Big Tastes indeed in Scotland in Minature
On the Isle of Arran, just an hour’s ferry trip from the Scottish mainland, they promise ‘big tastes from a small island’. Based on our latest 2-night food safari we certainly wouldn’t argue with their bold statement.
Arran has been said to come with a health warning. Visitors can be expected to suffer quickly from Arranitis. This condition starts with warm, feel-good feelings once arriving on Scotland’s 7th largest island and develops into full-blown euphoria! Arran is a stunning island with wonderful people, fabulous food & drink and we would suggest it is absolutely well worth taking the risk.
Many of Scotland’s top chefs use produce from Arran and we know why; quality and sustainability are at the centre of everything Arran’s artisan producers do. Whilst Chefs across Scotland are keen to offer a diverse range of dishes, which take into account seasonal differences, all wish consistency for their diners. This consistency only comes when products are sustainably produced, thus can therefore be pretty much guaranteed on an ongoing basis.
Producing in a sustainable way (in every sense of the word) is Robin Gray. Robin supplies a fantastic array of vegetables & herbs grown on organic principles to a list that includes some of Scotland’s most revered culinary artists.
On arrival we were passed by Robin on his quad bike off to collect some seaweed to bolster his compost pile. Individual leaves from a wide variety of salad varieties and other vegetables were being hand-picked whilst the sun shone down on his sizeable south facing plot. The plot is so close to the beach we would have been forgiven for wanting to hunt out our bucket and spade and cross the 8 foot divide between veggies to the shore.
Robin was happy to chat with us about how the ‘seed’ for his current venture was planted whilst working as a Chef for Raymond Blanc at Le Manoir aux Quatre Saison. “Being able to nip out the door and pick to your heart’s content for the lunch or dinner menu is every chef’s dream”. On returning home to Scotland Robin decided to continue to nurture his love for fresh produce by setting up his own by the shore terraced market garden.
With a selection of vegetables including stunning golden & candied beetroot, green and yellow ripe courgettes, baby spinach and hand-picked salad in tow we headed off, passing hedgerow after hedgerow of ripening wild berries on our journey to our next destination after a short lunch stop.
We headed over to The Bellevue Creamery on the west side of the island at Blackwaterfoot and were welcomed with the news that due to demand, there wasn’t a single wedge of cheese to purchase directly at the dairy! Rest assured though in Broddick we were able to try and buy chunks of their delicious Arran Blue, an award winning semi-soft mild blue and the Scottish Arran Mist Brie.
On the way back across to the east of the island we called into another dairy, the Torrylinn Creamy where via a viewing window we watched the production of the easily recognisable wax coated Arran Cheese. A vertical tasting through their full range starting with the younger Dunlop style cheese and on through the progressively more aged cheeses. Advised that a fine Arran ale would stand up to the piquancy perfectly and not ones to disrespect the advice of any local, our final stop before we boarded the ferry back to the mainland was to the multi award winning Arran Brewery. With a wide range there is certainly something for the palate of every discerning ale drinker. The Arran Dark, a traditional smooth dark Scottish heavy beer won the World’s Best Dark Brown Ale 2012. The Arran Sunset, a mid-amber ale in particular matched well with the 18 month aged Arran cheese. We were also pleased to hear that some of the proceeds of the Arran Red Squirrel ale, another award winner with hints of liquorice, rich burnt toffee and with nutty aromas, go to various charities on the Isle of Arran and across the world that help to conserve the dwindling population of the Red Squirrel.
If you haven’t been to Arran, and are looking for a relaxing break with the chance to enjoy great food & drink, meet some truly gifted artisan Scottish island producers, enjoy walks along glorious sandy beaches then you must join us on our next trip (or for a private trip, you tell us when you want to go and leave the rest to us).Tastefully yours, Brenda