It is rare to find genuine Scottish textiles on the Royal Mile, but anyone who is a fan of Scottish textiles such as lace, linen, tweed all made in Scotland will be thrilled by the treasure trove at The Scottish Textiles Showcase at the back of The Tron Kirk, 122 High Street, Royal Mile EH1 1QS .
I was shown the delights by owner, Kitty Bruce-Gardyne who opened this first curated shop of Scottish textiles just last year. As a maker herself Kitty has been a long term champion of Scotland’s rich textiles heritage and was keen to share her passion for a story which remains a best kept secret and physically off the beaten track. From the Scottish Borders in the south to the far flung islands of the Outer Hebrides in the west and Shetland in the north the Scottish textiles story is rich and varied. From tartan to tweed, and linen to lace Scotland’s textiles are in a class of their own and have gained a world wide reputation for excellence.
Celebrate the birth of Robert Burns with a Scottish Food Safari which includes haggis, Scottish ale and of course a single dram of single malt plus smoked salmon, fish n chips, marshmallows made on the premises and a Scottish cheese tasting. Still some places left for this Saturday 25 January at 1pm. Book on www.edinburghfoodsafari.com
On my Edinburgh Food Safari, we visit Armstrong’s of Stockbridge https://ar
mstrongsofstockbridge.co.uk/ where my guests love their famous delicately smoked salmon. Gary Huckle and his team slowly smoke a whole Scottish salmon over wood chips in the back shop, then marinate it in Pickerings 1947 gin.
Armstrong’s source their salmon from Cooke Aquaculture Scotland’s seawater salmon farms in Orkney and Shetland, chosen because the salmon has plenty of strong tidal water to work out with – no risk of flabby fins – and also no need for chemical intervention in case of sea lice, thanks to good currents and cool temperatures.
Off to Orkney
So I was thrilled when I was asked by the Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation (SSPO) to go on a publicity trip to Orkney to learn more about the farmed salmon industry. Salmon is the fish you are most likely to see in a UK shopper’s basket and it ranks in the top three of the UK’s food exports.
We started off visiting the Cooke Aquaculture processing plant in Kirkwall, the main town in Orkney. It’s a very slick operation; thousands of salmon which have been harvested (humanely stunned) at sea, come off the boats in ice – having already undergone rigor mortis, then at the plant, they are gutted, checked, weighed, packed in ice by hand
and then down to Larkhall near Glasgow to be dispatched worldwide within 24 hours of being taken out of the sea and in some cases are actually on the dining plate within 24 hours.
Then, time for feeding – not us – the salmon. We donned bright orange oilskins, wellies, life vests and were taken on a fishing trawler to visit a salmon farm site just off the island of Hoy. Some 20,000 salmon were in a round floating ring structure – about 100 metres in circumference supporting a large net bag hanging in the water. Fishmeal which is a ‘hot’ topic at the moment is fed to the salmon at set times of the day using a huge spraying machine which deposits the food pellets directly on top of the pen area. We were able to jump down from the small trawler to the circular pens and walk round to the feed barge to watch the process via the underwater cameras; the words ‘feeding frenzy’ do spring to mind. It’s all very mechanised; there were electronic microscopes to monitor plankton levels, digital thermometers for the water temperature and gauges showing the feed levels in the stores. Salmon like swimming in shoals, so they will tend to swim together, regardless of the area provided. The SSPO hopes at some point the public will be able to see live feeds from Scottish salmon pens – not quite as cute as penguin feeding at the zoo – but there does seem to be a real effort in the farmed salmon industry for transparency. The SSPO are keen to stress Scotland’s feed suppliers are sourced from responsible and sustainable fisheries.
Our guide lifted a salmon out of the pen using a net – during feeding time. To my untrained eye, the fish had shiny eyes and shiny scales so looked healthy/happy but as miffed as a salmon could be, when removed from its place in the lunch queue.
But what I could see for sure, were so many locals of all ages working in the salmon industry. They seemed to be enjoying and stimulated by their jobs, not just at the processing plants and fish farms, but at the fish pen-making site, the fishmongers, fish smokers and restaurants.
Knock on effects?
Orkney will always attract tourists including masses by cruise ship, because of its rich heritage; it has the best preserved stone age village in Europe, St Magnus Cathedral, wildlife; puffins, seals, seabirds, but tourism alone could threaten to turn a community into a Disneyland film set. Fish farming offers work to people not just on the Orkney mainland, but also on the more remote but also inhabited smaller islands. This does seem to make for an incredibly get up and go dynamic community from house builders turned gin-makers and coffee machine suppliers turned coffee roasters which benefits both locals and tourists.
The salmon was smoked over wood chips, and timed depending which way the wind was blowing, which was a refreshing change after all those machines we saw regulating everything – and it tasted delicious – quite smoky actually.
Its not just salmon, if I lived in Orkney – I could easily create a food safari – there are so many fantastic local products, just check out the Orkney food and drink site https://www.orkneyfoodanddrink.com/
Kirkjuvagr Orkney Gin https://www.orkneydistilling.com/ won Scottish Gin Destination of the Year accolade for its five-star Kirkwall distillery and visitor centre, which we visited; I loved the upturned boat ceiling in the bar/coffee shop. Kirkjuvagr won Silver for its Arkh-Angell ‘Storm Strength’ gin (57-per-cent gin)
There are also fantastic local cheeses – including my favourite crumbly cows cheese Grimbister (also ready to cook deep-fried breaded Grimbister) butter, cheddar, oatcakes, beer , preserves, whisky and even rum.
Many of these can be sourced directly including Cooke Aquaculture Scotland’s smoked salmon from Jolly’s of Orkney https://www.jollysoforkney.co.uk/collections/all so you could too, can have your own food tour without leaving home – which might just inspire you to get on a plane/boat to eat and drink Orkney.
We are running our popular gin walking tours all through August as part of The Edinburgh Fringe – from Wednesday to Saturdays 2- 31 August. Leave the crowds behind as you walk through Georgian streets and past the oldest gin distillery in Edinburgh (1740s) on the Leith Water – enjoy a Edinburgh gin Liquer with prosecco, gin and raspberry marshmallows, gin cured salmon and gin and end with a Highland gin in a cool lowland gin joint.
On the southside of The Tron we read Scottish writer, William Dalrymple consideration of the Scots’ historical relationship with mainland Europe, highlighting significant archaeological discoveries both at home and further afield to demonstrate the deep and long bonds that connect us – such as the red pantile roofs of East Lothian come from Rotterdam.
Dalrymple makes no secret of his anger and fear that all connections with Europe will be severed in March and somewhat quaking in our Zara-made boots we retreated to celebrate our love of Europe at the new Institut français d’Ecosse which is a five-minute walk on the corner of The Royal Mile and G IV bridge where we enjoyed French claret – much like a 17th century Scottish merchant in Leith and some fine French cheeses
Le Bistrot http://www.ifecosse.org.uk/Le-bistrot,1086.html
Located on the ground floor of the Institut, the Bistrot and its friendly staff aim to provide you with an enjoyable, authentic, and delicious French experience, filled with passion and love in every action, every glass of wine, and every dish.
Open every day from breakfast to dinner, Le Bistrot by Patisserie Maxime is a place where everyone can feel like they are in France without having to leave the fantastic surroundings of Edinburgh!
EIT Climate-KIC, a European knowledge and innovation community came to Edinburgh for a climate change conference and were looking for a novel way to eat and see the city. Edinburgh Food Safari was delighted to host the group – which started at 40 guests rising to 47 guests- the biggest Edinburgh Food Safari so far! The brief was Scottish food – a whole traditional meal – and see Edinburgh.We split the group of 47 into two groups – 23 and 24 with 12 veggies and vegans in the mix. We started off with smoked salmon flatbreads and a welcome dram of single malt from Wick – Old Pultenay – called the maritime malt as the distillery is located so near the Wick harbour.
We then enjoyed afternoon scones with homemade jam and cream, and Scottish tea blended to suit our soft Scottish water. Then a lovely saunter through The New Town –a world heritage site – and lots of looking through windows to see New Town residents relaxing in Farrow and Ball restrained coloured- sitting rooms.
Then toasted marshmallows on a stick – not traditional – but I challenge anyone not to revel in the absolute pillowy softness of Nicole Roberts aka The Marshmallow Lady’s freshly made marshmallows. This season we are trying to resist too many caramel apple and pumpkin spice marshmallows.
We ended our two- hour safari at The One Place for a plate of haggis, neeps and tatties – with vegan haggis a very delicious option. The second group who had a different start place came to join us – making 47 very happy safari travellers who had indeed tasted and seen a bit of Scotland.
A food safari is a great way for groups to naturally mingle as there are four eating and drinking stops and no one gets stuck in one seating for two hours. Also as we walk in between stops we are building up an appetite so more food can be sampled!
DarkChat – Reviewing the Edinburgh Fringe since 2008
Edinburgh Gin Safari
It is now a proud Darkchat tradition (well, three years in a row) that for one glorious afternoon, the Darkchat ladies are
released from all domestic responsibilities and allowed an afternoon out. Oh yes, times have certainly changed. Usually
the outing has involved attending a gin-based event at the Fringe. I can’t think why this would particularly appeal to a
group of busy women struggling to maintain a work/life balance but it does. In previous years, we have found that
sampling a variety of gins in the afternoon seems to be linked to mayhem in the evening. We can all learn from
experience and this time we decided to combine gin drinking with some food via the Gin Safari.
The safari started at The Other Place on Broughton Road where we met our guide, Nell Nelson of
Edinburghfoodsafari.com and sampled some gin liqueurs with prosecco (highly recommended). We then had a
delightful walk into Stockbridge, with some local history on the way, calling into a range of independent shops offering
gin flavoured food. All the products we tried were well worth the walking.
I was nearly an early casualty as, despite rarely drinking milkshakes, I’d had a splendid vanilla milkshake at the Mosque Café an hour previously and the first stop involved a substantial gin-themed milkshake with toasted marshmallows. This slowed me down a little but enabled Darkchat Kate to have an extra helping or two of Pickering’s gin-cured smoked salmon at our next stop. We then tried some excellent G&T flavoured chocolate and completed the tour with Highland gin in the atmospheric bar, The Last Word, in Stockbridge. This year we sensibly allowed ourselves plenty of time before our next show and even managed a leisurely meal nearby in Hector’s.
A truly delightful afternoon, a world away from the packed streets of Edinburgh we associate with the Fringe and if you want to take some time away from that hustle and bustle for a relaxing, Gin-themed couple of hours then this is an excellent way to escape.
Also for the first time after a gin-based event, we were so relaxed that we managed to reach our next show without having to run or frantically flag down a taxi.
The Edinburgh Gin Safari starts daily at The Other Place until August 27th (not Sundays)
You might think whisky is Scotland’s national drink but 70% of gin consumed in the UK is being made in Scotland * Scotland has a rich history in making and drinking gin, so I am thrilled to add to this unique gin and food guided walking tour in Edinburgh to my Edinburgh Food Safari stable.
This gin and food walking tour gives visitors a taste and a historical insight to Scottish gin, as well as an introduction to Stockbridge, a part of Edinburgh which tourists often miss – before they catch the #27 bus back to the tourists and The Old Town.
Venue: Meet inside The Other Place, 2-4 Broughton Road, EH7 4EB Venue 428
Tickets: £29 must be over 18 years includes: three gin-based drinks, three gin-inspired foods
Dates: Tuesday – Saturdays 07-25 August 2018
Time: 15:30 (2 hours)
To book call the Fringe Box Office: 0131 226 0000 or book online
This Friday was the inaugural gin safari, see pics. We started with Edinburgh gin liqueur and cava then The Marshmallow Lady pulled out all the stops: toasted homemade gin and tonic marshmallows whizzed with milk and Scottish company Mackie’s vanilla ice cream, then topped with more toasted g and t marshmallows. Walked and talked with top gin facts: Leith was the epicentre of gin in the 18th century and more gin.distilleries are returning to Leith. Armstrongs sliced their Pickering-gin marinated smoked salmon which was delicious. Then we still had space for gin and tonic chocolate and finished with a Caorunn gin and tonic in The Last Word Salooo. Come and join next Friday! £39 for five stops and 2 hours of pure gin!
You may ask has sprung up in Stockbridge. It opened on 10 April and I was in to have a snout. It looks perfect as if Good and Proper has always been on this spot on the heart of Raeburn Place. It has in fact replaced a rather tired Chinese take away.
It is all white shiny with fresh salads glistening, fat scones asking to be eaten and a chocolate orange cake still to be cut into. Tables will fill up fast as quite small, I had a selection of three fab salads and as I was in rush to get to my safari at 12, I had them boxed up in a very robust box – which kept the salads in good condition till I managed a chance to enjoy – post safari.
Typical dishes are soup- Sweetcorn Chowder, salads such as Honey roasted pumpkin & kale, dal pea and coconut salad quinoa tabbouleh salad , a bacon & ricotta frittata and a hot dish such as chicken, parsnip & tarragon casserole.