Angus, in the east of Scotland, with the country's first UNESCO City of design, Dundee, at it's foot and Aberdeenshire to its north is best known, food wise, for its hugely popular Arbroath Smokie and its world reknown Aberdeen Angus. When I was invited to spend the weekend sampling exactly what food and drink the region had to offer I jumped at the chance.
It's not a region I have spent a lot of time in. I've previously explored the coast, swam in the open air pool in Stonehaven and visited the beaches of Broughty Ferry, Montrose and Carnoustie but I had yet to venture inland. What I found when I did was rolling hills, glens and the cutest little villages I've seen for a long time.
We were based at Glenesk Hotel in the Georgian town of Edzell. The Victorian period hotel is a credit to the owners, with knowledgable and helpful staff who did everything possible to make sure we had a fantastic stay. The hotel was also the perfect start to our foodie weekend, thanks to a truly astounding collection of whisky. Over 1000 bottles lined the walls of the traditional whisky room. A bottle from every Distillery in Scotland, and plenty more. Over 200 gins, 70 rums and 70 vodkas complete the collection.
88 degrees - Artisan Chocolatier
As we drove to Kirriemuir, known as the birthplace of Peter Pan creator JM Barrie, we took in the surrounding hills and lush green fields. Why have I never been here before? It's gorgeous. A return trip is now on the list. In Kirriemuir we met the lovely Johanna Woodhead in her cafe, 88 degrees. In her little studio across the road we spent time creating truffles while she told us about her journey to becoming an artisan chocolatier. We got to sample some flavours such as the "Adult snicker" flavour (salted caramel, dark chocolate ganache and organic peanut butter) and pink champagne. My truffles turned out looking like something dropped from a great height but they tasted out of this world and Johanna's handmade chocolates are wee bundles of perfection.
The Gin Bothy - Craft Gin Distillery
With all the chocolate we consumed it was time for a wee drink and we made our way to The Gin Bothy. Created by "the accidental gin maker" Kim this award winning gin is made in the "farm Bothy" which was once the home to a blacksmith. We got to relax in their brand new cosy and warm tasting room and sample all the gins which went down well. I can confirm having never really tried gin I have definitely been converted. I'll do a seperate blog from here because I can tell it's just going to be the start of my gin journey, because I fell in love with the raspberry liquor, I'll admit it. I even sampled it some more back at the hotel. And the next day at the festival. Yeah, it's that good.
Back at the hotel we were treated to a scrumptious four course meal courtesy of Executive Chef Graham Campbell, who was once part of The Great British Menu and was the youngest chef in Scotland to receive a Michelin star at 25. Using locally sourced Scottish ingredients, many he has foraged for himself, he creates traditional dishes with a superbly unique contemporary twist. I tucked into hash brown, black pudding and duck egg in a bernaise sauce which I loved, not very adventurious of me considering the other dishes on the menu but after a tiring day I was after comfort food and it filled the need perfectly. The others were more adventurous. The sounds of ooh and aah from the other end of the table told me the Shetland Scallops with sweet corn, a bisque and crostini was particularly tasty.
I chose the Yorkies pie of the moment for the main course, again wanting some comfort food and it was served beautifully with seasonal veg and a jus pot. The fluffy chive mash topped a creamy chicken and leek filling and it was actually one of the best pies I've tasted, absolutely delicious. Dessert was a White Chocolate Parfait with strawberries, mascarpone and meringue which was perfectly light and packed full of flavour ending the meal spectacularly.
Taste of Angus Food and Drink Festival
After a very comfy sleep and a full Scottish breakfast, copious amounts of tea and a social media catch up in the lounge the next morning it was time to head to the Taste Angus Food and Drink Festival and the stunning Glamis Castle. I love a good food festival. Good for me means not too big, a fun family atmosphere, music, lots of food to sample, cracking food vans, an impressive list of chefs and a busy, happy vibe. This festival was all that and a bag of paprika coated triple cooked fries! There was an amazing atmosphere throughout the day, families lounged on stripey canvas deck chairs, lazily tapping their feet to the Broon Troon Orchestra playing celtic hits, who were one of many music acts to play over the weekend. Food vans in all shapes and sizes served delicious artisan street food, the Market was packed with the best of Angus food and drink producers, including the two we had met the day before. That gave me the perfect opportunity for another little "sample" of gin and also the chance to buy a dark chocolate Hamish dog for my mum's birthday. I had heard so many people rave about Dundee Cheesecake all weekend that I also had to have a slice of that and I opted for the salted caramel. Oh.My.God, if you ever get the chance....take it!
We were lucky to be provided with VIP passes which, as well as priority free parking and a goodie bag with chocolates and a bottle of prosecco, also allowed us entry to the VIP tent. Here I chatted to Jacquline O'Donnell, Candice Brown (winner of Great British Bake off) and Nick Nairn, who gave my mum a very sweet birthday message video. The chefs, including Graham from the night before, cooked their signature dishes in the demonstration tent to a packed crowd. The kids were well catered for too with face painting, arts and crafts and a giant inflatable assault Course. This food festival really is the perfect summer family day out. I'll be back...
Angus really is home to some of the best food and drink Scotland has to offer. From the smokie, Aberdeen Angus and the Forfar Bridie to it's growing drinks industry, including the local Glencadam whisky, the Arbikie Highland Estate which produces gin and potato vodka and four craft ale breweries the area is thriving. With all that delicious food and drink, a stunning coastline and the rolling lush green hills and valleys Angus is a must for any Scottish travel itinerary.
Special thanks to Angus Council and Taste Angus who sponsored our stay at Glenesk and our VIP passes for Taste Angus. Opinions, as always, are my own.