Eating in Scotland

Gardenstown-5857
Seatown houses, Gardenstown Banffshire Coast

Some might think that it is difficult to eat well in Scotland, but I’ve got the ‘now too tight pants’ to prove otherwise. Not to mention the numerous photos that I am sharing with you. The availability of good wines from all over the world didn’t help with maintaining a balanced, healthy diet nor did the clotted cream fudge or the divine chocolates from the Cocoa Tree in Pittenweem and Iain Burnett, Highland Chocolatier in St Andrews.

In Fife we stayed at Dairsie Castle and enjoyed gourmet evening meals provided by Christopher Trotter, a local chef and Fife ambassador. Meals were prepared using local, seasonal ingredients including nettle, wild garlic, seafood and lamb. Scottish cheeses such as Crowdie and Clava were served with oatcakes and fresh fruit, the wines chosen by individuals at the Cupar Tescoe. Day trips to seaside villages such as Crail, Pittenweem and St Monans gave us the opportunity to try more local specialities in spectacular settings. Surprisingly, I did manage to get some painting and sketching done in between all the tasty food stops, there is only so much one person can eat 😉

Gardenstown is a fishing village in the highlands, located on the Banffshire Coast not far from Macduff and Fraserburgh. There is no supermarket in the town apart from a small convenience store and only three choices of places to eat: Teapot One, a nice little cafe serving homemade soups and cakes; The Garden Arms Hotel, a cozy little pub open for dinner a few nights a week; and the Harbour View Restaurant, for fine dining near the pier. We ate regularly at the Garden Arms, the atmosphere was cozy and congenial and the owners looked after us well. The Teapot One was the perfect spot for grabbing fresh fruit scones as a snack or an afternoon pick-me up hot chocolate, and the Harbour View Restaurant was a nice change and they served a most delicious sticky toffee pudding with vanilla ice-cream. On one wet and misty day we ventured into Macduff to wander around the woodlands near Duff House, it was the perfect weather for sitting down to a bowl of delicious Cullen Skink, a soup of smoked haddock, potatoes and onions. The smell reminded me of the smoked fish my family in New Zealand served up, one of the few fish dishes I ate as a child.

When staying in Edinburgh I ate at the Cafe Rouge and at the restaurant in The Place Hotel, I couldn’t resist the charcuterie platter or the duck or the mussels or the snails so I tried a bit of everything. There are plenty of great places to eat and drink in Edinburgh, so why a French restaurant? After a couple of weeks of enjoying traditional Scottish fare and ingredients I was looking for something a little different and I’ve always been a sucker for french food. It wasn’t only the food I enjoyed but the coffee, it was relatively easy to find a decent macchiato or espresso although the service was a little hit and miss in some places, much like here in Australia.

Enjoy!

Not an apple strudel in sight

The Apple and Grape Harvest Festival in Stanthorpe is a fabulous way to indulge in delicious fresh produce, local wines and other tasty treats. An annual event complete with a street parade, the festival attracts thousands of visitors to the area. Accompanied by good friends and Woolloomooloo the bear I drove the three hours to Stanthorpe to experience the festival and hopefully track down freshly made apple strudel, as a day trip it makes for a long day of driving but there are plenty of opportunities to stop along the way.

We stopped for a caffeine fix and a stroll in the town of Warwick, a regional town west Brisbane and known for its annual Rodeo which is in its 77th year. Some of the buildings are from the early 1900s and provide a pleasant change to the concrete and glass architecture of the Brisbane CBD (Central Business District) and the Gold Coast, I particularly liked the way the light moved across the sandstone church opposite the coffee shop. From Warwick it is only a short trip to the town of Stanthorpe, the landscape changes dramatically from coast to the country and there is livestock aplenty. It has been a dry couple of years, the cows, horses, kangaroos and a few sheep are spotted in dusty paddocks, any splashes of green are vegetable crops or an irrigated field.

Stanthorpe is a small regional town, if you want to experience good, local produce and try some Queensland wines then Stanthorpe is an ideal location. Being the designated driver I opted out of the wine tasting although I did try a little peach cider later in the day at Castle Glen and found it to be quite pleasant. Going to Stanthorpe for me was really about the sweet, crunchy Gala apples, they’re great as a healthy snack and I also enjoy cooking them up and making apple crumble for  dessert. One of my friends was desperately searching for apple strudel, you would think that it would be easy to find during the Apple and Grape Harvest festival in a town with several bakeries and cafes, but no. We settled for grape and berry strudel which was nice and could have been exceptional had they not destroyed the pasty by heating it up in a microwave.

Despite the strudel disappointment we did manage to find a tasty treat in the form of a potato swirly or slinky, a potato sliced to look like a spring, coated in a light batter and deep fried – YUM! The market stalls at the festival sold all sorts of local arts and crafts in addition to local produce, lollies, hats, childrens clothes and anything that could be deep fried or coated in sugar. With only a couple of hours to spare we decided not to find a spot near the wine and food tents and instead chose to explore the countryside and see what we could find, first stop was a local fruit shop where we bought several kilos of apples and other fruit and vegetables, the sweet aroma of the apples on a warm autumn day filled the car. Castle Glen sells wine, liqueurs, beer and ciders that are all made on the premises, the range of colours and bottles are amazing and the owner is only too happy to chat and hand over beverages to taste. They also make a very delicious caramel fudge with a hint of cinnamon that is hard to resist and as my friends try the different varieties of cider I get busy with my iPhone and snap photos of the funky looking bottles.

Not far from Castle Glen is Granite Belt Dairy, home of the Jersey Girls Cafe and producers of good cheese such as Thulimbah, Pepato and Brass Monkey Blue (for those who like blue cheese – I’m not one of them). The cafe has a wonderful menu, we are there for the trio of ice cream and I have the hugest vanilla malt milkshake, all made from rich and creamy Jersey cow milk. Being there is like being back on the farms of my childhood, the cows can only be seen in the distance and a Maremma sheepdog (I think) wanders around and halfheartedly barks at arriving visitors, we could have stayed there for the rest of the afternoon recovering from a milk coma but it was soon time to hit the road.

The drive home was uneventful, but enjoyable. We watched as the sun set over the mountains, stopping to take a few photos and feel the rush of air as a truck zoomed by on the highway. One of my friends took on the role of driver and I was able to sit back and watch the light change as well as keep an eye open for kangaroos or wallabies, they have a tendency to leap out in front of traffic causing major damage to vehicles and fatally wounding themselves. The night sky in the country is the best place for looking at stars, the absence of street lights enables you to see them in all their glory, a beautiful ending to a thoroughly enjoyable day.

Travel theme: Yellow

I didn’t think that I would find many yellow photos, how wrong I was! From the yellow blooms in gardens to beer glasses on a roof in Amsterdam, yellow is everywhere and I could easily have tripled my contribution for this week’s challenge 🙂

Weekly Photo Challenge: Foreign

Food features heavily in my holiday photos, when travelling I love to try the local specialties whether they be snack food such frites with mayo in Amsterdam or little fried fish in Venice. Eating out all the time can be expensive so tracking down local markets and buying fresh produce becomes essential and it is all part of the magic of being in a foreign country.

Venice delicatessan
Souvenirs you can eat
Markets in Venice
Fresh produce at the markets in Venice

 

Try the local pecorino cheese in Pienza
Try the local pecorino cheese in Pienza
Panforte and other sweets
Panforte and other sweets

 

A favourite place, Tamborine Mountain

In previous posts I have mentioned Tamborine Mountain as a lovely alternative to the beaches and high rise buildings of Surfers Paradise (Surfers for short). The drive is a long and winding one, once at the top there are views of the coast and the Surfers Paradise skyline, it is probably the best view of Surfers that you will get especially on a cloud free day and I imagine it is spectacular during a lightning storm.

Tamborine Mountain is popular with artists, foodies and if you like schnapps or cheese, some of the best in the region comes from local producers. The Tamborine Mountain Distillery produces and sells award winning liqueurs, schnapps and Vodkas, their Limoncello even won an International award a few years ago which is amazing considering that they were competing against the Italians. The schnapps is delicious but the Absinthe and Vodkas were a little too strong for my tastebuds. When I go to Mt Tamborine I make a point of going to the Witches Chase Cheese Company to try their homemade ice cream and buy some of their Triple Cream Brie or Washed Rind Cheese, the feta is also very tasty and if you’re lucky you can beat the crowds and spend time taste testing a variety of their products.

 

The Nardoo Lavendar farm
The Nardoo Lavendar Shop

Tamborine Mountain’s main street is known as Gallery Walk, it is very touristy and although there are some good cafes there I like to head to North Tamborine and grab a bit at a little cafe called the Spice of Life Cafe and Deli, fresh, tasty food can be purchased for a picnic or you can relax in the cafe with a paper and a good cup of coffee or gourmet sandwich. Not far from here is the Nardoo Lavendar Shop and Cedar Creek Estate, a winery and cafe popular with tourists but also for weddings, the surroundings are scenic and if you’re lucky you’ll get to see some of the local wildlife.

Rainbow Lorikeet
Rainbow Lorikeet
Friendly Water Monitor

Often I will visit Tamborine Mountain with a friend and rather than shop or dine at a cafe, we’ll go for a walk in one of the many parks in the area. The abundance of rain means that there are a number of small waterfalls to see and on a hot day in summer you can hear the laughter and splashing of the local kids as they swim in the creek. There are short walks that range from 30 to 90 minutes and longer walks that can take a few hours to complete, if there has been alot of rain some tracks will be closed because of small mudslides or trees that have been dislodged and judged ‘unsafe’.

There are many other things to do at Tamborine Mountain, you can go hang gliding, shop for organic produce, art and crafts at the local markets, take a walk through the Botanic Gardens or visit some of the art galleries that have popped up all over the area. It really is a wonderful part of the world and one of my favourite places to visit on any given day.

Echinacea flower
Echinacea flower, Mt Tamborine Botanic Gardens
Bushwalking through National Park, Mt Tamborine
Bushwalking through National Park, Mt Tamborine

Lucerne, Switzerland

Frescoes
Frescoes

The sun decided to shine on us in Switzerland, beautiful warm days and not a rain cloud in sight. Mt Pilatus had a few hanging around which had me thinking that I would again find myself on top of the mountain and not able to see anything but fog or cloud. Switzerland is expensive, they don’t have the euro either so you have to be happy with getting Swiss Francs back for change or use plastic, we used a combination of both for the few days we were there and managed to leave with only a couple of francs in change.

Supermarket shopping in Lucerne was our best option for cheap, healthy meals and for picking up a couple of bottles of wine and beer. For a couple of days we dined on salad, sausage, cheese and chocolate plus some yummy bagel crisps and crackers. Our biggest dining splurge was had here and not because it was fabulous ala carte food, it was because we had 3 courses and a few glasses of wine which came to a total of 120 euro, still it was an enjoyable meal and the wine was very nice.

Beautiful Lake Lucerne
Beautiful Lake Lucerne
Flowers for sale at the markets
Flowers for sale at the markets
The Dying Lion Monument
The Dying Lion Monument

From the ground Mt Pilatus looked reasonably clear of cloud when we decided to make the journey, it was about 140 euro for the tickets to the top and that covered all of our transport by bus and cable car, the scenic railway was inoperable due to heavy snow. The trip takes over an hour in each direction and you can definitely feel the temperature drop as you get higher and the attendant tells us that it is about minus 3 degrees celsius. Travel to the halfway point, about 1000m up is in a small four person cable car, there aren’t many people travelling up to the summit today perhaps that is because of the weather or it could be because it is early spring. At the halfway point there is a good view of the mountains and there is also a playground for families and barbecue area, we wait for the larger cable car to provide transport for the rest of the journey, about half a dozen people hop in with us and a big slab of concrete pipe. As we near our final destination there is cloud and more cloud, the attendant identifies us as Australians and chats to us about his recent travels in Australia, the cloud is supposed to clear he says, sadly that didn’t happen. The facilities on Mt Pilatus are undergoing reconstruction of a terrace area and new facilities, you have to dodge workers, cables and building materials to get outside, we’re amazed because you wouldn’t see that in Australia thanks to workplace health and safety regulations. We spend a couple of hours on the mountain, most of it indoors drinking coffee and eating fries as we wait for the cloud to disappear, every now and then we get a glimpse of sunlight and the mountains that connect to Pilatus providing several photo opportunities and a break from the cold. Regardless of the weather and construction work it was still a great way to spend our time in Switzerland and make use of our winter thermals which could easily be discarded now that the temperature has risen.

Lucerne-0260

Our time in Lucerne (or Luzern in Europe) is quite relaxing, a bit of shopping, sightseeing and eating and taking much pleasure in the scenic surroundings. The Saturday morning markets were a fabulous way to spend a morning, lots of cheese and cold meats to taste and the flowers, art and crafts for sale provided colourful eye candy for browsers. The market stalls lined both sides of the river that linked to Lake Lucerne, locals and tourists mingled and the tables at cafes running parallel to the site were almost always full and a good vantage point for people watching. Being in Switzerland I thought that a hot chocolate would be a delicious alternative to coffee, huge disappointment when they bought out a cup of hot milk and sachet of chocolate powder for me to DIY the hot chocolate, this I can get at home and for alot less than 4 euro!

Lucerne and Switzerland in general is famous for being an expensive place to visit, I’m curious to know how high the cost of living is because it really is a lovely part of the world and the easy access to other European countries is enviable. Our three nights in Lucerne were just enough to get a taste of the country and have a little down time, our budget couldn’t really afford to stay longer but it would have been nice.