very best hotel on the isles, The Scalloway Hotel http://www.scallowayhotel.com thanks to the generosity of Peter and Caroline. It was lovely to return – the rooms are beautiful and the meals delicious. Needless to say we both chose the Shetland Lamb from their menu and it was really tasty as was my bisque starter whilst the gentlemen wired into mouth-watering desserts too!
Day 2 of the Festival in full swing. There was a great selection of produce to see from Viking Mead to Thule Ventus Shetland Dried Cod, Katja’s Cakes, The French Café, and The Shetland Deli now run by Cope, employing and training adults with learning disabilities with great success, producing a delicious range of chutneys and pickles. We met up with Ronnie
and Jakob of Uradale Farm https://www.uradale.com/pages/the-farm, organic farmers of Shetland Kye and Native Shetland Lamb, both on Ark of Taste. The latest addition to Scotland’s Ark is Kye Sassermaet so we made sure we bought some for our freezer back in Fife! Meanwhile two cookery theatres were in progress, one with chefs from far and wide including Fred Berkmiller and Gary McLean, the other hosting a competition for youngsters and some great presenters on Shetland’s Food Heritage. Both were a great success and the public enjoyed seeing everyone in action! There was also a large display of seafood including wonderful Shetland Mussels – did you know that 82% of the mussels on sale in UK will be from the deep, clear, fast current waters of Shetland
Elsewhere on Shetland we discovered Fjarå and The String, new on the food scene, both in Lerwick and well worth a visit. We had delicious dried salt luing pie with Mary and Tommy before we departed these beautiful isles and as the sun set on their Shetland Kye we looked forward to our return.
Sincere thanks to Northlink, The Scalloway Hotel, Marian Armitage, The Isbisters and Richard Briggs, Lerwick Fishmarket and VisitScotland for their support and generosity. https://www.tasteofshetland.com https://www.visitscotland.com
Members’ News & Offers….
Firebrick Brasserie is hosting a Game Tasting Dinner on Wed 7th Nov, with a Dessert Night & Demonstration on Wed 5th Dec. David & Amanda are a phenomenal team so don’t miss these super events and get to know the place. They have recently launched their new Autumn menu so click on the link to check it out https://firebrickbrasserie.co.uk
Hooray for hogget!! It is that time of the year when Macbeths have their very popular Hebridean Hogget on the go. This is a rare breed sheep and is known for its superior flavour typical of slow maturing breeds. https://www.macbeths.com
Trick or Treat with Walkers goodies! So many to choose from all year round. https://www.walkersshortbread.com/uk/
Scottish liquid deli Demijohn bucks the trend for retail start-ups with its popup shop in Buchanan Galleries. Always a go-ahead and optimistic retailer, Demijohn wants to offer Glasgow shoppers the chance to sample a whole new way of retailing by coming in and tasting before buying and choosing their own bottle and personal message. https://www.demijohn.co.uk
Ballintaggart announce their new https://ballintaggart.com is live. From a huge renovation project and many months of planning and building, The Grandtully Hotel by Ballintaggart has been transformed into a vibrant 8 bedroom hotel with a 30 cover restaurant, bar, outdoor terrace and private dining room. Ballintaggart still has Feast Nights and CookSchool, stylish accommodation and wonderful produce but now they have more accommodation and dining options too.
Sheila Fleet’s Rowan collection symbolises strength, endurance and hope. Delicate leaves in yellow gold with gemstones glittering like tiny drops of dew in a glowing, golden sunrise. Treat your loved one – or yourself – and if you are shopping in person allow time to dine in their beautifully converted Kirk Gallery & Café on Orkney. https://sheilafleet.com/shops/the-kirk-gallery-cafe-orkney
As autumn approaches and the colours of the Borders change from green to golden, what better place to relax and recover than in front of a roaring log fire at Cringletie. This year they are offering an extra incentive to come and explore the surrounding area and sample the new menu. Check out details on https://www.cringletie.com
63 Tay Street is in full autumnal mood celebrating the best of the season’s ingredients throughout their menu and specials board. Go on – pick up the phone and book now before the orchard season is over! http://www.63taystreet.com The 4-course ‘Just Feed us Graeme’ menu, served at lunch and pre-theatre, continues to grow in popularity and at £22 for four delicious courses, it’s well worth a visit for a mid-week treat. 63 recently made the Scotsman’s 9 best non-Michelin tasting menus in Scotland.
Contini George Street – new season autumn menu launched today and reintroducing their old Centotre classic Lasagne – BUT not as you know it. They have switched it up and are serving it in the form of AGNOLOTTI – Homemade agnolotti stuffed with Peelham Farm veal ragu, bechamel, sugo and Mozzarella Di Bufala. Mmmmmm…..
The Scottish Café is launching its first ever St Andrew’s Night Ceilidh. Join and celebrate all things Scottish with a Glenfiddich Single Malt Scotch Whisky dram, delicious traditional Scottish fayre, then dance your socks off to the in house ceilidh band. The evening will be hosted by Mark Thomson, Glenfiddich Brand Ambassador to Scotland. All Contini details on… https://www.contini.com
No matter the celebration Prestonfield is the perfect place to mark your special occasion this autumn. Feel utterly spoilt in their award-winning Rhubarb Restaurant – Les Dames d’Escoffier from North America are still raving about their meal here – or indulge in afternoon tea. An overnight stay is a night to remember in their luxuriously unique bedrooms. We are dining here soon and can hardly wait! https://www.prestonfield.com
There will be ducking for apples soon at Whitmuir! https://www.whitmuir.scot They are celebrating their great harvest and have a great range of produce, pumpkins and home bred pork too! On Wed 31st Oct there will be scary story telling by the fire after the pumpkin parade – tickets can be booked direct with the Eastgate here
Melrose breaks at Burts and Townhouse. Autumn into Winter has to be one of the most spectacular times to enjoy the Borders with wonderful scenery and activities on the door step for all. There are some of the finest independent shops in the country in Melrose, Burts’s features in the Good Pub Guides as well as their reputations for fine food. https://www.burtshotel.co.uk
Stargazing Package with more rooms added so stay at Torridon in November and discover the wonders of the night sky with local astrologist Stephen Mackintosh. On Nov 9th& 10th Stephen will share a wealth of knowledge during a stargazing lecture in The Torridon Hotel, two stargazing excursions in the surrounding highlands, post-excursion Q&As back at the hotel, as well as a complimentary selection of photographs taken by Stephen during your trips out. https://www.thetorridon.com
This month Craigie’s will be adorned with pumpkins! There will be a bumper crop of pumpkins with pumpkin specials in the cafe and delicious pumpkin chutney in our shop. Lots and lots of Halloween goodies at https://craigies.co.uk
Christmas bookings at Deans so time to click on the link and get your friends and colleagues organised! https://www.letseatperth.co.uk